August 27, 2017
Are you living your best possible life? Maybe you are thinking, “My best possible life? I’m just trying to make it through each day. I get that. But I have to tell you that there is a way to begin living your best possible life today.
Over the last number of weeks we have been considering Ps.46, 47 and today, 48. These Psalms speak about Zion, the city in which God dwells. In the Old Testament, Zion is another name for Jerusalem. But we have seen that Zion also refers to more than Jerusalem. Zion refers to the kingdom of God, the realm in which God reigns.
When the writer of Hebrews speaks to believers he says in Heb.12:22-24. “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to…the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” This is the kingdom of God. As we consider this Psalm I want to say that entering the kingdom of God is the way to live your best possible life. I see 4 questions in this Psalm that speak to living your best possible life.
I. DO YOU WANT JOY? Ps.48:1-2
I imagine that all of us have experienced enough joy to make us long for more. Joy is similar to but not quite the same as happiness. Happiness comes and goes with our circumstances while joy is more of a settled state of being. I am not happy when the property tax assessment comes in the mail, or when I have a flat tire, but I can still be joyful in my overall sense of things. There are many joyful people who have a sunny, positive disposition in life. And of course there are many who do not. They may experience happiness in a moment but they are not characterized by joy.
Joseph Carlson was a dance orchestra conductor who was converted to Christ sometime around 1939 and upon his conversion he wrote a chorus that we sang when I was growing up. The words go like this: “If you want joy, real joy, wonderful joy, let Jesus come into your heart. Your sins he’ll wash away, your night he’ll turn to day, your life he’ll make over anew.” Not all Christians are joyful people, but all Christians have every reason to be joyful because of what God has done and is doing in us and for us in Jesus Christ. Christian joy is rooted in our life with Christ in the Kingdom of God. Dallas Willard says that joy is a “deep-seated sense of well-being, of safety in God’s universe.” Of course, joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit. That is the kind of joy being referred to in this psalm.
This psalm locates us in the city of God on his holy mountain. We see that God’s city is beautiful. In the ESV it says that this city is in the far north. According to the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, “…in Canaanite mythology the north was considered to be the place for the meeting of the assembly of the gods.” For example, in Is.14:13 we read about how the king of Babylon boasts, "I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north." Here in Ps.48 the psalmist is claiming that the God of Israel, the same God who raised Jesus from the dead, is the great king who reigns in his city, on his throne in the far north. In fact this city is the joy of all the earth.
Being a joyful person is wonderful, if you happen to be a joyful person. But the joy available to everyone in Christ, is the joy that comes from being with God and living in his kingdom through Christ. But this is a little tricky because the physical world we live in is very visible and appears to be so large and real. And it is large and real. At times, what we see and experience in our physical life is fearful and overwhelming. All of us are subject to the hurts and troubles of this world.
The kingdom of God, however, is invisible to us. We can’t see God. We don’t necessarily feel God. And it is difficult for us to discern the work of God in this world. So what do we mean when we say that joy is available to us in the kingdom of God? This is important because life in the kingdom of God requires us to trust God and to base our lives on the reality of God’s kingdom reign apart from what we can see and feel. This is why we need to study the life of Jesus. Jesus reveals God.
When we embrace Jesus as Savior, Lord, and King, all of our sins are forgiven, and we are transferred into the kingdom of God. Our life is now with Christ in God. And like Abraham, we are called to find our joy in following Christ and trusting in him. Jesus was subject to all of the troubles that come with life in this world. But his joy was found in his loving and obedient relationship with God. And it is the same with us. We trust in God. God is the strength of our lives. God is the one who holds our future and who daily gives us life. No matter what evil and trouble comes into our lives, our life and eternity is safe in the Kingdom of God and that brings joy.
One more thought. All joy comes as a result of thinking and living in certain ways. It’s not as if unbelievers just happen to be joyful. Unbelievers who are joyful, are joyful because of the way they approach life. Believers are joyful because they find their life in Christ. Christ fills our thoughts as we fill our mind with him and the things that are consistent with his way. Paul tells us in Rm.12:1-2, “…present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Do you want joy? Step into the reign of God in his kingdom through faith in Jesus. In Jn.15:11 Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” His kingdom is the joy of all the earth.
