All of us want to experience life, so we search after the "good stuff." And David describes the good stuff as being with the Lord all of the time. Are we drawn to the Lord and His people, or do we think that we can find true life elsewhere?
Unity: I Like it, I Love it, I Want Some More of It
The Good Stuff - Found Only in the Perfect Relationship
Do Only the Good Die Young?
We Are the Apple of His Eye
I ought to just go ahead and tell you that, honestly, we started this church so I could have country music on Sunday mornings sometimes. That's so great. What a great song! I love just the stories of life that are out there. Man, the first time I heard that song, probably like a lot of you… Maybe this was your first time. You know, even if that's not your genre, you just kind of go, "You know what? It's so easy to miss the good stuff. Isn't it?"
Lord, we come to you today, and we don't want to miss the good stuff. We realize that we are constantly bombarded with things that want to pull us away from what the good stuff really is, and as great as it is to see people we love holding our baby girl and watching the way they respond when we give them gifts; as great as it is to be dads, moms, lovers, grandpas, grandmas; there's something even better. Frankly, it's foreign to even those of us who know you, so we're grateful that we can come here today and just get our minds attuned and that we can think rightly again.
Thank you for how good it is when we dwell together and hang out together and love each other and listen to each other and cry with each other and laugh with each other, but we thank you most of all for how good it is to have peace with you through faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord. It's my heart that we walk out of here today going, "Man, that's the good stuff! That's the good stuff," and that we would long for times of intimacy with you personally and we would long for times of celebration like this with your people.
I pray, Lord, today that there'd be somebody out there who's never really understood the really good stuff and they'd get more than a glass of milk. I pray that they would get living water this morning and they could walk out of here with a skip in their step, saying, "I know the Good One, and that's some good stuff." Would you do that? In Christ's name, amen.
Turn to Psalm 84 with me, and we're going to tear into it. This is our song of summer this week. Now, it's going to look kind of unfamiliar to you. It's a really spectacular song because it's just so grand in its description it almost seems unreal. In fact, it's going to be hard for some of us to believe that David was authentic when he wrote it.
One of the things I think drives folks away from the body of Christ and, therefore, from the main instrument God has left here to help others understand who he is, typically happens when they walk into a place where God is supposedly honored, where his name is supposedly lifted up, where his Spirit supposedly dwells in the midst of his people (not in some edifice, not in some structure, but our very lives being the temple of where God's Spirit lives).
They walk into a church and they see nothing there that makes them go, "Man, those folks are excited about being together. Those folks have a love and a care and concern for each other. It is so good to be in the midst of them because their lives speak of something divine." In fact, with your thumb right there in Psalm 84, I'm going to just take you to a few places in the Scripture and just comment for a second.
In Acts, chapter 2, there's a very familiar little passage here that really marks what the early church is about, and it's a familiar text to us because we've looked at it a number of times. One of my favorite things to do is to just take this little passage and to throw it out before people and ask them to assign one-word adjectives that describe this church. Now most of us when we're out and somebody says, "What are you doing this week?" we list a number of things, but we leave out church.
One of the reasons we leave out church is because sometimes we say, "Well, on Sunday, you know, I'm going to go hang out at my church," and people would say, "You go to church? What church do you go to?" Sometimes, we kind of swallow those words and say, "Well, I go to [mumbles], you know, down the road over there." They go, "Well, what kind of church is it?" Then you have to go, "Oh, no! Man, I was really hoping you wouldn't ask that question." We start to swallow our words and make excuses in case they would ever come with us.
I want to tell you, one of the reasons we started Watermark was not so we could we could have country and western music on Sunday morning, though that wasn't a damaging reason as far as I was concerned, but because I wanted folks to experience what I think God has always intended for people to be able to do when they thought of what they were doing as a significant part of their week, and they can look folks in the eyes and say, "Man, I'm going to church this week."
"What church do you go to?"
"Well, our church is called this."
"Well, what kind of church is it?"
"Oh, I'm so glad you asked. You know what? It'd be hard for me to explain to you except to say you have to come there because the people who are there are different than any other body I've ever been a part of because they want to be authentic in their following after God, honest about their struggles, but very honest about God's provision for their struggles and honest about how great God is, and we celebrate him in all kinds of creative ways.
Our only goal is to be about the business that God left us here for, so man, we don't have a lot of things tying us down. The only thing we really ask ourselves is, 'Is what we do on Sunday consistent with what we should do with our lives the rest of the week?' which is just to ask ourselves, 'Hey, will this help us in God's charge with our lives to be a disciple and to help other people enter into a relationship with him?'
Man, we'll do all kinds of stuff. Well, sing different music that'll kind of set the stage for us. We'll use media. We'll use drama. We'll use lighting. We'll use laughter. We'll do whatever we can to get people to engage with the truth because it's really about God and not about how we think we need to act in the presence of God as long as it's within the confines of God's revealed Word. It's a church like you've never seen before, and the people there are the most kind and loving folks I've ever had a chance to be around. You have to come check out this church."
See, that's my dream. That's the church I want to be a part of, and I have to tell you, I love, when I meet people, just daring them to have the courage to come and meet you and to blow some of their categories because what you're going to find right here in Acts, chapter 2, is what God's will is for the church. This is not just some historic reference that could never be duplicated.
I think, prescriptively in terms of how the church behaved and how the church organized itself, that it's not necessarily a guide for us. Let me tell you what I mean by that. In the early church, they met obviously only in homes because there weren't a lot of buildings where large numbers of folks could gather. When they gathered together in large groups, they gathered outside, and the book of Acts makes that fairly clear. That describes what they did. It doesn't necessarily prescribe what every gathering of believers should do from that time forward.
