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Sabbath Mornings at Ballymacashon – 14th April 2013

14/04/2013

This past week brought sorrow to our small fellowship at Ballymacashon.  We lost a dearly loved friend and supporter of the Lord’s work, Noel Milliken.  The events of the week and the funeral caused me to change my planned sermon to allow the congregation to meditate on God’s goodness.  I’ve included a transcript of the message below.

He Restoreth My Soul

Text Psalm 23

Possibly the most well-known portion of Scripture, – perhaps after John 3:16.  Although I did meet a girl once at a funeral, and I mentioned that I would read the 23rd Psalm, and she asked me, “What’s that?” – a definite sign of  the secularisation of our modern society.

This psalm gives us the great comfort of knowing that we are the Lord’s people, – His sheep, a theme developed right throughout the psalms and explained even more fully by Jesus in theNT.  We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.  We are those who have heard his voice, and come to him, and we are those who shall find pasture, and none shall pluck us from his hand. David, the psalmist, writing in the 23rd psalm, speaks of the Lord as being HIS shepherd.  David would have known this well, for he himself had been a shepherd, and he had been singularly blessed of the Lord.  He had been described as a man after God’s own heart’ So he sets out the blessings of being one of the Lord’s sheep…

 

1. The Blessings of The Shepherd’s Flock.

 

1. The Peace of the Lord, our Shepherd.  There is great peace in really knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.  It is described as being the peace that passeth all understanding.  This is true.  Even at a time like this the Christian has a wonderful peace in his heart.  David describes the benefits of knowing God’s peace:

  • We lack nothing!  I shall not want You see when we have Jesus, there is nothing more that this world can give us.  All the things of earth lose their appeal!  This world is striving for so much and we have so much, yet there is an emptiness that will not go away!  We see this exemplified in the worship of the cult of celebrity.  It’s a modern phenomenon in our society, – people want to be recognised, to be a star, to be wealthy, and to have this high-flying celebrity lifestyle.  Even the way modern names are selected for our children, seems to illustrate the desire to give them some kind of celebrity status too.  YET, FOR ALL THAT – THE PEOPLE WE SEE AROUND US IN THE WORLD ARE UNHAPPY, STILL UNFULFILLED, STILL STRIVING AND SEARCHING. Their empty lives are reflected in their lifestyles.  Tennis star Boris Becker was at the very top of the tennis world — yet he was on the brink of suicide. He said, “I had won Wimbledon twice before, once as the youngest player. I was rich. I had all the material possessions I needed … It’s the old song of movie stars and pop stars who commit suicide. They have everything, and yet they are so unhappy. I had no inner peace. I was a puppet on a string.”   The echoes of a hollow life pervade our culture.  Jack Higgens, author of such successful novels and The Eagle Has Landed, was asked what he would like to have known as a boy. His answer: “That when you get to the top, there’s nothing there.”  When we have Jesus we have a completeness in life that nothing else can give.  We no longer have to strive, we no longer desire the pleasures and stardom and worthless, passing trinkets of this world.  We have everything IN CHRIST, and we lack nothing.   That is why Paul talked about being with Christ, which is far better!  A hymnwriter said, “I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold…”  And that sense of completeness in Christ means that…
  • We have great peace! He maketh me to lie down in green pastures he leadeth me beside the still waters There is rest and contentment for those who know the Lord!  Jesus still offer us this rest.  He says, Matthew 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 

 

2. The Protection of the Lord  David expressed his confidence in the leading of God.  he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  God always leads us in paths of righteousness.  But we must follow Him, and we have His roadmap in His Word, the Bible.  Even in the darkest of times He remains with those who love Him. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

  • The Lord relieves us of our fear. I will fear no evil: for thou art with me
  • The Lord Himself goes with us to protect us! thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.  Even at the darkest times, knowing the presence of the Lord brings comfort and help.  We can lean on Him as our staff, and depend on the protection of His rod!

The early American Indians had a unique practice of training young braves. On the night of a boy’s thirteenth birthday, after learning hunting, scouting, and fishing skills, he was put to one final test. He was placed in a dense forest to spend the entire night alone. Until then, he had never been away from the security of the family and the tribe. But on this night, he was blindfolded and taken several miles away. When he took off the blindfold, he was in the middle of a thick woods and he was terrified! Every time a twig snapped, he visualized a wild animal ready to pounce. After what seemed like an eternity, dawn broke and the first rays of sunlight entered the interior of the forest. Looking around, the boy saw flowers, trees, and the outline of the path. Then, to his utter astonishment, he beheld the figure of a man standing just a few feet away, armed with a bow and arrow. It was his father.  He had been there all night long. 

