Hearing the Music

A Psalm for Giving Thanks

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It is quickly approaching that time of year when we express our thankfulness.  Each year as we get closer to Thanksgiving Day, I am reminded of Psalm 100, “A Psalm for Giving Thanks.”  Charles Spurgeon said of Psalm 100, “Nothing can be more sublime this side of heaven than the singing of this noble Psalm by a vast congregation.” Augustine said, “A Christian is to be a hallelujah from head to foot.”  With those responses, it is interesting that Psalm 100 is the only psalm in the psalter with the heading “Giving Thanks.”  It may be the only one, but oh how full of instruction it is for us today.  Psalm 100 tells us not only how we are to give thanks, but also why we are to give thanks.

The psalm begins by giving us 3 imperatives (commands) telling us how we are give thanks.  We are to make a joyful noise to the LORD.  This does not mean our corporate gatherings are just one big cacophony.  The Hebrew word here captures the understanding of a fanfare for the entrance of a king.  The second imperative we interpret as serve the LORD.  Some translations use the word ‘worship.’  This Hebrew word carries the understanding of laboring for and with another.  We delight in serving one another because of the service we have received from our Savior.  This is the same word used in Exodus 12 where Israel was told to tell their children the meaning of the Passover when they entered the land God was giving them.  The third imperative is to come into His presence.  We come into His presence with singing.  We experience this every Sunday, don’t we?  We are blessed to have such wonderful musicians at Christ Church and that includes everyone of us as we open our mouths and sing His praises.  Thanks be to God!

The psalm ends by telling us why we are to give thanks – because He is God (verse 3) and He is good (verse 5).  I must admit verse 3 has long caused me to scratch my head.  I grew up with a mother who taught speech and drama.  She constantly corrected our English usage.  Reading our verse 3 in English, I can almost hear my mother’s correction, "You are never to use a proper name followed by the pronoun" (ie “Bryant, he…”) and yet we have it here, “…the LORD, He is God.”  This is a tool for emphasis in Hebrew.  The author wants to be sure we all understand that God is God and we are not.  This is why the psalmist uses different names for God.  You will notice the psalm opens with yehweh which is translated LORD.  This is the name for our covenant making and keeping God.  In verse 3 the psalmist uses the name Elohim which is translated God.  This is the name for the creator.  He is showing us the vastness of our God because HE alone is God.  The psalm ends reminding us He is good.  He has entered into a covenant with us, He has saved us, He has showered us with grace and mercy because He is good.  

Our response then is to give thanks.  F.W. Boreham, an Australian pastor from the late 1800’s, said this, “Every hair of my head thanks you; every throb of my heart thanks you; every drop of my blood thanks you; because you gave your best to save me.”  That is my response to my LORD and my God.  In addition to that, I give thanks for my new friends at Christ Church.  It is a great joy to unite my voice with yours in making a joyful noise, serving the LORD, and coming into His presence with singing.  I’m looking forward to doing that this Sunday with each of you, when we also will be looking at Romans 8:12-17 together.
 

Photo by Kiy Turk on Unsplash

Triumph

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Acts chapter 12 tells a wonderful story. John Stott puts it this way: The chapter opens with James dead, Peter in prison and Herod triumphing; it closes with Herod dead, Peter free and the word of God triumphing. Such is the power of God to overthrow hostile human plans and to establish his own in there place. Tyrants may be permitted for a time to boast and bluster, oppressing the church and hindering the spread of the gospel, but they will not last. In the end, their empire will be broken and their pride abased.

This weekend we remember that the story of the Gospel is a story of triumph. The triumph of life over death, righteousness over sin, our Savior over Satan, and, in particular, the life giving freedom of the Gospel over institutional religion. Such was the case 500+ years ago when Martin Luther, looking for academic debate, nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenberg Church door. He could never have imagined what would be unleashed in the coming years, what it would cost him, but also the joy that would come his way. Ultimately Luther’s story is another chapter in the triumph of the God’s story.   

And we too are in that in story, sustained by the Spirit of Christ. We will turn our attention to this life giving truth as we climb back into Romans 8:9-11. We often focus on Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Christus, Sola Scriptura, Soli Deo Gloria when we think of the Reformation; but let us not forget Solus Spiritus, a cry for all who belong to Christ.

 

Photo by Julentto Photography on Unsplash

in Rest

A Reflection on Gospel Rest

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 "The Gospel encourages me to rest in my righteous standing with God, a standing which Christ himself has accomplished and always maintains for me. I never have to do a moments labor to gain or maintain my justified status before God. Freed from the burden of such a task, I now can put my energies into enjoying God, pursuing holiness and ministering God's amazing grace to others."  

- Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer, p. 20

From time to time, as part of my own personal worship, I turn to The Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent. It contains a series of reflections on the beauties of the Gospel and its applications that are really life giving. For instance, the quote above contains a vista that is truly breathtaking. It is hard to comprehend that, redeemed by Christ, we never have to do a moment’s labor to gain or to maintain our justified status before God. By faith in Christ, each of us is fully justified right now. When Christ comes in all his glory we will not be more justified than we are today. If we turn our minds to all the saints that have lived throughout the ages, we realize that we are as fully justified in Christ as they ever were. Paul or Priscilla, David or Abigail, Peter or Phoebe: none of them were more justified than we are right now. We cannot add one iota to our justification, nor can we take away from it. Amazing!

And Vincent’s application is right on. Enjoy God. Pursue Holiness. Reflect the amazing, breathtaking grace of God to others. We do these things because of who we are in Christ. As I think about what this means for me, I pray that this reflection would start in my family. That my wife and kids would know the peace and joy of a man who knows he is justified. As I think about what this means for Christ Church as a whole, my hope is that others could see an easy freedom in each of us that comes from being secure in the Gospel. 

 

Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash

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