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Life from A to Z

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew
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June 28, 2021 2:00 am

Life from A to Z

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew

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June 28, 2021 2:00 am

Join us as Chris Gregory preaches a message called -Life from A to Z- from Psalm 119. For more information about Grace Church, visit

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Good evening. I wanted to brag for a second on Eugene. Probably, I don't know, Eugene, a six or seven or a year ago, how many months ago? Lyunica, and we're there, and Doug had told me previously, oh, you've got to read this paper by Eugene.

And I said, okay. So Eugene was nice enough to bring it, and I'm so glad we're praying for the Presbyterian General Assembly, because one of the issues that's coming up is this whole Revoice Conference and what do we do with some of the controversial things about homosexuality and our perspective on it and what does Scripture say about it. And I want to encourage you, if you have not read Eugene's paper, it is excellent. It's a systematic look of what Scripture says as far as what God's perspective on homosexuality is, but also a biblical treatment, a biblical way of saying, here's how we are to respond to this. It's loving, gracious, but above all, biblical. And certainly when somebody, I bring that up because when somebody says, boy, what is Grace Presbyterian in Harrisburg like?

It's a church that takes the Word of God and sets it above everything else. And if you've not read this paper, by the way, how many of you have read this? Wonderful. Wonderful.

Good? Absolutely. So I would encourage you, if you haven't, give it a read through. It is enlightening.

And by the way, when I went through my ordination process, that question came up, and I was so thankful to have a reference that I was able to go back to and say, you know, I have thought about this, but really I synthesized Eugene's paper. But I say that to say that tonight we're going to look at Psalm 119 that is about the Word of God and where it should be. How many of you have ever been asked the question, tell me about your grandkids? Has anybody ever been asked that? How do you feel when you get asked that? Are you like, do you go, ah, they're good. Next question. Or are you like, perhaps my parents?

You go, my grandkids? Oh, man. First of all, there's 10 of them. Now, the first one is the oldest. And in four or five hours or six or seven hours later, we're halfway through.

I got more. Well, yeah, we love talking about those things that we're passionate about. And if you would turn to Psalm 119, Psalm 119 is the longest psalm in all of scripture. It's longer than many of the books in the New Testament, all the minor prophets.

If it were its own book, it would be one of the biggest books in the Bible. On Jeopardy the other night, the question was, what city, if it were not part of New York, would be the fourth largest city in the nation? And the answer was Brooklyn. Brooklyn is huge. Psalm 119 is a Brooklyn.

It's a massively big book. We don't know who wrote it. It sounds sort of like David. Charles Spurgeon said he thought it was Davidic.

We don't know. But what's amazing is this the equivalent of somebody asking the psalmist, hey, tell me about the word of God. And the psalmist says, oh, the word of God.

How can I not? And then he writes 176 verses about the word of God. And here's what's amazing. It's an acrostic. Now, an acrostic, it starts with a, in Hebrew would be the letter what? Aleph. Aleph. You pronounced that really well. I was going to say alph, like the 80s TV show.

Aleph, aleph, and it goes essentially through the Hebrew equivalent of z, which is? I had to look it up. Toph.

Yeah, that's exactly right. A through toph, alph through toph, a through z. And so, this is so amazing. We're only going to look at the first eight verses tonight. Every word of the first eight verses starts with alph, aleph. The next eight verses all start with the second letter, which is beit.

In your Bibles, do you all have alph written above the first eight verses there? In the Hebrew, if you look at it, it's amazing. It's a, a, a, a, a, a, all the way down. Then when you get to beit, it looks like beth, but it's not, it's beit.

B, b, b, b, b, b, b, b, b, b. It doesn't translate very well. And so, you may be looking going, why is that there? If I could show you a slide, and I can't because I didn't think about it, it's a work of art. But what does that say about God? He's an artist. He's creative.

In the beginning, God created. I mean, that's one of the first things we learn about God is he's creative. He doesn't just give us things in black and white. He gives us things artistically.

That's the image of God, this beautiful picture. So, Psalm 119, all the way A through Z, you have this, this acrostic, and it's lengthy. I can't imagine how long it must have taken the Psalmist, maybe David, maybe not, to write this. But what are some of the implications of talking about the Word of God, which is what Psalm 119 is about? All but three verses deal with the Word of God. Tying it in with A through Z, what are some of the implications of that?

Think about it for a second. How much of my life should be submitted to God's authority? A through Z. How often do I need the Word of God?

