Below is the second session from the women’s conference in Memphis. It’s probably longer than the first one – way too long to be socially acceptable for a blog post. I contemplated breaking it up into smaller chunks, but decided to keep it all together for cohesiveness of thought.
In the first session we talked about the trustworthiness of Christ. He is our Creator, and the author and finisher of our faith. He is capable and faithful to do all that He has promised. But this would be small comfort if we did not have the assurance of His goodness. This is my reminder often in the midst of confusing circumstances, “God is sovereign, and God is good.” So even if I do not have any idea what He is doing in my life, or in the lives of loved ones, I can be sure that it is for His glory and for the good of His people.
In case you haven’t noticed, I have not been consistent in speaking specifically of Christ in our discussion today. I float back and forth between passages that refer to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I am no expert on the Trinity. We have recently gone through an extensive study of this doctrine on Wednesday nights. We studied the book, Delighting in the Trinity a few years back in our women’s Bible study. Both of these studies were very helpful to me. But any time I try to express what I understand about the Trinity, I am reminded of a time in college when Jim Carnes was helping me with a paper I was doing for my philosophy class about Thomas Aquinas. He would explain a particular aspect of Aquinas’ theology, and then ask me if I understood. I would say, “yes” and he would say, “Ok, then explain it back to me.” And I would give him a blank stare. What I think I can say is that while there are three persons in the Trinity, the attributes of God are shared by all three. So I can’t talk about Christ’s goodness apart from the Father’s goodness or the Holy Spirit’s goodness, because it’s all the same goodness. So as we talk about treasuring the things that are specific to the person of the Son, like coming in the flesh to make atonement for our sins, we have to remember that Christ did this in perfect agreement with His Father and with the moving of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. A greater theologian than I might be able to be more specific about how these treasures are manifested in the person of the Son, but I best be less specific to keep from falling into heresy.
To help us meditate on the things we can treasure about our Triune God, I would like for us to look at Psalm 103.
Bless the Lord, O My Soul Of David.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 5 who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
6 The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
8 The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.
15 As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!
As we look at this Psalm, we see that David stirs himself (and us) to offer praise to God. Just as with the model prayer Jesus gave His disciples, we see in this Psalm the
starting point is “hallowed be Your name”. But where the prayer asks that God’s name be hallowed, David spends time reminding himself (and us) what it is that causes us to hallow His name. When we use the Lord’s prayer as an outline, we would do well to pause at this phrase and take time to remind ourselves of the reasons we have to hallow His name. We should take the example laid out for us here and stir our hearts to worship by meditating on the benefits that we receive as His children.
One of the most helpful traditions my husband established for our family was one of taking the time before each meal to name one thing we had to be thankful for. There were days when it was easier than others to come up with an appropriate response. On especially hard days when I would have to dig deep to come up with something to be thankful for, it would help to focus my mind on important spiritual truths. On our worst days, we have so many gifts from our Creator. Just in our bodies we can see the miracle of life in the fact that without a conscious thought our chests rise and fall with breath. The blood continues to course through our veins. As believers we have the assurance of salvation, which not only gives us peace with God here on this earth, but also promises us a better life to come, when we will be given new bodies that are not susceptible to decay, and complete freedom from the ravages of sin. Let’s spend some time looking at the list David provides of things to be thankful for today.
1. Who forgives all your iniquity and heals all your diseases. Surely this is a great treasure. Forgiveness of sins is freely given to the poor in spirit. Isaiah 64:6 “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags”. Isaiah 53:6 “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” We could stop the list right there. The great treasure of forgiveness should be enough to lead our hearts to bless Him with all that is within us. But what of this phrase about healing our diseases? Surely God is the great physician, He is the author of all healing. I am counting on that for my sister who is fighting a valiant battle with cancer. But to say that He heals all of our physical ailments this side of heaven leaves us with a problem. After almost six years, I have no indication that God will be pleased to heal the damage my husband suffered from his stroke. My father died recently after suffering with Parkinson’s for over 20 years. We are all going to die of something, and for many of us, chronic ailments are a part of this life. So what could this mean? John Calvin gives it this commentary:
“The second clause is either a repetition of the same sentiment, or else it opens up a wider view of it; for the consequence of free forgiveness is, that God governs us by his Spirit, mortifies the lusts of our flesh, cleanses us from our corruptions, and restores us to the healthy condition of a godly and upright life.”
