Sola Scriptura: A Scripture-Alone Life

 

 

 

 

 

Scripture Over Us (We Submit to Scripture)

This is the issue of authority; the foundational issue of the Reformation. The word “submit” here is good, but I think it must be much more than merely submission.

“Thus says the Lord:
   “Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool;
   what is the house that you would build for me,
and what is the place of my rest?
All these things my hand has made,
and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord.
   But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:1-2 ESV)

God is glorious. Heaven is his footstool. Yet, the kind of person God gives his loving attention to is one who trembles at his Word. “Tremble.” Why “tremble”? Why not read the Bible like the newspaper? Because “the grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8) Or we could put it this way, The New York Times withers and Oprah’s Book Club will fade away. One million books are published every year. The Library of Congress has 16 million books. It is the storehouse of all the wisdom of man down through the ages. All of it will wither, fade, and burn. But the smallest thing God has said will last forever.

Our trembling is a loving, treasuring, trembling. “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” (Psalm 119:97) This whole Psalm 119 is a long love song about Scripture. Ten times it uses the word “delight.” It is more delightful than other things we delight in, like sweets (honey), or money (thousands of gold and silver pieces).[1]

Let’s be honest, aren’t we often giving Scripture less attention than “tremble” and “love”? “Ambivalent” and “disinterested” might be closer to the truth. I know this because I see how long Bibles with names on them remain in the church lost and found. It’s almost as if these people don’t even realize their Bible is missing.

The real issue is not how or what I think about the Bible, it is how or what I think about God. The more I reverence him, love him, worship him, the more I will treasure his Word.

Luther said, “The truth of Scripture comes first. After that is accepted one may determine whether the words of men can be accepted as true.”[2]

What do you do when you get your mail? We look at who the mail is from. Mail that comes from people we don’t care about we call what? Junk mail. We much prefer personal mail. Especially from someone we care about. If it’s from a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife, we may save that for the last one to open. Read it. Re-read it. Read it again. We may keep that card, put it on the fridge, put it by our nightstand. We don’t want to throw it away. Why? Not because of what it says but who it’s from.

If treasuring Scripture is a struggle, ask yourself, have I downgraded God? Ask God for a fresh heart vision of his glory, goodness, power, love, mercy, kindness, and grace. Treasure Scripture over us.

Scripture Under Us (We Stand on Scripture)

Martin Luther stood before a council (The Diet of Worms) requiring him to recant of his teachings and writings. He refuses to recant and concludes with these words, “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise.”[3] “Here I stand.” What did he mean? He meant that Sola Scriptura was not merely Scripture over him but also under him; under him as the foundation of his faith and hope. “Here I stand.”

“Stand” means trust. Trust what? Trust that God’s Word will prove to be true. Trust in the promises of God. This is a huge blessing to us because so much of what God has said are promises from God to us.

  • “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
  •  “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6)

We have these and hundreds of other promises. We show that Scripture is our foundation when we take God at his Word and apply his promises to the difficulties of life.

I know for me over the years God has used different passages at certain times in my life right when I needed it. It gave me perspective. It sustained me. It got me through. I’m sure you could testify to the same.

Jesus said some people build their lives on sand, but others on the rock of God’s truth. Which are you? Of course, it is times of difficulty where our real foundation is revealed. Like buildings in these hurricanes. You don’t know which ones are wobbly till the winds and rain come. Maybe you are in a hurricane time right now. Everything feels shaky. You are fainting. You are weak. Do you actually believe the promises of God for his presence and provision?

Here’s some Bethel Church history. When we built the auditorium 18 years ago, we placed under the pulpit three things before they sealed it with concrete: a Greek New Testament, an English Bible, and a hymnal. Dr. Joe Stowell II, the first pastor of our church, was invited to our grand opening. We shared that we had buried a Bible under the pulpit. He was in his early 90s but when he came to the pulpit, he looked down, and he said, “It’s good to be standing on the promises.” Indeed. Here we stand. We cannot do otherwise.

Scripture in Us (We Meditate on Scripture)

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)

God’s Word over us is the final authority. God’s Word under us is the foundation of promises. For either of these to be effective, we must have God’s Word in us.

The Reformation exploded out of a desert of biblical truth. The people were starving for the gospel and God’s Word. That’s why translating the Bible into languages the common people could read was so huge. People literally gave their lives to have a Bible in their language. Tyndale. Wycliffe. Others were burned at the stake for translating the Bible into common languages. Why were they so committed?

