July 4, 2021 Encouragement

Encouragement

July 4, 2021

 

 

Psalm 139:1-6; 23-24; Psalm 32:1-2;10-11.

 

We invested many weeks examining the Sermon on the Mount. Our Lord presents the high demands of the kingdom of God in his sermon. They are so high that there are three common reactions to his words. One reaction is to think that his instruction is not for us. Some will try to assert that the Sermon on the Mount is for the lost. They will say that Jesus is just trying to get people to see the impossibility of living for God so that they will throw themselves on God’s mercy. But it is too obvious that Jesus was teaching his disciples. Since we are his disciples, the Sermon on the Mount is for us.

 

Another reaction is to simply ignore our Lord’s instruction. A person who claims to follow Jesus may recognize that the Sermon on the Mount is for his disciples but they simply ignore it. I believe that many who take this path have never been born again. For, how can you say you love the Lord Jesus and just ignore what he teaches? The reason people ignore what Jesus teaches is because they don’t want their conscience to trouble them. If they paid close attention to the teaching of Jesus they would see that they sin by not following the teaching of our Lord and, of course, sin convicts our conscience.

 

When we finished the series of messages on our Lord’s sermon two weeks ago, I encouraged all of you to reread the Sermon on the Mount because we need to be reminded of the living that we need to please the Lord and to enter the kingdom. How many have reread the Sermon on the Mount? I am not asking for a show of hands because I think few hands would go up. You see, I think that in our church there are many who have this second reaction to the Sermon on the Mount – ignoring it.

 

A third reaction is to recognize that the Sermon is for us and to seek to live it, but end up in discouragement. This is probably the most common reaction among God’s people. I respect it. I have no respect for those who claim to follow Christ and ignore his words. Simply reading the Sermon can bring discouragement. Out of the three chapters, only Matthew 7:7-11 would be considered encouraging. Just 5 verses out of 111! I preached twenty sermons on our Lord’s sermon and the last one was, I hope, encouraging. Today, I wish to give you more encouragement, even great encouragement. There are, of course, many portions of God’s word that are encouraging and we will consider some of these this morning.

 

I believe that there are some Christians who live fully consecrated lives and who have gained great victory over sin in their lives. When I use the phrase, “great victory,” I mean that they rarely sin and, when they do, it is some less onerous sin which they immediately confess and renounce. However, I think those kind of disciples are rare.

 

I think that many Christians are blind to their own sins. I know I have had that experience. I have not seen my own failings at times. Ignorance can be bliss in some circumstances, but not when it comes to sin. What was one of our Lord’s themes in the Sermon on the Mount? It was that not all disciples will enter the kingdom! If we are blind to our own sins then we may very well be among that number that fails to enter.

 

If we are not fully consecrated then we may discover that we become discouraged as we see ourselves failing the Lord. I can tell you this with great confidence: It is never God’s will for you to be discouraged except for that brief time between our sin and the confession of it. Once we confess our sins, God does not wish for us to be discouraged.

 

I know what some may be thinking now, for I have thought it myself in days past: “Well, I confess my sins as soon as I am aware of them, but I fail so often that I see myself as a complete failure and I am discouraged because of it.”

 

There is a remedy for your discouragement that goes beyond confession.

 

Our God is called the “God of encouragement!”

 

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, [1]

 

Paul calls God the God of endurance and the God of encouragement. Why is God characterized this way? It is because we need endurance. In our natural disposition many tend to give up when things become difficult. If left to ourselves, we would not endure. Hence, God grants endurance. Likewise, it is easy to become discouraged. But our God is the God of encouragement! He encourages us but he does so through means.

 

Consider the apostle Paul. Not long after he was stoned nearly to death in the town of Lystra, we read:

 

When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. [2]

 

Paul loved God’s people. He was stoned so severely that the people thought he was dead. Yet, Paul preached the gospel, made disciples, and then encouraged them to continue in the faith. What does Luke mean when he uses the phrase, “continue in the faith?” He does not mean simple to believe in God nor simply to believe in Christ.

 

 

It was a rare thing then, and it is still rare, for a professing Christian to stop believing in God or to no longer believe that Jesus is the Christ. To “continue in the faith” means to live in a way that shows our faith is real. It means to press into the kingdom. Remember that only the overcomers will inherit the kingdom. Not every Christian will inherit the kingdom of God. This is why Paul said that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” But you see, tribulations –that is, troubles – also discourage us.

 

We can have troubles from those who oppose the Christian faith. But our greatest troubles come from our own failures and sins. The kind of discouragement that comes from our own failures is deeper than the kind of discouragement that comes from others opposing us.