What is prescribed, I think, is what characterizes God's people when they get together. Now what is not prescribed is how they go about devoting themselves to God's Word. What is not prescribed is how they go about fellowshipping together. What is prescribed is the act of breaking bread in celebration of Christ's broken body and shed blood for them and the fact that we should, in some form or fashion, be committed to the idea of prayer.
What is described and, therefore, prescribed of what every church should have as its characteristic is that, where God is present, there ought to be a sense of awe. Now let me just tell you why this is the case. Can you imagine if you were living and God was walking on this earth? I mean, God! You had a chance to say to some friends, "I want you to come and hang out and meet this friend of mine."
"Well, who is he?"
"Well, let me just take a run at it. I mean, he is the most loving, compelling, penetrating, demanding, gracious, gentle, patient, inspiring, healing, hope-giving lover I've ever met. I laugh with him like I've never laughed. I weep, and I'm sobered by his penetrating thoughts. I am challenged by his wisdom. He speaks like he has inherent authority, and every time I'm with him, something amazing is happening. I am in awe at this man's character, at this man's teaching and at this man's characteristics and this man's works. You have to meet him."
Isn't that what you think you'd say? If God was here, you'd better say that, or your definition of God is way too small. If you go and look at the Gospels when Jesus was here on earth, that's exactly what people said about him. It says the multitudes were astonished at him. The multitudes were drawn to him because he taught in a certain way that others could not teach because he had authority in and of himself, and people just longed to be around him.
Anybody who knew him couldn't wait to introduce others to him, and the more desperate the person, the more anxious folks were to bring them into this guy's presence. Now if we are his body and that God is our head and his Spirit lives in us, when his head, which directs the way we think and directs the way we act, is in charge of his church, the way his church ought to look is the way he looked.
That, frankly, is not the experience of most people in churches. "Tell me about your friend." "Well…" You start apologizing and making excuses, swallowing your words. This church had their head and was submissive to it and was surrendered to it and available to him, so there was a sense of awe. There were many wonders and signs taking place for the apostles. They had a Making the Mark story every day, not just every week.
It says, "And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common…" Now this does not mean this was a communistic society. It wasn't even a socialistic society. It doesn't mean that they began selling their property and possessions because there was a tax break from Caesar if they did it. These people were not Communists. They were not Socialists. They were not people looking for an advantage at the big take that they had this last year, but it says they began sharing with everybody they could, as anyone might have need.
All this was, was a group of people who were so touched by the example of their servant leader that they did what he did. That is that, when they saw a need in somebody else's life, they looked at their own lives and saw if they had the means through which they could provide for them, and then people go, "I've never seen anything like that."
Now it doesn't say they all lived in the same kind of house in the same zip code. It doesn't mean they, you know, wore the same sandals or they all wore the same kind of robe. It just says that, if there was a need that was there… God has promised that the need he would provide for is food, shelter, and clothing. It doesn't say what kind of shelter. It doesn't say what kind of clothing, and it doesn't say what kind of food.
It just says he will care for you, and so we should care for each other in that way. It doesn't mean we need to sustain each other's lifestyle if hard times hit and make sure you can keep driving that certain vehicle and live in that certain house, but we'd better make sure that you do not want for shelter, you do not want for clothing, and that you do not want for sustenance for your body. Then whatever else we do is just gravy.
It says that these guys loved each other in that way. They did not live for their own comfort, but they lived for concern of each other, and it made the world crazy. It says, "Day by day continuing with one mind…" They were together. They knew they were about one thing. I'm going to make a case that, if a church is about anything other than being disciples and making disciples who make disciples, whatever they are, they're not a biblical church. That's why the church exists.
I can take you back to Genesis 1. It's why humanity exists. When God said to Adam and Eve, "Hey, you go and be fruitful and multiply. That didn't mean make a lot of babies. It means, "You do what the beasts of the air, the cattle of the field, and the fish of the sea do, which is reproduce after their kind. Adam and Eve, you reproduce after your kind."
What kind of people were Adam and Eve when God gave them that charge? They were people who knew God, loved God, honored God, walked by faith with God, trusted God, celebrated their relationship with God, and honored God with their lives and represented him on earth by their walking as he walks in all of creation. They were people who loved kindness, who did justice, and walked humbly with their God.
God said to them, "You go multiply yourselves, not just have babies but babies who walk with me like you do." Now the problem is, is that Adam and Eve made a decision that, when they multiplied themselves, they multiplied rebellion and error until God intervened and allowed them to come back to him by faith.
Then you have two groups of people who go forward from Genesis who are multiplying themselves. You have sons of darkness and rebellion, and you have sons of light, who by faith have accepted the gracious provision of God. Those two families of people come out of Genesis, and they are serious about multiplying themselves.
I read a recent study that compared the behavior of folks who've taken the name of Christ and those who haven't, and there were about 25 different characteristics, and it compared believers and nonbelievers, followers of Christ and non-followers of Christ. What was interesting is one of the questions was, "Have you tried to influence others this last year in some form of opinion or matter of fact?"
Only 46 percent of followers of Christ said that they were intentional about that, which is absolutely amazing given that is our entire charge. Whereas, 47 percent of nonbelievers said, "Oh, you bet I have. I've been passionate about my worldview and getting it out there." God wants us as a body to be people who are passionate about truth, loving in our delivery of it, gentle and respectful of others but full of conviction, with one mind.