“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.” (1 Peter 2:2) After having two children of my own, I have personally witnessed how an infant communicates it’s hungry. They scream! She’s not satisfied until she eats. Peter says, be like that.

How do we get Scripture in us? Read it. Memorize it. Meditate on it. Discuss it with others. Hear it taught and preached. Teach it to others. Pray it. Sing it. Quote it. And other ways. We are blessed to have so many resources that place Scripture in our hearts and minds.

Can I encourage you to do all you can to regularly expose your heart to God’s Word? One way we provide is every weekend God’s Word is proclaimed at Bethel Church. Make it a priority.

Scripture over us—authority. Under us—foundation. In us—meditation.

Scripture Through Us (We Live Out Scripture)

Parents, have you had this experience?
       “Sweetheart, it’s time to stop watching TV and get ready for bed.”
“OK Daddy!” She doesn’t move.
       “Sweetheart, it’s time to stop watching TV and get ready for bed.”
“OK Daddy!” Still doesn’t move.
What if I asked, “Honey, are my words important to you?”
“Yes, Daddy, they are the most important words in my whole life.”
I think, Really? It sure doesn’t look like it.

I wonder how often God looks down at us, hearing our apparent commitments to him, seeing our Bibles around the house or the Bible apps on our phone, seeing us nodding our heads at Sola Scriptura sermons, yet, we are still on the couch NOT prioritizing Daddy’s words. How do you know if Scripture is over you, under you, and in you?

Obedience to God’s Word

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22) James goes on to describe this person like someone who looks in a mirror but then walks away without making any necessary changes. Like, what difference is what you see actually making to you?

If my daughter says, “OK Daddy,” and quickly obeys, I know she is putting my word ahead of her own desires. Obedience to God’s moral and spiritual will in his Word is really the bottom line.

Yes, we believe in grace and forgiveness and we all fail in my respects. But that doesn’t mitigate the need for a life of obedience to God’s Word. Sola Scriptura leads to life Scriptura.

Guidance by God’s Word

Not all decisions in life are about obedience, many are questions of guidance. Wisdom. Choosing what is best. God’s Word is so helpful here too. It tells us what to prioritize.

  • “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33)
  • “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)
  • “Trust in the LORD with all your heart…and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

“[God’s Word] is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105) We are the sum of our decisions. God’s Word and wisdom will guide us toward decisions that please God. When my mind is renewed and saturated by God’s Word, the inclinations of my heart lean toward the things God wants in my life. With those decisions come the blessings of God on my life. The house of my life is built on the rock and my decisions and directions are too.

Let’s review.

 

 

 

 

Scripture over us—authority. Under us—promises. In us—Bible intake. Through us—obedience and guidance. Sola Scriptura. Let’s be doctrinally right but let’s make sure right doctrine leads to right living. “This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 18:30)

[1] Daniel Hyde, “The Word of God: How am I to Love God by Loving it?” www.Ligonier.org. January 6, 2014.

[2] Matthew Barrett (Ed.), Reformation Theology: A Systematic Summary, p. 153.

[3] Martin Luther as quoted by Roland H. Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, p. 183.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

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Sola Gospel

Which is a greater threat to the church—subtraction from the gospel or additions to it? What do I mean? Subtraction would be to take away something. There certainly have been serious subtractions in history. Denying Jesus’ true deity or humanity. Take away from the Incarnation and you don’t have the true gospel. Other subtractions include denying the bodily resurrection of Christ or denying the existence of God or the supernatural. Those are serious and gospel-altering subtractions.

However, within the church, the greatest danger is not subtraction but addition. Church history shows this to be the more insidious probability. Why? The atheist is easily identified and his gospel is rejected. After the first few centuries of Christians worked out the nature of Christ, anyone denying the deity of Jesus is pretty easily identified and silenced.

However, adding to the gospel is devious and devilish because addition sounds right at first. Hello friend, what do you believe? I believe in Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God, born of a virgin, suffered under Pontus Pilate, crucified for sin, resurrected on the third day, coming again. Well then, you must be a true brother and teacher. Ah, but therein lies the great deception that has led so many away from the one true gospel. Sola gospel.

This fall we are doing a teaching series on the recovery of the one true gospel. It is known in history as the Great Reformation. This October is the 500th anniversary. Noted church historian Phillip Schaff says of the Reformation,

“The Reformation of the sixteenth century is, next to the introduction of Christianity, the greatest event in history. It marks the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of modern times. Starting from religion, it gave, directly or indirectly, a mighty impulse to every forward movement, and made Protestantism the chief propelling force in the history of modern civilization.”[1]

We are not preaching the reformation or history or the key figures. We will be teaching the doctrines that recovered the gospel and created reformation. My hope is that the truths that shook the world would shake our church, our worlds, our homes, and our hearts.

