Online Text Sermon - The Best Shepherd, Psalm 23 vv.1-3
|Preacher||Mr. George Bingham, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||The Best Shepherd|
|Text||Psalm 23 vv.1-3 |
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"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake" (Psalm 23, 1-3).
I would like believers to take assurance and comfort from the words of this beloved Psalm. We know that it speaks of many delights to those that believe. For those that are seeking or searching, we shall endeavour to put some light upon what it means to be inside the kingdom and the righteousness of Christ.
"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want" (text). We can take from this great value and assurance of knowing, that to the believer, there is a desire here that speaks in the words "I shall not want". It is a desire of Christ Himself in which we know that we shall be satisfied. He also here has "The Lord is my shepherd" at the beginning, opening it up to show that we have One that has gone before us, in which He is willing to give and that we as believers, will have no heavenly gift lacking if we only believe and ask.
1. CHRIST AND HEAVEN BEFORE US
2. HOPE AND PEACE
3. HOW IS RIGHTEOUSNESS OF VALUE?
How is this satisfaction in Christ accomplished? First of all, I believe it is in the intercessory work of Christ. We have in the sacrifice of the cross of Calvary, Christ as the Victim upon the cross. We know that His blood was shed and that the purpose for this shedding of blood was for the remission of sins; it was for the washing and the cleansing of those who cling to Christ. I would like to look in to the priesthood and the intercessory fact of 'Christ and heaven before us'.
1. CHRIST AND HEAVEN BEFORE US
In this intercessory place, we have the background of this verse in Hebrews 7-10 quoting one or two verses which are valuable to the insight of it. We know that Christ, in His Priesthood, entered in to the tabernacle. "A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man" (Hebrews 8, 2). Hopefully we will see in the contrast between the earthly priesthood and the now heavenly Priesthood, the similarities but yet the perfection of Christ in the interceding work. We can note by this that Christ has ascended into a place where his intercessory work has value. It has value in the sense that it is the "true tabernacle". There is a place in where the Father's presence and the fullness of the Godhead dwells. It is where, because of the place that it is, Christ, for His work for the believer, is taken to be of value.
We know that the earthly priesthood had daily sacrifices, however, Christ on the cross, made a "once for all" (Hebrews 10, 10) sacrifice. We know that it was a "once for all", a historic act, an act that was done once in history. We also know that it was done once and once only for the believer. The cross of Calvary is not to be done again in the sense that we are not to crucify Christ daily. We know that is was done "once for all" in the sense that it was not done for everyone, for the blood of Christ can only cleanse those that believe; not everybody can claim that blood. It is for those that are within the heavenly tabernacle of God in the sense that, He is the One that has bought them with a precious blood; He is the One that has bought them with a price. It is for all those that believe on that blood. He alone is worthy to make this intercessory work His duty for the believer as an ascended Christ and a risen Saviour.
"For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens" (Hebrews 7, 26). Here again we see how Christ in His earthly Being was made "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." This in itself relates to the place of intercession in that He was to go before us into the tabernacle of heaven. As we know, heaven itself cannot hold any seed of sin that would defile such a place. Also, note that He Himself was "separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens" (Hebrews 7, 26). He Himself is higher than the heavens. It is his abode it is true, but He is also higher than that place, stating the fact that He is the Creator of all things. All things must come in to subjection of Christ and the Father and of the Spirit. All things are under the Lord Jesus. All things in the natural world are ordered by His Word and by His Being.
We also note that in His earthly ministry there was a law which was mentioned. This law was a spiritual law although fulfilled by Christ in His earthly ministry, it is also a law in which we will see later the righteousness of Christ. It was a law that had to be fulfilled and man was unable and incapable of doing any good thing towards that law. Man in his first estate of Adam broke that law, hence the second covenant of Christ coming to fulfil what man could not. In this law - "I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them" (Hebrews 10, 16) - man was not able to keep it therefore intercession was needed. That intercession puts on the believer an accessible way into the promises in Christ. The promises of Scripture and the promises of Christ are available to us because of this interceding work. Here we are able to say, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want" (text) because we know that the promises that are withheld in the Fatherhood and in the assembly of God are accessible through the intercession of Christ before us into that place.