 

If we allow discouragement to remain in ourselves we will not press into the kingdom. We may even give up trying to overcome our remaining sins.

 

The primary means that the Lord uses to lift us out of discouragement is knowledge of who God is and his heart towards us. This is essential. So, let me repeat that:

 

The primary means that the Lord uses to lift us out of discouragement is knowledge of who God is and his heart towards us.

 

To understand this, let us consider Psalm 139:

 

O Lord, you have searched me and known me! (vs. 1)

 

See that God knows you. He knows everything about you! Your sins do not surprise him. It is not as if, when you sin, he thinks, “Oh no! I can’t believe that John (put your name here!) sinned again! After all the benefits I have bestowed upon him (or her), there he (she) went and sinned again.” He knows all your weaknesses and he knows all your sins. He has not rejected you, if you belong to Christ. And, he will never reject you as belonging to him nor to be in his presence in the new heavens and the new earth.

 

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

you discern my thoughts from afar. [3]

 

Not only does God know your sins, he knows all your thoughts. He knows the good thoughts you have. He knows the good thoughts that you have for your children or grandchildren. He knows the good thoughts you have for your husband or wife. But he also knows the bad thoughts. He knows your evil thoughts. He knows your disobedient thoughts. He knows them and he still claims you as his own!

 

You search out my path and my lying down

and are acquainted with all my ways. [4]

 

He knows your path. That is, he knows where you are going and your intentions when you get there. He knows your lying down. Some of us lie down too often. Fewer of us don’t lie down enough. Either way, he knows it. God knows well all our ways! What you do will never surprise him!

 

Even before a word is on my tongue,

behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. [5]

 

The Lord knows what we are going to say before we say it. Not only does he know it, but he knows “it altogether!” In other words, he knows the motivations that move us to say something even to the deepest part of who we are. He knows the good motivations and he knows the bad motivations. He knows the deepest recesses of our hearts. Nothing you do, say, or think will surprise him because he already knows!

 

Some may be encouraged by these words. Others might become more discouraged. Some might be thinking: “Well, I know how bad some of my thoughts are. If God knows them then he hates me.” Of course, that is a lie. If you belong to Christ, God does not hate you. He loves you in spite of your deceitful, disobedient hearts (Jer. 17:9). He loves you with the full knowledge of your abject corruption! This is a divine fact!

 

You hem me in, behind and before,

and lay your hand upon me. [6]

 

David is the author of this psalm. He was corrupt. He was an adulterer and a murderer. There was a part of David that had been changed and blessed before, during, and after his sin. There was a part of David’s heart that was anointed so that God could say that David’s heart was like God’s own heart! That can only be because of God’s gracious touch! But there was also part of David’s heart that was corrupt. David is like every follower of Christ in that respect! Our hearts have also been changed by his divine power and that is solely by his undeserved favor upon us. Yet, we too possess corruption.

 

David knew that, because of his own waywardness (Psalm 51:5), he needed to be hemmed in. He needed the Lord’s hand to keep him the in the way he ought to go. And, the Lord does this for every genuine Christian. He hems you in.

 

See how the psalm ends:

Search me, O God, and know my heart!

Try me and know my thoughts!

24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting![7]

 

When David says, “see if there be any grievous way in me,” he knew that the Lord would find them! But, that he would also lead him away from them and into the eternal way – the way of life.

 

Let’s close by receiving encouragement from David’s words in Psalm 32:

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,

whose sin is covered. [8]

 

David is speaking both of himself and all those who belonged to the Lord under the old covenant. But the forgiveness of our transgressions is even more certain in the new covenant! If you belong to Christ all your transgressions are forgiven! God knows your sins, even before you commit them, but he loves you as if you had none because they are covered! Oh, this is glorious!

 

Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,

and in whose spirit there is no deceit. [9]

 

Do you see how glorious this is? God knows your iniquity but he doesn’t count it! If this does not make you rejoice, something is wrong!

 

Then see how Psalm 32 ends:

Many are the sorrows of the wicked,

but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.

11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,

and shout for joy, all you upright in heart! [10]

 

The steadfast love of the Lord surrounds you even though the Lord knows all about you! You are righteous, not in yourself, but you are righteous because you have an alien righteousness – the righteousness of Christ that God has applied to you (I Cor 1:30; Phil 3:9)!

 

The time for discouragement is past. This is the means of encouragement: you now know that God knows all about your iniquities yet he loves you. Therefore, get up! Shake off the dust. Walk in the way everlasting and press into the kingdom!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 15:5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 14:21–22). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 139:2). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 139:3). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 139:4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 139:5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 139:23–24). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 32:1). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 32:2). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 32:10–11). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.