Why the Solas of the Reformation?

Sola. What does that mean? Sola is Latin. It means “alone.” For example, solitary comes from this root word. Over the years, the doctrines of the Reformation were summarized in “solas.” Here they are in Latin with their English counterparts: Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), Sola Gratia (Grace Alone), Sola Fide (Faith Alone), Solus Christus (Christ alone), Soli Deo Gloria (God’s Glory Alone). In each of these categories, the Reformers identified additions that had been made. They said, No, you cannot add to Scripture. You cannot add to grace. You cannot add to faith, Christ, and God’s glory. Add to these and you have fundamentally changed the gospel.

Chemistry provides a good illustration of how this works. If you add protons to the nucleus of an atom, it changes the element completely. It has what it had before (all those protons are there) but now it is no longer what it was. Add a proton to hydrogen and you move up the periodic table to helium. A proton is a small thing but adding one proton to hydrogen changes the essential element itself.

The solas identify the irreducible nucleus of the gospel and get rid of all the man-added protons of human merit, traditions, and self-righteousness. The solas say the gospel is no less than this and no more than this. If you subtract from it, it is no longer the gospel. If you add to it, it is no longer the gospel. These things change the nature of the gospel itself.

Sola Gospel

The Apostle Paul planted a church in a region called Galatia somewhere around the year 48 AD. Only one year later he learns that the Galatian Christians were in serious jeopardy of abandoning the gospel. He wrote them this,

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6–9 ESV)

That is very strong language! What had happened? After Paul left, the Galatian church had received teachers and teaching that said, Yes, you are forgiven your sins by faith in Jesus. But now that you are a Christian, you must obey the Old Testament law. Specifically, you must be circumcised, which was the Old Testament sign of the Abrahamic covenant. These teachers didn’t walk into church wearing a sign that said, “I’m a false teacher. Believe what I teach and you will end up in hell.”[2] Rather, they sounded right in the essential gospel. They seemed to be hydrogen. But wait, they added a proton. Their gospel was “hydrogen plus,” they were, in fact, preaching a helium gospel. By addition, an essentially different one.

Gospel + Old Testament Law = Salvation (False!)

Paul identifies the error and with apostolic authority condemns to hell anyone who teaches it. “Let him be accursed.” (v. 8) Then he repeats it in v. 9, “Let him be accursed.” Let him be damned to hell. Lest you miss how Paul thinks about it, in a few chapters he will say he hopes these circumcising Judaizers will slip with the knife and emasculate themselves. (Galatians 5:12) That’s strong, vivid langue, don’t you think?

Why such vehement language? The gospel of Jesus as given by the Apostles is everything. It’s everything. It is the most precious reality in the entire world because it is the only way for a person to be saved from the wrath of God by the love of God through the complete, finished work of the Son of God in his atoning and substitutionary death and victory over death in the resurrection.

Paul says the apparent importance or qualifications of the messenger don’t matter. Even if an angel appears, if it tells you something different from the apostolic gospel, that angel is under a curse. History shows errant movements like Mormonism beginning with a supposed angel delivering a different gospel. In the 15th century, it was a Pope. Do not listen or believe anything but the one true gospel. No subtractions, no additions. Nothing less, nothing more. No matter who preaches it.

He repeats this in 1 Corinthians, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:1–4)

The essential gospel is of first importance. It is the most important thing.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2017 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

[1] Phillip Schaff as quoted by Steven Lawson, “The Reformation and the Men Behind It,” www.ligonier.org, September 4, 2017.

[2] Philip Graham Ryken, Galatians: Reformed Expository Commentary, p. 21.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

It is All About Him

The saving work of Christ

I am going to tell the redemptive story of Jesus from the Psalms. Might his Emmaus Road sermon have sounded something like this?

While Jesus was born a human around 6 BC, that was not his beginning. In fact, he had no beginning for he was in eternity past the Son of God. “The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you.’” (Psalm 2:7) Eternally begotten. Not born. No beginning. Has always been. Eternally the Son of God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)

Not just eternal Sonship but eternal reign. As Hebrews 1 quotes Psalm 45:6,Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness.”

