Treasuring Christ

swbc-ladies-retreat-2017-4

A most lovely group of ladies

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.

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.

3.Who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like eagles. This reminds me of the precious gift God has given us in the establishment of His church. We are in the midst of a difficult journey through a difficult life. We are dragged down by the battle against our own sin. We are tried by the sins of others. We are frustrated by the cares of this world. And weekly we are brought by still waters and green grass to have our souls restored. God has given us this great feast each week in the gathering together of His people on Sunday for the preaching of the Word, singing of spiritual songs, corporate prayer, observing the ordinances and fellowship with our spiritual family. We are foolish if we do not take advantage of this wonderful treasure! Here is the place to renew our strength. Here is the reminder of what we have been given in Christ. Here is where we get and give the encouragement we need to continue to persevere through the coming week. Do you hunger to know more of Christ? Come, listen to the teaching of His ordained mouthpiece. This spiritual food gives us renewed vigor for the Spiritual battle that rages around us. How can we keep going? How do we continue? Our strength is renewed through the Sabbath rest. We live in a society that puts great emphasis on maintaining a youthful appearance. Imagine the amount of money and research that has been invested in finding ways to keep our skin and our hair and our bodies looking young and vibrant. I am going to tell you a great trade secret today. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Your hair may turn gray, and your body may not be as strong and healthy, but you will have a beauty in your heart that will shine through your eyes. There is something very attractive about a person who has learned to rest in the Lord and is satisfied with the good things He provides.
4.The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. I am repeatedly reminded of the Beatitudes as I read this Psalm. In this instance, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets before you.” For the most part we live in a country in which we do not often suffer

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.