Brothers and sisters, my heart is black. I need it in the morning when I wake up. A, the time that I go to bed. A through Z.

How long will the Word of God be relevant to mankind? A, in the Garden of Eden, through Christ's return and beyond. A through Z. The Word of God covers everything.

A through Z. And so, having that in mind, let's dive in. And I'm going to read the entirety of Psalm 119, verses 1 through 8. Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord. Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong but walk in His ways. You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. Oh, that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes. Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on your commandments. I will praise you with an upright heart when I learn your righteous rules. I will keep your statutes. Do not utterly forsake me. Let's pray. Father, thank You.

Thank You for Your Word. Thank You for communicating with us, that You reveal Yourself with us, that we're not groping around in the dark trying to guess what You may be like, what Your commandments may be like, that You lovingly, clearly communicate them to us in a way that we can understand. Father, Your Word is alive.

It's living and active. It cuts us. And, Father, tonight I pray that You would do a work in our heart that we cannot do ourselves, that You would make us more like King Jesus. And we pray this in the name of Christ.

Amen. The longest sermon in the Bible is by Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount.

Absolutely. And it begins with the Beatitudes, right? The blessed are, the blessed are, the blessed are. Well, if you look here, the longest psalm begins the same way the Beatitudes do. It begins with, blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.

Very quickly, blessed in this case, generally connotes full, happy, lacking nothing. So those who walk in the law of the Lord are content. And this is one of the things I think as we look at Scripture, what we see is the more we fall in love with the law of the Lord, the more we mortify our sinfulness.

There's a wonderful sermon by Chalmers called The Expulsive Power of a Greater Affection. And what it says essentially is the more we fall in love with Christ, the more sin begins to look heinous to us. And so when we begin here, blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the way of the Lord. Well, on the positive side, that means that the more we fall in love with God's Word, the more we walk in it.

And by the way, what does walk denote? It's a process. I'm to continually stay in the law of the Lord. It's not just an hour on Sunday morning.

It's a way of living that's completely dependent. What happens is that, as I continue in that, is my hatred for sin increases. You ever have those moments when suddenly you've sinned and maybe you've been a little prideful about it, maybe you've kind of hung on to it and God just opens your eyes and suddenly you go, oh, in Psalm 51, I have sinned against heaven and against you. That's what meditating, chewing on the law of the Lord produces. You begin to see sin as it really is.

I have a limitless power of self-deception. I can be very spiritual about my sin. And yet when I look at the law of the Lord, what happens?

Well, I begin to look at it as it really is, as opposed to how I wish it was. Blessed is the man whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord. And by the way, what's God's heart, to bless or to curse? God's heart for us is to bless us, not to curse us. And the opposite of blessing is cursed. And so if I could take maybe a photo negative of this passage, cursed are those whose ways are rebellious, who love sin, who refuse to walk in the law of the Lord.

Disobedience, looking at God's law and saying, I know you say this, but I'm going to go do this, brings about curses, brings about death. For who? For us, but also for those around us. Doug, if you were here a few weeks ago, shared a story about a man that he had visited who was living in squalor. And he said, are you ready to give up your alcohol, brother? Are you ready to run to Jesus? And what did the guy say?

No, thanks. I think I want to enjoy my freedom. That's the curse. That's looking at God's law and saying, I know you say this, but I think I'm a little bit smarter.

I think I'm a little wiser. I'm going to go over this way. And it is a curse. And yet in God's providence, sometimes when we look at God's word, we're able to go, I don't want to do that anymore.

I'm going to turn. And that's repentance. I'm turning away from it in the strength that God provides. Numbers 32, 23 is always a sobering verse for me.

You can be sure of this. Your sin will find you out. And I think it's important that we remember, James says, when sin is fully grown, it always brings forth what?

Death. The goal of sin is not to give you a shortcut. The goal of sin is not to give you the things that God is holding back from you.

The goal of sin is always my and your death. And so what does the psalmist say? If you want to experience life, meditate on God's law. Blessed are those who walk in the law of the Lord. Sometimes we look at God's commandments and we sort of have this quick reaction to go, yeah, but we're saved by grace. Yes, of course, we're saved by grace through faith alone in Christ alone.

Absolutely. But there's absolutely a blessing for living in obedience to God's commandments. Always verses two through three. Blessed are those who keep his testimonies.

By the way, I love that scripture is called God's testimony. This is what God says about himself. How does our culture define God today? Anything you want.

