The Lord's Day Evening
October 4, 2009
“What Is That Sound?”
The Reverend Mr. William F. Joseph III
If you have your Bible, turn with me to Psalm 100. I think one of the more difficult things that you don't know about that ministers have to do is pick a sermon that's not in a series. But this one happens to be in a series, it's just that I'm not going to preach the whole series to you tonight, okay? I can see some of you are very glad of that.
One of the things that I always deal with on the campus is to deal with folks who didn't know whether or not they were Christians. And so one of the things that I wanted to do tonight was talk about a subject that maybe isn't talked about a whole lot, and that is — What is the noise that Christians make? And so let's look at Psalm 100. Let's read God's Word. Before we read, let's ask for His Spirit's guidance and teaching. Let's pray.
Lord God, we come to You because we need Your help. To understand Your Word, we need Your Spirit to work in our hearts and in our minds. That is true whether we are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ here in this congregation tonight, or whether we're an unbeliever in this congregation tonight. We need Your help. Father, those that are Your children know that they need Your help. Those who are not, we pray that You would help them anyway. So that together, we might glorify You and bring honor to Your name. So teach us, O Lord. We ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
A psalm for thanksgiving.
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into His presence with singing! Know that the Lord, He is God! It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name! For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.”
Did you hear any noise yesterday that let's you know that there was a group of people spread out over the whole of the country who concentrated on one thing? Did y’all hear it? Oh wait, wait, wait. I know you’re from different allegiances, so let me give you the ones I heard yesterday. I heard, “Waaaaaaar Eagles!” I heard, “Roooooooll Tide, Roll!” I think I even heard this weird one, “Soooooooooie Pig!” And I probably didn't do it right! And they do that as a man approaches this pigskin ball and kicks it with his foot. Now I know I left everyone out here in the state, but I just haven't been to enough MississippiState ballgames or Ole Miss ballgames where I hear what they yell at kickoff. I just haven't heard it yet. I know about “Go Dawgs,” but I always wondered, “Is that what Georgia people say too?” And then I hear “Hotty Toddy,” but do they say that as they’re kicking the ball off? I'm not real sure, so just take it for what it is — Alabama redneck who doesn't know any better. You can tell by the noise as you flip through the channels on the television — and it seems like every channel was on football yesterday, and I checked — that you could tell fans of football teams by the noise that they make, the noise that they make.
Our passage begins with what? “Make a joyful noise.” So I thought it would be interesting to go through the Scriptures and see what are the noises that Christians make. What are the noises that we make that are distinguished as Christian noises as opposed maybe to non-Christian noises? And where to start? Well, this whole series was really a part of a series of “How do you know that you are a believer?” And it's based on the fact that new believers are called babes in Christ, are called children. And so the first noise that we hear that is decidedly Christian is the noise of a newborn.
Now as I look around, I can see that there are quite a number of you that had a newborn at one time or another. Do you remember how distinctive that noise was when your son or your daughter was born, that first one? Do you remember how, in the middle of the night, you knew that that newborn was alive — haha — in the other room. Not because they yelled, “Mama, I need water!” They didn't even know how to say that. They had no understanding of the depth of the English language. They only knew one thing, and it was to cry. Wait a minute — a Christian is a crier? A Christian is one when, he is born, when he comes into this world, doesn't know everything about his Father? Doesn't understand the intricacies that his Father is in charge of everything? That his Father is the source of his being? The Christian is a being that doesn't understand what he's doing, where he's going, what he's here for? All he does is cry. Do you remember crying? Most of you don't remember crying physically when you were born, but you know it used to be the thing that they did. You remember all the pictures, all the movie theatres that you've been to where they've had a baby born and they've raised him up their feet with their heads down and slap them on their “you know what” and they get this cry and they know the baby's alive? What is the cry of the newborn Christian?
