Sermon preached at Covenant Church Manurewa.
Sermon preached at Covenant Church Manurewa.
As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness. (Psalm 17:15, ESV)
This is a prayer of David. He cries out to his LORD for his enemies are many. David says that they have surrounded him, that they close their mouth to pity, they are like lions eager to eat him. Yet even with all of this, his heart cry is that when he awakes he will be satisfied with God’s likeness. Worth noting that David is not saying he will be satisfied by being like God, but rather he will be satisfied by seeking God’s likeness, image, representation, or form. In other words, no matter what is going on in David’s life right now, there is one thing, one thing that he longs for, it is for the face of God.
I remember hearing a story by Ray Cortese who said that he knew of a man whose wife died. The man had a small son, and for weeks after the death of this small boy’s mother, he would sleep in his father’s bed. Throughout the night as the father was sleeping he would roll over away from his son. His son because of the trauma would wake up, he would look to his father and only see his back. This small boy would proceed to wake his father up and say to him, “your face Dad, I need to see your face”.
I wonder how many of us live in this reality? How many of us need one thing, one thing more than anything else, the Lord’s face, the Lord’s presence near to us, for our joy and satisfaction. If we only have that one thing, we can live through all circumstances, we can live through anything if we only have the Lord’s face. This was David’s reality, he faced a tremendous amount of trauma, and yet he would be satisfied if he had one simple thing, the likeness of God when he awoke in the morning. This was real for David and he did not have the incarnation to look at, how much more, should we, who live after the incarnation, look for our satisfaction in the likeness of God? We can look and see Jesus in the gospels and all throughout his words and be deeply satisfied.
Your face, Lord, I need to see your face…
1 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”
3 As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.
4 The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.
5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
7 I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
8 I have set the LORD always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16, ESV, emphasis mine)
One thing that has been impressed upon my mind as of late is the importance of finding our satisfaction in God. When we consider the story of redemption, one gigantic theme that runs throughout is the removal and restoration of our satisfaction in God. When Adam and Eve were created they were created with the express purpose of glorifying God. There are two aspects of glorifying God; worship (external glorifying of God) and satisfaction (internal glorifying of God). To worship is to express our praise towards God. To be satisfied is for God to be our greatest delight.
This is a beautiful self-feeding cycle. You find your delight in God because of what he does, so you express praise towards God because of the joy that is overflowing from within you. As you express praise towards God you find that you delight in him more, which causes you to worship him more, which in turn causes you to delight more. As I have been pondering this over the last few months I have begun to gain a ‘delight’ and ‘satisfaction’ radar in the Scriptures. What I am noticing is that over and over again, the Word of God talks about men and women finding their deep satisfaction in God. Psalm 16 is a classic example of this.
The Psalm is entitled by the editors of the ESV, “You Will Not Abandon My Soul”. Granted, there is a reference to this in verse 10. But do yourself a favour, go back to the Psalm above and re-read it. Look at those sections I have added emphasis to. I am serious, stop reading and go up and do it. Now consider, David (the author) says ten times, in one way or another, that his chief joy and satisfaction is found in the LORD. This Psalm is not about his soul not being abandoned – though this is undoubtedly true – it is about his soul finding pleasure in the LORD.
Too often we forget that the chief purpose of our redemption completed in Christ is not to get us into Heaven. Rather, it is to restore broken men and women into their place as worshippers of God. Let us apply our hearts with renewed vigour to finding our satisfaction, joy and contentment in the LORD, and to worship him out of what he has done for us.
O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill? (Psalm 15:1, ESV)
In Psalm 15:1, David effectively asks the question, “Who can dwell in the presence of God?” He then provides us with the answer, ‘He who walks blamelessly and does what is right…’ (vs. 2) For the rest of this Psalm David then proceeds to explain what the person looks like who can enter the presence of God. To summarise his description only one word is needed, perfection.
The only person who may enter the presence of God is a perfect person. This leaves us with a problem. How can we enter the presence of God since we are so full of sin? The answer is called the imputed righteousness of Christ. When God places our sin upon Jesus he also places Jesus’ righteousness upon us. What does this mean? It means positionally (the way God sees us) that we are perfect. It means we can enter into the presence of God as blameless and righteous. Because we enter not with any righteousness of our own, nor any perfection obtained by us, but purely by Christ’s righteousness. This means that to whatever degree of righteousness or perfection you think have earned, to that degree, you cannot enter the presence of God.
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” Lk 6:46–49, ESV.
