Well, good morning, Saylorville, and a very happy Father’s Day to all of you dads out there watching online, as well!
I invite you to take your Bibles (if you brought one) and find Psalm 103 as we continue our series, Theology on Fire! It’s our commitment and conviction that theology (that is, what we believe about God and everything else about God) doesn’t have to be just dry bones stuff. This isn’t just an information dump, but this should invigorate us in our walk with God! I think the 103rd Psalm is one of those Psalms that has embedded within it theology that’s on fire. Let me see if I can prove that to you. Notice, it’s a Psalm of David. (That’s important, and we’ll come back to that.) He says,
Psalm 103:1-22,1 “Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me, bless His holy name!
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits,
3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
(I pray that every time I have a birthday these days.)
6 The LORD works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the people of Israel.
8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger (and aren’t you glad?) and abounding in steadfast love.
9 He will not always chide or strive, nor will He keep His anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
(and last I checked, they don’t meet again when they’re going the opposite directions)
so far does He remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear Him.
14 For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.
15 As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and His righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.
19 The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom rules over all.
20 Bless the LORD, O you His angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of His word! “
By the way, you should underline that 20th verse and put Matthew 6 there because anytime you pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth (What?) as it is in heaven…” there’s your illustration of it right there. The angels in heaven always harken to do the will of God… always! That’s what you’re praying [in the Lord’s Prayer.] You’re saying, ‘God, I want to be like the angels that you send forth always obedient.’
21 Bless the LORD, all His hosts, His ministers, who do His will!
22 Bless the LORD, all His works, in all places of His dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!
…And all God’s people said… Amen!
Just the other day, I was out and about and I ran into a woman that I had not seen in many years. She formerly attended this church, and so I was surprised to see her. She was startled to see me! In fact, she was so startled she just kind of vomited out what was going on in her life! She goes, “I can’t believe I’m seeing you!” I said, “What happened?” She said, “Last night I was cleaning the house and I was thinking about my godly father who passed away a few years earlier and thinking about a sermon you preached many years ago on having a hard heart.” She said, “That changed my hard heart! And now I bump into you! Talk about the providence of God!”
That got me thinking a little bit about hearts, the hearts of those who’ve been impacted by their imperfect earthly fathers. I want to present to all of you, whether you had a great dad, mediocre dad, no dad at all… not one [type] to speak of anyway. I present to you the perfect Father.
A.W. Tozer said in his opening line in the Knowledge of the Holy,
“What comes to your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you.”
That is a true statement. If you ask me what frustrates me most about Christians, mind you, I would have to say is many Christians’ view of God is so bizarre! It’s like a circus mirror. It’s very discouraging to me, because when our views of God are less than what Scripture teaches us they should be, we create heretical beliefs. We even behave heretically. That’s why we said last week, ‘God made man in his own image and man returned the favor.’ By that, we’re talking about our tendency to bring God down to our level, our experience, our limitations and thus we create the circus mirror kind of a look at God. He’s sort of a caricature of sorts. God recognized that that’s our tendency in our sinful humanness to do that. That’s why He said,
[Psalm 50:21] You thought I was exactly like you,”
which (of course) we are not. While systematic theology attempts to compartmentalize the different attributes of God, we, on the other hand, tend to focus on the ones we like most. That’s why we develop these bizarre views of God.
Evelyn Underhill said it best when she said,
“If God were small enough to be understood, He would not be BIG enough to be worshiped.”
J.D. Greer adds,
“Most Americans want a God who is only a slightly bigger, slightly smarter version of us.”
To them, God says in…
Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Amen?)
Behold your God!
The young Solomon declared before the entire congregation of Israel,
1 Kings 8:27, ”The heaven of heavens cannot contain You!”
If the very heavens cannot contain God, neither can I fully proclaim God. While we won’t cover every attribute of God, we can honor Him and we can exalt Him in the ones we do. Can we not? That is theology on fire!
Last week, we said that God created us in His own image. The response might be, ‘Well, yes… but then we sinned. I mean, didn’t that change everything?’ Well, yes… and no, because on the flip side of your Bible, James tells us,
James 3:9, “With [our tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.”
In other words, we’re all sinners. (Right?) The image is still there, but It’s a broken image, taking on all kinds of different brokenness in our lives. All of us are broken. Some of us just look more broken. That’s not meant to be funny. It’s just true!
