This is a sermon I preached in July of last year for the youth service in Robertson. I revisited it because I have been looking at Psalm 103, and I totally remembered that I spoke on it!
I am planning on memorising this Psalm. Memorising Scripture is something I rarely do, but the benefits of doing it are priceless. It’s great to have something to focus your time on, but also it is so good to be able to recall the promises of God and the truths of Scripture when we are struggling.
Here it is (minus a conclusion…apparently I made it up on the spot? I think I just ran out of time when writing it haha).
Psalm 103 – Sermon Notes
As I sat down on Friday night to work on this talk I was hit with the realization that God himself has trusted me to speak to you tonight. At first my heart started beating with the weight of responsibility, but then I remembered that it is God who speaks through me, so I don’t have anything to worry about. That being said, I’m going to pray for myself and for you guys before we get stuck into it.
I love the Psalms. There is just something about reading them and feeling the raw emotion and desires of the writers. The Psalms point me to the awesomeness of God, but at the same time they show me that it is okay for us to cry out to God in pain and questioning.
Whenever I get up to speak to people, whether it be here at church or at my old job, my knee jerk reaction is to preach on a passage from one of the New Testament letters. I don’t quite know why it is – it’s just what I do. But as I started running through ideas in my head for this talk I was challenged to step outside my comfort zone and work through something from the Old Testament. So Psalm 103 it is!
This is not necessarily one of the better-know Psalms, like Psalm 139, but as I was flicking through my Bible this particular Psalm grabbed my attention. We are going to be looking at the psalm but I also hope that I can leave you with some practical things to take home.
There are four main points that jumped out at me as I read this Psalm, and they are the points I want you to remember from tonight. They are; we are to FEAR the Lord, PRAISE the Lord, REMEMBER the Lord, and FOLLOW the Lord.
Fear Him, Praise Him, Remember Him and Follow Him.
We are going to be working through these four points together, so keep your Bible open at Psalm 103 because we are going to be jumping around the Psalm a bit.
Point 1: Fear Him
OK, so our first point; we are to FEAR God. Now, when you hear the word ‘fear’ what comes to your mind? I don’t know if it is the same for you, but when I think of fear I think of being really scared of something to the point where my chest feels tight and my heart hurts. But if we look at this Psalm, which is written by David, we are told to fear the Lord.
Have a look at verses 11, 13 and 17. Verse 11: ‘For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him…’, verse 13: ‘As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him…’ and verse 17:‘ But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him…’.
God loves those of us who fear Him.
There are a bunch of references like these throughout the Bible in regard to fearing God, and it has been something that I have grappled with since the day I became a Christian. I mean why should I be afraid of or scared of God if he is so loving and forgiving and compassionate and merciful and gracious? And I think the answer is that my idea or concept of fear is very different to the Biblical concept of fearing God. My idea of fear is very different to the Biblical concept of fearing God.
Let me explain.
When the Bible speaks about fearing God, it doesn’t necessarily mean being scared, afraid, frightened or terrified in the negative way we think about these feelings. It’s actually referring to having a healthy respect for God. It’s recognising God for who He is; holy, almighty, righteous, just, pure, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-wise, and so much more. Fearing God is recognising Him for who He is. And when we actually do that, when we understand the power and the awesomeness of God, our only response is to fall at his feet with humility, repentance and respect.
If you are someone who calls yourself a Christian and you live with Jesus as your King you don’t need to fear death or God’s punishment; Jesus has paid for it all on the cross. But you do need to understand who God is, and rightly respect Him.
So what does that look like in our lives? How do we live practically in fear of the Lord as David says? Well, luckily for us the next three points we are going to look at will give us some tips.
Before we move on there is one thing I want to say here. There are some people out there who talk to God and about God like he is their best friend, like he’s their buddy-buddy, like their equal. Now I’m not saying that that is never ok, God is a friend to us, but He is so much more than that. God is the creator and sustainer of the entire universe. If he wanted to he could take my life, or yours, just like that (click). And we need to remember that. In the same way we are called to respect our parents because they have authority over us, we need to remember who God is.
All right, so what does that look like?
Point 2: Praise Him
Point two; we should praise God. Psalm 103 is like a praise sandwich. If you look at it, the first and last chunk are all about God being praised. We are going to focus on verse one tonight, which says; ‘Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.’ I love the Holman’s translation of this verse which says; ‘My soul, praise the LORD, and all that is within me, praise His holy name.’
The thing that struck me about this verse is that David didn’t say ‘praise the LORD on Sundays, when I’m at church, praise the LORD when I sing a hymn.’ No, what David is talking about is so much more than that. Praising God is about expressing our respect and thankfulness towards God. It’s about voicing or showing our admiration of Him.
Now, this is what we do on Sundays at church, when we sing together and pray together – we are praising God. But in this Psalm David is picking up on something that runs a lot deeper than that. David is praising God from the very core of who he is.
When you sing here at church, when you praise God in song, are you just doing it because everyone else is? Are you singing because that is what you have been brought up to do? Or are you worried that if you don’t stand and sing people with think badly of you?
