The Lord's Day Morning
April 5, 2009
"Preaching the Gospel to Ourselves Every Day"
Dr. Derek W. H. Thomas
The Call to Worship: Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel who alone does wondrous things, and blessed be His glorious name forever. May His glory fill the whole earth! May His lips pour forth praise! Let us worship God.
Lord, our God, we come again this morning into Your presence in the name and through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom little children sang, "Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed be He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed be the King of Israel!" We thank You, O Lord, for the provision of a Savior. We thank You that You loved us from before the foundation of the world and set Your affection upon us. We thank You for the Lord Jesus Christ, who became incarnate and dwelt in this world, and fulfilled every facet of Your law, and went obediently to the death of the cross for us, and for our salvation. We thank You this morning that You made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be reckoned the righteousness of God in Him.
We pray this morning as we gather together: Lord, come amongst us. Come by the power of Your Holy Spirit. Help us to worship You in spirit and in truth. Give us an assurance that our sins are forgiven and that we are in a right and saving relationship with You. Give us that foretaste of glory, as collectively we worship You in this place this morning. We want to mingle our voices now with angels and archangels, and cherubim and seraphim, and the church triumphant on the other side. Father, hear us; bless us; forgive us our sins; do us good, we pray. We ask it all in Jesus' name. Amen.
Please be seated.
Now turn with me if you would to the fortieth Psalm — Psalm 40. And before we read the passage together, let's look to God in prayer. Let us pray.
Father, we would be still now and know that You are God. We would come to Your word, the holy Scriptures, knowing that all Scripture is breathed out by God. We come as needy as ever, and we ask for the blessing of Your Spirit. So, come, Holy Spirit; help us to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
This is God's holy, inerrant word:
TO THE CHOIRMASTER. A PSALM OF DAVID.
"I waited patiently for the Lord;
He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a son of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.
"Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust,
who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!
You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
Your wondrous deeds and Your thoughts toward us;
none can compare with You!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
yet they are more than can be told.
"In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
but You have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering
You have not required.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
I delight to do Your will, O my God;
Your law is within my heart.’
"I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips,
as You know, O Lord.
I have not hidden Your deliverance within my heart;
I have spoken of Your faithfulness and Your salvation;
I have not concealed Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness
from the great congregation.
"As for You, O Lord, You will not restrain Your mercy from me;
Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness
will ever preserve me!
For evils have encompassed me beyond number;
my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
my heart fails me.
"Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me!
O Lord, make haste to help me!
Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether
who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor
who delight in my hurt!
Let those be appalled because of their shame
who say to me, ‘Aha, Aha!’
"But may all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You;
may those who love Your salvation
say continually, ‘Great is the Lord!’
As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God!"
May God bless His word to us, for His name's sake.
Jonathan Aitken was a conservative politician in Britain in the 1990's. He was tipped to be the next Prime Minister, but he committed perjury and was made an example of, and was tried and sentenced and imprisoned. And in his imprisonment, he found Christ. He was truly converted. When leaving prison, he went to seminary and today speaks in a number of places, and has written many fine, useful books including one…a commentary on his favorite Psalms. Well, this particular Psalm on which he meditated during this time in prison he gave the title "A Tonic for Those Under Pressure." A tonic for those under pressure…have I got your attention now?
You came here this morning under pressure, under pressure from the world, under pressure from the flesh, under pressure from the devil. Now here's a Psalm for you this morning. The last four or five verses of this Psalm actually occur again in Psalm 70. Although it occurs after Psalm 40, it was probably written before Psalm 40, and what the psalmist is doing in the midst of his trouble is defaulting into a well-known prayer (at least a well-known prayer for him) in the same way that we might default into the Lord's Prayer in the middle of our own praying.
The key to this Psalm is not the first verse. As is true so often of Hebrew poetry, the key to this Psalm actually lies in the middle, in this case in verse 12:
"For evils have encompassed me beyond number;
my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
my heart fails me."
Here's a believer — David. He is overtaken by a sense of his unworthiness, a sense of his sin, a sense of his failure, the guilt of his sins. He cannot see. His heart is failing him.
Maybe that's you this morning. You've been a Christian for a long, long time…but isn't it strange? Sometimes we sense as though we've made so very little progress. We feel as though…it's not just that we're as much sinners now as we were when we first discovered Jesus Christ, but some of us feel we're worse sinners now than we were when we first discovered Jesus Christ. Is this you today? You've come to church this morning and there's a weariness about you. There's a sense of the weight and gravity of sin. You cannot see clearly. Your heart is failing you. Well, listen to the psalmist. Listen carefully to the psalmist, because the Psalmist understands, you see, that when you find yourself in that situation there's only one thing that you can do, and that is preach the gospel to yourself.