You’ll remember a few years ago, I gave the illustration of the little girl that was out on the driveway while her dad was changing the oil in his car. Some of the oil spilled onto the concrete and, when the sun hit the oil, she looked at it and said, “Daddy, somebody broke the rainbow!” We long for the day that our rainbows are restored to glory (Right?)
Until then, Christians are to strive to be more like Jesus, because we’re not like Jesus… yet, anyway. We do that according to Paul, second Corinthians chapter three, ‘by beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord.’
[2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”]
In so doing, we’re transformed into His image. It’s becoming by beholding. The irony of it all is that it’s a two-way mirror. As we stare into the perfect image of God, God is staring back at our image in the process of changing us to be more like His. Let me explain. No, no, let Malachi explain. Here’s how he puts it.
[Malachi 3:3, “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD.”]
God will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver before the sons of Levi. Here’s the picture of God looking at us, like a refiner of silver. The process is called “cupellation” when the silversmith would sit before the cauldron, stoking it to intensify the heat turning the silver molten. In the process, He’d take off the slag, putting additives in, all for the purity of the silver. The refiner kept the silver over that intense heat to a certain point so it wouldn’t ruin the silver. When does he know the silver is just right? When He can see His own image in the silver!
It’s a two-way mirror. We stare at God. God stares back at us. He is the refiner, and some of you are in the caldron right now. We all are in the caldron, the process of sanctification. For some of us, the heat is really stoked in your lives. For some, it’s not so hot… but it will be, because God is all about being a refiner who is turning us into becoming more like Jesus until we do look like Jesus! Beholding by becoming… Behold God!
Last week, we talked about God’s greatness in those omnies… omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient. He’s holy, He’s self-existent, He’s all sustaining, sovereign, (He’s over all things) and He is worthy!
Today, on this Father’s Day, I would like to present to you the perfect dad, the perfect Father. I’ve not been a perfect father… not even close. My children have seen the broken side of my rainbow more often than I care to remember… (but I don’t have to remember. They remind me!) So here is God, our perfect Father, who demonstrates His perfection first by forgiving us completely. Some of you have never been forgiven. If you have never been forgiven, you don’t even know what it means to be forgiven. If you’re been forgiven by God, it’s a complete forgiveness! Look at verse 3.
Psalm 103:3, “…who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases…”
This is speaking of God, who forgives (what?) ALL your iniquity, heal ALL your diseases! Verse 10…
Psalm 103:10, ”He does not deal with us according to our sins or repay us according to our iniquities.” Verse 12,
Psalm 103:12, ”As far as east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.“
Our Father God forgives completely! This is all… (verse three) He forgives ALL of our iniquities! It reminds us of first John, chapter one, verse nine,
1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness.”
I had a dear widow friend many years ago. Her name was May who was really, really sharply… very intelligent. One of her favorite verses was Micah 7, verse 19,
Micah 7:19b, “…You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”
She used to say, “You know, when God took my sins and put them into the deepest sea,”she said, ‘He put a sign out there that said, ‘No fishin’!” And that’s true because Father God forgives completely!
My son… (it’s always nice to have ten kids. They never know which one you’re talking about!) My son, studying to be in law enforcement, had to take a polygraph test recently. He hates tests anyway, and was telling me, “Oh, Dad, it was like I had to confess sins that I had already been forgiven of!” He did fine, by the way, but here’s the deal. Because God forgives completely, we don’t have to keep confessing them, because we’re not culpable for them anymore. We should confess them cultivate humility by acknowledge them not hiding from them. Again, verse 10,
Psalm 103:10, ”He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.”
Remember who wrote this? David did! This Psalm was written in the latter part of David’s life. He undoubtedly was thinking about [when he had committed] adultery and murder, things God could easily have been dealing with, holding against him… but He didn’t! There’s forgiveness with God (Amen?) Praise the Lord, not only for what He has done… but for what he hasn’t done in your life! By the way, when it says He does not deal with us according to our sins, repay us according to our iniquities, and said He dealt with his Son according to our sins, He repaid JESUS according to our iniquities! How nice was that? Perfect! Perfect!