Acts 2 says, "We break bread together. We fellowship together." It says, "… [they went on] with gladness and sincerity of heart…" You're going to find today a guy who describes his idea of going to worship, and that right there is what marks him. He is full of gladness and sincerity of heart. "…praising God and having favor with [his character with] all the people." It's such an irresistible community of love and such an irresistible community of people that is says, "And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved."
If people asked me, "What kind of church is this?" and I said, "Man, they are devoted, passionate, prayerful, selfless, gracious, giving, kind, sacrificial, honest, authentic people who love life, who laugh, who are awesome in their care and awesome in the way they declare God's Word. You just have to come see it," we couldn't keep people out of here. We couldn't keep people away from God when they say, "Who is your God?" if we knew him well enough to describe him to people who are looking for him in all the wrong places. Paul says, "This is what it's all about."
In 1 Timothy, chapter 1, verse 5, he says, "Man, this is the goal of our lives. It's to love, and this is what love looks like. Love emanates from a pure heart, from a good conscience and a sincere faith. I mean, we are of one mind about holiness looks like, what truth is, and we don't violate holiness or truth with our lives, and so we are clean."
That doesn't mean we're perfect. It just means, when we err in holiness or truth, we admit it. We agree that it was wrong. We declare it, and we go forward, claiming the forgiveness Christ provides, knowing that he has loved us and we ought to also love one another." Now how'd you like to be a part of a group of folks like that?
I'm going to make a case that every single person in this room was created to be a part of a community like that, specifically to be in relationship with the head of the community like that, and I don't mean your local church staff pastor or elders. I mean Jesus Christ, who alone is the head of this church.
Psalm 84 talks about a guy who had a relationship with God that he could not wait to tell other people about. He had a place he could go worship that was so awesome the he wrote what almost seemed to be an extravagantly inauthentic description of it. This is a song of a guy who has found life in celebration and freedom and has found joy without regret. Even in the midst of circumstances that are troublesome, this brother has found life.
What I want to make a case for is that, what you see in Acts, chapter 2, ought to be seen right here at Watermark, and it ought to be seen at every church that is Christ's church in this world. We ought not look the same in our form, but we ought to look the same, not in our prescription of worship, but in the description of who we are and what it's like to be in our midst. You have somebody who, before it was called a church and was called a temple, is going to describe it right. Here we go.
"How lovely are Your dwelling places, O Lord of hosts!" He's going to call God that four times…O Lord of all, Lord of the angelic realm, O Lord of the earth, O Lord of everything, O Lord of heaven and earth. You know, what he's doing right here is just a very honest thing. We do the exact seem thing.
We'll come out of a good movie or maybe an exciting game, and we just walk out, and we look at each other and go, "Man, how great was that! How great was that! I can't even describe how great that was. That was just great! Was that not awesome? It was great! How great was that?" Now that's what's called a rhetorical question. We're not looking for somebody to say, "Well, I'll tell you how great it was. If you were measuring greatness in pounds, that was 85 pounds of greatness." What we're saying is, "This is unspeakable. This is unbelievable. How great is that?"
This is what David is saying. "Lord, how lovely are you and wherever you are? I don't know what to say." Have you ever felt like that? You did, probably once, shortly after you truly met Christ, especially if you did it when you were a little older and were really delivered from sin. You know, one of the things I'm concerned about as a dad who is desperate for my kids to walk with Christ from an early age and to know truth from err and right from wrong is that I see a lot of people who grow up in those kind of families and kind of homes really lose a sense of the joy of their salvation.
You're going to see a little bit later that David is talking about the fact that this isn't just Israel's God. This is his personal God. You see a lot of folks who grew up around the church who are kind of lukewarm toward things that dishonor God because they've never really been stung by it. Do you know who the most passionate, devoted people are against marriages that are lukewarm?
It's people whose hearts have been crushed by a distant spouse. Do you know who really hates alcohol in this room, I mean really just wish it was just done away with in our society? It's people whose lives and families and vocations have been destroyed by the bottle. I mean, they hate it because they know what it does to them, and they fear it.
You know, I am concerned that, raising my kids in the environment that I will, they won't learn to really love what God loves and hate what God hates and to profess to know nothing except the one great truth there is to know, which is Jesus Christ and him crucified. I got saved a little later in life, so I am a little bit more consistent with David that at least my oldest and my 9-year-old could never even come close to articulating right now, and maybe some of you guys. We need to remember what the writer to Hebrew says.
We have to remember how great our salvation is, and we would be like David and go, "How awesome is this truth that God is holy and we are not and he has bridged that gap in grace and that, now, he wants us to participate with him in redeeming fallen humanity for the sake of giving him glory and preserving them from certain destruction and then, 'Lord, to be where you are, where there's perfect protection and peace.'" He's going to say later, "You are our sun and our shield."
David says this. "My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord…" Have you ever had that experience, or are you looking for excuses to be out of town on Sunday? I talked to a guy just last night. He said, "You know, I'm really convicted about where I am in my life. I would never be late to a movie. I will not go to a movie late because I'm not going to miss the trailers, but I consistently wander into my church 15 to 20 minutes late, as if there's no big deal."
He says, "I'll tell my friends, 'Well, go to a later show. We're not going to do it' because I'm not going to stroll in and miss something that could have engaged my heart or made me go, 'That's awesome,' but I don't expect that at my church, and I think part of the problem is not just my church. It's my attitude toward what's going on right there. I don't long and yearn for fellowship and intimacy with God and his people."
