Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sermon Sunday: Psalm 16:11

This is my script from last sunday at church, where three of us preached for eight minutes each. You can listen to it here

Like many of David’s psalms it can be argued here that he speaks for Himself and for Christ. Jesus knew that ultimate joy and happiness was to be found in the presence of God…and that is why he ‘waded through the sea of blood at Calvary’ Jesus pursued His happiness through close relationship with God, and I believe that God made us for happiness.

That seems like a surprising statement doesn’t it? We don’t naturally equate Christianity with happiness, but I think that’s what these verses teach. It’s not a happiness that the world recognises, or even envies, not a happiness based on circumstances or money or friends, but a deep, lasting joy that comes from knowing the Father through Jesus Christ. Now you may say to me. Ed, you’re 22 years old, you’ve had a simple life, from school to uni to relay to working for a church, when you’ve lived a bit, then come back and we can talk about happiness. And that’s true.

But lets look at David who wrote this psalm. One of his sons killed the other, his early years were spent on the run from Saul and his armies, who would have him killed. David knew pain and suffering, and yet in spite of numerous setbacks and disappointments, recurring depression and political defeats, David was a profoundly happy man. Happy, that is, in God. That’s why this verse contains words like joy and pleasure, because God’s aim for us is to be happy in Him. Because in that way we bring Him glory.

We need to do very little other than to reflect on what the text says here:

Fullness: it’s complete, a torrent of joy. There will be no more longing or dissatisfaction or unhappiness. We will have fullness of joy. More joy than we can even imagine now will be ours when we see the Lord face to face. We will be overflowing with joy, and there’s no way we can imagine what that’s like now. That is what Christianity is about…delayed gratification. But oh! What gratification!

Pleasure: it is enjoyable, it’s good. Heaven is not just going to be like life here but a bit better…it’s going to be amazing. Like having a fullness of joy, we can not imagine what its going to be like. But it’s going to be pleasurable.

Security: How can we trust this though? How do we know that this isn’t just the churches way of luring people in, of making people believe they are getting something good to keep them onside? Look at the verse again…where does this pleasure come from? It comes from God’s right hand. And God is not like us. God is not merely at the top of the scale which starts with plankton and ends with Jesus. He is on an altogether different scale. He is as high above an angel as He is a caterpillar. So we can trust this promise. We can bank our all on this hope of pleasure, because it comes from God’s right hand, and he will not break His promises.

Evermore: it never ends. You know when you’re having a great time, with your friends or on holiday, and you’re really enjoying yourself, but somehow that enjoyment is tempered by the fact that soon it will end, and life will be back into a routine again.. I remember the last time I felt like that was when I was on short term mission in Bulgaria over the summer. I can an incredible three weeks out there, and i remember sitting there thinking that I wish I could bottle that week, that feeling for when I came home. Heaven won’t be like that, it will be joy untempered, pleasure immeasurable, and it will never end. We can’t really get our heads round what eternal means. We all sing ‘when I’ve been there ten thousand years’, but none of us know what that means. But that’s ok, the finite can not comprehend or imagine the infinite. But we can still look forward to it, we can still relish the prospect…

But what difference does all this talk make?

I think CS Lewis answers this questions in his sermon ‘The weight of glory’. He says ‘If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.’

Well doesn’t it make every difference? You see why this quote by Lewis changed my life? It’s not just that sin is deadly, although it’s surely not less than that, but to know God deeply is joyful and pleasurable. It’s better than fooling around with drink and sex and ambition. It will make us happier than all those things. Jesus appeals to our most basic instinct here, the instinct to be happy, and then floods and overloads it with Himself. So I want to leave us with an encouragement and a challenge this morning. I want to encourage those of us who feel like our lives are devoid of joy right now… it will come, in this life, and ultimately in heaven. That is the objective promise we have here. And God does not break His promises. And the challenge?
What an impact we would have on this town if we were a radically God glory orientated joy seeking church for the glory of God through Jesus Christ...

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