6.The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in mercy. Have truer words ever been spoken? Look at the mercy of the Lord on the world in general; that he provides rain on the just and the unjust; that the earth produces food for all to consume, the sun provides warmth, that we have breath. That even those who revile His name are allowed to prosper in this life. He gives this and so much more to His chosen people. His great mercy toward us is that while we were still sinning He gave His only begotten Son to provide a legal pardon for our transgressions. And even as His children, we are so prone to doubt His goodness, and to disregard His right over our lives, and He is merciful in His fatherly discipline that brings us to repentance. Let us never forget how slow He is to anger. Abraham was told he would be the father of a nation whose number would be like the stars in the sky. I am just one of those many stars, and I know that daily my sinful heart would provoke him to great wrath. Multiply that to all His people, and you have some idea how slow to anger He is. Instead, He looks at us through the blood of His son and shows us mercy.
7. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. This fatherly discipline that God uses is not a reactionary thing like the anger we experience. We become angry in a flash because we sense that our rights have been violated or that we have been wronged in some way. Our anger makes us want to strike out at the other person. God’s anger is not like this. He does not strive with us out of petty offense. He is perfect and his anger is perfect. When He brings a sinner low because of his sinful acts, it is with the purpose of bringing correction. It is with the purpose of reminding us of our need for redemption and mercy. When His children are humbled before Him and cry out for mercy, mercy is what they receive. What a comfort it is to know that while my sinful rebellion against God’s law deserves His anger forever, He does not strive with me forever. How can this be? On my best day I deserve His wrath moment by moment. I am constantly choosing my own interest over the interest of God’s glory and His kingdom. But!
8. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. God is not only merciful, but He is just. He could not look on our sinfulness and say, “Just forget about it. It’s no big deal.” No, that would not be consistent with his character. So He graciously and mercifully provided a way to make atonement for our sins. He gave His only begotten Son. This Son met the requirements to redeem us from our just judgement. This Son was dealt with according to our sins. He was punished according to our iniquities. This act of redemption by Jesus Christ is the very thing that has removed our transgressions from us. So that now, God looks at us and sees the righteousness of His son. And as a result of that, we call Him Father. We are adopted into His family and receive the benefits of heirs.
9. As a father shows compassion to His children, So the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. God is described here using terms we are familiar with. When we as parents look at our children, we sometimes have great compassion for them. We remember that they are young and that our expectations for them need to be adjusted accordingly. I know with my own children that I could be pretty inconsistent with this. Some days I may have had the correct amount of pity. I made allowances for a child’s maturity or for such things as lack of sleep or sickness. Sometimes I had too much pity, excusing the child’s ill behavior or bad attitude when I should have taught them self control. Often I lacked in my own self control, dealing with them out of impatience or not dealing with them at all, out of laziness. God’s pity is not like our pity. His pity is perfect. He is not swayed by circumstances or hormones or lack of sleep. His compassion does not come from a place of emotion, so it never fails. What a great comfort this is to me, that God is not like me. There is never a day that He forgets to deal with His child with compassion. He always has a perfect understanding of our capabilities. He always remembers what we are as His creation. Luke 11:13 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” So this verse in Psalm 103 is basically saying, “you know how you love your children and want to give them everything good in the world? God is like that, only perfectly.”
10. As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children’s children. I have been reminded many times in the past year of the frailty of our lives. We are here on this earth by God’s pleasure. Were he to remove His sustaining hand from us, we would perish in a vapor. We think we are invincible. We at least expect to live to a ripe old age. But we have no assurance of our next breath without the pleasure of God. An illness, an accident, a storm, a wicked act, any of these could take us in a twinkling of an eye. Even if we were to live to be 100, in light of eternity this is negligible. Most of us won’t be remembered beyond a generation or two. But God’s mercy is perfect. It has no end. He was mercy long before the earth was formed, and He will be mercy long after the earth takes its last rotation around the sun. As His children, we do not have to worry that He will ever run out of mercy for us. There won’t be a day when I will come to my Heavenly Father to be told, “Sorry, you have used up your quota of mercy.” No. Through the work of Christ, we have constant, eternal, perfect mercy. The only limit to His mercy is that it is offered in its fullness only to those who have fallen on the Mercy Seat, that is Christ Jesus.
11. To such that keep His covenant, and those who remember His commandments to do them. We can’t keep His covenant apart from the work of Christ. Ultimately, He is the one who has kept the covenant for us. But we are reminded in John 14 that if we love Him, we will keep his commandments. This is the fruit of salvation: that we seek to do the will of our Father. This is how we actively treasure Christ. We study His Word, and we seek to apply it in the day to day. We work to be salt and light in the world. We have a tendency to overcomplicate things sometimes. We want to find a way to see the big picture – “God’s will for our lives.” And by this we generally mean we want to know which job to take, whether to buy a house, who to marry. We want to know the events. This is God’s will for our lives – 1Thessalonians 4:2-12  “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us his Holy Spirit. But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you for you, yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren that you increase more and more; that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.” When we get this much down, then we can worry about the big picture. Instead of worrying about the details or events, we need to be concerned about how we conduct ourselves as the events unfold. Are we being sexually moral? Are we conducting ourselves honorably? Are we working to control our passions and lust? Are we working to have brotherly love? Are we aspiring to lead a quiet life? Are we minding our own business? Doing our work? As we go about our lives in obedience to the Lord’s commands, then we will have eyes to see the mercy of the Lord morning by morning.
12. The Lord has established His throne in the heaven and His kingdom rules over all. God is sovereign and God is good! He is on his throne ruling over all that He has created. We are citizens of this world in body, but citizens of His kingdom in spirit. Having just experienced the inauguration of a new president after a particularly volatile election, it is a comfort to know that this is all temporary. God raises up kingdoms and brings them down. We have no guarantee that our country will continue to exist for the generations to come. But God’s kingdom is eternal. We will benefit from the rule of our great King forever and ever.
13. Bless the Lord, you angels, Who excel in strength, who do His Word, heeding the voice of His word. Bless the Lord, all you His hosts, You ministers of His, who do His pleasure. Bless the Lord, all His works, in all places of His dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul! David calls roll to each type of creature who is part of God’s kingdom and calls them to worship. This reminds me of Psalm 150:6, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” I think perhaps as David enumerates all the benefits (or treasures if you will) of being a child of the great king, he knows he is not capable in himself to offer enough blessing and praise to God. He solicits all the help he can find. May our hearts respond the same way! May we leave here overflowing with praise on our lips and in our hearts. May we praise Him not only with our words, but with our obedience to His commandments. For Yours, O God, is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen!
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5 Responses to Treasuring Christ

  1. This was like rain on dry earth! Thank you for sharing. Love you!

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