Spurgeon, a guy who lived, you know, 150 or so years ago, was making a comment to his people about how David was a guy who didn't need the church bells to ring to remind him it was Sunday and that he needed to come to church. He said he had the clamor of bells in his heart, and they drove him to be and long to be with God. He said essentially, "The clamor of the bells of God were in his bosom." That's the way this guy poetically said it.
That's what he says right here. "My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord…" Like an alcoholic for alcohol, that's what I want. See, David had a true mark of a disciple, the true mark of a convert, and that was a divine affection. Jonathan Edwards is probably the greatest preacher this country has ever produced, certainly one of the most learned men and most well-written and well-read men.
He says that the true mark of a believer is not so much the things they do with their hands or the things they abstain from with their hands, but it is the increasing overwhelming affections of their hearts toward the things of God, and he went to spell this whole thing out in a work called Religious Affections. He talked about reliable and unreliable signs of a believer.
At the very core of it, he is saying something like, "Don't be impressed with many words that are sounding spiritual and religious talk, busyness in religious activity, songs of praise." What he said is exactly what Christ said again and again, and that is, "Where are their hearts?" It's a heart question, some of those things then happen with your hands and with your mouth if your heart is in a certain direction.
This is exactly what Jesus said. He said, "It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man…" Talking about the way you eat, but it is what comes out of a man that shows where his heart is. That's why it's such a concerning thing when we have no problem having an appetite for things that are inconsistent with the character and nature of God. It shows our hearts have not fully been grasped with (at least that moment they walk away from) an understanding of who he is.
"My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God." He says it's so great, and this is really kind of rather poetic. He says, "The bird also has found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young…" In other words, he's saying, "How great it is to be a bird!" Now most of us at some point in life have dreamed about flying. Correct? I have. I've thought how great it would be to be able to fly, but what's great about David is he says, "I wish I was a bird."
I was just, you know, in the desert in the last couple of days, and you know, there are red hawks out there, and man, you know, they catch those drafts, and they go higher and higher. They swoop, and they dive. I looked at that hawk, and I thought, "That'd be so awesome just to be a hawk, you know, for 10 minutes."
Do you know what David did? David said, "I don't wish I was a bird flying over the Lord's temple. I wish I was one of those birds that had a nest in the temple and that dwelled there and lived there, that didn't just go there to worship but was near the glory of God as revealed at that specific time." What basically he is saying is, "Man, how great to be a church mouse who gets to live near God."
David is a guy, though he is away in exile in the desert because of what's going on in his life at this particular time because the king who reigns at this time in Israel wants a piece of him, is not a rebel in his heart. He carries with him a longing for the presence of God, and he wants to be there. He says, "How blessed are those who dwell in Your house!" I want to dwell there.
"They are ever praising You." Then you see this little word a lot: "Selah." It just basically means, "You know, let's just stop, and let's just think about how great it would be to be so in tune with who God is that everything I do is a time of celebration and praise to who God is." David just stops there.
He thinks about how great it would be if his life was freed up from the deceitfulness of riches, from the worries of the world, and from the concerns for many things. Everything he did was an act of worship. See, what David knew is what Jesus claimed a little bit later, and that is that life is found in God. In John 17, it says that this is life like you could never know it…to know Jesus Christ.
How many of us, when we think about going to church, going to worship, going to be where God's name is lifted up and God's people dwell, go, "Oh man, how awesome would it be if we could just, you know, be together all the time instead of not just having church bells but alarm clocks and guilt prodding us to be together to hear the goodness of God raised up?"
This is a guy who knew God in a way we have to strive to know him. Verse 5: "How blessed is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion!" What he's saying is that, in these individuals where they live, everything about them charges toward and their affections are strongly pulled toward where God is. Now I want to make this observation.
I was talking again to a young man this week, and he was just talking to me, and he was just saying, "I'm having such a hard time really having a heart for the things of God. I just make these commitments, and I want to read his Word. I want to be involved with community. I want to be praying a certain amount of time, but I just get there, and I just lose any sense of conviction as to what I need to be doing."
As we talked a little bit, what I tried to help him understand is, "Look, here's your problem. You are seeing these things as an end in and of themselves, and you think that a spiritual person reads his Bible and a spiritual person spends time alone praying and a spiritual person attends places of worship. Yes, those are things that spiritual people do, but not because by doing them you're getting anything other than an opportunity to commune with the one whom those disciplines are given to you to draw you into a relationship with.
You read your Bible, not so you can read your Bible, but so you can know your God better. You pray, no so you can say, 'I prayed, and God must love me more,' but so you can listen to him, be instructed by him, and convicted by him and have his will merge with yours." Let me just say it again. People whose hearts are engraved with highways to Zion and to God are people who understand that, when they pursue God through the disciplines, they're pursing God and not the disciplines. They are a means to an end and not an end in and of themselves.
That's why you don't just say, "I'm going to church." What you're going to do is say, "God, I want to know you more. I want to be in your presence. I want to hear from you today. As I look at your Word, I want to go, 'I don't know you. I don't want to just read my Bible. I don't know you like this. Would you reveal yourself to me? Would you show me the things I'm clinging to where I think there's life somewhere else, freedom somewhere else? The truth is, for me, I think there's something better over there than to be where you are.'"
Better six days in the world and one day in your courts is the song that most of us sing, and "I'll go there one day if I can get away with it, but man, sometimes it's drudgery." What God says is he wants you to know him in this way. He wants us to be individuals who have a perspective that being in his presence is what gives us life.