How often have you heard this – or the parallel passage in Matthew – spoken of very simply as meaning that we must make sure our foundation is Jesus. The rationale goes that Jesus is the Rock and therefore, like the wise man, we must make Jesus our foundation. Like the song:
So, build your house on the Lord Jesus Christ
Build your house on the Lord Jesus Christ
Build your house on the Lord Jesus Christ
And the blessings will come down
The problem with this teaching and this song, for that matter, is that it completely misses the point that Jesus was trying to make. Consider the context; in both Luke and Matthew this saying comes directly after a great set of teaching by Jesus called the sermon on the mount. Jesus had just finished teaching to the disciples what it meant to show true obedience to God. He finishes with an amazing conclusion to drive home his entire sermon, and that conclusion is…do what I say! Yet for some reason we take his teaching and make it…make me your foundation.
Now please do not mistake me, I am not saying that the idea that Jesus should be our foundation is wrong, for surely Paul says that, “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 3:11, ESV) But Jesus is not trying to show what the ultimate foundation of teaching is. What he is driving home – and the point of this story – is that if you want to have a solid foundation you must do three things; come to him, hear him and do what he says.
I am unsure at what point we got this concept wrong but it drastically changes the way one understands this story. Jesus wants to show us what a person is like who comes to him, hears him and does what he says. He is like a man who has a solid foundation, ensuring that no matter what happens he is safe and secure against the storms; because he is built well. Do you achieve this by only believing in God? No, for “Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19, ESV) What does Jesus say is the recipe for a solid foundation? Coming to him, listening to him and obeying him.
Is it enough to come? No, for what is the point of coming to him if you are going to ignore what he says? This has happened (and is happening) all too often in the church, where individuals – and entire churches – have come to Jesus and then continued living their life as they please. It requires coming to him and listening to what he has to say.
Is coming to him and listening to him enough? No, for what is the point if you come to him, listen to him and then ignore what he has to say? Instead, we must come to him, consider everything that he is saying and then do what says. If we miss our any of these parts of the process we completely destroy any hope of having the foundation that Jesus spoke of.
Do you wish to have a solid foundation? Do you want to have the sort of life that when a flood arises and the stream breaks against it that it cannot be shaken? Then, ensure that your life is built well, and how do you ensure that your life is built well? By coming to Jesus, listening to Jesus and obeying Jesus. Too often in the western church, we have settled for antinomianism* that lets us lay claim to Jesus – coming to him – while ignoring the commitment that comes with it – hearing and doing.
I would love to see us stop using this passage in the way that it is so often used and start using it the way Jesus intended it, Lord willing we will start seeing more people not just coming to Jesus, but hearing and doing.
* – one who holds that under the gospel dispensation of grace the moral law is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation
In my previous post, ‘Indolence’s Impact on the Improvement of Time‘, I spoke about the first chapter of the second part of ‘An Essay on the Improve
ment of Time’ by John Foster. We will now consider the first chapter of the second part of Foster’s essay which is entitled, ‘Intervals of Time’.
Previously we discussed some of the clearest and obvious losses of time; idleness, vacancy and needless sleep. Now we need to consider another loss of time which is often overlooked yet which causes a serious problem. That is the neglect of many short intervals of time. In a single day, there will always be many small intervals of time which cannot be stopped and which are very difficult to improve upon. When one considers the day and how much time is used up in these moments transitioning from one job to another, considering what to do next, uncontrollable events (eg. traffic), waiting for others, and the lateness of others or self, would we not be quite astounded? If we added all of that time up in a year I think we would be amazed at just how much it totalled. Granted some of that time is not our fault, but acknowledging the loss is the first step in improving it.
One of the first ways in which we can redeem the time lost by intervals is in having fewer transition points throughout the day. If you fill your time with six different pursuits every day, that means you need to have at least five transition points. Not only is there time lost in switching from one job to another but your brain takes time to switch over so your pace is drastically reduced.Not only that but your time spent in that occupation will actually be more effective if you do it for longer (with the exclusion of the most laborious work where a switch may help). The best way to remedy this is to reduce the amount of jobs taken a day. If you normally would do six each day, aim to do three each day. Splitting those same six over a two day period will enable you to maximise your efficiency. This is especially important for the student or anyone who works from home.
