September 23, 2018
Pastor Frank Bowden
Can I admit something to you? The older that I get, the more aware of this fact I become: Membership matters. In college, the fraternity or the sorority that you pledge to will dictate a lot about how your 4-6 years of college will go. That membership matters. If you’re a parent of small kids, every membership is a step toward preserving your sanity. -having a pass to Callaway Gardens, a local library, a seasonal membership at a city pool where they can go to burn off some energy… That membership matters. People find all kinds of groups to become members of because that affiliation does something. It fulfills something within them. I knew I had reached a milestone in adulthood when I finally got my membership into the exclusive Sam’s Club! Not many places will feed you samples while you shop. And, how empowering does it feel to flash your card at the door, while everyone without a card is left outside begging for you to sneak them in? For a brief second, you completely forget you’re just going into a grocery and supply store. You relish in the feeling of belonging. That membership matters.
Our text this morning, Psalm 67, speaks to a different kind of membership. -one that matters in this life and in the next life. And unlike some the memberships we mentioned a second ago, this membership isn’t exclusive to one type of person or one that only seeks a certain group of people. It isn’t gained from a credential you earn during your life or buy with your wealth, but this Psalm describes a membership that is inclusive of all peoples, a membership that is available to anyone, living anywhere on the planet. As members of this unique body, you and I have the privilege and responsibility to see it become full, complete, representative of all the peoples and cultures on earth.
For several weeks now, our church has been having courageous conversations about race, racism, diversity, and how it all fits together in the Gospel storyline. And it’s okay to admit that it has been hard and sometimes uncomfortable or that you feel your ideals are being challenged. But can I remind you why this is so important? – because having these conversations and participating in a One Race rally at Stone Mountain and forming relationships and partnerships throughout our community in neighborhoods that are ethnically and culturally different than our own is the very essence of your significance in life. Many things are important, but as followers of King Jesus, the greatest cause and reason for living is sharing in the purpose of God being glorified among all the nations.
This sermon series is first and foremost about the glory of Jesus. We desire to look as much like heaven as possible at Calvary Baptist Church because as he is glorified by members with different colors of skin and different cultures, we enjoy the blessing that comes from that diversity. It’s a small glimpse into what our eternity in heaven may look, sound and feel like. I want us all to be reminded this morning what really matters. -who really matters, and how we, Calvary Baptist Church, and you as individuals fit into the equation. Let’s start by reading all of Psalm 67 together.
What I like about this Psalm is how simple it is. There is one point, one over-arching truth here, but understanding this truth and the significance of it is absolutely critical to understanding Christianity. Here is the truth: God blesses his people to be a blessing to the nations for the sake of His praise. God will bless you, so that you will bless (or in Calvary language reach) others. -for them to praise God. Here’s how this truth plays out in Psalm 67.
God’s purpose is to be…
I. Known by all
1 May God be gracious to us and bless us; may he make his face shine upon us Selah 2 so that your way may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.
The first verse should sound really familiar to you. It’s nearly identical to the blessing Aaron’s sons would speak over Israel. We find it in Numbers 6:24-26, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.” This blessing became a central part to Israelite liturgy. There’s something unique happening in verse 1. Notice the structure of this Psalm. It has a pause built into the text. It says “Selah.” This word is widely accepted as a musical term that signifies a rest, a type of pause. It’s like it is saying, “Hang on just a second. Don’t move too fast in the song. Just rest here for a moment and let everything we just sang soak in.” It’s reflective.
Let’s do that. Think about what this verse means in your life today…what it means for God to be gracious to you… think about your condition as a sinner, one who has rebelled against God, yet he shows you and me love that is unmerited and compassion that is undeserved. I think what’s not said is as important as what is said. Because of our sin that we’re born with, because of our first parents Adam and Eve, we deserve a curse. But instead of saying that, we have the beautiful proclamation, “May God bless you.” And because “Selah” is a pause and not a period, we have to keep going to complete the thought.
The most important word in this Psalm begins verse 2, “that”. God’s blessing to you is purposed so that something else might happen. “That your way may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.” Throughout the entirety of Scripture, God shows us His purpose to make Himself known. Pastor Alan taught this very truth in week 2 of this series from Genesis 12:2-3 where God spoke to Abraham and said “I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing. In you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” It’s the theme of Isaiah 49:6. “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach the end of the earth.” God desires to be known, and He purposes to make Himself known through His people Israel in the Old Testament and through the local church today.
John Piper wrote in an article, “God is calling us to be conduits of his grace, not cul-de- sacs.” The blessing you enjoy from having another day of life was never intended to stop with you, but I’ll show you what God has in mind with your blessings.