II. DO YOU WANT SECURITY? Ps.48:3-8
Who doesn’t want to feel secure in these troubling days? Whether our insecurity stems from worldwide threats or an immanent job change, or illness, we want to know that we are safe. But does anyone really feel safe? I mean these days you take your life in your hands just driving on the expressway. We might get shot!
But for those whose life is anchored in the kingdom of God, there is security. In the kingdom of God, God has made himself known as a fortress of safety and protection. And it’s a good thing because we see in v.4-7 that the kingdoms of this world have arrayed themselves against God and his people. In fact I believe I am safe in saying that every political establishment of this world is arrayed against God. I do not think the world is capable of creating a Christian nation. We might like to think that the United States is a Christian nation, but it is not. Christian people have had significant influence in our country, but if Jesus were to show up in Washington, he would only be welcomed by those who know him. And there are far more who do not know him than who do.
But notice in v.5-7 that when these kingdoms come into contact with the kingdom of God they are overwhelmed and defeated. We don’t even read that there is any fighting. “As soon as they saw the citadels of God” they were astounded and in a panic took to flight.” The east wind shattered the ships of Tarshish.
Notice something else in v.8. How do the people of God know of this victory? “As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God, which God will establish forever.” It seem that the people of God are not fighting against the nations. Instead they are watching and hearing of God’s victory over the kingdoms of this world.
So if you know Christ, your life is secure. You say, “Wait, I could get shot on the expressway. Our country could be attacked. I could succumb to terminal illness. How can you say my life is secure?” Well, I can say that your life is just as secure as the life of Jesus was secure when he walked this earth. Everything that happened to Jesus happened within the loving care of God. Just as God was holding the life of Jesus, so God is holding the life of everyone who knows Jesus. Unless the Lord comes, all of us are going to die in one way or another. But our lives are safe. Nothing and no one can pluck you out of the hand of God.
Along with this, we are the people of God and even though we live in the kingdom of God, at the same time we also live in this present darkness. We live in the kingdoms of this world. The people of this world see an expression of the kingdom of God when they look at the church of Jesus Christ. What do the people of this world see in the church that is compelling? When Connie Kovco stands in front of a courthouse volunteering to pray for people as they go to court, I think that is a compelling expression of the kingdom of God. When Christians offer themselves in service to those who are poor and needy, that is a compelling picture of the Kingdom of God. When Christians are gracious and kind to those who ridicule and seek to disenfranchise us, that is a compelling picture of the kingdom of God. When Christians die to themselves that is a compelling picture of the kingdom of God. The most challenging question for us as congregation is how do we convey the righteousness, joy and peace of the kingdom of God to our community? This is critical.
Do you want security? Step into the truth of the Kingdom of God and live it. Entrust your life fully to Jesus day by day. We are safe!
III. DO YOU WANT LOVE? Ps.48:9-11
Love is a commitment to will and promote the good of another person. We tend to think about love in terms of feelings and happiness, and love surely does promote these things. But love does not always feel great and it does not always make people happy. Parents understand this because there are times when they must say, “No,” out of love.
The Bible tells us that God is love. Love comes from God. Do you want to love? Then you need God, especially if your experience of love has been disappointing. How can a person enter into the Love of God? Paul prays that believers will grow in their knowledge of the love of God. In Eph.3 he prays that, “Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith--that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” How does one enter into the love of God?
Look at v.9. It says, “We have thought on your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of your temple.” This is instructive. We enter into the steadfast, unfailing love of God by contemplating, meditating on the love of God in worship with the people of God. In this world there are many opportunities to question the love of God for us. In this world, love is often extended on the basis of our performance. And many think that God’s love is based on their performance. In other words, love must be earned. In this world, people think that love means having ones needs and desires fully met. So when a spouse or friend lets us down, we feel unloved. And if God has let us down we feel unloved. Do not make the mistake of thinking that your trials and difficulties are a sign that God doesn’t love you. There is never a time when God does not love you.