Well, I think as you work through the Scriptures it's interesting. You see some very interesting passages that might point to what it is, particularly in the gospels. In Luke chapter 17, you have the ten lepers that are healed by Jesus. And what do they say? They cry out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” they cry out. In Matthew chapter 15, you read about the Canaanite woman who comes to Jesus crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me. My daughter is suffering terribly from demon possession. Lord, have mercy on me.” Or you read about the two blind men sitting in the way in Matthew crying out as Jesus was going by, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” Or in Luke, about blind Bartimaeus — “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Don't know and don't understand how Christ is going to do it. Have no inkling of how He will exercise the justice that mercy deserves and yet pardons, that He will take their penalty on Himself and give them His righteousness. They don't have any idea of that, and yet they call out to Him for mercy. They don't understand what they’re asking for. Jesus did. And yet that very cry of that newborn is “God, have mercy on me!”
Isn't it interesting how, as we watch films and we see someone in the film driving along and someone pulls out in front of them, what they say in almost every film? Have you ever noticed that? What they say is, yes, suddenly their life flashes in front of them, what they say, out of habit, I don't know, they say, “Oh, my God!” Have you ever noticed that? Is it built into unbelievers, when they’re faced with their mortality, that they’re also faced with the reality that there is a God? I don't know. I pray that some of those folks — y’all I prayed for John Denver for years. I'm really weird. I've prayed for several guys, I won't tell you who, but I prayed that they would be converted. I'd read articles by them or articles about them and I liked either their music or the way they played basketball or other things, but I would start praying for them. And I prayed that before John Denver's plane went into that ocean, that he called out on God to have mercy on him. You know if we all get to heaven and run into John Denver, we’ll all go, “Wow, Billy's prayer was answered!” But anyway, that is the cry of a newborn. It's not, “Okay God, I understand everything You did, so I take You to be my God.” No. It's, “God, I cannot save myself. I cannot do it. Please have mercy on me! Withhold Your justice that I deserve. I am a sinner who only deserves Your anger, Your wrath, and Your curse. Please, for Your name's sake, be gracious to me. Because Your Son died for me, be gracious to me. Have mercy on me, O God.”
Now if you've joined this church, you have said that that's your testimony. Remember the first question? All the session members can tell you because we received someone tonight - “Do you believe yourself to be a sinner in the sight of God, justly deserving His displeasure, and without hope, except through His sovereign mercy?” Does that mean that every one of us in here have made the noise of a newborn babe in Christ? - “God save me!” Yes, but it's a cry that leads to great gladness and joy.
Listen to Psalm 51. It says, “Let me hear joy and gladness. Let the bones that You have broken, rejoice. Hide Your face from my sin and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” You’re familiar with that one. In other words, it's a cry that leads to life. It's a cry that leads to life. The reason, I guess, they spank those babies was to make them draw air in, so that then they could exhale it in a cry. That cry, “Lord, have mercy on me,” says that you’re alive — says that something has changed —says that there's a difference between now and twenty minutes ago. And that difference is, you’re not breathing amniotic fluid. (Is that right? I think so.) You’re breathing air for the first time. And as it passes your vocal chords, out comes this noise, “God, have mercy on me!” It's the noise every Christian makes, without which there is no salvation. Because if you think, or I think, that I can perform and do what it is Christians do in my own strength and in my own ability, if I go through life and I don't cry out to God, as some of you may not have done, you may have said the words, but your heart doesn't really believe it. You’re still convinced that you can do it. You’re still convinced you can arrange things the way you need to, and you’re still dead. Children of God, babes in Christ, make a crying noise and that noise is, “God, have mercy on me.”
Secondly, there's — I didn't know really how to label this — there's the “H's” or the “P's”. You can have two “H's” or two “P's” — which do y’all want? “H's” or “P's”? Let me give them to you and you’ll see they’re both really the same. The two “H's” are — heath and happy. Or the two “P's” are — prayer and praise. Well, what do I mean by these? Well, these are noises that a growing baby makes, the noise that a growing baby makes. He asks for help, he talks to his father or his mother, he comes and says, “Help me, I don't know what I am doing.” He comes like Peter, walking on the water and yelling all of a sudden, “Lord, save me!” He knows enough to trust Jesus to get out on the water. Wow, that's amazing. Have you ever put yourself in that place? You know, seeing Jesus walk on water - that one's pretty tough - but wanting to get out of that boat and walk on water says that Peter trusted Jesus. He had called on Christ for mercy. He was already making the baby sounds. Now, he's making the sound of a believer ready to step out, ready to put his faith into action, and yet in the midst of that, he again finds out that he can't do it, so his prayer is a cry for help.