Not just a king but also a priest. Not a Levitical Priest but a priest forever by another order, “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.’” (Psalm 110:4) Melchizedek was a priest-king to whom Abraham himself tithed. He was a foreshadowing of an eternal priest, king, and mediator who would come. Jesus is like Melchizedek, only greater.

Jesus was born of a virgin and lived quietly for 30 years. He began a public ministry of teaching and miracles. He taught in parables. “I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old.” (Psalm 78:2)

He presented himself to Israel as King in his triumphal entry riding down the Mount of Olives on a donkey. Psalms were sung over him as he came to them on a donkey. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Psalm 118:26)

In spite of his incredible popularity, enemies plotted against him including a member of his own inner circle. “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed.” (Psalm 2:2)

And one of his disciples, Judas, conspired against him, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.” (Psalm 41:9) The conspiracy was executed at night. Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was framed and with political maneuvers even more treacherous than we see today, sentenced to death on a cross. By 9:00am on a day we call Good Friday, Jesus was crucified with nails attaching him to a Roman cross. “For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet.” (Psalm 22:16)

The Roman soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ clothes as he hung over them. “They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” (Psalm 22:18)

There on the cross Jesus faced terrible pain and anguish. Psalm 22 describes it as, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast.” (Psalm 22:14)

As God the Father placed upon Jesus’ humanity the sins of humanity, the Father rejected Jesus as sin and accepted Jesus’ sacrifice for sin. This rejection of Jesus felt to Jesus like abandonment. He cries out straight from the Psalms, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1). And then in the moment before he died he cried out, “Into your hand I commit my spirit.” (Psalm 31:5) His last words were a psalm.

His enemies, including Satan, gloated over his death. His followers buried him. Most if not all thought that was the end. But the Psalms and God the Father knew a deeper secret—a prophecy given in the Psalms centuries before regarding the messiah.

I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.” (Psalm 16:8–10)

This psalm was a promise to Jesus that his body would not decay like all humanity. How? Resurrection! On the third day, God the Father raised Jesus back to life and granted to him a kingdom and a rule and a reign as King of the Kingdom of God. “The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” (Psalm 110:1)

In the very first sermon of the church, the Apostle Peter quoted Psalm 110 and said,Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36)

3,000 people on Pentecost responded in trust in Jesus. They heard the messianic melody. Peter preached a messianic psalm and the Holy Spirit launched the church. We live today in that era of gospel proclamation of Christ as King, Savior, Priest, Son, Lord, King, Mediator and Messiah.

What should we do? What do the Psalms call us to? The same as that first Pentecost day. Believe and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Bend the knee to Jesus’ Kingship in your life. His reign in our hearts creates powerful countercultural character and desires and directions. Essentially, incredible loyalty and obedience and love to Jesus.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 100)

Our response is worship and love and praise and thanksgiving. By God’s grace, we have heard and responded in faith to the messianic melody.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2017 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

Our God Made Everyone

Our God Made Everyone

These are some of the most magnificent words ever composed….

13   “For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14   I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
     Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15   My frame was not hidden from you,
     when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16   Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
     in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
17   How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18   If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.” (Psalm 139:13-18 ESV)

David reflects on God’s care over him his whole life, even when he was in the womb. Get that? Even when he was an embryo in his mother’s womb. Suddenly Psalm 139 has profound ethical implications. Before we get to those, let’s just marvel at the language here.

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” Realize David is writing this 3,000 years ago. What did they know about how a baby formed in the womb? Yet, isn’t this insightful poetic language? Formed inward parts. Knit together in the womb. Intricately woven. Stitched by the hand of God.

I have personally witnessed two births now and while science has explained so much, there is so much about reproduction, life, and prenatal personhood that remains mysterious. How does life begin? How does personhood and personality from DNA to fingerprints to gifts and talents form over those nine months? Further, modern technology has shown us the frailty and beauty of a baby forming in the womb. Perhaps you’ve seen these, but let the wonder hit you again.

David never had these insights, but inspired by the Holy Spirit, his description is as poetically accurate as anything we could write today. David’s wonder is that even in those delicate days in his mother’s womb, God was there. Watching. Forming. Creating him. His summary is so true; “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

If God is there in the womb, that forming child is more than simply a clump of cells; more than simply a part of the mother’s body like her knee or toe. God himself is forming the child. Every child. Every unborn child is a human being. God bestows the highest honor on human personhood.

