Friday, August 24, 2012

Psalm 103 epilogue

For the past two weeks, we've had the privilege of unearthing many of the evidences of God's grace found in Psalm 103.  We looked at ten in total.  Do you remember them?

  • Forgiveness
  • Physical healing
  • Redemption
  • Renewal like an eagle
  • Justice
  • Knowing/enjoying God
  • Compassion
  • Love
  • Significance 
The grace of Christ showers us with these ten blessings.  During my messages, I emphasized placing these evidences of God's grace front and center in our minds as ammunition in our war against sin and in our pursuit of happiness.  With blessings like these through Christ, we lose our appetite for sin and find contentment and happiness no matter what else we may not have in life.  Remembering Christ's grace is the key to our happiness and holiness.

This week, as I've pondered Psalm 103 some more, it struck me that as we remember, meditate on and stir up thankfulness for these gifts of grace through Christ, we ourselves begin to change and take on these very characteristics in our own lives and relationships.  Think about it:
  • Forgiveness: The more I receive forgiveness from God through Christ for my sins and delight in His mercy to me, the more I will be a forgiving person toward those who sin against me.  For instance, what empowered David to be so forbearing of Shimei, the man who cursed him after Absalom's revolt in 2 Samuel 16?  One significant factor has to be the great forgiveness David had received from God in the wake of his great sins in 2 Samuel 11.  Do you want to grow in your capacity to forgive others? Focus on the greater forgiveness in Christ God has extended to you.
  • Physical healing: Now, none of us has the power to physically heal another person, but we can exhibit care for those who are ill or injured in our lives, and our remembrance of God's past healing of us can inspire such feelings.  Back in 1991 I returned from the Gulf War with a residual disease which dogged me until the spring of 1995.  At that time many friends prayed for me, and God healed my body.  None of those symptoms have ever returned.  What grace!  But what a shame it would be for God's healing grace not to flow over to an increased sensitivity to and care for the many hurting, injured and ill people around me.  One practical effect has been that whenever I see or hear an ambulance, I pray for that person/situation.  Remembering God's healing grace to me makes all the difference when I encounter others who need His healing.
  • Redemption: Again, we don't have the power to 'buy another out of spiritual slavery' as Christ has redemptively done for us.  But, think about what Jesus' redemption took: it cost Him His life.  Philippians 2:1-11 is a great expression of that.  The more we as redeemed sinners contemplate the cost of Christ's redemption of us, the more we will be transformed by His Spirit and become increasingly willing - even eager - to lay down our lives for one another and, as Galatians 6:2 says, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."  
  • Spiritual renewal: Though only the Holy Spirit can 'satisfy us with good so that our youth is renewed like the eagle's,' the more we call to mind the wealth of goodness God has poured out to us and feel its renewing effect in our hearts, we find ourselves empowered to bless those around us with goodness (rather than the badness of our sin and selfishness) in a living prayer of blessing for them.  I think of Epaphroditus in Philippians 3:25ff. of whom Paul (who was in prison) says, "ministered to my need" or  Onesiphorus in 2 Timothy 1:16 who "often refreshed" Paul.  We don't know the details, but without doubt the refreshing good flowing through those Christian men was rooted in the deeper renewal given them through the grace of Christ.  Making much of that in our lives can make us such friends of refreshment to our friends, too.
  • Justice: Every day we have opportunities to stand up for what is right in defending the oppressed and seeking justice for the helpless and marginalized in our world.  That could take the form of anything from expressing some righteous anger when you hear about human rights in Syria being violated or writing a letter to the city council suggesting a ceiling on local rental prices because of gouging.  But our passion for justice will not grow unless we keep a clear and steady gaze on the justice of God for the sake of Christ's righteousness.
  • Knowing/enjoying God: Perhaps the greatest of all gifts of grace is the welcome for us to know and enjoy God.  That's the big point of our salvation according to Christ (John 17:3).  Where would we be without knowing and God, and how pale our enjoyment of creation with the Creator excluded?  The more we ponder this joy and privilege of knowing Christ, the more we'll be compelled to share it with others.  All of us want to increase in our witness, don't we?  Taking time daily to ponder who we would be and where we would be (not to mention where we'd be heading) without knowing God has great power to launch us into an evangelistic mindset with greater fervor and passion.
  • Compassion: None of us would say that we lack compassion.  We like to think of ourselves as compassionate people.  Yet, in reality, our compassion is often quite selective and often connected to our personal benefit in some way.  How can we change that and become people who notice hurting people more often, and then seek to alleviate their pain?  Remembering God's great compassion poured out to us every day - that's how.  Think of how compassionate God has been to you the past 24 hours: He gave you the gift of sleep, He provided you with food, He listened to your prayers and complaints, He felt deeply grieved when you were sinned against.  The list could go on and on.  When we consider God's Fatherly compassion to us, suddenly we find ourselves taking note of others' pain and doing something about it.
  • Love: Remember the two key areas of God's love touched on in Psalm 103?  His love which graciously placed a holy fear of Him in our hearts, and His loving plan to generally extend His covenant grace to believer's children.  God didn't need to love us in those ways?  He could have stopped at loving us in merely general or distant ways, but both those ways are intimate and personal. When I think about the depth and scope of God's love, I'm suddenly ashamed at the stinginess of my love for others.  But I'm also motivated to extend it to others; to live out the loving character qualities listed by Paul in I Corinthians 13:4-7: patience, kindness, not envying or boasting or being arrogant or rude or insisting on my own way or being irritable or resentful or rejoicing at sin but rejoicing with the truth as well as bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things and enduring all things.  When I think of God's intimate, replete love for me, suddenly I want to live that way to others.
  • Significance: In my more honest moments, I find myself looking in so many wrong places to feel significant: how well I preach a sermon or counsel a couple; how beautiful my house looks or how many books I read in a month.  Those are empty places in which significance stems from pride, rather than God.  But in Christ's Kingdom our true significance is found.  We bear His name; we get to share His message; we stand cleansed, adopted, transformed and bound for glory for eternity!  Remembering those truths of significant grace we find in Christ, suddenly its not quite so important what I look like in the mirror or how good my grades are or what a fine parent my neighbors think I am.  Christ is enough.  Nothing's more liberating than that.  Just think of the blessing to others and the greater glory that would rise to God if we stopped our perpetual construction project of trying to find our significance in worldly things.  There's only one solution: saying 'yes' to our significance that already exists fully in Christ.  Our significance was settled at the Cross, and now we can rest.

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