Or Jonah — whoa man! Now there's a man that needed some help! Jonah said, “I called out of my distress to the Lord and He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol. Thou didst hear my voice.” Well now there's somebody that took an interesting road of growth, right? “From the depth of Sheol” well, the belly of the fish. I saw some pictures in the new National Geographic of this big whale, and he's very fast, and the pictures are he's right up on top of you. I was going, “Who took these pictures?” Incredible. You know, National Geographic always has some of the best pictures. Here's Jonah, in the belly of the fish, crying out for help. One of the characteristics of us, the noise that we make, is we ask for help. We acknowledge our inability to please God, to do the things that we want to do, to quit doing the things that God hates. We’re like Paul in Romans 7 — “The very things I want to do, are the very things I do. The very things I don't want to do, are the very things that I do. Oh wretched man that I am! Who will set me free?” And then we get to Derek's chapter — “There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” But you see, our plea, our cry is, “Lord, help me!” Is that characteristic of you? Because sometimes we don't act like we need God's help, do we? We just wade in there and go at it as though we know exactly what to do, and yet God always has a way of reminding us that we really do need Him.
The first “H” is help and the first “P” is prayer, but what's the second “H”? The second “H” is happy, or praise for the “P”. “Rejoice in the Lord and be glad. In your righteousness sing, all of you who are upright in heart. Once more, the humble will rejoice in the Lord, the needy will rejoice in the holy One of Israel. Rejoice in the Lord, always, and again I say, rejoice!” Now let me ask you a really weird question. Do you really rejoice in everything? Is everything that's going on in your life worth rejoicing about? Because you know what, if we really make the noise that Christians make, then we're going to rejoice always. No, no, no. Wait a minute. Something's wrong with this passage. Rejoice always? Maybe it's just a general “always.” Does it really mean always? Look, some of you forgot your umbrella, and when you walk out, it may be pouring! Yeah, rejoice always! Some of you will get home like I did Thursday night and you will think there are termites swarming in your living room. Thank goodness they weren't. They were just flying ants that all this wet weather has driven up out of the ground into my — anyway…rejoice? Rejoice always, when you walk out of church and your car won't start? Rejoice always? Or when you walk out on a Wednesday night and your car's been broken into? Rejoice always? Rejoice always when someone says something to you at church that hurts and is painful? Rejoice always when you lose your job? Rejoice always when you lose your retirement? Rejoice always when you lose a spouse or a parent or a child?
Now that is a lot better than a “Roll Tide,” but why? It's because rejoicing doesn't mean you’re happy, you’re emotionally up, you’re with it. It means that you are rejoicing. You’re going back over all of the truthfulness that God has done in your past, and you’re recounting what He has done so that the joy that you did have will be your joy now, in spite of the fact that you may be suffering and that your world may be falling apart to all outside eyes. Rejoice.
Now you know it's awfully hard if you can't remember what God has done in your background, what God did three years ago in a certain situation, or what God did three months ago in a certain situation. So if God is not operating in your life, you may not know how to make the noise of rejoicing. But if you do, if God has been at work in your life, if He has changed you, if He has grown you, if He has matured you, even though it's taken quite a number of years, if He's been working on you, the reality is, you don't rejoice in this problem you've got or this suffering you've got, you rejoice that God has been faithful and He will continue, even though right now you don't see the joy. That's a noise that Christians make. Christians have joy in the mist of suffering. Listen to what Peter says. Peter says this, “Rejoice in so far as you share Christ's suffering, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.” In other words, when He shows you that the present situation will work for His glory the way the past situations have, then you will have joy even from this situation. It will just be in the future, because your God is at work. He's taking you somewhere. Your God is busy in your life and in the details of what's going on, and the proof of that is our rejoicing.
