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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Forever (Psalm 111, Revelation 5.11-14)

Sermon by: Robert Austell; August 30, 2015
Text: Psalm 111; Revelation 5:11-14; Psalm 136

:: Sermon Audio (link) ::
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:: Some Music Used ::
Gathering Music: "Revelation Song"
Song of Praise: "Forever" (Tomlin)
Hymn of Praise: "Holy, Holy, Holy"(NICEA)
Offering of Music: "How Great Thou Art" (Men's Choir) (arr. Dan Forrest)
Song of Sending: "Revelation Song" (Riddle)

:: Affirmation of Faith ::
adap. from the Westminster Shorter Catechism (q.107)
What is taught by the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer – “For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever, Amen”?
The conclusion of the Lord’s prayer teaches us to take our encouragement in prayer from God only,-1 and in our prayers to praise him, ascribing kingdom, power, and glory to him.-2 And, in testimony of our desire, and assurance to be heard, we say, Amen.-3

1-Daniel 9:4,7-9,16-19; 2-1 Chron. 29:10-13; 3-1 Cor. 14:16; Rev. 22:20-21
:: Sermon Manuscript (pdf)::
This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Some weeks the spoken version varies more than others from the early manuscript. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided for that purpose.

“For Thine is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory, FOREVER.” We are almost to the end of the Lord’s Prayer and our summer series. It may seem like we’ve slowed to a crawl here at the end because we are focusing again today on a single word from the prayer, but in this final doxological section, each word carries such rich meaning and purpose that it is important to slow down. To be fair, I want to focus a little more broadly than the idea of God’s Kingdom or power or glory lasting forever. Those things are God’s forever, but that is because GOD is forever; God is eternal. And that’s the focus today. We want to consider what it means that God is eternal. And what does God being eternal mean when we think of God’s actions toward us: His promises, His redemption, His love. And we want to look at the implications for us when it is so easy for us to get ‘stuck’ in the urgencies, the crises, the anxieties of the moment.

Everything, Forever and Ever (Revelation 5)

We’ve looked at Revelation 5 the last two weeks, focusing first on God’s Kingdom and then on the power and glory that is attributed to God and to the Lamb, who is Jesus. One of the things we focused on was the WORSHIP going on in this heavenly scene. Though we made application in the present, we also talked about what it means to pray “For Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory.” It means we are declaring and agreeing in the truth that God is worthy of worship, now and forever. And it is that last part that the heavenly chorus echoes in v. 13, where “every created things which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them” join in praise: “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”

The Triune God – Father and Son named here, but Spirit included to be sure – is worthy of all the worship all the time. Do you hear the expansiveness of v. 13? All things in all the imaginable places giving all the possible worship to God forever and ever. It’s not really something we can comprehend, but we can hear the bigness of it and that’s where I wanted to start today before we move backward into time and space and human history, into our past and our present.

When we pray “Everything is God’s, forever and ever” we are acknowledging and participating in the complete and ultimate worship that rightly belongs to God. And that is a good thing! It’s a mystery; but it is a good mystery!

The Eternal WHO and WHAT of God (Psalm 111)

Psalm 111 is a sea of praise about the eternal nature of God, describing in expansive terms WHO God is as well as WHAT the God has done. And floating in that swells of that praise are a series of ships anchored in statements about the eternal nature of WHO God is and WHAT God has done. We will look briefly at five such statements, not exhaustive to be sure, but covering a lot. Four examples are from Psalm 111 and the fifth is from Psalm 136, which was our call to worship and used in our opening song.

1.    Eternal Righteousness (v. 3)

Psalm 111 begins with praise: “Praise the Lord!” It then moves to thanks for the great works of God – WHAT God has done. And in a phrase I had not run across before, the Psalmist says that the great works are to be “studied by all who delight in them.” What a wonderful concept; we are often enjoined to remember God’s faithful works, but here to study them because we delight in them. And this Psalmist, who surely has studied God’s works among humanity, declares them “splendid and majestic.”

In that context, the Psalmist declares the first anchor statements of what I’m calling the “eternal WHO and WHAT of God”: His righteousness endures forever. (v. 3) Righteousness simply means “what is right or good.” God is always right and good – that’s the WHO of God; and God’s actions or works, the WHAT of God, can be described as righteousness. What the Psalmist is saying – more than that, delighting in – is that like God who is eternally good and right, God’s good and right actions – what God has done and is doing – will endure forever. Indeed, “Great are the works of the Lord!” And they are enduring, not here today and gone tomorrow. They are worth studying and cherishing and delighting in, for like God, His works are good and right. The WHO and WHAT of God is eternally righteous!