Secondly, I commend Him to you as the perfect Father, because He shows His perfection by loving us perpetually. You see this repeated here in verse 8. He says,
Psalm 103:8, ”The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and ABOUNDING in steadfast love.”
If you didn’t catch it there, verse 11,
Psalm 103:11, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his STEADFAST LOVE toward those who fear him;”
God, in His own self identification with Moses, in Exodus 34 said this, in Exodus 34.
Exodus 34:”The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
Twice He reminds us that He is abounding in steadfast love. It is His nature! Holiness is the only thrice mentioned attribute of God. [Isaiah 6:3] If holiness is the foundation of all of God’s attributes, love is the superstructure of them. For the walls, the floor, the ceiling, the roof, you can put down mercy, grace, love…loving mercy, loving grace, loving justice… Everything is loving about God, because God IS love! (Amen?) God’s love is demonstrated in Scripture in several ways.
- His mutual love between Himself and His Son.
John 3:35, “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.”
John 14:31, “…but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”
In John 3, it says the Father loves the Son, but He also said in John 14, I love the Father. It’s a mutual, eternal, divine, and holy love.
2. His particular love for the nation of Israel.
Were we told He loved them and chose them because they were the most special people He ever created? No! Here’s what it says in…
Deuteronomy 7:7-8a, “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because (wait for it!) the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that He swore to your fathers…”
God says, ‘I didn’t love you because of this.’ I loved you because… because I loved you. How’s that? God doesn’t have to explain anything to you and me. Just be thankful for that love, (Amen?) and He does love the nation of Israel. It’s a peculiar love.
3. God demonstrates His love and his sacrificial love for sinful humanity.
John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
THAT is a sacrificial love!
4. His intimate love for His redeemed children.
Those of you who are born again, (I don’t assume you’re all saved) those of you that really are saved, He has an intimate love with you. ‘Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us that we should be called the children of God.’ That is what we are! I didn’t say that. That’s what the Bible says in First John 3, verse 1.
[1 John 3:1, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”]
5. His unconditional love for His Church.
When the Apostle Paul is writing about husbands and the way they ought to love their wives, if you do it the way Christ loved the church, you (what?) love unconditionally. Jesus didn’t love us because he saw something particular about us. He loved us because he loved us, (Amen?) and demonstrated it! Surely God IS love!
[Ephesians 5:25b, “… as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,”]
I love the story of Spurgeon. You don’t often hear stories where he gets rebuffed. Spurgeon was walking along an English countryside one day with an evangelist, and they were having a hearty conversation. They came across a cupola of a barn with a weather vane. On the arrow it said, “God is love.” Spurgeon looked at that and said, ‘That’s stupid! I don’t agree with that.’ He said, ‘That’s like saying God’s love changes as the wind blows,’ to which the evangelist said, ‘No, that’s not what it’s saying! What that’s saying is no matter which way the wind blows, God is love!’ …because He is, and He loves perpetually.
If you’ve come into a relationship with Jesus Christ, you are given EVERLASTING life! (Amen?) It’s not life until you screw up so much, you’re out. I was a child that screwed up a lot, but I was never out of my family! My kids have screwed up and you’ve heard of half those screw ups, but they remain my kids because I love them! How much more your perfect Father in heaven? (Amen?) How much more? It is He who forgives us completely, who loves us perpetually and fathers us compassionately.
He fathers us compassionately. Please draw your attention to verse 13.
Psalm 103:13, “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.”
This word “compassion” in the Hebrew conveys visceral compassion. It speaks of an absolute intense kind of compassion that God as a Father has for us. In fact, this word was used for a mother when her milk was coming in. It’s actually related to the word “womb” in Hebrew. (I bet many of you already knew that. Some of you probably didn’t.) This is a very, very deep and powerful word when it speaks of our Father’s compassion for us. I know what some of you are thinking. Nobody could love like a mother, (Right?) but God can! There’s something very motherly about God, and that’s not a heretical statement. Isaiah told us as much when he said,
Isaiah 49:15, ”Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion (he uses the same word) on the son of her womb?”
‘Well, she might, but I won’t!’ (Amen?) That’s what God says who has Fatherly compassion!