Let me just show you really quickly a familiar text. In Luke, chapter 10, you find two different women. One of them is lost in busyness. You've heard this a hundred times, and I want to just make four quick observations about what goes on right here. If you don't understand Psalm 84 and if that's not the attitude of your heart, let me show you what will happen to you.
Four things will happen to you if you don't learn why we do what we do. It says, "Now as they were traveling along, [Jesus and his companions] entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord's feet, listening to His word. But Martha…" She was distracted with some other things. "…Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him [Jesus] …"
When you think that, what God wants from you is busyness, scurrying around in task and doing instead of filling yourself up in a relationship with him and enjoying who he is and then out of the overflow of that serving him in response to that, this is what will happen to you…four things. The first thing she does is she walks up to Jesus in verse 40, and she says, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me…" The first thing I just see when I look at that you'll do is that you'll accuse God of injustice.
"God, you don't care. You're sitting here. You're letting Mary sit there while I'm running around the kitchen, and it's just not right that you're pouring out all this time into Mary instead of saying, 'Hey, Martha, Martha! Let me go in there and hang out with you because you're the one who's busying yourself and serving me.'" You'll say, "God, it's not right. I've done all these things, and I'm doing all these tasks, and I'm busy, busy, busy, and I don't feel like I'm getting what I see other people getting."
The second thing you'll do is like this. "…You [do] not care that my sister has left me…" You accuse others of being lazy and irresponsible because you're the one doing all the work. You're the one who serves every week. You're the one who teaches all the studies. You're the one who gives more than anybody else, and you look around, and you just go, "Lord, this isn't right. You don't care that they aren't doing what I'm doing."
Here's the third thing. You will ascribe to yourself, attribute to yourself, a place of greatness because of all your busyness and activity. You accuse God of injustice and being insufficient and uncaring. You accuse others of being lazy and irresponsible, and you attribute to yourself greatness. "Look what I'm doing, and I ought to be noted for this!" Bitterness is welling up in your heart, so much so that, what is going to be left for you to do is to ascribe to yourself such greatness that you will begin to dictate even to the divine.
Instead of humbling yourself and saying, "Lord, you know what? Something's troubling my heart, and I know the fact that my heart is troubled must be evidence that it's apart from you." Instead of humbling ourselves like this when we become so consumed with doing, doing, doing instead of having hearts that just chase after God and see the disciplines as a means and service as a means to know him instead of an end, the last thing we'll do is we'll look at God, just like Martha did, and say, "Would you tell her to get busy?" We will begin to dictate even to God the way life should be worked out.
Let me ask you guys this. Have you ever done these four things? Have you ever said, "God, this isn't fair. Look how lazy and irresponsible other people are. Look how significant and great I am. Here's what you need to do." I'm going to make a case that, when that's happening, it's because you're not doing what David did in Psalm 84 and were doing what Mary was doing at that particular time in Luke, chapter 10.
Now there's a time to get up off your hind end when you're sitting there with Christ and go busy yourself, but you have to do first things first, which is to delight yourself in who he is, and you don't read and don't serve and don't give as some task you check but as a means to know the heart of God.
Look what he says. This is true of God's people. He says, "Passing through the valley of Baca…" Which is a valley of just drought. "…they make it a spring; the early rain also covers it with blessings. They go from strength to strength, every one of them appears before God in Zion." They make it. They have stronger resolve and commitment. They know the difference between joy and happiness.
They can go through valleys of shadows of death and not be discouraged because they know God is with them and for them, and they are refreshed on the journey in ways other people cannot understand because their joy is not based on their circumstances, on their happenings from which they derive happiness, but their joy is in knowing that they are in the way of God and seeking him. People with hearts after God are not looking for ease and not looking for comfort.
David Livingstone, who was one of the great missionaries to Africa, one time was given a cable from the missionary society that wanted to have people join him in Africa. They sent this out to him, and David Livingstone is the one who was so deep and dark and lost in the jungle that people thought he was dead. He was so radically committed to reaching the lost of the Dark Continent that they lost contact with him.
A very rich American businessman hired basically a mercenary to go and look for him, and he finally made his way through the deepest and most treacherous parts of the jungle where there was nothing but disease, death, cannibalism and darkness, and there was this guy in his tent, decrepit and frail from serving God, and his famous words were, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" It was the first white man he'd seen in a long time. That's where that phrase comes from.
One of the cables that was given to him said this. It said, "Have you found a good road to where you are? If so, we want to send other men to join you." Livingstone replied, "If you have found men who will come only if there is a good road, I don't want them. I want men who will come even if there is no road at all."
He's basically saying, "I want men who aren't going to just come if there are oases along the way. I want men who will come because God has called them and who, even if they go through a valley of drought, they will have joy that the world cannot get their arms around." Wouldn't it be great to know God like that? That's God's intention for all of us, that when we go through life…
Let me just make this very clear to you. The health, wealth, and prosperity gospel that's out there is a bunch if hogwash. It's a lie. It's a deception and a twisting of the Scriptures that is destroying people left and right, and I offer you nothing today except the opportunity to know God. I do not offer to you ease and oasis and comfort and abundant waters, as in physical refreshment and physical blessing.
I offer you such a secure relationship with God, such an overwhelming awareness of his constant love and care for you that, even when you go through sickness and loss, you can have a sense that there is support and strength even in the drought, that you can bear your fruit even in a season of drought. You leaf will not wither, and your fruit will come, and whatever you do, you will prosper. You will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, even though there's no water around.