 

3. The Provision of the Lord!

David recognized one of life’s great truths, which is so often overlooked by men today.  Everything we have is His!  Throughout life He sustains us, gives us food and drink, looks after us.  We call this ‘common grace’ and how often we take it, and never think that Psalm 24:1 The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.  So David acknowledges the Lord’s good provision throughout life.   Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.   And that means through all of life, in good times and in bad.  Corrie ten Boom wrote:Often I have heard people say, “How good God is! We prayed that it would not rain for our church picnic, and look at the lovely weather!'” Yes, God is good when He sends good weather. But God was also good when He allowed my sister, Betsie, to starve to death before my eyes in a German concentration camp. I remember one occasion when I was very discouraged there. Everything around us was dark, and there was darkness in my heart. I remember telling Betsie that I thought God had forgotten us. “No, Corrie,” said Betsie, “He has not forgotten us. Remember His Word: ‘For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him.'” Corrie concludes, “There is an ocean of God’s love available–there is plenty for everyone. May God grant you never to doubt that victorious love–whatever the circumstances.”

 

4. The Paradise of the Lord.

I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever Of all the great goodness that the Lord has done for us, this is the greatest.  For those who who are His redeemed people, there is the promise of life with Him for all eternity!  We shall be with Him for ever!  Jesus said, Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.  He always keeps his promises.

 

 

2. The Method by which the Blessings are Granted.

There is a verse of this psalm, upon which all the other experiences of life which David describes depends.  He said, “He restoreth my soul”   All of these great blessing are contingent upon one thing, one phrase in the Psalm, and it is this:- He restoreth my soul.   David’s soul had been restored!   We need our souls restored, for by nature and practice we are sinners, and we cannot cleanse our own souls, or clean up our own lives.  So we must go to Jesus, who died on the cross, to take our sins, and to restore our souls.  But how can this restoration take place?

Let’s meditate upon that phrase in the psalm just for a moment…

  • HE restoreth my soul – so that restoration is a work of God in Christ alone.  Please understand that the restoration of the soul is only the Lord’s doing.  It is God’s work from beginning to end.  The Psalmist did not say, ‘I have restored my soul’ – or ‘I decided to restore my soul and the Lord helped me.’  It is the Lord’s work from beginning to end.  Of course there  are those who will argue that there is a responsibility upon man – but that responsibility is a response to what the Lord has already done, in taking our place on the cross, in effectually awakening our consciences and calling us by his grace to himself…  (The nature of the divine dichotomy that exists, the tension between the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man has long been debated, but these are the two side of the single coin.  One side has an image relating to man – a shamrock or a thistle or a rose etc, and the other side had an image of the sovereign.  Both are present, and both are needed.)  We must invite others to come to Christ, knowing that those who are his will respond to that invitation.  We must respond to his saving work, by acknowledging our own helplessness and casting our all upon him.  We love the Lord, only because He first loved us…  We decide for Christ, only because he has first decided for us.  We shall see more of this in a few moments…
  • He RESTORETH my Soul, and the work that does is radical and life giving..  This work is a complete work.  The idea of restoration of the soul is the idea of a resurrection.  Jesus said, John 5:24. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.  The soul is fully restored.  It was a dead soul.  Now it is a living soul, a new creation, in Christ.
  • He Restoreth MY Soul, in the personal meaning of that truth.  This is so personal.  MY SOUL has been restored.  If there had been only one sinner in this world, and that sinner had been me Jesus would still have died for me.  A poet put it like this, ‘When he was on the cross, I was on is mind…’  Lets use this metaphor of the sheep again, and turn again to the teaching of Christ…Do you remember the story of the ninety-nine sheep in the fold?   Matthew  18:12  How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? 13And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.  There was one sheep that was missing out of the hundred.  So the shepherd left the ninety and nine that were safely in the ford, and went out and searched, and found the lost sheep, and plucked it out of its dangerous and perilous state and brought that poor wretched creature home, and provided for it.  And what of the work of the sheep? It is simply to trust the shepherd.  Let me illustrate this for you… This year, 2013 has seen some of the worst weather conditions that our farming community have had to endure for many years.  We have seen awful images of the farmers on the higher ground and hills having to dig sheep out of huge snowdrifts.  They dig down into the snow, not knowing whether the sheep will be alive or dead, not knowing whether it will have been attacked by vicious and predatory animals and birds – but knowing this one certain thing, that the lost sheep is vulnerable, in peril, and unable to help itself.  It can’t get out of the snow by its own efforts.  It has tried, and in trying all it has achieved is to exhaust itself, and become even more at risk.  So the shepherd searches and digs and looks, and pulls the sheep up out of its miserable condition, and brings it safely home to the fold.  – and all the lost exhausted sheep can do is to trust the shepherd to do his saving work.  He restoreth MY soul.
  • He Restoreth my SOUL within me.  It is an inner work.  It is the soul that is restored. It is a new birth.  It is not a clean-up of the life, not an outward polishing of the character.  It is the soul and the spirit within that is dead in sin, and it is the soul and spirit within that must be regenerated, restored to life.

 

So, there are great blessings for the believer, both in this life, and in eternity.   The blessings of peace and protection and provision and paradise.  And all of those blessings stem from the saving work of Christ, accomplished on the Cross and applied by the Holy Spirit to our souls.

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