And you get a sense here in this Psalm not that the psalmist knows where to go to hear that gospel, but that he is so intimately acquainted with that gospel in his own soul that he knows the very means by which he can alleviate this burden that he feels - by preaching the gospel (which he so intimately knows) to himself. Because out of these depths he certainly comes.
Look at what he says in this Psalm in verses 2 and 3: he's drawn out of the miry pit; his feet are set upon a rock; a new song is put in his mouth, even praise to God. In verse 11, he is assured that God will not restrain His mercy from him, and in verse 9 he's standing in the middle of the congregation and he's testifying to the wonderful grace of Jesus. [Well, he would be if he was in the New Testament!] He's in the Old Testament, but he still understands the gospel and he still knows how to preach that gospel to himself.
I want us to see three things that he does in this Psalm.
I. The Psalmist preaches grace to himself first.
I want us to see first of all — and you see it in the opening verse and the verses that immediately follow — that what he does is to preach grace to himself. He preaches grace to himself.
"I waited patiently for the Lord," and the Lord said to me, ‘Try harder.’ Isn't that what we sometimes think God says to us when we're struggling, when we take our burdens to the Lord and we seemingly sense this voice that says, ‘You need to try harder. That wasn't good enough. Try again’?
But that's not what the Psalmist is saying, is it? "I waited patiently for the Lord…." Actually, waiting, I waited, the Hebrew says. And literally in the Hebrew, God stooped down to me and heard my cry. God came down into the miry pit and into that Slough of Despond in which I found myself. He came right down there, and He heard my cry. Actually, all the main verbs in these opening verses have God as their subject. It is God who lifts him from the miry clay. It is God who sets his feet upon a rock. It is God who puts a new song in his mouth. Do you see what he says in verse 4? He says, "Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust." Do you get it? That the solution to our problem lies outside of ourselves? Friends, that's grace. That's grace. The psalmist understands grace. He's looking to the Lord. He's casting his burden upon the Lord, and God is his deliverer.
Jerry Bridges, whom I had the pleasure of being with at a conference a couple of weeks ago, and I’ll be with him again in another couple of weeks — dear, godly Jerry Bridges, who, among the many books that he has written, has written a book called Respectable Sins. (And I've seen you carrying copies of Respectable Sins on a Wednesday night, respectably sinning!) But Jerry Bridges says that he does something every single day of his life. Every morning when he gets up, he confesses his sins to the Lord. Every morning when he gets up, he repents of those sins. He comes before God and he says, ‘I'm so sorry for this sin,’ and he hears a little voice in his head that says, ‘You did this yesterday, and you did this the day before that, and you did it the day before that, too!’ And Jerry says, ‘I know I did, and I will do it again tomorrow and the day after that.’ And he reminds himself…he reminds himself of the gospel: that the basis upon which I have a right standing with God is not something within myself. It is altogether something outside of myself. He reminds himself of the words of that beautiful hymn,
"Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness,
My beauty are, my glorious dress.
Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
with joy shall I lift up my head."
"My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness…."
"On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand."
And then he says, "I apply specific verses of Scripture, one of which is II Corinthians 5:21:
"God made Him [Jesus] to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be reckoned the righteousness of God."
He does that every single day, reminding himself of the overtures and parameters of grace.
"Blessed is the man," the psalmist says, "who makes the Lord his trust." My dear friend, this morning trust in the Lord. Trust in sweet, sovereign, undeserving grace.
II. There is nothing that I can ever do to earn my salvation.
The second thing that he does is that he preaches…well, let me put it this way: he preaches a message that says there's nothing that I can do, not now, not ever, to earn my salvation.
Look at verses 6, 7, and 8:
"In sacrifice and offering You have not delighted…
Burnt offering and sin offering You have not required."
That's a strange thing, isn't it? I mean, has David not read the Old Testament? Wasn't he here when we were studying Leviticus a year or so ago? When we were going through all of these offerings? He mentions four of them here. Isn't this something that God required? But, you see, David has understood something. Actually, he has understood more than one thing. He's understood first of all that if his heart isn't right with God, if God hasn't shown grace to him, if he hasn't been brought into a right saving relationship with God, if he isn't in a right standing with God, it doesn't matter how many sacrifices he offers! They will be of no avail.
You see, I'm not sure that we all get that. Sometimes I think as Christians, you know, we are conscious of our sin, and we're conscious of our failure, and we're conscious of our guilt, and we say to ourselves, "I've got to go to early church this morning. I'd better stay to Sunday School this morning," as though doing such a thing would impress God, as though that "myself" effort, "my sacrifices" would in some way alleviate the sense of guilt that I have. And you know, my friends, whenever we think like that — and don't make this mistake, that we never think like that, because I think we think like that a lot — and whenever we think like that, we're denying the very foundations of the gospel.