Or are you praising God from the bottom of your heart, with all that is in you? Are you praising God because you have recognised who he is and you love him with all of your heart? Are you filled with an inexpressible joy at the thought of Him and his love?
Praising God is not just about singing in church and praying to him – it’s about how we live our day-to-day lives.
And that brings us to our next point; Remembering God.
Point 3: Remember Him
Why does David praise God? And why should we praise Him? Have a look at verses two to six. ‘Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.’ And verses nine and ten, ‘He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.’
We don’t just praise God because he tells us to, we praise God in response to who He is and what he has already done for us. That’s the beautiful thing about the Christian faith, and it’s what separates Christianity from a lot of other religions; God doesn’t say “fear me, praise me and follow me, and if you do a good enough job at it I might forgive you”. No, God has already paid for our sins and forgiven us…and now he calls us to fear him, and praise him and follow him.
I don’t know why it is, but it seems to be so easy for us to forget Jesus. And I don’t mean that we completely forget him and what he has done, but in the business and stresses of our day to day lives, when we are at work or at school, so often we are not thinking about Jesus. Now, it could be different for you; you could be someone who thinks about the gospel all the time, but for me personally, I’m not one of those people. I need to hear the gospel every day. I need to read about it and I need to wake up and preach it to myself.
You can never be ‘too Christian’ to hear the gospel. You can never be too godly to hear the Gospel. We all need to hear it every day. We need to be reminded, as David says, that God has forgiven us for all our sins…we don’t have to endure the wrath and anger we deserve. God promises to heal us; and if it doesn’t happen in this life we can have assurance that we will have perfect bodies in the next life.
So how can we make sure that we are hearing the gospel every day? There are a bunch of different ways, but I want to give you two ways that I have found very helpful in my daily walk as a Christian.
Firstly, we need to get into the Word daily. Now I know this is hard. I know that sometimes (or most of the time) its a struggle to drag yourself out of bed in time for school, let alone getting up half an hour earlier to read the Bible. I know that reading magazines or fiction books is sometimes more appealing. I know that going on Facebook in so much easier then reading the Bible. I Know. But I also know that my days are filled with so much more joy and love if I spend the morning with God, and reading about his love for me which was displayed on the cross.
Secondly, one thing that I find very helpful is listening to Christian music. And there are two reasons why I try and do this. One, because it points me to Jesus; and two, because it means that I’m not listening to songs that are filled with sex and drugs and worldliness.
We need to remember the Lord and hear the gospel daily in order for us to live a life worthy of our calling – and that brings us to our final point; we are to Follow Jesus.
Point 4: Follow Him
If we recognise God for who He is and what he has done for us, the only right response for us to have is to follow in his footsteps. As Christians we are called to live like Jesus did. We are called to love like Jesus does.
I recently read this book, which was leant to me by a friend, and in it the author, Francis Chan, inspires and motivates his readers to take the words of Jesus seriously in their lives. In one of the most challenging chapters in the entire book Chan gives a description of what half-hearted, distracted, partially committed, and lukewarm Christians can look like. As I read through some of these examples, I encourage you to have an honest look at your life. Not who you want to be in the future, but who you are now and how you are living today.
- Lukewarm people attend church fairly regularly. It is what is expected of them, what they believe “good Christians” do, so they go.
- Lukewarm people give money to charity and to the church…as long as it doesn’t interfere with their standard of living.
- Lukewarm people tend to choose what is popular over what is right. They desire to fit in both at church and outside of church; they care more about what people think of their actions than what God thinks of their hearts and lives.
- Lukewarm people don’t really want to be saved from their sin; they only want to be saved from the penalty of their sin. They don’t genuinely hate sin and aren’t truly sorry for it; they’re merely sorry because God is going to punish them.
- Lukewarm people are moved by stories about people who do radical things for Christ, yet they do not act. They assume such action is for ‘extreme’ Christians, not average ones.
- Lukewarm people rarely share their faith with their neighbors or friends. They don’t want to be rejected. Nor do they want to make people uncomfortable by talking about things like religion.
- Lukewarm people say they love Jesus, and He is part of their lives…but only a part. They give him a section of their time, money and thoughts…but he isn’t allowed to control their lives.
- Lukewarm people love others but do not seek to love others as much as they love themselves.
- Lukewarm people probably drink and swear less than average, but besides that, they really aren’t very different from your typical unbeliever.
I want us to focus finally now on verse eight, which says ‘The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love’. This verse is talking about God’s character, but could it also describe you? Because the Bible says that we should imitate Christ, and other people should be able to recognise us by our love for others.
Are you someone who shows concern for others? Are you kind to those around you at school? Both the people you like but also those who are hard to like? Do you stand up for those at school who are getting teased, bullied or left out? Do you love and respect your parents, even if they are getting on your nerves? These are just a few practical ways in which you can show your love for Christ to those around you.
If you are anything like me, you will hear all of these things and think “well I want to be like that, but I find it so hard – I just keep stuffing up”. I know that everyone’s walk is different, but for me, I relate my walk with Jesus like a skill that we have to practice at.