How then do we know that these promises are accessible? How do we know that this intercessory work continues? We are given assurance by coming to the means of grace at such a time as this in prayer. We know that the Spirit is true; we know that He testifies to the Word of Christ and that He holds to the Gospel truth - that is our assurance of such an ongoing work. It is the intercessory work of Christ that witnesses by the Spirit. To believe on the Spirit is to believe on the intercession of Christ. Then we are able to say "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want" (text).
2. HOPE AND PEACE
What then of the second verse? "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters" (text). There are two ideas taken here; we will think of them separately and look at them briefly. I put it to you that the "green pastures" to the believer are the fields of hope and that the "still waters" are the waters of peace. What is meant for the Christian in these two concepts? Hope and peace accompany salvation.
We know that there are three things stated about hope.
It is contrary to man's nature
It is a heavenly gift
Christ is the chief object of that hope
We will look at man first. Hope is not natural in man; it is not of man. Man is not born with hope. It is not a virtue or a moral upbringing that man has. Hope is only by the Spirit of God, especially to the believer. It is only by hope that we can continue into faith of salvation. It is only by God's Holy Spirit that it is made available. Hope in heaven has its anchor. The hope of the soul lies in God's promises. Hope sees heaven at all times; it sees life through death; it sees glory through misery; it holds heaven and soul together. In Christ then, how do we have hope? In the free offices of Christ, in Christ's sacrifice, we have hope in the remission of sins. In Christ's resurrection, we have the hope that we will one day be raised to glory. In Christ's intercession, we have the hope that the good will of the Father is working toward our own good. Christ then, we can say, is a visible hope hoped for.
The "still waters": the waters of peace. This too can be split in to two ideas. Peace being the covenant of peace in which Christ is the comfort: "For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee" (Isaiah 54, 10). Here we have the idea of the mountain, the natural world. It is in these mountains that we see the strength of the creation. These mountains can also be broken by nature. By earthquake and landslide, they can be destroyed in a moment. We have seen in recent times that these are all too close to us and it shows the power of God. It also shows that the foundation, of which this covenant of peace is built, is stronger than the natural world that is about us; it is a spiritual peace bought by a covenant of God, the strength of which is in God Himself. As we have seen, it is not of our own peace or of our own making.
We can then say that the God of peace is a God that gives life. "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant" (Hebrews 13, 20). We have heard that the covenant is made on a foundation of God; it is of God's up-building and up-keeping. Here we see that it is an everlasting covenant of peace, which has been bought by the blood of Christ. The peace that accompanies that everlasting covenant is a precious blood; it is precious in the sight of God and it is precious to the believer. It is precious in the sense that only by that blood are we accepted, only by that blood are we forgiven. It is the forgiveness of God that we should all seek; it is the forgiveness of God that we should all prepare ourselves for with fear and trembling - that we might know we have a holy God set before us.
3. HOW IS RIGHTEOUSNESS OF VALUE?
"He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake" (text). The questions I want to put across here are - How is righteousness of value? Why lead the Christian in its path? There are two ways of going. First of all, we can see it from God's perspective and then from the believers viewpoint.
(a) GOD'S PERSPECTIVE
>From the Lord, the righteousness is gratuitous; it is gotten or given freely. It is unmerited - we do not deserve the righteousness of God or of Christ. We do not deserve His righteousness; yet, we do deserve the punishment of His wrath. The righteousness perfects in the believer - "But we are bound always to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth" (2 Thessalonians 2, 13).
How then does righteousness perfect? It is an ongoing process. Righteousness has to lay aside the body of sin because righteousness cannot adhere to the body of sin. Righteousness is separate from sin - it is the opposite. If we are to continue in a body of sin we must pray to the Lord that the Spirit would intercede on our behalf, knowing that we have the righteousness of Christ to live into and be brought forward in faith and growth in grace.
