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The End of the Story

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
January 26, 2024 12:00 am

The End of the Story

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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January 26, 2024 12:00 am

The beginning of Psalm 73 marked Asaph's darkest hour. The ending of the Psalm 73 marks his finest. Access all of the resources and lessons in this series:


This is a rather realistic metaphor to define sin.

It's a little crass, but here's the idea. Sin is giving your focus, giving your passion, giving your energy, giving your plans, giving your imagination, giving your attention, giving your money, giving your time to something other than that which pleases God. That's the terrible thing about sin.

We're actually giving away something that legitimately belongs to Him. Do you ever find yourself wishing that you had what others have? You look around at your possessions, where you think about your health, and most of the people in your life seem to be better off. Maybe you've spent time thinking about some of the problems in your life, and you've wondered, why did God allow it to happen?

If you can relate to any of this, you're not alone. In the book of Psalms, Asaph went through a transformation that changed his perspective. Today, Stephen has a message that will help you transform your perspective.

He's calling it the end of one story. Asaph began his song of testimony labeled Psalm 73 in your inspired hymnal, if you want to return there. He told us how close he came to slipping, how close he came to abandoning his walk with God. Here he is, one of three primary worship leaders for Israel.

He's one of the composers of sacred song. This is like Isaac Watts throwing in the towel. This is like John Newton saying, I quit the faith. In more recent days, this would be like a Keith Getty writing hymns about the power of the cross, and then announcing that he no longer wants to follow Christ. This was Asaph. He came close to that.

Why? Well, because Asaph apparently admitted bad people seem to have it better than God's people, and that was his problem. Now, admittedly, he's not saying, and it isn't true, that every wicked person, you know, prospers and every godly person suffers, certainly to the extent of a job, for instance. But the problem to Asaph is that any wicked unbeliever would prosper and that any godly person would suffer. He couldn't understand that. Why shouldn't the wicked always fail and the godly always succeed? That's probably how we would write the script. And so Asaph, as you remember, if you've been with us, starts looking around.

That was the beginning of his problem. He begins to look around, and he comes to the conclusion that evil people seem to have less trouble than redeemed people. He says, look at them. They just kind of glide through life, he says in verse 4. He says they seem to have less stress in life, verse 5.

God seems to be letting them off the hook. But then you might remember there's this turning point for Asaph in verse 17 where he takes his anguish into the sanctuaries. The plural refers to the outer courtyard more than likely of the tabernacle. And he kind of puts it all out on the table for God to see. And there in the sanctuaries of God, in the tabernacle courtyard, he's reminded that the answer is not in what he could reason. The answer is in what God has revealed.

That's the key. And what was that? Well, if you look at verse 17, he says, I discerned their end. In other words, by means of communion with God, I remembered the end of the story for the ungodly. He's reminded that this life is just the beginning. In fact, he recalls the coming judgment that God has revealed when all the good things that the ungodly enjoy becomes just a moment of time. As we disclosed in our last session, the rather blunt truth that good times on earth are the only heaven the unbeliever will ever experience.

And the painful times on earth are the only hell a believer will ever suffer. You see, Asaph is given by revelation. He goes to the end of the novel. He goes to the last page and the last paragraph. And you know, the way a novel ends can change your perspective on every preceding chapter, right? Changes everything. Changes everything. It was well known in eighteen ninety nine that the death of two men had occurred to famous men.

Their lives ended very differently than one another. The public knew all about it. It's in all the newspapers. The church at large knew all about it.

Everybody knew all about it. Robert Ingersoll was the famous atheist in the late eighteen hundreds. He was popular. He was humorous, winsome, educated, eloquent. He openly and publicly denounced the existence of God and the possibility of an eternal state. His lectures, in fact, at Harvard University denouncing immortality became best sellers to his generation. The talk of popular culture. He was famous for saying, among other things, and I quote, This is my creed. The only place to be happy is here in this life.

And the only time to be happy is now. I mean, people just ate it up. Never mind that his father, interestingly enough, was a Presbyterian pastor and a believer. In fact, at one point he served as an associate of Charles Finney, an evangelist. But Ingersoll rejected the gospel and would grow up to openly defy the existence of God and anything beyond this life. When you die, that's it.