That's what I offer. That's what David knew, and he says, "That's what the people of God are like." He goes on and says, "O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob!" I love this. This is the great God. The God of all creation, yet he's a personal God. This is what I want to tell you about our God this morning. He is so transcendent and so unbelievable that all you can say about him is, "How great is he!"
Then I can say, "He knows you intimately and personally." I can't understand that and explain it. I'd do what David did way back there is Psalm 8, when he says, "What is man that You take thought of him…""Why do you love me? You do, and this is who you are, this great and all-encompassing God who loves me." He prays, and he says, "God, would you continue to look at me? Your king, your shield that you've given to protect your people… Would you look upon the face of your anointed, and would you continue to hold me and support me?"
Then, there's this classic line which we have sung many times as a body. "For a day in Your courts [Lord] is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness." Now this is where the rubber meets the road right here. This is where we ask ourselves the question…Do you know God?
Let me just take you back to Psalm 73 where we were last week, and I want to show you that this one truth says more about who our God is than anything else we do. The writer of Psalm 73, as we talked about last week, was really struggling. He was looking at how much fun those who were spending a thousand days outside were having, and God corrected his thinking and brought him back, so he said, "Nevertheless I am continually with You; you have taken hold of my right hand. With Your counsel, You will guide me [in truth], and afterward receive me to glory."
If that line right there isn't true, then do you realize how nuts we are? Paul says it this way: "If there is no resurrection, then we above all men are to be pitied, and we above all men are fools." Here's the question. Is God sovereign enough to deliver you even from the drought of breath? If not, we have to make up for lost time.
Paul says, "…eat and drink [and be merry] , for tomorrow we die." Paul would warn you that the God who is the God of creation is the God of the living and the dead, and all men will be resurrected to a life, some resurrected to a life of life and some resurrected to a life of judgment, and he just says, "You have to know this God now because you get to have life immediately in relationship with him."
Then he says, "Who have I in heavens, in all the world, besides you? What else is there but you?" Then there is this line. "In light of God, in light of who you are, I mean, when I really understand who you are, all things become shadows in the light of you. In light of you, I desire nothing." Now how many times are you there? See this sounds like such spiritual talk that I almost don't like to hear myself, but I wanted to show you that, if God is who he says he is, shouldn't we say that?
John Piper says it better than anybody I've ever heard. He says, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." In other words, it's when we look away from all the world has to give us to sustain us, and we just say, "God is enough. He is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
Now let me just show you a verse, and then we'll close with Psalm 84. It's 1 Corinthians, chapter 10, verse 31. This is a verse you've seen and heard of before. He says, "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." This means that, whatever you do, your aim is to do it in such a way that others will see how your relationship with God has satisfied the longings of your heart. I want to make it this way. Whatever you do, whether you date or get married, you do it to the glory of God.
Now county and western songs are full of great little lines like, "I don't want a woman I can live with. I want a woman I can't live without." Now that's a great little line. It's romantic. It has a hook. You can put a little melody to that and sell some albums, but it is inconsistent with 1 Corinthians 10:31, and it is a prescription for a failed marriage because if you try and marry somebody you can't live without, you will find out that you can't live with them because they are not a sufficient god.
They will disappoint you, and you will look somewhere else to have that need met which you thought that person you were marrying was going to meet. God's role and definition and idea of a good, healthy relationship is that, when two people whose cups already runneth over, even in the midst of a drought, there are springs, and the dew of God brings refreshment and sustenance to their souls. Even when that mate is not meeting my needs, out of the abundance of Christ's provision for me, I can still love them and not manipulate them to have my needs met.
There are so many people who go into relationships without glorifying God because they say, "I am needy. I need you to validate me. I need you to vindicate me. I need you to honor me and love me and tell me I'm worthwhile, and you have to do that." It's give, give, give, give, and we're a black hole of need that only an infinite God can fill.
Have you ever seen the way a kid eats a cookie? Kids eat cookies inconsistent with 1 Corinthians 10:31. They go, "Cookie? Is that a cookie for me?" and they're like Cookie Monster. "Cookie!" Then they're shoving them in their mouths. Crumbs are everywhere. What are they doing? With every one of my kids, when I say, "Do you want a cookie?" and I give them one, what do they say? "Can I have two?" because there's life in two.
One's not bad, but one really just gets your mouth wet so that second one goes down really good, and the juices are flowing, and "If I have two, why not three? I need cookies. Ice cream, cookies…. Give me. Give me! Give me. Give me. Give me" because there is no life in anything else but cookies. Kids do not eat cookies to the glory of God. Now is there anything wrong with cookies? No.
Do you know what you should do when somebody offers you a cookie? Say, "I'd love a cookie. Thank you very much. Oh, my goodness! There are five of you, and there are only four cookies." What's a 4-year-old do? "There are only four cookies, and there are five of us! One of us must die!" What's a person with the perspective of at least a 12-year-old do? "Hey, that's all right. I can grab a cookie tomorrow." You know, when you first hear your kids say that, you think something miraculous just happened. They've realized that life is not in cookies.
What this means is God is saying, "You ought to know that you have everything that is necessary for the abundant life that, if you don't get that car, if that house doesn't come through, if that air conditioner doesn't work, if that relationship never materializes, if that job offer doesn't come, if the bonus isn't there, your life doesn't end."
Then the world looks at you and says, "Excuse me. Would you explain to me, would you give a defense and explain to me why you can have joy in the midst of this drought that you just went through?" It says, "Then you do that with gentleness and reverence." You know, when Jesus said, "I am the bread of life…" , what was he saying? What's the glory of bread? The glory of bread is that bread satisfies your hunger.