You know, David was saying more than that, because these verses are cited in the New Testament. They’re cited in the book of Hebrews. They’re cited in the tenth chapter of the book of Hebrews, and they’re ascribed not to David, but they’re ascribed to Jesus. It is Jesus who says these words. It is Jesus who says,
"Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your law is within My heart."
David, a thousand years before, foresaw, you see — at least to some extent — that the sacrifices of bulls and calves and goats could never take away sin. Only the blood of Jesus can take away sin. Only the substitution of the perfect Lamb of God can take away our sin, and it is He who ultimately says, "I delight to do Your will, O My God, because Your law is within My heart."
You know, it's as though God is saying to His Son here, ‘I want You to go into that miry pit. I want You to get right down and dirty. I want You to sink into that miry pit until that slime comes all the way up and covers You from head to toe. I want You to go into that place where You cannot see, and You lose heart and You will say, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death."’ And I think I see the Father saying to the angels and the archangels when He watches His Son go into that miry pit on behalf of sinners like you and me…and He looks down upon His Son, and He says to His angels and archangels, ‘Open the floodgates now, and let My mercy out! And let that mercy fill that miry pit and lift this one, and lift that one, so that his feet are set upon a rock; and put a new song in his mouth, even praise to our God.’
My friends, isn't that glorious? Isn't that glorious? I don't have anything new or novel or difficult to say to you this morning. I just have the old, old story. That's all I have this morning, the old, old story of Jesus and His love. And I get an inkling here that David understood that. He understood that you need to preach grace to yourself, and he understood that you need to preach Christ to yourself. And I wonder this morning…I really do wonder this morning…if we always get that…if we always get that. Have you preached grace to your soul this morning? Have you preached Christ to your soul this morning? And I wonder, dear friend, as you begin to do that — and if you haven't done that and you came to worship this morning bowed down beneath a load of sin and care, then do it now. Do it right now. And begin to sense that sensation that the psalmist describes here of being lifted out of the miry clay and being placed upon a rock, and your mouth beginning to open, and there's a song:
"Praise, my soul, the King of heaven, to His feet thy tribute bring;
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
who, like me, His praise should sing?"
III. The Lord thinks, cares and perseveres for His people.
But there's a third thing that the psalmist does and it's right at the very end in verse 17: "As for me [he says], I am poor and needy,
"…But the Lord takes thought for me."
Isn't that the most extraordinary, wonderful, glorious thing you have ever heard? This God, this God whom the Psalmist describes as "great" has thought for you. He thinks about you, because He has you, dear Christian, in His heart.
Do you remember in the Gospels, the story? When Jesus is in the boat, there's a storm. The disciples are there, and He's in the stern of the boat. And do you remember He's sleeping? Fast asleep in the middle of a storm on the Sea of Galilee. And the fishermen, disciples who know the Sea of Galilee all too well, experienced fishermen that they are, they say to Jesus as they wake Him up, "Master! Don't You care that we perish?"
You've never thought that, have you? That's never crossed your mind, that God didn't care for you. Oh, my dear friend, there are some here this morning in the midst of trial and in the midst of difficulties…and some of their own making. And they’re sinking, and they’re in the miry clay, and they've lost heart and they cannot see. And a little voice is saying to them, "God doesn't care."
Oh, my dear friends! Listen to the way the Psalmist gets out of this despair by preaching grace and preaching Christ, and preaching the perseverance of God with His people! He has fought for you!
"You are my help and my Deliverer; do not delay, O my God!"
Isn't that wonderful? I mean, isn't that the most glorious thing that you've ever heard? That this great God cares for you?
Lord our God, we thank You for Your word. Thank You for this beautiful Psalm. Help us to ring the changes of grace and Christ and the gospel today in our own hearts, that we might be lifted up onto that rock and sing a new song of praise to You. We ask it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Let's sing together from hymn No. 465, Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord.
Grace to you.
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FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH ● 1390 North State Street Jackson, Mississippi 39202 ● (601) 924-0575
© First Presbyterian Church.
This transcribed message has been lightly edited and formatted for the Web site. No attempt has been made, however, to alter the basic extemporaneous delivery style, or to produce a grammatically accurate, publication-ready manuscript conforming to an established style template.
Should there be questions regarding grammar or theological content, the reader should presume any website error to be with the webmaster/transcriber/editor rather than with the original speaker. For full copyright, reproduction and permission information, please visit the First Presbyterian Church Copyright, Reproduction & Permission statement.