FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR
Words For Reflection:
“Godly fear,” wrote John Bunyan, flows from a sense of the love and kindness of God to the soul. Where there is no sense of hope of the kindness and mercy of God by Jesus Christ, there can be none of this fear, but rather wrath and despair, which produces a fear that is … devilish; … but godly fear flows from a sense of hope of mercy from God by Jesus Christ. – Jerry Bridges
There are several books I find myself returning to again and again each year.Here is one that repays thoughtful, slow, repeated readings.
For next Sunday:
Sermon Text: Isaiah 9:1-7
Hail to the Lord’s Anointed - Adoration
The Heavens Declare - Adoration
Come, Ye Souls by Sin Afflicted - Grace
In Christ Alone - Response
The People that in Darkness Sat - Communion
Doxology (Tallis Canon)
The Bible Project:
As a way to help you grasp the over-arching story of the Bible, I am going to include each week a link to one of The Bible Project videos that summarizes in a few minutes one book of the Bible.
This week check out the summary of Jonah.
If you are looking for help to read the Bible in a more regular way, you may findthis approach and this app helpful.
Singing To God (Psalm 95:1-5)
Savior, Like A Shepherd Lead Us
We are Thine, Thou dost befriend us,
Be the guardian of our way;
Keep Thy flock, from sin defend us,
Seek us when we go astray:
Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus,
Hear, O hear us when we pray;
Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus,
Hear, O hear us when we pray.
Bowing Before God (Psalm 95:6-7b)
Prayer of Confession
Merciful Father, forgive us the sins of our tongues—for deception and untruthfulness in our dealings with others; for resentment, coldness, impatience, and ill temper. Forgive us for the sins of our eyes—for impurity in our glances and imagination; for pining after more beauty, comfort, status, and wealth than you have given us. Forgive us the sins of our hearts—for hard-heartedness toward you and our neighbors; for pride, self-absorption, self-pity; and above all for rebelling against you and doubting your love. Father, remove our fear, envy and pride and melt our hearts with the good news of the Gospel. Transform us by your grace to live wholly for your glory. Take away our mourning and replace it with songs of joy, for it is in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Words of Grace
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 2:1-2
Hearing From God (Psalm 95:7c-11)
Sermon Text – Psalm 128
A Song of Ascents.
1 Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord,
who walks in his ways!
2 You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.
3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.
4 Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
who fears the Lord.
5 The Lord bless you from Zion!
May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life!
6 May you see your children’s children!
Peace be upon Israel!
1. Who are the blessed (v. 1-4)
2. Who does the blessing (v. 5-6)
Arriving home is much more than an address or GPS coordinates. It's about who and what you find when you get there. Psalm 128 is a Psalm of homecoming and it describes coming home as an abiding experience of blessing or happiness. It describes the way of the wise traveler.
Passages like Psalm 128 and others like it, for example Psalm 112 or Matthew 5:3-11, are indispensable to the life of faith. Why? Because for many people the life of faith is a life of disappointment, of settling for less, of joyless drudgery. To be sure the life of faith can feel like that. But so too can a life of unbelief. The striking thing about Psalm 128 is how it puts in front of us a very different experience of the life faith. It paints a picture of blessedness; a happy state of affairs that changes the heart and reaches into every facet of life. If you think the life of faith is dull and boring, you've yet to experience the happiness of Psalm 128.
How do you get in on this kind of happiness? Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways (v. 1). The doorway into the life of faith is "the fear of the Lord." The fear of the Lord is one of the most common ways the Bible (old and new testament) speaks about a relationship between God and a redeemed sinner. "Fear" here means "awe" or "reverence." It means God has captured your undivided attention and affection with his justice and mercy. It is a kind of fear that draws us in. It doesn't drive away.
How do you know if you fear the Lord? The person who fears the Lord, walks in his ways. The phrase "walk in his ways" is shorthand for all God commands and teaches. It includes how God intends for us to live, not just in actions but in the heart. It also includes God's ways of providing forgiveness and cleansing and freedom from sin. To walk in his ways means looking to him for what we should do and for what we fail to do.
What then does a life of blessing look like for the one who fears the Lord? We get a clue from verse 2-3 and the repeated use of the word fruit or fruitfulness. The one who fears the Lord experiences success and satisfaction in work; a fruitful marriage and family; and children who share in the blessings of the one who fears the Lord. The example of verses 2-3 teaches us a principle about God's blessing. "Blessing has inherent in it the power to overflow in our lives." This is true even during harsh seasons (re: Psalm 1:3). The one who fears the Lord experiences purpose, meaning, and success in daily work. He or she experiences deep meaningful relationships that bubble over into the lives of others that profoundly impact the course of their lives. The fear of the Lord reaches into every facet of life.
Psalm 128 has a lot to say about the experience of joy and blessedness in relationship with God. But the entire Psalm is built on the one who blesses. The Lord bless you from Zion (v. 5)! While it is clear it is God who blesses, we must never confuse the blessings with the one who blesses. Zion, another name for Jerusalem, is the place where God dwells. Specifically God dwells in the Temple in Jerusalem. When God blesses from Zion what that means is he is sharing himself with his people. This is remarkable, when we notice that Jerusalem and the Temple were never the real thing. They were always copies of the Heavenly City, the Heavenly Temple, where God truly dwells. But if those were mere copies, then what is the real thing?
The answer is the gospel. God's blessing goes out from the presence of the Lord not in a city or building but in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the true Temple, the fullness of God's blessings! Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly place. (Eph. 1:3) His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence. (2 Peter 1:3-4)
Maybe you feel like you still don't know what it means to fear the Lord or walk in his ways? Maybe you feel like you're beginning to grasp it but know you fall short? The answer to both is to look and listen to Jesus who feared the Lord and walked in his ways perfectly and yet was condemned so that we might be blessed in him!
So, if you are honest, what is your take on the life of faith? Does it square with Psalm 128?
Sermon Reflection Questions
- What stood out to you from these verses?
- What questions do they raise for you?
- Was there anything that bothered you?
- If you had to describe the fear of the Lord just from Psalm 128, how would you do it?
- Where do you see fear in your life that competes with the fear of the Lord?
- What does Psalm 128 teach you about the life of faith that is missing in your life?
- How can you be sure God will put joy in your heart (re: Psalm 4:7)?
Confession of Faith: Westminster Shorter Catechism c. 1646
Q. 73. Which is the eighth commandment?
A. The eighth commandment is, You shall not steal.
Q. 74. What is required in the eighth commandment?
A. The eighth commandment requires the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others.
Q. 75. What is forbidden in the eighth commandment?
A. The eighth commandment forbids whatsoever does or may unjustly hinder our own or our neighbor’s wealth or outward estate.