What Jesus is saying is, "Look, if you eat here, you're never going to hunger again. Not physically. You're going to need more physical bread later, but what you're looking for in your soul, what you were created for as a Spirit being who walks on this earth, only I can fill that black hole of hunger. I am the Bread of Life, and to be with me is better than a thousand meals somewhere else."
I have a good friend who sold a business. He made multiple millions of dollars. We had lunch together a couple of years ago at P.F. Chang's. We were sitting there, and we started talking about spiritual things. This guy has no concept of what it means to find peace with God. I mean, none. He has lived a hard, wild, wacky life. He, at one point, looked at me, and this is a quote that I wrote down. He said, "Todd, I have walked through the finest kitchens in life, and I consistently find myself going out the back door hungry."
I just said, "Do you have any idea how biblical that is?" He goes, "What do you mean?" I go, "Why are you surprised? What you're saying is you keep trying to feed yourself with things to give you satisfaction and joy, yet you have none of that which you keep looking for. The definition of insanity is that you keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result."
I looked at him, and I said, "Man, I have the bread that will fill what you're looking for." He listened, and he listened with a softness in his eyes and a tenderness in his heart that, as quickly as he could get out in the parking lot, the Enemy grabbed his heart and choked that seed out. To this day, he seeks houses on the coast of Spain; indulgences with fantasies; looking for love in all the wrong places, walking out of kitchens still hungry.
Do you know what really bothers me about this friend? Sometimes I act just like him, not in as grand a way because I'm not as funded as well as he is, but every now and then, I find myself not eating, drinking, and living to the glory of God. Now let me show you how this is what David is talking about in Psalm 84.
The glory of water is that it satisfies thirst. You don't bring glory to the refreshing waters of a mountain spring by lugging buckets up to it from the pond below and dumping it in there. The way you give glory to water is you bring it your thirst. You bow on your knees. You drink deeply and go, "Oh, man! That refreshes my soul like nothing can refresh my soul," and you glory in the water because it gives you what you alone need.
Do you know what most of us do with God? We take buckets up to him, and we go, "Here!" What Psalm 73, Psalm 84, and 1 Corinthians 10 are saying is, "If you want to give glory to God, delight yourself in him. Taste and see that he is good. Don't keep dragging things up to present God a résumé. Accept what God has given you and rest in his presence, and better are you, he said, one day, resting in the presence of God than a thousand days trying to find life out there."
David says, "For the Lord God is a sun and shield…" You know, you guys are smart enough. Do you want to just make some observation? What's sun? The sun is what gives us light. The sun is what guides our steps. The sun is what works with the chlorophyll in the plants and through photosynthesis brings growth and life so we can eat. Without the sun, we're dead. We live in darkness, and we are without food and provision. Without a shield, we'll be consumed. The Lord God is the giver of life and the protector of all that threatens us.
"The Lord gives grace and glory…" This is one of my favorite verses. "…no good thing does He withhold from [those who love him] those who walk uprightly [with God] ." Our problem is that we're not really sure that God doesn't withhold any good thing from those who love him, so we sometimes don't eat and drink, don't buy houses and sell cars and dress to the glory of God. We don't date, don't pursue relationships to the glory of God. "I need that, and you know, if I wait on God, he'll never give it to me."
See, this is what the whole temptation was about in the desert for Christ, when Satan came up and just said, "Hey, man, deny your job, which right now is to walk as a man on this earth, because you've been in this desert for 40 days and 40 nights. You're in the middle of what's called a supernatural fast. Somehow, you're living, though you're a man and have been without, it looks like, water and food for 40 days. What kind of God is that? Why don't you (I know you can) turn that stone into bread?"
Jesus says…what? From Deuteronomy 8, he says, "…man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord." What Jesus is saying is, "I would rather die of hunger than break the terms of what God has called me to do. Right now, as a man, I don't understand why I'm in this desert and why I'm hungry, but one day, one more moment of obedience to Christ, is worth a Wonder Bread factory."
He says, "I don't need to say that God doesn't love me. If I needed bread, he'd give me all the bread that I needed, and there'd be 100,000 angels giving it to me in a moment," and in a moment, that's exactly what happened. What most of us do is we say, "You know what, God? You're on the clock. I'm 32 years old. You haven't provided, so I'm going to check out and get it my way because you're withholding from me a good thing, a thing I can't live without."
We say, "In fact, God, have you noticed how much work I do? That guy doesn't do that kind of work, and he has a wife, so I'll tell you what, this is what you need to do! Frankly, if you don't do it, I'll get it myself. Thank you very much." We don't really believe that no good thing does God withhold from those who love him.
My last couple of days have been a little bit crazy. I've been out in California. Last night, I was teaching a group of men in the desert in Palm Springs and finished teaching last night at 9:30, and I drove three hours to get to LAX at, you know, 12:50 California time, which is 2:50 our time, and flew in at 6:00 this morning.
I want to tell you, I was excited to be here with you guys. I was excited, and I looked at somebody on the plane, and they go, "Why are you doing this?" I said, "You have to know the folks I worship with. I wish you would experience what's going on in the midst of these people because God is slowly convincing us that no good thing does he withhold from those who love him."
I was with a guy out there whose name you would recognize. He, in the 80s, was as big a star as anybody, in all the Beverly Hills Cop movies and in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Judge Reinhold was at this retreat. I was walking out, and he came up, and he was sharing some things with me. He trusted Christ six years ago.