2.    Eternal Promises (v. 5)

The Psalmist continues, remembering both the WHO and WHAT of God. In verse 4, we are to remember God’s (WHAT) wonders. The Lord is (WHO) gracious and compassionate. In verse 5, God has (WHAT) given food to those who fear Him. Then another one of these anchor statements: God will remember His covenant forever.

God’s covenant – such a huge thing! It is a WHO and WHAT – God’s great promise to come after the human race, echoed in successive and connected covenant promises to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Abraham’s children, David, and through Christ; and grounded in the very being of God, who didn’t make a deal with humanity, but who rested the loving pursuit of humanity in God’s own eternal loving, holy, and good character. God’s promise, like God, is good forever, even when in our finiteness we disappoint and fall short. God does not fall short and God does not turn away. He pursues us in love to keep His eternal promise – His covenant.

3.    Eternal Word and Work (v. 8)

The Psalmist continues the sea of praise, again lifting up God’s character and God’s work. This flows naturally out of the mention of covenant, because that eternal promise is the framework in which humanity has experienced all the Psalmist mentions next: God revealing Himself in the power of His works and in the heritage of the nations (v. 6), the works of God’s hands experienced and known in and as “truth and justice” and in the sureness of God’s precepts or teachings. (v. 7)

Another way to speak of God’s precepts, truth, justice, and power is as God’s Word and Work – all upheld (v.8) forever and ever. God’s Word and Work are eternal because God is behind them and God is eternal. The Psalmist continues lifting up God’s Word and Work through the end of v. 9, noting God’s character (works performed in truth and uprightness), God’s work of redemption, and mentioning for a second time God’s eternal promise in the covenant.

Then the Psalmist turns to praise: “Holy and awesome is His name.”

4.    Eternal Praise (v. 10)

With those words of praise and a reminder that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” the Psalmist commends obedience to God’s Word and ends with this: God’s praise endures forever. (v. 10) That’s just what we have seen in Revelation! God’s praise – that all everything will recognize the all-encompassing worth of God and engage in worship for all time; the Psalmist names this as well.

God’s praise endures because God’s righteousness endures. God’s praise endures because God’s promises endures. God’s praise endures because God’s Word and Work endures. God’s praise endures because God endures! Holy and awesome, indeed!

5.    Eternal Love (Ps. 136)

And then I simply commend Psalm 136 to you for further study. Like our opening song, the Psalm is an extended litany of praise and thanks to God for WHO and WHAT God is and has done. And every other line has the people of God responding with the refrain, “for His steadfast love endures forever.” God’s love, like God, endures. God’s love is both WHO God is and WHAT God has done and shown us through His Word and Work and promise and salvation.

It is yet another point upon which to delight, study, respond, and worship.

So that’s five anchor points describing the eternal quality of WHO God is and WHAT God has done.

Stuck in the Moment

And so incredibly different that who we think we are and what we endeavor to do. We feel so finite, so limited, so time-bound. Though we may yearn to influence, find meaning, and have a legacy, we often feel so insignificant. And, if you are like me, it is so easy to get stuck the moments in which we find ourselves.

You wake up and there is so much that has to be done. It can become all-consuming, and worse, oppressive… crushing… paralyzing.

You feel your chest tightening and the anxiousness stirring up deep within. What if I fail? What will other people think? What if they laugh? What if I’m embarrassed? What if? What if?

You know the pain of injustice, the sorrow of betrayal, the hole of loss; and there simply is no discernable light at the end of what is a very dark tunnel.

We see another news cast, read another headline, reel from the next report of tragedy: life taken, people treated as less-than, wars, and disease.

There is so much causing us to be stuck in the moment, stuck in our situations, stuck in our own “stuff.” And when we think about God or praying or church, we want a quick fix, an answer, a genie who answers our one (or three) wishes. And that’s not how it works; for God’s own good reasons (if God is good), that’s not how God works.

Listen; Jesus would say, “For them with ears to hear…” This is the Good News:

God is forever; God is eternal. God is bigger than and more enduring than your moment and my moment, however stuck we may feel. And though God doesn’t say, “Come to church enough or give enough or say the right words and I’ll fix it” (i.e., rub the genie lamp); God’s does come after us and come among us. That’s both WHO God is and WHAT God has done. And with that, God has shown us what is right and good, God has staked His name and being on it, God has loved us, spoken to us, and worked among us. God is with you, even in the dark. And God will be there at the end of the tunnel. God endures; God’s love endures; God’s Word endures; and what God has said and shown again and again is that you are not alone.

We’ve seen a picture of eternity, but we’ve also heard a Word about here and now. Take heart; do not be afraid. Take heart; do not be afraid. Take heart; do not be afraid.

God is here, forever.


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