Usually whatever keeps me comfortable without having to change, without having to do anything differently. He loves me just as I am. And yet what we see in scripture is no, God testifies about himself. I don't get to define God. He defines himself for me. That's God's testimony.

Where does he reveal it? In his word. So blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek them with their whole hearts and who do no wrong but walk in his ways. So here we're talking about the internal call for God's word. I would love to tell you, good Christians memorize scripture and they can recite it and they can argue.

They can, when somebody presents arguments against it, you're quick to go, yeah, but, yeah, but, yeah, but. But that's actually not the reason we're to memorize scripture. By the way, that is part because we are to give an answer, right? We're always to be prepared to give an answer. But a big part of it is it goes to our heart. It changes us from the inside out. There's 12 feet, 12 feet.

I've had a lot of caffeine. There's 12 inches between here and here. And the call is for you and I as we meditate for scripture to travel down from my head down into my heart. Now, in Alcoholics Anonymous, they have a wonderful saying, half measures avail us nothing.

Half measures avail us nothing. So what do they say here? What does the psalmist say? Blessed are those who keep his testimony, who seek them with half their heart, who seek them for an hour on Sunday morning, who seek them with their whole hearts. And by the way, the word for that is integrity. Someone who has integrity is someone who's undivided.

Literally, it comes from the word integrated. It's someone who they've taken all the parts of their life and they're just one person. Have you ever met those people who are sort of chameleons and they're one way at church and they're one way at home, they're one way with their wife, but they're a different way while they're at work. And sometimes it seems like those people that they are never meet. And you go, who is this guy? Isn't it nice to meet somebody and you go, I think I have a sense of the man.

I think I know who this person is. The psalmist says that's the kind of heart that believers can have that God wants us to have. We're seeking him in an undivided way with integrity, with our whole hearts. Perhaps for a lot of us, that's the way, at least in the sinful world, the closest we can get to that is the way we love our children. And even that is marred by sin, but I think maybe the closest I can get to wholehearted loving somebody I think is with my children.

I wish I could say it was with my wife, but I'm so sinful. But I love you, baby. It's just sinful.

But I love you. But it's sinful. So, with my whole heart, my call, and if you look at the end of this verse, my call is to do no wrong but to walk in his ways. Several weeks ago I had the privilege of going to this wedding and the groom is standing here and he looks like he kind of wants to throw up because he's just realized that he's, oh my goodness, this is till death do us part and I'm a young guy. And his bride starts walking down and you can see that in the middle of that he just looked like, oh, this is so good.

And she was beautiful and she's walking down. And when you're standing there in the moment, there are very few things in this world that you can point to and say this is good because everything's so confused. And in the middle of that, his bride's walking down and you can just see him go, I don't know about a million different things, but I know this is good. Well, God looks at marriage and he says this is good. You don't have to wonder about it. Well, another thing that we can look at and say this is good is God's ways, which he reveals in Scripture.

We don't have to question that. When you open Scripture, you're opening up something perfect from beginning to end, something that perhaps all around us is chaos and confusion, all around us is a culture that's become unmoored. Heck, my own heart is sinful, but when we open the Word of God, there's perfection in our hand. We're holding the words of God to us without error.

It's amazing. So do no wrong, but walk in his ways, which are always right. They cause us to hate sin, to love God, to love our neighbor, to run to Jesus. And by the way, when we talk about blessed are those who do no wrong, are you going to do wrong? Absolutely, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

That's me, that's you, that's every son of Adam and daughter of Eve. And yet, what we're talking about is believers will not live a life that's characterized by an abject love of sin. And what I mean by that is, I love doing it, I plan it out, I rejoice in it, and I'm going to do it again.

Can't wait to do it again. A believer's life cannot consistently be characterized by that. Can you fall into besetting sin for a while?

Well, yeah, we have, of course we do. And yet, God doesn't leave us there. So when you read in here who do no wrong, we're not talking about you better be perfect, because, you know, it's Santa Claus. He sees you when he's sleeping, when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake, so you better be good, or you'll go to hell.

That's not how the song goes, but that's my version. That's not what we're talking about. What we are talking about, though, is a lifestyle characterized by repentance, by a dependence on the finished work of Christ on the cross. And by the way, Jesus is making you and I better.

He's sanctifying us. Are we what we're going to be? No. But are we what we used to be?

Gosh, by God's grace, no. And one day, boy, we will be. We'll be like him.