That's all. In fact, A.B. Simpson, the founder of the missionary and alliance movement referred to Robert Ingersoll as, quote, That daring blasphemer, end quote. At the height of his fame, people would pay one dollar for a ticket to come and hear him speak, which was an exorbitant amount of money back in that day just to go hear a man speak. He would often pull out his stopwatch and he would say, If there is a God, then I dare him to strike me dead in ten seconds. And then he would count down to packed audiences ten, nine, eight. And people would literally faint at the thought of such a bold challenge.

Three, two, one. You see, there is no God, he would say. And people would leap to their feet, giving him standing ovations, obviously relieved that they wouldn't have to stand before God one day. Now, if I were God, all that would be on that stage at the end of ten seconds would be his stopwatch.

I mean, that would just be fun. I know I'm speaking in the flesh, but God evidently is more patient than I am. Gratefully so. But he is even now, the apostle Paul wrote, storing up his wrath for that day of judgment. Romans 2.5.

See, that's Asaph's problem. He thought God should have done something. So he writes in verse nine, you know, they with their tongue, they just strut through the earth. God, you really ought to silence them.

There really shouldn't be anything but stopwatches on stages. Then he remembers a means of God's revelation. God will silence them.

In fact, we're told when all the unbelieving of all human history are judged at the Great White Throne, they will be so clearly shown their guilt and unbelief by this judge who knows everything and was an eyewitness of everything that Paul writes, their mouths will all be silenced. Now, with the gravity of that revelation, everything changes for Asaph's perspective. What we discover next is an entirely different grammatical structure to this poem. In fact, throughout this poem, there's been an interesting shift in pronouns.

I know that doesn't sound all that exciting, but bear with me here. It weighs in on the application. In the first part of the psalm, if you go back there like the verse four, he uses the pronouns over and over, they and their, they, their, they have no pangs in their death. Verse four, verse five, they're not in trouble as others. Verse eight, they scoff, but then he changes and he begins to complain about his own life in particular and the pronouns shift to I and me. All in vain, verse 13, have I kept my heart clean? He writes, I've washed my hands in innocence all the day long. I have been stricken.

Listen, whenever our eyes are on other people in envy, it won't be long before our eyes are on ourselves and it all becomes about I, me and mine. But then this transition takes place again. As I mentioned, it's a turning point in verse 17. And then in verse 18, the pronouns all shift to you. He begins to speak to God. You, you verse 18, set them in slippery places.

You make them fall to ruin. You, verse 19, rouse yourself. And then he refers to himself only in terms of, of admission and repentance. Now in this final section, the pronouns change again, wonderfully to you and I. Asaph begins to sing about God and himself.

Now it's God and Asaph together. Listen, this is one of those life changing, mind transforming truths of the Christian life. It isn't all about them out there. It isn't about I and me and mine. In fact, it isn't just all about you, oh God, some distant sovereign. It is about you and me together.

That changes life. And so look at verse 25. Whom have I in heaven but you?

There's nothing on earth that I desire besides you. You see, Asaph's eyes shift from the prosperity of others. His eyes shift from the problems of his own life. His eyes shift upward to the grace of God that includes him properly in his own right place. Now let me point out quickly, three results in Asaph's life. You could call this three results from the reunion or revival of Asaph with God.

Now first notice his resurrected vision. Verse 25. Whom have I in heaven but you?

And there's nothing on earth that I desire besides you. You see, for Asaph now his perspective is no longer earthbound. He's seen the end of the story, the beginning of an eternal story. Think about it.

Isn't it true? If we lived perfectly, sinlessly, uninterruptedly in light of our eternal future, how different would our present attitude be? How would you view your trials?

How would you value other people? How would you love the redeemed church? How differently would you pray?

How often would you pray? What would you read? What would you memorize? What would you sing? What would you cry about? What would you care about? What would you sacrifice to give away? Listen, everything would change, wouldn't it?

I mean if I can use a little more guttural illustration. I'm traveling down the interstate and I see the signs. The mega jackpot is now up to $400 million and I spend the next 10 miles dreaming of how I'd spend it. I'd give most of it to church.