I said, "Judge, let me ask you a question. What does this verse mean to you? '…no good thing does [God] withhold from [those who love him] …'" He goes, "Wow! You know, I don't know." He thought for a second, and then he looked up, and he said, "I'll tell you what it means. It's that every good and perfect gift is from above. That's what that means." I said, "Well, Judge, since you've trusted Christ, have you been, you know, in any blockbuster, $100 million movies? Has your acting career taken off?"
The reason some of you guys don't know who Judge Reinhold is, is because he hasn't been in a whole lot of movies in the last five years. He goes, "Let me just tell you something. In the 1980s, I was a really confused person because, everything I ever lived for, I was getting, and I was getting it in spades, and I was becoming more angry and more bitter and more desperate because the more I got that I thought I needed, the more I realized how little I had."
Do you know what he said? What he said was basically, "I kept walking through the finest kitchens in life, and I was out the back door hungry." He said, "Right now, my acting career, I still would love to see maybe someday come back a little bit." He goes, "Right now, there is nothing good that I don't have in Christ. There is a peace I never got in the 80s. There's a hope I never had in the 80s. There's an ability to love and be kind and to serve and to think about other people that I never had in the 80s, and there is reconciliation with God. Let me tell you, that's the good stuff."
" 'O Lord of hosts, how blessed is the man who trusts in You!' Not the man who tries to present a résumé to you and dump it into your lap, but a man who says I have nothing to offer you. I am dying of thirst, and I hunger and thirst for righteousness, and I see that you're the Bread of Life, and you're the fountain of living waters. How good it is to know God!"
It says, "Cursed is the man who trusts in his flesh to find life and satisfaction." He will never be satisfied, and he will find himself wanting before this God. Do you want life this morning? Then I'm going to call you to repent, and this is the best definition of repentance I can ever give you. Repentance is letting go of things that feel life-giving. By letting go, it doesn't mean you never eat good food again, never star in a, you know, blockbuster movie again. It doesn't mean you never date again, never have the joy of a relationship again.
It just means that those things are icing on the cake that you don't live for, and when you get a cookie, you go, "Is there a cookie? Can I have that cookie? The Scripture doesn't say that's a bad cookie, and there's one there for me, and no one else is going to get it. I'd love that cookie. I'll enjoy that cookie. I have a God who sometimes loves to give me cookies. Do you know what, God? I don't need a cookie. You can give me a life that's Oreo-less, and I will love you because I have something far greater, all that is good."
Do you know that God? Here's the closer. First Corinthians 3:16 says, "Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" What do people say when they see you? David looked at where God dwelt in the Old Testament, and he said, "How lovely is that!" Do you know what we should be? We should be a group of people, who today when we go out of his temple, that everybody who meets you…a waitress, a neighbor, a spouse, a child…just steps back and goes, "How awesome is this! How lovely is that person! Divinity must reside there."
A couple of years ago, I was in Dallas. I took my car in to get it fixed, and I ran into a very intelligent man who was a pluralist, atheist, and a Jew. You figure it out. We got engaged. This guy knew seven different languages. I mean, he was brilliant. He was a foreigner who was over here.
He was a cultural Jew who didn't really believe in God. He just felt there were a million different ways you could go. I started to talk to him about Christ, and he said, "Stop right there because this Jesus that you talk about, so-and-so was just in here…" He named the pastor of a very large church in this area. He said, "That man just did this and just did this and just did this, and that wasn't very divine, so don't tell me about your God, because it isn't very lovely."
Our job is not to go and find that guy and have a hard talk to him. Our job is today, when we go up against our mechanic and against our neighbor and go places, that people walk away going, "How lovely was that!" They have to go to somebody and say, "You have to get around this person. I've never been cared for and loved and served the way I have by this guy, by this gal," and that they learn that being near you is how they get near God so they can see all that is good. Let's pray.
Father, I pray we learn continually that, in light of you, there is nothing on earth which compares, so we don't need to keep chasing it. I pray for my friend, Terry, this morning. I pray for folks I had a chance to be with this weekend who are still searching and struggling and wondering if there's not bread that satisfies in the restaurants of this world.
Father, would you just help us as a body? Today, we come to you, and we just need to repent just individually, those of us who have already taken the name of Christ. In the ways, we have confused people because they see us eating at the same restaurants, so they go, "Well, you must be as hungry as I am," so they don't look to the one who has given us life to satisfy their hunger because we still dabble in the wrong kitchens.
Father, we're so desperate, you know, to be the people you want us to be. We want to have pure hearts, good consciences, and a sincere faith that is so marked by the presence of God, that people will go, "I have to get around those folks. There's a sense of awe at what's going on there because of the transformation, because of the love, because of the mark that's being made, because of their care for one another."
Father, we know that, as we are like you, the multitudes will not be able to stay away from you, so you've allowed us that incredible privilege of taking people who are in a thousand different kitchens and letting them have the joy of sitting at the one table which can give them life. I pray that, through our obedience and our continued growth and our repentance and our clinging to what is good, that other people would learn that your love is life to them, and we know, for it to be, it must first be life to us because we bear your name. May satisfaction mark us. In Christ's name, amen.
Music has incredible power to touch our hearts. And some of the greatest songs ever written are found in the book of Psalms. In the Songs of Summer we focus on four biblical "lyrics" to show how they capture the essence of joy, life and relationship found in Christ. You'll be challenged and encouraged as you hear how beautifully God's Word speaks to the deepest needs of our hearts.