It has been a few months since I have been able to sit down and write a blog post. Life has been a bit insane and my family is in the midst of a transition. This has given me some opportunity to contemplate a few things as we plan and wait for this transition to come to pass. I have been a pastor / elder for about 13 years now. Three years ago, my family and I came to Lima, OH, where I became a full-time, paid, senior pastor. Having left a warm, loving and healthy church environment we (I) set out to minister in a small, elderly, declining church.
Open My Mouth in a Parable – SERMON AUDIO
Amidst all of the goings on in the Church today, it seems that many of them have lost their way. Some are wildly successful (at least in running the business end of things). They have large, fancy buildings, multiple paid staff, and hundreds or even thousands of people attending every week. Not all of them, but many of them, have missed it where it is most important. They have wandered away from the central truths of the Christian Faith and begun to preach a message that is more inclined toward self-help with God as your personal “Life-Coach.” Some have wandered into a “Health and Wealth” idea of the Gospel, that it is really about God wanting to bless His people materially and that if I can “work the system” well enough, I too can be fat and happy! This is really just a mystical modification of classic Deism! In the midst of this, there are some smaller churches that wear their smallness as a badge of honor. “We are small, because we are the faithful remnant in the midst of the Great Apostasy of our day,” they tell themselves. “We have not compromised like the others.”
I know that there are churches, many churches, small and large, who are about the business of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Size is not the determining factor in a church’s faithfulness! But even those who are small are not always small because they are faithful, though they imagine that this is so. Many are small because they have taken a Pharisaical attitude and have become introverted and self-righteous. They sit in judgment of the rest of the Body of Christ because thy want to feel superior to them. This is not only the case with the small churches however. Many of the more hip and younger churches treat the older members of their own churches like the little old churches treat the big, young, hip churches and their members, as though they, themselves are better Christians and far superior to those who think church should be done a different way. I would tell you that both of these groups of professing Christians should examine their profession of faith and see whether, failing to be able to love their brothers and sisters in Christ, they can claim to know Christ at all!
1 John 3:14-19 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. 15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 19 And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.
So, what does all of this have to do with Psalm 78? Well, as Asaph wrote this Psalm, he was calling his own nation to repentance and to the acknowledgement of what God had done for them. He was also calling them to the God-given responsibility they had to make sure that the next generation knew and understood who God is and what He has done for His people. That they could count on His blessing and provision as they were faithful to the task of pointing the next generation to true and Biblical faith.
Psalms 78:1-8 A Contemplation Of Asaph. Give ear, O my people, to my law; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. 2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, 3 Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us. 4 We will not hide them from their children, Telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done. 5 For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should make them known to their children; 6 That the generation to come might know them, The children who would be born, That they may arise and declare them to their children, 7 That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments; 8 And may not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not set its heart aright, And whose spirit was not faithful to God.
Why was Israel in apostasy? Why were things in the Kingdom going from bad to worse? Because the previous generation had been unfaithful. The older folks were not really trusting God, but trusting in their own forms of religion. They were dissatisfied with God and His provision for them. They were a bunch of grumbley, complaining old coots who did not really have the testimony of actually Trusting God themselves. They were not able to communicate God’s faithfulness because they failed to recognize it in their own lives. They were a “stubborn and rebellious generation” and here they were thinking they were holy! Why do we live in a nation where a successful church is often one that is more focused on self-help than sin, righteousness and judgment? Because the previous generation has (not completely, but in large part) not been able to communicate the truths of God’s Word to this generation, often for the very same reasons!
Psalms 78:2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, 3 Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us. 4 We will not hide them from their children, Telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.
But Asaph calls the people back to faithfulness, but also to creativity! He says, “I will open my mouth in a parable…” That is, he will creatively draw comparisons to things that the next generation can understand and relate to. We often fail to relate the truth in ways that our generation can grasp, or to relate it to where they are at, socially, intellectually or spiritually. And so, they wander off and, if they stay in the Faith at all, they they become guilty of twisting it up into something that feels good to them, just like their fathers did.
But it is not just creativity that Asaph calls them to. He also says ” I will utter dark sayings of old,” That is, that he is going to deal with the Whole Counsel of God. He will deal with the weighty and difficult matters of the Faith and pass them on in a way that the next generation will be able to comprehend.
Whether you are apart of an small church or a large one. We all bear this responsibility! How are you being creative in reaching this generation? Just as importantly, How faithfully are you communicating the “dark sayings” which were passed down from our fathers, to that generation? It is not an either / or kind of thing. God’s faithfulness and power are made apparent to us throughout the history of God’s ancient people in the Old Testament, but also in the New Testament as the Church comes into being and is sustained by God through times of great conflict. I would even encourage you to look at Church History, especially from the Apostolic Church through the Dark Ages and into the time of the Reformation. But not just abstract historical data. Remember the power and faithfulness of God in your own life and the lives of your family members.
I encourage you to listen to the sermon and I pray that it would compel you to seek the Lord for the grace to communicate the Christian Faith to this generation and the generations to come.
Open My Mouth in a Parable – SERMON AUDIO