I just want you to know that. At least $300 million. But what about that other $100 million? If you knew you were going to win it, not that you'd buy a ticket, not that I'm condoning it, and if you do and you give it to Colonial, don't tell me you got it from that, okay? But let's assume you knew somehow you would win it next week.

What would your attitude be this week about what you have, about what you suffer, about your need? We too often don't go to the end of the story and start the eternal one, do we? See, Asaph's feet had almost slipped into disobedience and despair until God revealed the unbeliever's judgment and then of course the thought of heaven. As Asaph said, you're going to take me into glory with you.

And here's the really convicting thought about this. We have so much more revelation from God than Asaph had. What's Asaph dealing with?

What's he reading? We know what he could not have imagined. We have the completed canon of scripture here. We live in the light of the New Testament.

We have the apostles' testimony and the book of Revelation and everything in between. We have read the descriptions of heaven by the apostles John and Paul, who went there John more than Paul, but even Paul himself. They saw the glory of the Lord and the glory of this incredible throne of God. He, John, describes the house of gold awaiting us as a residence.

It's 12 stories stretching through the atmosphere. The glory of God at the highest peak with the river of life cascading down its stories on either side orchards of constantly bearing fruit trees representing eternal life. He saw the brilliance of the glory of God in that house, which made nighttime impossible. They tasted the sweetness of fellowship that made sorrow unthinkable. See, it's in light of that that Asaph sings here, what on earth could I desire beside you?

I like the way Warren Wiersbe commented on this. He said, spiritual sight leads to spiritual insight. Insight into what really matters in life. Now keep in mind, after this transition here in verses 17 and 18 and now into this last stanza, nothing about Asaph's circumstances changed. Nothing about the wicked people around him changed their prosperity and their good health and their trouble-free lives. But everything about his perspective changed when he regained his focus on God. Asaph experienced a resurrected vision. Number two, Asaph experienced a reconstructed realism. Let me point out first that he regains a realistic view of himself. Look at verse 26. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

This is balanced realism. Asaph is not doing better here now because he's stronger. He's got it all figured out.

He's got it all together. He's doing better here because he's back to relying on the strength of God. In fact, notice that Asaph doesn't refer here to the strength of his heart.

Note that. He refers to God who is the strength of his heart. His heart is still weak, but God is strong. He's back in fellowship with God.

So Asaph speaks with spiritual realism, and I'm so grateful it's refreshing. My flesh and my heart fail. You can translate this phrase, my flesh and my heart have been spent.

You could render it consumed. We'd say flat out worn out. By the way, don't miss the wonderful revelation of God's faithfulness here. He did not abandon Asaph, and he doesn't abandon you while you are in the darkness of your doubts and despair and the misery of your self-focused frustrations. One of the great revelations is Asaph says, I realize he's continually holding me by my hand. My flesh and my heart fail. Note this, but God, I love that, but God, but God is ever faithful, effectively he writes, to remain the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Asaph not only regains realism concerning himself, secondly, he regains realism concerning the lost. Look at verse 27, for behold, those who are far from you shall perish. You put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you, literally the one who plays the role of a prostitute. This is a rather realistic metaphor to define sin.

It's a little crass, but here's the idea. Sin is giving your focus, giving your passion, giving your energy, giving your plans, giving your imagination, giving your attention, giving your money, giving your time to something other than that which pleases God. That's the terrible thing about sin. We're actually giving away something that legitimately belongs to him. Above all, worship.

They give their worship to their own idols. Asaph experiences then a resurrected vision and a reconstructed realism about himself and about the lost. Finally, Asaph experiences, thirdly, we'll call this a reinvigorated mission. Look at the closing stanza, verse 28, as he wraps it up. But for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Lord God my refuge that I may tell of all your works.

It's a great way to close the song. I've mentioned before growing up as a kid, the church we attended near downtown Norfolk, Virginia had a large sanctuary about the size of this one and circular. On the back wall, big wooden letters spelled out this phrase, to know him and to make him known.

To know him and to make him known. You've probably seen that before. I used to stare at that, especially when the sermons were dry and boring.