“So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

Unborn children fully bear the image of God. They are unique and separate from the mother. They have personal DNA, personal blood type, and they are in the mother but separate from her. They are dependent on her but independent of her personhood. They bear the image of God while being formed by the power and presence of God.

Therefore, to destroy an unborn child is to do violence against an image bearer. It is to undo what God is doing, to destroy what God is creating. The Bible calls taking the life of an image bearer murder. This is why Christians must stand for life in the womb and protect the sanctity of that life. An unborn child is being fearfully and wonderfully made by God himself.

Let me ask this question. Is God only forming White children? Is God only making Asian children? Indian children? Black children? Hispanic children? If God forms them in his image in the womb, how should we treat them outside the womb?

It is complete hypocrisy to say we stand for the sanctity of life and then be a racist. The same God that gives the unborn child inherent worth and value in the womb gives born child, teenager, adult or senior citizen the value outside the womb no matter their ethnicity.

This brings us to Charlottesville, Virginia. So much has been said and written since then. When our culture is embroiled in controversy, the church and leaders had better speak or we become irrelevant to the culture we are trying to reach.

Here is where Psalm 139 is so helpful and clear and reinforces the teaching of Scripture. Human personhood is a God-thing from the beginning of our existence. God grants us status as his image bearers. God forms our bodies. God makes us how we are and who we are. Every one of us is absolutely unique and different from any other human being that has ever lived.

So where does racism and bigotry and the impulse to drive your car into a crowd of people come from? Do you remember the temptation Satan gave Eve? If you eat of it, you will be like God. (Genesis 3:5) The deification of “me” and the exaltation of self are at the root of what sin is. We all fall short of the glory of God. How? By seeking the glory of me.

So this feud in our country is not ultimately about White supremacy or Black supremacy or Purple supremacy. It’s not ultimately about the civil war or statues or flags. What happened in Charlottesville is what happens when sinners worship themselves. We deny God by denying the worth of a fellow image bearer.

It is a functional atheism hiding behind a political ideology.

Hear clearly, we condemn it and we must condemn it, but we must condemn it for the right reasons. The right reason isn’t because of where I land in my personal political position. The right reason isn’t because of what color my skin happens to be. The right reason to condemn it is because of the glory of God bequeathed to every human in every womb, every ethnicity, every age and stage, male and female, all valued because of whose image they bear.

Charlottesville was humanity once again acting according to God-denying self-supremacy. Violence and murder is the result. Cain murdered Abel because Abel’s sacrifice was accepted. Cain was a supremacist, he had to be supreme. This isn’t a skin issue this is a sin issue.

Christianity isn’t alt-right or alt-left; it is alt-cross. These moments are great opportunities for the gospel because Jesus doesn’t take sides, Jesus takes over. But he does so with an offer of peace that begins vertically. Peace with God. Peace with this all-knowing, all-present, Creator of all.

“And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:20) This is the alternate or “alt” that Jesus offers. Peace with God through repentance and faith in Jesus and his work on the cross dying in our place. That vertical peace creates an alternate path to peace with others, even those ethnically and socially different from me.

“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14) Racism denies the will of God to populate heaven with people from every tribe, language, skin color, background and ethnicity. So while we condemn every form of self-supremacy and self-exaltation we also promote and point to a Savior who reconciles us to God and one another.

Finally, we must feel profound personal sadness at all hatred among people but do so humbly knowing that the same seeds of racism, bigotry, and hatred are in all our hearts. This makes the ending of Psalm 139 so fitting.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24)

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2017 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

Psalm 119: The ABCs of Delighting in God’s Word

How Should We Think About/Feel Toward/Respond to God’s Word?

Delight (Verses 14, 16, 24, 35, 47, 70, 77, 92, 143, 174)

“In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.” (v.14) This is a genuine joy in God that delights in whatever he has said.

Love (Verses 47, 48, 97, 119, 127, 159, 163, 165)

“Oh, how I love your law!” (v. 97)

Say that out loud. “Oh, how I love your law!” Did you just make yourself a hypocrite? In a way, all of us are. But this is something to realize about Psalm 119. It is descriptive but also prescriptive. It functions to call us to be the people we should be. Just like other things do. The Pledge of Allegiance or America the Beautiful are quoted and sung regularly to remind us of the citizens we should be even when we aren’t or when America isn’t particularly beautiful. They act as reminders of what we could be and should be.

Psalm 119 is like America the Beautiful. It is idealistic and aspirational. So we read, “O how I love your law!” and while that morning we may not feel love and perhaps reading God’s Word feels like a duty, it shows us what we could be and what we should be. Let it summon confession, O how I want to love your law, God please help me!