Another way we can redeem the time lost is in planning how we will spend our day. One major problem is that we do not know what we are going to do at the various intervals of the day. Granted, for many of us, large portions of our days are beyond our control and we must spend them doing what others require. For those who are in control of their entire day this will impact you more, but even for those who control but a small portion of their time, there is still time to plan. Now because we do not know how we are going to spend our time when we complete a task, we end up spending a large portion of time just considering what to do next. By the time we find something to do we have either wasted a lot of time already or just plain given up. Instead, if we had intentionally planned our day we would have had all that time doing something instead of fluffing around finding something to do. My recommendations then are to set a period of time aside each week or day in order to plan what you will do. Personally, I plan out my whole week on a Monday, and then each day in the morning I will review it and make small adjustments as necessary. The plan adapts and changes as situations do but you will always know what you should be doing. (see my Week planner)
To any who seek to be serious about improving their time a plan is essential. But with planning, I must put forward a caution. Life happens. What I mean by that is that try as you will you cannot control everything. God is sovereign and he is more powerful than your planning. Traffic, queues, visitors, problems will happen, embrace them and “roll with the punches”. After these things happen, pick up your plan, make adjustments and keep on moving forward. Remember that the plan is a utility tool to help gain improvement, it is not a slavery chain to bind you down. Stick to your plan, but if something vital pops up, set it aside and pursue the most important with all your strength. If you have work set and a dear friend turns up, entertain them and spend time with them. If you are working and should change but feel like you are obtaining great usefulness out of your current subject, continue! If you have the opportunity to love your neighbour, sacrifice your plan and love your neighbour, for the Lord demands mercy and not sacrifice.
But what are we to do when we are stuck in situations that are not conducive with improving time? Things that we cannot control (eg. traffic jams and queues)? There are a couple of things we can do in order to improve our time even in these moments. Firstly, when you are stuck in a situation outside of your control, control your emotions and practise observation. Observe the people around you, I tell you the truth you will learn a vast amount about humanity just by observing how people do life. Observe the parent interacting with their child, the friends chatting, the enemies fighting. Take it all in and consider how you can learn and grow from what you witness. If there are no people, observe the art and scenery around you. Consider the trees, nature, and construction. Nothing at all but yourself? Observe yourself, how are you reacting to the situation you are in? There is never a time that there is nothing to observe around you, you just need to be available to observe.
Secondly, Foster suggests carrying with you a small book of short essays or light histories in your pocket or bad to read in such times. Of course in our day, it is much easier for we have cell phones! I always have an e-book, an audiobook for driving, and my Greek and Hebrew grammar quiz app on my phone so I am prepared for any situation. This means if I have substantial downtime in a quite place I can read my book, if I am going for a long drive I can listen to a book and if I have a small amount of time or am somewhere noisy I can briefly study some Greek and Hebrew grammar. If none of this is possible you can bring to mind something you have considered or learnt recently and make it fresh to yourself again.
Thirdly, I suggest having Scripture on hand at all times. Get a Bible app on your phone, or have pre-printed cards in your pocket or wallet so you can pull them out and read a brief section and meditate on the Word of God. The advantage of having these things on your phone is that you can pull your phone out in 90% of circumstances in our society and people will not be upset with you. On this note, I would seriously suggest deleting your facebook from your cell phone as it will cost you greatly. Games on the cell phone are also dangerous unless you can control them very severely. If you have things like Facebook and games on your phone and do not severely monitor your usage of them instead of redeeming your time you will send it to the slaughter.
The little moments in life are often the most important as they come together to make for large amounts of time, but they are often ignored of missed. We need to pay attention to the littlest of moments in our day so that we can improve upon all of our time in order to bring glory to our Lord and make ourselves useful in his kingdom.
In my previous post, ‘The Ultimate Object of the Improvement of Time’, I spoke about the final chapter of the first part of ‘An Essay on the Improvement of Time’ by John Foster. We will now consider the first chapter of the second part of Foster’s essay which is entitled, ‘Thoughts on Indolence’.
For those of us who wondered what indolence means (myself included when I first read it) it is defined as avoidance of activity or exertion; laziness. I will alternate in usage between laziness and indolence. I should stipulate before I start that in this part of the essay Foster is very direct and extremely straight forward on his opinions about the abuses of time. I have not attempted to soften any of his opinions but tried to regurgitate them the way that they have impacted me, he is found speaking to the reader in a lot of this section and my writing will reflect that influence.
Indolence is a despicable trap and the complete enemy to the improvement of time. It is something we must seek to oppose at every turn. The odd thing is that many of us are not even aware of the problem. We set about a task and eventually get around to completing it. The problem is that it takes us ten times longer to complete the task than necessary. Is that a problem you ask? Well if you were charged ten times the amount for your cup of coffee at Starbucks would you be upset? Then why are you not upset at yourself charging ten times the amount of time for one task? The fact is that if you saw a child being lazy and not completing their assigned work (be it dishes, tidying their room or school work) would you not chide them for not applying themselves better? Yet you do the very same thing when you fail to apply yourself and you let your work, home, or self-improvement gather dust while you twiddle your thumbs! Be aware of hypocrisy.