If you’re not familiar with the Joshua Project, I encourage you to spend some time on their website. They put in a tremendous amount of work to identify every unique people group on the planet, and with over 7 billion people to account for, defining what a people group is can be quite challenging. Literally, they are mapping diversity. Ideally, a people group would always mean that individuals in that group understand each other reasonably well and cultural barriers aren’t so high that the Gospel isn’t seriously hindered. There are some compromises to this (like allowing some people groups to speak more than one language), but this is the ideal definition.
They take all these people groups, roughly 17,000 total, and they plot them on the map with colored dots. These dots are a scale showing how the Gospel has reached and impacted that unique people group. Green is good (Evangelicals have significant presence). Yellow is okay (Few evangelicals, but a great need of commitment to biblical faith). Orange and Red is crisis (Few or none who identify as Christian, little or no gospel engagement or impact). And the number of groups that fall into this category is staggering: over 7,000 people groups. That equates to over 3 billion people or over 40% of the world population have never heard of the Gospel of Jesus. It isn’t that they heard and then rejected it; it is they’ve never heard of God’s grace in Christ.
You and I, and Calvary Baptist Church, have been blessed to see to it that all these dots can become green, that all the nations, in their unique qualities that make them different, can know God and praise God. This is why Calvary Baptist Church takes so seriously global and local missions and why we give thousands of dollars every year to missions for the sake of the nations and the praise of Jesus.
God’s purpose is to be known by all. And when we know Him rightly, it compels a certain response, a certain reaction from us.
II. Enjoyed by all
3 Let the peoples praise you, God; let all the peoples praise you. 4 Let the nations rejoice and shout for joy, for you judge the peoples with fairness and lead the nations on earth. Selah 5 Let the peoples praise you, God, let all the peoples praise you. 6 The earth has produced its harvest; God, our God, blesses us.
As we read Psalm 67, we cannot escape how it is intentionally multi-ethnic. Going back a few weeks to Pastor Alan’s sermon—he described how God took one race, the human race, and made it into many cultures and many ethnicities at the Tower of Babel, and they spread all throughout the world. This is in Genesis 11. It fascinates me that as soon as God divides the people, immediately in the next chapter we see Him enact the plan through Abraham for uniting them, that they may know Him and enjoy Him. God’s purpose has always been a diversity of peoples united by Him, enjoyed by all, for His glory.
These verses answer an important question for us about God. What exactly does he want to be enjoyed for? What does He want to be known for? What causes the nations to praise Him? I think there’s a message here to the nations who worship other gods, that He alone is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Verse 3, “Let the peoples (plural) praise you, O God; let the peoples praise you!”
The heart of this Psalm is bent toward all the nations of the world that are dying without Christ; this is a message of celebration, not condemnation. The real enjoyment here is that the light of God, His Son Jesus, shines upon the nations. God loves you! He sent His Jesus to die for you! John 3:17 gives us this hope, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that world might be saved through him.”
He is also Just. And while He is full of grace and possesses an everlasting love for you and me, He is a righteous judge. Verse 4 tells us God “judges the peoples with fairness.” If you’re one of the 7,000+ unreached people groups, this would be sobering news. I mean, put yourself in their shoes. Put yourself in the shoes of the Burmese, one of the top 100 largest unreached groups on the planet. Almost all of them in Myanmar are unreached with the Gospel. -less than half of 1%.
What if you were them? And let’s put all debate aside for this illustration and say this Gospel is true and God is indeed the Judge of all people everywhere, and because of your sin, you stood condemned before God. Wouldn’t you want somebody to come and tell you how you can be saved? Wouldn’t you beg for somebody to leave behind Calvary Baptist Church and the Chattahoochee Valley, take the risks of moving their family to Myanmar in order to learn your language so they could share this Gospel with you? -how the Judge has made a way for you to be saved from the penalty of sin? Yes, you’d want everybody, not just a select few in the church, but everybody coming after you and moving to you or making major sacrifices for you.