I just study those words. This is Asaph's summary statement, to know him. Look again at verse 28. You can render it, it is a good thing for me to be near God.

Isn't that the truth? I've made the Lord God my refuge. It's good to know him. It's good to be close to him. It's good to walk with him. Spurgeon comments here on this text, it is always good and always will be good for me to approach the greatest good, the source of all good, God himself. His presence is a great privilege and a cure for a multitude of problems. It's good that I'm close to God.

You found that to be true as well, haven't you? It's good to be near God. Now Asaph says effectively that I'm walking with him and strengthened by him and hidden in him. Now I can tell others about it.

To know him and then to make him known. That I may tell of all your works. You're familiar with the testimony of perhaps of Johnny Erikson Todd of the quadriplegic has impacted so many lives. She wrote in a magazine article I came across some time ago, an incident where she was speaking at a Christian women's conference. One woman came up to her and said, Johnny, you always look so together, so happy in your wheelchair.

I wish I had your joy. If you've seen her, you picked up the same thing. I love her response. She responded to her. Well, I don't I don't do that.

I don't come up with that. In fact, let me tell you how I woke up this morning. This is my average day after my husband, Ken, leaves for work at six a.m.

I am alone until I hear the front door open at seven a.m. That's when a friend arrives to get me up while I listen to her make coffee. I pray, Lord, my friend will soon give me a bath, get me dressed, sit me up in my chair, brush my teeth, brush my hair, and then send me out the door for my ministry. I do not have the strength to face this routine one more time. I have no resources. I don't even have a smile to take into this day.

But you do. May I have yours that good? Johnny then said to this woman, just so you know, whatever joy you see today was hard won this morning. Only then ready to speak, ready to talk, ready to travel, staying close to him, exchanging our weakness for his strength so that we not only know him, but the joy of knowing him becomes the strength for us to live for him and to walk with him. Asaf promises the Lord then in this closing measure, I, well, Lord, I just want to tell everybody all your work. The beginning of this song, he was talking about everybody else's works. He was all caught up. He's focusing on everything about everybody else and he's focusing on everything about himself. But he finally says here effectively, Lord, I want to I want to know everything about you. And I want more than anything to tell everybody I know about everything I know about you. That's the shift. I want to know everything about you, and I want more than anything to tell everybody I know about everything I know about you and one day life ends and I'm home it's the end of one story it's the beginning of an eternal story now I mentioned at the outset of our study two men you probably thought I forgot the other one two men died in 1899 the public knew about both of them they were both famous well-known the church knew about their deaths as well as their lives in fact let me tell you one more thing about Robert Ingersoll when he died his wife and family were so distraught and tormented that they refused to have his body leave their family home until it became a threat to their health see he had lectured this life is all there is and now that it was over they couldn't bear the thought that there was nothing more beyond as he died hopeless and empty this brilliant eloquent atheist but in 1899 an uneducated evangelist who was known to slaughter the King's English died as well dl moody and his final words could not have been more eloquent he was moments from death his family was crowded around his bedside he roused a bit and suddenly said I see earth receding heaven opening God is calling moody's son will was there as well and said father you are you're dreaming settled back you're dreaming to which moody responded this is no dream will this is bliss this is glory and he was gone the end of one story at the beginning of another glorious eternal story which is exactly what a set saying you're gonna hold my hand even though my flesh and my heart fail even though I struggle with the doubts and what I see around me I'm gonna continually revive my heart by your strength to focus back on you and who I am and afterward you're gonna receive me to glory the ending of your story and mine and the beginning of another one that'll never end isn't the truth of this lesson a great perspective for us to keep in mind every day earth is receding heaven is calling and this temporal life will give way to an eternal life in the presence of our loving God you're listening to wisdom for the heart your Bible teacher is Steven Davey he's the president of Wisdom International and the president of Shepherds Theological Seminary it might encourage you to listen to this message again or maybe you have a friend who could benefit from it if so we've posted it on our website which you'll find at wisdom online org join us again next time for our next message as you grow in wisdom for the heart
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-21 01:55:15 / 2024-02-21 02:04:46 / 10

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