Obedience (Verses 3, 4, 10, 21, 29, 32, 36, 44, 59, 88, 112, 115, 145, 146, 166, 167, 168)

In the end, love for God’s Word shows itself by reverent obedience. So much of 119 is about obedience. That’s how we know if we really love God and his Word, we obey it; live by it.

This week I said to Kiralee one morning, “Sweetheart, I need you to be obedient to Mommy today.” She said, “What if I said I’m sorry now for all the times I’m disobedient today?”

Really? Pre-planning disobedience? We humans start young with our ability to rationalize away our sins. Psalm 119 doesn’t rationalize; it cries out to God for help in walking in his ways, obeying his precepts, living according to his Word.

Delight, love, and obedience to God’s Word seem kind of out there to the natural us. Isn’t the Bible an archaic ancient book with morality completely out of touch with modern man and contemporary culture? How can I love it? Delight in it? Obey it?

Imagine if God had not spoken. What if what if there was no revelation? No word from God about anything? No Bible. No knowledge of God or anything he requires. Think of the moral landscape of the world. Think of the barrenness. The emptiness of the soul if there was no Word, no Christ, even creation somehow silenced about a Creator. Nothing. Just one verse of Scripture would be like a morsel of bread to a starving man. How precious! How we would love that one verse. Memorize it. Meditate on it. Treasure it.

We happen to have a banquet feast in Scripture. Old and New Testament. 66 books. 23,145 verses in the Bible. How do we treasure God’s Word? It comes from a heart made alive by the Holy Spirit through the gospel of Jesus Christ. It comes from a true understanding of my depravity and God’s unmerited grace to me. It comes from a heart changed through regeneration. A life transformed by Christ and a mind made new. Made alive to spiritual truth. Like the starving man brought to the grocery store. Every aisle is fantastic. You can’t get him past the produce. Every item must be tasted, savored, experienced, known.

Apart from God and his revelation, we are the starving man. How does a spiritually starving man respond to spiritual food? Delight! O how I love your law! How I want it more than gold or silver! I can’t eat gold. Silver doesn’t satisfy what I need! My soul needs God’s truth! Oh how I love your law!

What should do we do with it? I decided to do my own ABC description of the Christian’s life with God’s Word.

Adore it
Believe it
Confess it
Don’t ignore it
Enjoy it
Fail, it won’t
Give it away
Hope in it
Inspired it is
Jot it down
Keep it close
Love it by livin’ it
Memorize it
Need it
Obey it
Prioritize time with it
Quote it
Reverence it
Study it
Teach it
Underestimate it at your own peril
Vociferously read it!
Wonder at it
Xerox it and pass it around
Yearn for it
Zeal for God is what it creates in us

It’s no Psalm 119. Psalm 119 is a masterpiece inspired by God that calls the people of God to treasure the Word of God within the community of God.

Oh how we need to love thy law!

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2017 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

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A Song of Faith for Life’s Journeys

1     I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
   My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
   He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
   Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
   The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
   The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
   The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
   The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore. (Psalm 121 ESV)

The Question: Where Do I Turn for Help?

“I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?” (v. 1)

This question presupposes a problem in life. We look for help when we are in need. This is the kind of problem that we can’t handle on our own. We don’t have the strength. We don’t have the smarts. We don’t have the resources. Where do we look for help? One insight into the condition of our heart is where we turn when the chips are down; when life hurts.

My daughter’s response to pain or something surprising is one example. She says, “Holdy! Holdy!” Where do you turn when your life hurts? Mommy? Perhaps your good friend Jack Daniels?

The psalm begins with a question, but within the question is also the hint of an answer. “I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come?” (v. 1) The commentators debate whether the hills are meant here as refuge or terror. To have the high ground in a conflict is always an advantage even in modern warfare. Do we flee to the hills for safety or look to them for signs of rescue? But the hills also hide dangers and marauders and invaders. So, which is it?

God Our Shepherd

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.”
(Psalm 23:1-4 ESV)

God sustains us

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

These are precious words and so dear to us. David imagines the worst moments we can have and describes them vividly as the valley of the shadow of death. You can shepherd in Indiana without valleys. Here, Baldy is a mountain. But in Israel, to shepherd in Israel is to lead sheep up and down hills. I have personally walked some of this terrain and you can’t go far without going through ravines, gorges, and valleys; those deep places where the sun doesn’t break through. Anyone in a life valley today?