But the v. tells us to think about, to ponder, to picture the love of God. God’s love is faithful and steadfast. He desires the very best for you. We are to be thinking about God’s love. And when we think about God’s love we are immediately brought to Jesus Christ. God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son. The goodness of Jesus that we read about in the gospels is the goodness that he shows to us even now. So when we come to worship together in the presence of God we praise his name. We are glad and rejoice in his righteousness and steadfast love.
Of course we all give assent to these ideas, but do we think about and ponder the love of God for us in Christ Jesus. It is not uncommon to wonder if God loves us because we don’t feel it. Perhaps if we pondered God’s love in Christ and let his love fill our minds, we might actually feel loved by God. And again, all of this rests on a settled trust in God and his goodness towards us. Do you want love? Step into the kingdom of God in worship and praise. Fill your heart and mind with the truth about God’s love by focusing on Jesus.
IV. DO YOU WANT TO LIVE A NOBLE LIFE? Ps.48:12-14
A noble life is a life that is being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ. I am not talking about a sinless life. None of us will ever be fully without sin in this life. This doesn’t mean that it’s okay to tolerate sin in our lives. Rather we continually take steps to resist temptation and regularly confess our sin. We are aiming towards righteous living in all our ways and we do not give up.
So how do we live a noble life that is being transformed into the likeness of Jesus? As I was thinking about these verses a picture came into my mind. Picture yourself in Zion, the city of God. Picture yourself walking around Zion, numbering her towers, considering her ramparts or protective walls, and going through her citadels. A citadel is a fortress, castle, a fortified center of a town or city. The psalmist is inviting, encouraging us to get to know the kingdom in which we live. If you lived in Jerusalem back in that day, you might walk around the city considering how well fortified it is. This could only encourage one to feel safe and secure.
I don’t think I am stretching this too much when I say that our life in the kingdom of God involves a process of learning about God and his ways. As we live under the rule of God in this dark world we continue to learn of just how much God loves us and how safe we are in his hands. Over all, I would say this is a journey of learning to trust in the goodness and love of God. Frankly we can only learn by experience. Knowledge of God is important, but knowledge must be applied to living. The schoolroom of God’s kingdom is our daily living in this world.
Jesus tells us to make disciples, teaching them to do all that he commanded. Paul tells us to do all to the glory of God in whatever we do. This is a learning process. Following Christ is a lifelong journey. There are days of failure and days of success for all of us. But as we live for Christ we will be living a noble life, your best life possible.
In v.13 we see that every believer is given an important task of learning about life in the kingdom of God in order that we can tell the next generation about God and his goodness in Christ.
Many have noted that the millennial generation is leaving the church in droves. Different reasons are offered. One is that they have seen a disconnect between the church and Jesus. The church has become like the culture in terms of consumerism, individualism and moral compromise. That 1 reason is pretty significant. And it speaks to the need for us to immerse ourselves deeply into Jesus Christ as our Lord and King.
It will not do for us to just teach doctrine and Bible stories to the next generation. We must live it out, showing that we take the Kingdom of God seriously. Following Jesus is our main goal in life. It is the most noble life we can live.
I imagine most everyone here has entered into the kingdom of God through faith in Jesus Christ. I put it in this way because I want it to be clear that being saved is more than praying a sinner’s prayer. The reason we need to be saved is because all of us are naturally inclined to live our lives to the exclusion of God. We live self-centered lives and do what seems best in our own eyes regardless of what God says. And this is what the Bible refers to as sin. Sin is refusing to acknowledge and worship the God who created all things and raised Jesus from the dead. Sin always leads to death. Death is existence apart from any relationship with God. The only way to enter into an eternal life with God is to embrace Jesus Christ who died for our sins and rose from the dead. We turn from our self-centered, godless pride and surrender to Jesus as our Savior, Lord and King. Following Jesus is the way to live your best possible life forever. Have you turned to Jesus? Amen