And how does that rejoicing come forth? Well, some of you don't have to listen to this, but it rejoices in singing. Now, I'm married to a singer, so I know good singing when I hear it, but her mama wasn't too good of a singer. She gave Marion all her talent, because she didn't have any left. This passage says what? “Make a joyful noise.” We are to be singing. “Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion. Shout, O Israel, and rejoice, and exalt with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!” See, that's the other part, not only are we to be singers, we are to be hummers. We’re to be like that child that gets up in the middle of the night — you parents know about this one — and you know they’re up, but you don't know they’re up because they come and wake you up tonight, you know they’re up because you can hear them in the bathroom, humming, and they’re humming a tune and the tune is a hymn. And it's so comforting when that happens. But they’re singing, and they’re shouting. They’re shouting. Oh y’all, if you could just see all the passages in the Scripture that talk about shouting. “Let those who delight in My righteousness shout for joy and be glad and say evermore, ‘Great is the Lord who delights in the welfare of His servants.’” Do you really understand what God has done for you?
Boy, sometimes our noise on that count doesn't sound real loud, and yet this passage, from Psalm 35, just yelled at us, that if we understand it, we yell about it. It's exciting to us. Okay, football games, church, okay — that analogy's been made several times. I don't even have to make it, but isn't it amazing how little we really “SHOUT” — that's pretty close — SHOUT about our God. Because you see, even though we're happy, what really causes us to make noise as Christians? It's not us making noise. It's our God working on us and us responding.
The third point is this - we make a cry of recognition. Now you've been there. You’re with your children in the mall and all of a sudden you can't find them, and you look and you look and you look and you can't find them. Flip it for a second. You’re the child and you’re in the mall and you can't find mama! You remember that one? You look, and the hand you've been holding ain't hers, the skirt you've been holding ain't hers, suddenly your world is crashing. And you look and you listen and you want to hear, and when you see her, you say what? “Mama!” — quietly so she can't hear you, right? Now, she's going to yell, “Billy!” as loud as she can, well, because I'd get a whipping too for letting go, but anyway. When God works in our lives, He makes us righteous because of the righteousness of Christ. He declares us in His sight to be perfect and holy. He puts all of our sin on His Son, and punishes His Son instead of us, and then He dwells in us and gives us His Spirit. And what is the noise that we make? The greatest words, the greatest word, in the English language — Daddy. Abba, Father. Daddy.
Men are not nourishers. Ladies, y’all beat us to death on that one. For a man to be called, daddy, is unbelievable at times. We call our God, Daddy, Father. We claim Him as ours and we don't do it quietly. We don't do it with our voice under — I can't do it with this thing on — we revel in it. We look at our Father and we say, “You’re my Father.” Now except for adoption, and we're adopted, none of us can look at our earthly fathers and say, “I picked you.” We say to our earthly fathers, “Father,” because they loved our mothers and we are here. Nothing in and of ourselves, entirely the grace of mama and daddy as they loved each other, and here we are calling them, “daddy.” What a noise.
I remember when Camille and Grant came to me and told me I was going to be a granddaddy. And because they had four grandparents and they had to figure out who was going to be called what, they asked me what I wanted to be called. It didn't even, it wasn't even that long (snap) — I wanted to be called granddaddy. Why? Because when my grandson calls me granddaddy, it reminds me that I have a daddy, and when I talk about my daddy, I'm always reminded of my Father in heaven. Now some of you don't have that experience. You know what a daddy's like from a negative example, but irregardless, the noise that a believer makes is to call their God, Daddy. Now that, very quickly, can make a dividing line in this congregation. Some of you have no concept of what it is to love God as your Daddy. It may be because you’re not alive. It may be time for you to call out and say to God, “Have mercy on me!” — to make the noise of a newborn. See, the reality is, none of us can make ourselves God's children. You don't know God as your Father by yourself. It is all His work. If you have any desire of calling God Father, it is because God is working in you. If you are asking Him for help, if you are happy in Him and praising Him, it's because He has done it all.
What kind of noise do you make? One more illustration and I'm through, I promise you. Do you know why Harley Davidson's are so loud? You know, you’re driving down the street and you hear, “Brrrr” coming along, and you know there's either a tornado coming or either there's a motor cycle near you. Just for that reason, so you’ll know that they’re there. That's why they’re so loud — so you won't run over them. We are the Harley Davidson's of God. We are to be making these noises so that others will come to know our Father and call Him Daddy.
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