That's our great hope. So, verse 4, you have commanded your precepts, that's another word for God's commands, to be kept diligently. What does diligently mean? I had to look this up, because I don't use that word a lot. What's diligently mean?

Yes, that's exactly. Faithfully, steadfastly, patiently. Why? Because you have an enemy who's diligently trying to destroy you. You have an enemy that is patient. You have an enemy that is biding his time.

And so what does the psalmist say? Watch it. Diligently. Be diligently. Be diligently. Be diligent in your ingestion of the word of God. It's not a one-time thing.

Keep coming back. You ever seen those pictures? Oh, this is kind of gross.

This is maybe for the kids in here. Have you ever seen pictures of animals that chew their cud? You know, I was watching this nature video, and there's a, I think it was a deer. Do deer have more than one stomachs?

Does anybody know that? Let's say, I think it was a cow. I don't remember what it was. But it chews something, swallows it, and you go, oh, it's done, and then guess what happens? It's gross, but it comes right back up, and it starts chewing again. Well, that's diligence.

That's a picture of continually coming back, chewing on the word of God. Forgive me if that's too gross. It's not you.

It's me. Abby, did that make sense to you, though, baby? Good. Okay. All right. Makes sense to a nine-year-old? It's good. Okay. And incidentally, I think it's good to remember, nobody steps into spiritual maturity and goes, boy, I didn't mean to, and all of a sudden, I'm spiritually mature.

That was a complete accident, but here it is. Nobody does that. How do you grow spiritually? Great diligence, great planning. It doesn't just happen. You work at it in the strength that God provides, but it doesn't. Think about the people that you admire, the people you look at and go, boy, they are a spiritual giant. They didn't just arrive there one day.

How did I get here? There's great reliance on the word of God, chewing the cud of the word of God over and over, lifelong process. Now we're going to look at God himself, but we can't look at God without also looking at ourselves. You remember Isaiah? He's in the presence of the Lord in Isaiah 6, and he sees the Lord sitting there on his throne, the cherubim and seraphim, which, by the way, means the burning ones.

Isn't that amazing? These angels are fiery. He sees them, and what does Isaiah say? I am undone.

I am a man of unclean lips. We're going to look now at the holiness of God, but you can't do that without also looking at our own sin. And I would ask you, do you ever wish you were better?

Or maybe a better question. Did you ever think you'd be better by now? You go, man, there's some things I feel like I've made some progress on, and there's some things I go, ugh. I was talking to Doug, was it two weeks ago, La Junica, and I was confessing some sin to him, and just going, you know, Doug, I'll be honest with you, I'm surprised at myself.

I thought I was better than this. I thought I was further along than this, and yet the heat gets turned up a little bit, and I run right back to some of my same stupid sins that I've always run back to, and I'm ashamed of it. Well, if that's you, if you can relate to that, I like to read verses 5 through 6. You're in good company. Oh, that my ways may be steadfast. Now, that oh is a sigh. You ever look at your sin and just go, ugh, ugh, ugh, that my ways may be steadfast. Why?

Because they're not. In keeping your statutes, then if they were, I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on your commandments. This is a very humble psalmist, whoever it is, maybe David. This is a very humble psalmist, but what it implies is our ways are not going to be steadfast.

Believers are those people who look and go, ugh, man, Father, I fall so short. Anybody play guitar in here? All right. You like Eric Clapton? You pretty good? I mean, is Eric Clapton pretty good?

Yeah, I think so. I play guitar, and when I am down in the basement with my headphones on and nobody can hear me, I am Eric Clapton. I am so much better than Eric Clapton. Oh, I am so good. You should hear me. But here's the thing.

When I listen to Eric Clapton, he's sort of here, and I'm, uh, is there a basement in this building? Now, as long as I'm not comparing myself to him, I feel like I'm okay. Well, this is what the psalmist is saying. You know, we have a tendency to look at ourselves and say, well, you know, it could be worse. I'm not a mass murderer. I'm not Jeffrey Dahmer or something.

I'm okay. And yet, when we look at God's holy requirements, his law, the perfection of it, the demands of it, we suddenly see ourselves as we really are. And it's shocking because we have a limitless capacity for self-deception. We can tell ourselves, well, I'm not that bad. But when you look at it, you go, boy, there's a gap between me and Eric Clapton. There's a gap between God's requirements, which are right and good and just, and my performance.

There just is. And so what does the psalmist say? Well, very quickly, Paul puts it like this. And so if you're looking at yourself going, ugh, I want you to know you are in good company.