Here is the closer inspection of this particular treasure: Not only are our sins forgiven, but He continually works to bring us, heart and soul, into conformity with His Son. While physical healing seems to be tantamount when we are facing big health issues, it is such a small thing compared to what is truly promised here. I want to tell you what a beautiful thing it has been to see the Holy Spirit at work in the heart of my sister through this difficult trial. She is being healed in the depths of her soul. She is learning of forgiveness, and trust, and rest, and peace that passes all understanding. And it is effecting the people around her. I want desperately for God to heal her body. I cannot imagine this life without her. But I am brought to worship as I see her become more and more like her Savior. Truly this is a great gift that He not only gives us forgiveness of our sin, but then proceeds to work His way through our hearts, weeding out all traces of the old man.
2. Who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy. We are reminded that we were dead in our trespasses and sins, and the Holy Spirit breathed His life into us that we might be brought to life through the blood of Christ. Thus we were brought from the pit of spiritual death and surrounded by His steadfast love and mercy. This thought should humble us. Our salvation is not something we accomplished. It is something that was done for us and to us. We were brought to life, our eyes were opened, and we received the free forgiveness of sins. But we were not left to our own devices at that point. He surrounds us with His love and mercy, morning by morning. Not a day goes by in the life of a believer when they do not have the Holy Spirit present to continue the work that was begun at the time of salvation- at the foundation of the world. We have this Comforter with us in our darkest hour – when we have been forsaken by our earthly friends; when we are in the midst of great trouble, when we are facing the valley of the shadow of death. There with us is the steadfast love and mercy of the Lord.
for righteousness sake. We are free, to live by our consciences. However, this seems to be changing. There are forces at work to bring about many restrictions on the Christian faith in this country. We may see in our lifetimes, or in our children’s lifetimes the doing away of many of our religious freedoms. In many other parts of the world, Christians lose their jobs, their homes, even their lives for the sake of the Gospel. Sometimes we see the Lord work to bring justice on this earth, in our time. Certainly we should pray for this. But the promise we see in Matthew 5 is that their reward will be great in heaven. We may not see justice in this world. Certainly many have died unjustly. But we do have the promise that the day is coming when at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow. God has already passed judgement on His people and found them pardoned by the blood of His Son. But the wicked still have their judgement coming. We must continue to conduct our lives according to His precepts trusting that in His timing He will work righteousness and justice.
5. He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel. God appeared to Moses and made known to him the way of salvation for the children of Israel. These ways were communicated to the people through Moses and Aaron. So today God continues to communicate through his appointed leaders, through the preached Word each Lord’s Day. God has consistently provided a way of salvation for his elect. And He consistently provides a way of making this salvation known. We have the treasure of the written Word. We have faithful ministers who study that Word and bring explanation of it to us regularly. We have the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We have the gift of prayer both individually and corporately. These are means that we should be persistent to make use of. (Am I repeating myself? Well, it bears repeating.) I think we sometimes have a tendency to go about our daily lives quite oblivious to these priceless gifts until we come to a difficult decision or a particularly hard trial, and then we pray a frantic prayer and open the Bible without a clue where to look for answers. How much wiser would it be if we would diligently make use of the treasures provided for us here on a habitual basis? When we come every Sunday and apply ourselves to the preaching and teaching offered to us, and make use of the times for corporate prayer, then when hard decisions have to be made, we have a foundation from which to draw wisdom. I think about the passage in James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” We ask for wisdom thinking it will come upon us with a poof. God is giving it to us liberally every week when we gather together on the Lord’s day for corporate worship. We have the wisdom of the Holy spirit poured out through the preaching of the Word. We have the wisdom of fellow believers who have faced similar trials. We have the wisdom of our pastors who commit themselves to hours of study every week. Do the work of showing up and paying attention. Do the work of praying for your pastors as they prepare through the week. Over time, you will acquire the wisdom that is liberally provided for you.