He Leads Me
I preached the following sermon at the Cornerstone Church on Sunday, October 15, 2017.
HE LEADS ME
Part 2 of He Leadeth Me. Psalm 23:1-6
Peter Foxwell. The Cornerstone Church. October 15, 2017.
Life is awesome. And life is awful. At the same time. Here we all are on this wonderful Sunday together. We're experiencing awesome things: God, Gospel, worship, friends. But at the same time, in this room there are people going through awful stuff: chemo and radiation, addictions, hurts, stress at work, homework, conflict. That's life: awesome and awful at the same time. No one is immune. No one gets a pass. So are we supposed to be chipper or depressed? Sometimes, It's hard to choose.
And then Jesus says to us: "11 I am the good shepherd. 10 I have come that (you) may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10-11) Jesus says, "I'm your shepherd - your leader, king, savior. And I can give you life. He's talking about eternal life, but the phrase means - life to maximum, optimal life, life that is really life. He offers us this full and abundant life every day: no matter what's going on. Our circumstances don't matter."
Jesus offers us a new kind of awesome. No matter how awful things may look. Psalm 23 shows us how we can enter this full life. It shows us God's three-part plan for our abundance. Work the plan and you'll experience life to the full.
PART ONE: FOLLOW JESUS AS YOUR GUIDE TO LIFE - verses 1-3
This begins with trust - believing that Jesus wants to be involved in our lives. When we trust him:
He provides for us - green pastures, quiet waters (everything a sheep needs) - so we don't have to worry.
What's the alternative? Stressing out over everything. Jesus taught about this:
"So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them." - Matthew 6:31-32
Stress is the "21st century black plague." Everyone's anxious all the time. That's no way to live. When we stop stressing and start trusting, the Lord refreshes (restores, returns it to health) our souls. He makes us rest, stop striving, being agitated: "He makes us lie down."
Isaiah 26:3 (NIV-WS) You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.
When we trust Jesus, he also guides us ... "He guides me along the right paths" - verse 3. He does this by teaching us, by his Word. We can actually stormproof our lives:
Matthew 7:24-27 Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Blessings come through obedience: "Blessed is the one who ... whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night." (Psalm 1:1a, 2)
When we follow Jesus and his teachings, his word makes our hearts strong, our thinking wise, our attitude positive. We will not fall. We will stand firm with our roots dug down deep
PART TWO: FIND JESUS IN THE TOUGH TIMES OF LIFE - verse 4.
Where is God when we hurt? Be honest: If your house got torn down by Hurricane Harvey and you lost your wedding photos and your dog floated away, wouldn't you maybe feel a little bitter and frustrated with God? Wouldn't you ask, "Where were you?"
We have this formula in our heads: A+B = C. If I love God and he loves me, nothing bad's ever going to happen to me. That's just bad math. It doesn't add up. Thank God, the Bible is honest with us. Even people who love and obey Jesus go through the darkest valleys. The Hebrew language there is the "darkest of the dark." Jesus knows all about this. His perfect life earned him the cross. King David was anointed king of Israel. Great, right? Not so much: the next 14 years were spent running and hiding from King Saul and a spear in his guts.
Here's what to do when the hard times roll. Declare by faith what it says right there in verse 4: "you are with me." How does that help? When we expect him, we experience him. When we depend on him, we discover him. The apostle Paul went through the grinder. But he chose to see God in it all:
"Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. ... 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen." 2 Corinthians 4:16, 18
Living a tired, defeated, negative life is easy. Just let your circumstances rule your emotions. Talk to yourself as though God doesn't exist. Believe what you see. We can experience fullness when we choose to declare: "you are with me; you are holding me up; you are my strength." Remember this: God is never closer than when can't see him.
PART THREE: FELLOWSHIP WITH JESUS
NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS IN LIFE - verses 5-6.
Back in the early days of the Cornerstone, I got so busy, I felt spiritually dried up. God seemed distant. Then I heard this song and it was exactly what I was feeling. Kelly Carpenter's song (by the way, Kelly is a guy), Draw Me Close:
"Draw me close to You. Never let me go. I lay it all down again to hear You say that I'm your friend. You are my desire no one else will do. 'Cause nothing else could take Your place. To feel the warmth of Your embrace. Help me find the way bring me back to You. You're all I want. You're all I've ever needed. You're all I want. Help me know You are near."
God loves answering that prayer. That's what verses 5-6 are all about: this sense of being with God. The old-timers called it "communion with God." I call it friendship with Jesus. I mean that reverently because it is very precious, sacred.
That's the whole idea behind the table, and cup, and oil. In the ancient world, you sealed friendships with meals. When your guest arrived, you put oil on his head: "Welcome, let me make you greasy." Then you ate together. A fellowship meal. Jesus did this with Zacchaeus. He ate with Z and then said, "Today, salvation has come to this house." - Luke 19:9
How is it possible that God would invite us into this communion? Look at the beginning of verse 6: His goodness and love FOLLOW us ALL the days of our lives. "Follow" here means "to pursue." It's often used for chasing an enemy. But God chases us with his faithful, covenant love (hesed). He pursues us:
Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Jesus makes the way. His death on the cross opens the door into the beautiful presence of God - to know him, to be with him, to fellowship with him. This fellowship happens even on the worst of days. Look at verse 5: the fellowship meal is in the presence of enemies - the storms of life, the stuff that would ruin us if God didn't protect us. We can fellowship in the fire! We can connect in the chaos!
I saved the best for last. Look at the end of verse 6: "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." That is telling us that our fellowship with Jesus will never end. The promise reminds me of Romans 8:
I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 8:38-39
Can your cancer separate you from God's love? Can your family separate you from God's love? Can your mistakes separate you from God's love? What can separate you from God's love? NOTHING! His love pursues you!
Our fellowship goes on for ever and ever. It never ends. In fact, this is just the beginning. This isn't even as good as it gets. There is so much more still to come. We're going to be with Jesus in heaven:
The Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes ." - Revelation 7:17
God is speaking to you today, "Don't be a stranger. Come into my love now. Trust your life to Jesus the shepherd. Follow him into life in all its fullness."