This is exactly the story of John Paton. In 1858, missionary John Paton and his wife, Mary, left a very successful urban ministry in Glasgow, Scotland for the unreached cannibal people of the New Hebrides Islands. They landed on the island of Tanna in November, and by March the next year, both his wife and newborn son had died from illness. He was devastated, but stayed for the next 4 years alone and served under intense persecution and constant danger until 1862 when he was driven away. At this moment Paton was at a crossroads. These people and this island already took my wife and son. Do I return for the sake of the Gospel or stay away? Two years later he returned with his new wife, Margaret, and they settled on the island of Aniwa. The natives were cannibals; they practiced infanticide and widow sacrifice to serve their husbands in the next world. But the Patons committed themselves to these people…they learned the language, reduced it writing, built orphanages, taught classes on sewing and singing and reading. In the course of 15 years, John and Margaret saw the entire Island of Aniwa turn to Christ. He wrote in his journal, “I claimed Aniwa for Jesus, and by the grace of God, Aniwa now worships at the Savior’s feet.” Today, 111 years after his death, about 85% of the population of Vanuatu identifies itself as Christian. They no longer practice cannibalism and ritual sacrifice. Instead, they praise the name of Jesus.
Can I ask you, if we fast forward 111 years, what does the Chattahoochee Valley look like because of Calvary Baptist Church and her members? When you leave this morning, look at the banners hanging in the welcome center on either side of the fountain. Be reminded what’s at stake just here in the Valley. 69% of the residents in Lee and Russell County are unreached; 37% have no religion. In Harris County, 53% are unreached, just slightly better than the 56% of the people in Muscogee County. Shame on us if those numbers stay the same or (heaven forbid) get worse over the next 111 years.
God’s purpose is to known by all, enjoyed by all, and lastly today, feared by all.
III. Feared by all
7 God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him.
What about God is to be feared or revered? It’s the cost of membership and our inability to pay it. In the court of heaven, the standard is perfection. -unblemished holiness and righteousness. Romans 5:19 says, “For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” The only fix, the only remedy for our sin failure is the perfect obedience of Jesus to God and the punishment of Jesus that he endured for all who believe in Him. This is not limited to just the people in the Christian tribe or to those of a certain ethnicity or only to those from a certain neighborhood, school, or socioeconomic background.
John Piper said during his message, Declaring His Glory Among the Nations:
How should you feel about the nations of the world? A passion for their salvation and a thrill that God rules over them all and calls us to be his emissaries to them all with the best news in the world, and that he will have a people of his own from all the nations, singing to him and ascribing glory and strength to his Son. You were made for this kind of joy. All the other joys of the Psalms, all the other emotions of the Psalms, are taking us here: the glory of God celebrated and sung by all the peoples of the earth.
So, how do you reach all peoples? First, keep Jesus as the center and focus of all that you do. When it comes to race and diversity, we can do all of that perfectly and still get it wrong. We can be perfectly diverse, we can stand united together, and we can fight for equality and reconciliation among all peoples. But, if the glory of Jesus isn’t first and foremost in all that we do, if it isn’t for his praise and namesake, then none of it matters, regardless of what we accomplish.
In the Chattahoochee Valley, there are 107 different country’s represented. -people who live here who are from the nations, from all over the globe. You don’t have to go any farther than a local park, department store, or restaurant to reach the nations and begin gospel friendships. But take it a step further. Go beyond just the workplace relationship. Invite someone from the nations, someone of a different ethnicity than you, over to your home. Serve them dinner or have a BBQ and watch a game on Saturday. Share and experience culture together in your living room or at your dining room table so that the Gospel which has so radically reshaped your life and eternity might do the same in theirs. That’s how we’ll change the color dots on the map of Russell County and Lee County, Harris and Muscogee from red to green. As they go back to wherever home is, they carry the Gospel with them, and the nations are changed. Why does diversity matter? Why are we committed to this even when it hurts? -Because in Christ, there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.
• Today, I want to know and enjoy Jesus. I invite Him to be Lord and Savior of my life.
+ I’ve allowed my faith to become status quo. Pray this week I will live with a risk-taking, life-giving, death-defying confidence in Jesus to make Him known.
– I allow many things to dictate my joy. Pray that I base my joy solely in Christ Jesus.
- What do you think it means that God’s heart is driven toward blessing? Can you think of other biblical texts that communicate this?
- What is the ultimate purpose behind God blessing us in Psalm 67:2? What do you see your role being in fulfilling that purpose?
- Why do you think it is significant that “nations” and “peoples” in this passage is plural and not singular? Why would the people of Israel have found this challenging
- What does it say about who God is that He desires people from every nation, tribe, and tongue to worship Him?
- There are 107 countries represented in the Chattahoochee Valley. How can Calvary Baptist Church be a place where all the nations can gather to praise Jesus?
- What are some practical ways you and your family can engage the nations that are here in the Chattahoochee Valley? What does it look like for that to be done in your home?
- Pray for a heart that is open to the nations and Jesus would be made known and enjoyed by them through you.