Paul said this in Romans 7. I do not understand what I do. Can you relate? I don't understand. What was I thinking? For what I want to do, I do not do. But what I hate, I do. I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good that I want to do.

No. The evil I want to, I do not want to do. This I keep on doing. So I find this law at work. When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. In other words, oh, that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statues because the truth is they're not.

They're not. And so what's his answer? Then I shall not be put to shame. In other words, if I were more steadfast, I would not feel ashamed. Now, I think it's good for just a second to talk about shame. In our society today, pop culture, shame is the enemy. No one should ever feel ashamed for anything, no matter how crazy, no matter how perverse, no matter whose lives it ruins, shame is our great problem. Well, according to Scripture, shame is one of the tools that God uses. In the tool shed of God, shame is one of the ways that God taps us on the shoulder and says, hey, that was a sin and you need to repent. The problem isn't shame. The problem is what I did that was shameful. Do you remember people used to tell kids and even other people, have you no shame?

Or I remember my grandmother. I remember we were driving and I was sassy to my mom and my grandmother looked at me and said, be ashamed. Well, they weren't saying you're a horrible human being. They were saying, Chris, what you're doing is shameful, but it's the problem is what you're doing, not how you feel about it. The problem is you're doing things that are shameful. There are things that we ought to feel a little bit of shame about. If you don't ever feel shame for your sin, you may not be a believer. That's one of God's little lights on the dashboard that says, hey, something's wrong here. You feel a little shame here.

Don't do it. Run from it. It's trying to kill you. So the psalmist here looks and says, you know, when I don't keep your statutes, when I fall short, boy, it produces in me a feeling of shame. That's good because what does it do? It causes me to run to Jesus.

It causes me to remember Christ's word on the cross. It is finished. There is nothing you can add to the gospel because if you add anything to the gospel, it's not the gospel.

It is finished. So use your shame. When you commit a sin, use it to run to Jesus.

Go to the people. Remember Zacchaeus? He said, man, anybody that I've sinned against, I'm going to repay it four times back. Let your shame cause you to run to Christ and then repent.

Make it right. A good use of shame, redemptive shame. Finally, if you could, we're on the last couple of verses here and, okay, I haven't gone on for too long. I think it's important as we look at this to remember that Jesus Christ is the man who was blessed here.

As you turn, if we could go back to verse one. Blessed are Jesus. Blessed is Jesus.

His way was blameless. He walked in the law of the Lord. Every single word of God's law, Jesus kept.

Blessed is Jesus who kept God's testimonies. He sought God with his whole heart. Jesus had that undivided heart. Jesus had integrity. Jesus did no wrong, but he walked in all of God's ways. You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently, but Jesus's ways were steadfast in keeping your statutes. Jesus, his entire life patiently kept every word of God's commands. Jesus was never put to shame because he never sent, yet he suffered a sinner's death, but he had his eyes fixed on God's commandments. Jesus praised God with an upright heart and he knew his righteous rules.

Jesus kept his statutes. And yet, how does the psalm end? Do not utterly forsake me. And yet Jesus was what? Utterly forsaken on the cross. Why? So that you will never be. There's Christ hanging on the cross. Peter forsook me.

Okay. My mom and my brothers came and said, oh, he's out of his mind. We've got to take him back and put him in a mental institution, essentially. They forsook him. And now Jesus is hanging on the cross and he says, my God, my God, now you have forsaken me. For you.

And for me. He was utterly forsaken, suffering the righteous anger of God on the cross, all of God's wrath towards my sin. Your sin was poured out on Jesus.

So that it will never be poured out on you. That's my the savior that we worship. And so what I'd like to do is just spend a minute in prayer, thanking God for his righteous law, thanking God that Christ fulfilled every single part of it, thanking God that he can cause us to love it. If your heart has grown cold towards God's word, God can warm it again. And that's my prayer for us. Let's pray. Father, thank you for your word.

Thank you that it's living, that it's active. Father, would you cause us to love it? Would you cause us to fall more deeply in love with it? Would you light a passion in our hearts for your word? The success of our walk with you depends on how much we ingest of it. And so let us not forsake that. But, Father, would you give us a hunger for it? It's not a task. It's not a burden. It's a blessing to spend time in your word. We thank you that all of our life, A through Z, can be lived under the authority of your precious, inspired, and narrate word. And we pray this in the name of our Lord, our Savior, and our King, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-26 12:03:11 / 2023-09-26 12:15:53 / 13

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