Vacancy or idleness is a dangerous type of indolence. A vacant person is busy about but achieves nothing, appearing to be busy, but truly they are vacant in what they do. And the idle person is far worse, for they sit and watch the days go by. They may stand and observe some people travelling past their house. They may look at facebook and make comments or share information for a time. Maybe they will watch TV in order to “vegetate” for awhile. It is a dangerous folly to fall into, for you will often not realise you are doing it. How many of you have not fallen into the trap where you do not realise that you are actually spending time achieving nothing until it is too late? Who has not spent an extended period of time mindlessly looking at a TV, a computer, a magazine, a book, a sports game, only to say, “What did I do the last few hours?” or “What was the point of that?” Maybe your conscience is so dulled with indolence that you no longer feel the prangs that come when idleness is afoot. If so, allow your conscience to be renewed now so that may be aware of the idleness in your own life.
Another type of indolence is the person who sleeps too much. Foster spends the rest of the chapter devoted to this problem as he sees it as the biggest problem. I am conscious of adding at this point that Foster states that the perfect amount of sleep is six hours, seven for those who work in very laborious industries, I am aware that lots of modern research show that eight hours is the perfect amount. I am not going to argue what is the perfect amount, I will leave that up to the reader to consider how much is a good amount of sleep. Personally, it is my view that six to seven hours is a good amount, up to eight for those who seem to require a bit more sleep, but I will leave it at that, judge for yourself what is right.
Consider that if you live the same amount as your neighbour and he rises one hour earlier each day, that, in his lifetime he will do much more to prepare himself for eternity, even though he is given the same amount of time. And notice that if you sleep for nine or more hours a day that you come near to spending half of your life in a state of non-existence. Yes, I mean non-existence, you may be existing, but it is a non-existing for you spend it doing nothing. Of course, we must spend a certain portion of our time asleep for the sake of nourishing our bodies, that is how our creator made us. Non-necessary sleep is a dreadful waste of the time given us by our Lord. We will all answer for how we have used our gifts and time is one of them. Will you be like the foolish servant who buried the talents his master gave him? Or will you use them and reap a bounty of one, ten or even one hundred times back?
Think of it another way. Imagine your closest family member or friend is dreadfully ill. They have been told they may not last through the night. You receive the phone call and are told that the person on their death bed desperately wants to see you one last time. Now you hang up the phone, go for a walk, check your emails, visit some other friends, read Facebook, have some dinner and go to bed. You rise late to discover that your loved one is dead. How would you feel? How should you be treated? If you did that then you deserve to be spurned by friends and family alike, for it shows a complete contempt for your loved ones. But the truth is that all of us do this day in and day out. We sleep the day away and meanwhile there are people all around us dying and heading to an eternity in hell. There are brothers and sisters who desperately need our support and we ourselves desperately need to be pursuing Christ.
Maybe you are still not convinced. Maybe you still feel that you are justified to sleep as much as you wish. Let me provide you with a few reasons why sleeping too much is evil.
The problem is not that you feel justified to sleep, but rather that you fail to realise what good can be achieved in the time that you sleep. If you realised how much could be achieved in those moments and contemplated how many you have slept away, the truth is, you would be just as sorrowful as John Foster. How much time have we all wasted that the Creator has given us?
Anyone who suffers from sleeping too much is instantly challenged in this regard when they meet someone who is studious with their time. They meet a sister who rises early to use her time well and commit herself to the Lord. They meet a brother who starts his day early so he can achieve much at work. When faced with a person as such, your conscience is struck regarding your oversleep. You will wish internally that you could do what he or she does. So often this will happen to us in our life and we will just shrug it off and shake it away before it takes root in our heart.
If you are to make a change, however, you need a good reason do you not? Let me describe what you could achieve from a little less sleep. If you normally sleep for nine hours and instead you slept for seven, consider the impact on your life. You have now gained two hours extra every day, fourteen hours every week, sixty hours a month and seven hundred and thirty every year. If we take seven hundred and thirty and divide it by seventeen (the number of awake hours) you find that you have in one year gained approximately forty-three days. What could you achieve if your boss said you could have an extra forty-three days leave each year! Now consider this. It takes approximately one thousand hours to become a genius at anything. Now stop for a second, think of something you would dream of being a genius at. Piano? Cooking? Writing? Speaking? Business? Sports? Now realise, that with the above scenario in fourteen years you could be a genius at whatever you picked. Only fourteen! That is not that much! How many lots of fourteen years have you lived already? (I am mid way through my third lot already, I could be part way through my second category of genius already). In forty-five years you could be a genius piano player (we are talking Mozart level), a genius rocket scientist and a genius Biblical scholar with all original languages in place. Now I may be oversimplifying this. But the point remains. It is actually quite amazing what you could achieve by deciding to rise two hours earlier each day.
Consider indolence. What does indolence look like in your life? We are all guilty of it at some level. What does laziness look like in your life? Is it vacancy, is it complacency, is it idleness, or is it sleeping too much? Find any indolence in your life and set about rooting it out and casting it to the wind!
In the next post, we will be looking at Foster’s consideration of the ‘Intervals of Time’s Impact on the Improvement of Time’.