Psalm 139; Romans 11:34-36
We are experiencing something that we have not experienced since 9/11, when the terrorist attack orchestrated by Osama bin Laden resulted in the shutting down of our country. The emotional response was one mixed with both fear and resolve. Although the Coronavirus is different than the terrorist attack of 9/11 we suffered nearly two decades ago, it feels like we have been hijacked by an enemy of equal proportions that has paralyzed so many with fear.
The stockpiling of toilet paper and hand sanitizer that has literally cleaned out the shelves where they once could be found, has more to do with a fear of the kind of suffering the pandemic could bring then anything else. The fact that people are afraid should cause the Church to serve our neighbors in tangible acts of love along with the intentional sharing of the good news of the Gospel. The Gospel is simply this: “that Christ died for our sins accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). Because Jesus walked out of the tomb on the third day, we are promised a day that will come to pass when we will be able to sing: “‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”(vv. 54-57).
As those who believe in the Christ, who died for our sins and defeated the grave when his rose from it, we can agree and celebrate with the apostle John: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1). This belief is the reason the apostle Paul could encourage a group of Christians, who experienced horrific persecution for their faith in Jesus, that resulted in death for many of them by reminding them of the reality of every follower of Jesus who has been touched by death: “We do not grieve as others who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13).
With the time that we have this morning, I want to briefly point out two realities that the world rejects. These have been the two themes of our sermon series, “Who Am I?” As I bring this series to an end, my hope is for your heart to soar over who you are in light of who God is.
You Are Fearfully and Wonderfully Made in the Image of God
The two conclusions David made in Psalm 139 are as follows: (1) God is who he is and there is nothing that I can do about it, and (2) I am who I am because of who God is. The world may hear this as bad news, but it is good news. It is good news in an age of global pandemics because of who God is. So… who is God? According to Psalm 139, God is all-knowing (vv. 1-2), all-present (vv. 7-8), and all-powerful (v. 13). Because God is all those things, he is a God without limits (Rom. 11:33).
We are told of who God is in the Bible. We are told, in Romans 11:33 that he lacks in nothing because he is completely and perfectly sufficient (see also Job 41:11). There is nothing we can take away from God, or add to him; this is the Apostle Paul’s point in Romans 11:34-35, “‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Because God is sufficient and lacks nothing, he does not change, he is not fickle, he does not get frustrated, and he never has a bad day (James 1:17).
Because God does not change, we can be sure that he is perfectly and fully righteous, loving, and good (Psalm 103:6-10). If God is sufficient then he is not lacking in being a God of righteousness, love, or goodness; there is nothing that you can add to him nor is there anything you can take from him. All of his actions flow out of who he is as a God that is all-knowing, all-present, all-powerful, all-sufficient, all-righteous, all-loving, and completely and perfectly good. So, when God created all things, he called it “good.” All things were as he said they were: Good! When God made Adam from the dust of the earth and Eve from his rib, he said that it was “very good” (Gen. 1:31).
The only creature in all of creation that bore the image of God on the sixth day of creation was Adam and Eve. Their purpose and identity as human beings were threefold: Worship their creator, fill the earth with humans like themselves, and manage the earth God created. Unlike the offspring of the animal kingdom, from the moment of conception, humans are set apart as being “fearfully and wonderfully made” in the image of a good God who does not make mistakes (Ps. 139:14; Gen. 1:27)!
As creatures who bear the image of God, our identity is found not in a physical romance but a divine romance with our creator that is expressed and experienced through worship, community with his people, and serving our neighbors who need to be reconciled to a God that they do not yet know the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As creatures who bear the image of God, our joy is sustained in the reality of who we are as human beings whose purpose is rooted in knowing God as the people of God for the glory of God in a world that is antagonistic towards God. We were made for joy and not sorrow; the remedy for seasons of despondency is given to us in passages like Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
As creatures who bear the image of God in a world under the curse of sin where things are not the way they ought to be or should be. As followers of Jesus, we know that reason pandemics happen is the same reason why catastrophes, famines, death, and disease happen. Adam and Eve rebelled in the garden and we have not been the same since (see Rom. 5:12, 14). But sin and suffering are not the end of our story. The remedy of our sin and the cure for the curse are the same: “For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many…. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men” (v. 15, 18). As image bearers of the God who loved us by sending his son to die for our sins, our suffering is not what defines us. Your suffering is not what defines you. Listen, your suffering is being used by God to shape you for his purposes that are motivated by his righteousness, by his love, and by his goodness. Why? Because you belong to him! This is why the apostle Paul could write, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18).