It is also by Christ's merit. By Christ's merit, salvation was bought and man was reconciled. By the salvation of Christ and by the reconciliation of man, it is true to say that the commencement of love bestows righteousness. What does that mean? To make it a bit clearer I quote from one of the theologians. 'But though there is no law above God there is certainly a law in the very nature of God. This is the highest possible standard by which all other laws are judged.' How then do we explain that? Within God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the triune Godhead - there is a law. Not that He obeys in the sense that He is able to break it but in the law that it is in the nature of Him to work and proceed within that law. It is a law by which righteousness stands. Righteousness is part of that law. By having that righteousness imparted and imputed to the believer through Christ and by the Spirit, we are able then to partake of the law of God, which He Himself possesses.
(b) THE BELIEVERS VIEWPOINT
We can see that man in relation to this justice of righteousness has no capability of attaining or fulfilling this righteousness of himself. He is totally unable. Why is he unable? Man has a sense of religion in himself but says, "What shall I do that I may have eternal life?" (Mark 10, 17) rather than, "How shall I be enabled to that which is good?" We can see this in the doctrine of original sin.
The example that I set before us is of the 'well servant' and the 'sick servant'. To the servant that is well we can say, "Go and fetch" and he will fetch. We can say, "Bring it to us" and he will bring it. We say to the sick servant, "Go and fetch" but that servant turns and say to us: "I must know how I am enabled to go and fetch." The thing is, the first servant who is well, is in the righteousness of Christ. He is able to do, and by the Spirit, we are able to do the purposes and commands of God and so be obedient to His will. It is only by being enabled that we can obey God. However, the sick servant was unable. He needs to be enabled by the righteousness of Christ.
What then can we take for the believer? I believe there are three applications that we can take to the believer - one being, the external performances. We know not the knowledge how to attain spiritual service. If we have not the knowledge of what Christ means in the sense of His righteousness and dying upon Calvary and its value, then all our good works mean nothing; they are of no importance to ourselves or to others. You will hear the argument that man is by nature, morally good. That is wrong. Man is morally against God; the first thing he will say is "Who is this God?" He will show his enmity with God.
How then do we attain the spiritual service? By coming to Scripture, we can learn what it is to be of a spiritual mind. We can learn what it is, by listening to the voice of God in Scripture. We can learn what it is to adhere to the Spirit, by being obedient to that Spirit. If we test and know that the Spirit is of God then we shall attain a spiritual service to a great value in Christ's righteousness.
Secondly: the rejection of repentance. Many outside the church, and even some of those within it, see holiness as an austere and unpleasant thing. This is far from the truth when we see it in Christ's righteousness. When we see the value of Christ's righteousness, we are able to say, "My repentance and the breaking of my own heart is pleasant, and a sacrifice before the Father." That is what He prays we should pray for. When we are broken, we pray for upbinding. To know the Lord in fear and trembling is a terrible thing, especially if we have rejected repentance. We must first have repentance.
Thirdly, for the Christian, there is a misplaced zeal. This misplaced zeal encourages the Christian to run as fast as he can into holiness, without putting the right step in the right place. The trouble with this is, especially with young Christians who have put themselves headlong into holiness, only to be sunk, as it were, by their own sin, their own lust and their own desires. Before you know it, they are left wallowing in the mire.
We must also ask the Lord in guidance for a true zeal. A true zeal will testify to Christ. A true zeal will bring glory to Christ's Name. That is the way that we must persevere and encourage ourselves by the Spirit to endure.
To those outside of Christ: we have heard how the "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want" (text) by His intercession. We know that He makes us to lie down in "green pastures", into pastures of hope. We know that He leads us "beside still waters" of peace and we know that He "restores our souls" by leading us in the "path of righteousness for his name's sake". To those outside of Christ we must ask the question: Are you being led in these ways? Do you know the peace and do you know the hope that accompanies salvation? Do you know that salvation? If you don't, would you accept it? It is in the Bible that that salvation is made clear. It is the only place in this earth as we know it that that hope and peace will be gained. That is the only place by which we must be brought. It is in to the Word of God and by the Spirit of Christ that we pray that all shall come to know the peace and the hope and the salvation that accompanies Christ and His believing.
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