Many of you remember this famous story about the great King Solomon who would follow David, exalted as the wisest man around. As the story goes two women, both prostitutes, both mothers, both nursing mothers who have had babies days apart. (Remember the story?) One of the babies dies. The mother who’s baby dies stealthily takes the living baby away from the other mother putting the dead baby there next to that mother and the argument ensues. The next thing you know they’re standing before King Solomon and they’re pleading their case, ’The living baby is mine!’ ‘No! The living baby is mine!” They go back and forth like this. Solomon is sitting on his throne judging. He says, ‘One says it’s hers. The other says it’s hers.’ He calls a soldier and tells him to cut the thing in half and give one part to one and give the other part to the other one, and… what happens? The real mom with compassion says, ‘No, No, No, No, No! Give it to her! Give it to her!” This was the thing that led Solomon to know who the real mother was. The compassionate mother, the real one, was willing to give up her son to a liar!
Your compassionate Father did the exact same thing! He gave up His Son for a bunch of liars… like you and me. Hallelujah! Why would He do that? Why would God show such compassion upon his humanity that He created? There’s more of that. Verse 14 tells us why.
[Psalm 103:14, “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”]
… because He remembers our frame. He knows our frame and He remembers that we’re what? Dust. The dust literally carries the idea of something coming apart. We’re coming apart. All of us are coming apart! We’re all busted! (Amen?) You didn’t just screw up once. You continue to screw up… and God knows that!
I remember as a brand new Christian reading through my Bible for the very first time and coming upon Psalm 78. I read this history of Israel and how they would screw up… they would be judged… they’d seek forgiveness… they’d screw up… they’d say they’re sorry… God would forgive them… they’d screw up… As I was reading it for the first time, I literally came to verse 38 and thinking, “Oh, my goodness, God! Why are you putting up with these people?” Then I read verse 39 and instantly memorized it! It said,
Psalm 78:39, “He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and comes not again.”
That is your compassionate Father! As you get to know Him, know that He thoroughly knows you! (Amen?)
God is referred to as Father in the Old Testament just a handful of times. Jews to this day do not like anyone calling God “Father.” In fact, they despise anybody who does so! They did not appreciate it when Jesus kept calling God his Father, and were particularly annoyed with Him, so much so, that in John 5 (Remember?) Jesus said,
[John 5:17, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”]
‘Well, My Father’s working and I’m working…’ and they said, ‘That’s it!’ They picked up stones to stone Him! It says in John 5:18,
[John 5:18, “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.”]
‘He said God was His Father making Himself equal with God!’ Have you ever read that? I mean, it’s an affirmation of the deity of Jesus! Jesus addressed God as Father every time… absolutely every time… except for one time. The only time Jesus ever addressed His Father without calling Him “Father” (Do you remember when?) It was at the cross, the eternal communion of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit when the great separation was taking place as He bore our sins in His body on that tree. He didn’t cry out “Father,” but, “My GOD, my GOD! Why have You forsaken Me?” What a perfect Heavenly Father we have that would give up His own Son, who would bring that Son to a place where the intimacy would be broken so that He could bring you and me into his family!
Some of you need forgiveness today. You’ve never been forgiven. You don’t know the feeling or the experience of having all of your sins taken away. Father God will forgive you completely if you’ll come to Him through His Son who died and rose for you. Some of you feel unloved, especially when you think about your dad. Your dad wasn’t around. I had somebody come to me just an hour ago and said, “That was me. I never had a dad to love me, to rear me, to hug me, to praise me, to affirm me, to discipline me, to speak a strong word to me. He just wasn’t there.’ Do you need that today? Behold, the God who will love you perpetually! Some of you just need a divine hug from God! He is here to give it to you. Behold your God! Do you know Him? Let’s pray together.
Our Father in Heaven, we love you and bless your name. We thank you for Your word, for its truth, and for the ability to have a theology that’s on fire! Please give that to us, Lord. That’s the analogy of you, that as we behold You, to know that you’re beholding us, and in our striving to look more like Jesus, You’re the One making it happen. We thank You, Lord, that You sit in front of the cauldron that we are in. You don’t let it get too hot, but You allow it to get just hot enough so that You’ll see Yourself a little bit better in our lives. Help us to that end. We pray, Lord, as we behold Your love, we thank you that it’s so perpetual, that it’s never ending. I pray that there would be somebody here today who would come into that love by faith in Your Son Jesus, and experience forgiveness and the compassion that never ends. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen. Let’s stand.