As creatures who bear the image of God, when your suffering seems to rob you of what you had or what you want, know that because you belong to him (1 Cor. 6:20), you have not really lost anything. The God who fearfully and wonderfully formed you in the womb of your mother is the God who reverently and extraordinarily set you apart for his kingdom purposes. The one to whom you belong is the one who is greater than your loss. When the ground seems to be giving way from underneath you, when it seems that all that you have to stand on are the ashes of your hopes and dreams, it is He who is your strength and it is to him you can sing in the midst of your loss: “The Sovereign covenant-keeping God is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the high places” (Hab. 3:19).
As creatures who are fearfully and wonderfully made, you are not a fragmented person whose identity is found in who you are attracted to, or what you can contribute to society, but in the God who set his affections on all of you as a person! Oh dear Christian, you are loved with an everlasting love: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).
When Jesus died, he died not just to reconcile us to the God our sin offended and incensed to the point of every one of us deserving his white-hot wrath, Jesus died so that our identity as human beings could be fully and experientially realized. It is our sin that renders us less than whole, and fractured from the humanity God created us to experience. Our brokenness or imperfection is not due to our humanity but our sin. The Bible says that Jesus died to set us free (Gal. 5:1), “You ae not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:20).
This leads me to the “So what?” part of my sermon and the reason and purpose you placed your faith and trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and the salvation of your soul.
You are Reverently and Extraordinarily Set Apart for the Glory of God and the Good of the World
Because you are a human being, you are more than what the world says you are! You are a human being who has been carefully and decisively formed in the womb of your mother with purpose and value because you were made in the image of God. This is something we humans share in common with every other human being on planet earth regardless of skin color or ethnicity; this is what it means to be the human race.
Our problem and our curse is sin, and God’s remedy was to become our curse in our place through the person, work, and death of his son, Jesus the Christ (Gal. 3:13-14). If you are a Christian, your identity has been ransomed, your identity has been redeemed, your identity has been renewed through the God who became perfect humanity in and through Jesus. This is the gospel, this is the greatest news every human being needs to hear. It is because of this good news, we can sing:
What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus; What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. Oh! precious is the flow That makes me white as snow; No other fount I know, Nothing but the blood of Jesus. Glory! Glory! This I sing Nothing but the blood of Jesus, All my praise for this I bring Nothing but the blood of Jesus To the cross I proudly cling All my neighbors to Christ I bring Of the Savior I boldly sing, Nothing but the blood of Jesus
Think about who you are in light of the gospel. When we were far from God, God pursued us. When we were dead in our sins, God made us alive in Jesus. When we followed the ethics of this world, Jesus found us and asked us to follow him to live by his ethics. When we were destined for hell, God purchased our forgiveness and made us a citizen of heaven. When we were enemies of God, God befriended us. When we were unrighteous, God made us righteous through His Son. When we were blind, God made us see. When we were in darkness, God brought us into his light. We were made to love because God first loved us! Because God loved us, your identity is not in who the world says you are, but who God has declared you to be.
Because you are an image bearer of the living God, because your sins have been forgiven as a result of your faith in Jesus, and because you have been reconciled to the God who made and designed you with purpose, what you do with our body matters. How you live your life matters. What you say matters. Everything you do, says something about God to the world around you. The question I want to leave you with is, “Christian, what are you saying to the world about the God whose image you reflect?”
Our mission statement says the following about our church: “Meadowbrooke Church exists to develop followers of Jesus who prayerfully engage their communities with the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Our hope for you my dear brothers and sisters is that as you grow in your faith and maturity as a follower of Jesus, you will spend your life in prayerful engagement with a world that desperately needs to hear and believe the good news of the gospel that promises reconciliation with an all-knowing, all-present, all-powerful, all-sufficient, all-righteous, all-loving, and completely and perfectly good God who promises to never leave or forsake his children.
My prayer for you Meadowbrooke Church is that the reality of being both “fearfully and wonderfully” made in the image of God, and “reverently and extraordinarily” being set apart by God, for his glory and mission, will free you up to do gospel-centered and God-begotten courageous acts in his name for his glory. Just as the resurrection of Jesus validates the message of the gospel, how you live your life validates the faith you have in the Jesus who conquered the grave so that you would never experience defeat by it. How you live your life and use your body matters!
Our nation is plagued not by viruses, but primarily by the fear of death. The primary way we engage our communities with the gospel is by loving our neighbors through courageous acts of mercy along with the bold witness of the hope we have in Jesus. You are no longer a slave to fear, you are a child of God. So… let’s live our lives in that reality!