Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Triumph of the Christian Life

O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and give praise, even with my glory.
Awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early.
I will praise thee, O LORD, among the people: and I will sing praises unto thee among the nations.
For thy mercy is great above the heavens: and thy truth reacheth unto the clouds.
Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens: and thy glory above all the earth;
That thy beloved may be delivered: save with thy right hand, and answer me.
God hath spoken in his holiness; I will rejoice, I will divide Shechem, and mete out the valley of Succoth.
Gilead is mine; Manasseh is mine; Ephraim also is the strength of mine head; Judah is my lawgiver;
Moab is my washpot; over Edom will I cast out my shoe; over Philistia will I triumph.
Who will bring me into the strong city? who will lead me into Edom?
Wilt not thou, O God, who hast cast us off? and wilt not thou, O God, go forth with our hosts?
Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man.
Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies.
~Psalm 108:1-13

The Christian life is a warfare. Every spiritually-renewed man has to do battle with corrupt opinions and practices in society and with temptations of the devil. The renewed man is assured of ultimate victory in this conflict. This Psalm very suitably represents the spiritual attitude of the Christian warrior, who, although he has gained many conquests, is not yet completely victorious, but in the strength of God is pressing on to the full and final triumph.

The complete triumph of the Christian life is promoted by the praise to God.

The poet begins his Psalm with praise to God. Observe the main features of his praise. It is:
  • Praise from a confident heart. "O God, my heart is fixed." A fixed heart is one which is firm and fearless by reason of its confidence in God. It's praise would be unfaltering and fervent.
  • Praise with the noblest powers. "Even with my glory." By his "glory" the poet means his soul, with all the capacities and faculties which belonged to him as an intelligent being, created in the Divine image. The praise of God should engage the noblest powers of our being. Soulless worship is repugnant to heaven.
  • Praise in the most public manner."I will praise thee, O Lord, among the people; And I will sing praises unto thee among the nations." The peoples of the whole earth along constitute a sufficient auditory for the praise which the Psalmist would offer.
  • Praise because of God's covenant relationship. "For thy mercy is great above the heavens, and Thy truth reacheth unto the clouds." The mercy and truth of God are the attributes which are celebrated by Hebrew poets and prophets as marking His covenant relationship with his people.
  • Praise of universal extent. "Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens, and Thy glory above all the earth." The heart which is fixed to praise God would exalt Him in the highest degree and wildest extent. He is worthy the praise of the highest intelligences of heaven, and of all upon earth.
How does this praise promote the complete victory of the Christian life?
  • It honors God. "Them that honour me, I will honour." (I Samuel 2:30.) If we honor Him with sincere praise He will honor us with courage, strength, and triumph...
  • It strengthens faith. As we heartily celebrate the Divine mercy and truth, our faith in them will grow stronger. And in moral conflicts nothing nerves the heart with heroism and the arm with power like faith in God. In the warfare of the spiritual life if we would "wax valiant in faith, and turn to flight the armies of the aliens," (Hebrews 11:34) it must be through faith.
The complete triumph is promoted b y consideration of the triumphs already achieved.
God hath spoken in his holiness; I will rejoice, I will divide Shechem, and mete out the valley of Succoth.
Gilead is mine; Manasseh is mine; Ephraim also is the strength of mine head; Judah is my lawgiver;
Moab is my washpot; over Edom will I cast out my shoe; over Philistia will I triumph.

How would the consideration of past triumphs promote the complete victory?

They reveal the fact that many an enemy which seemed too mighty for us have been vanquished by our faith. In the Christian life we look back upon difficult battles that we have overcome, many temptations successfully resisted, many a foe slain, and are encouraged to hope and content for the full and final conquest. Past victories are an earnest (down payment) of future and entire triumph.

When Columbus sailed from Spain to discover a new land, the people began to complain. The storms were too furious and waves too high. The people said, "Let's turn back."

But Columbus said, "Sail on. Sail on."

Past triumphs bring into clear and impressive light the faithfulness and sufficiency of God as our helper. He had made good His promise to Israel in their past triumphs, which they had achieved by virtue of His help. He changes neither in His faithfulness nor in His power to help.

In the past of our individual Christian lives He has been our unfailing helper and supporter.

Our triumph is assured by God.

We discover this assurance in...
  • His interest in His people. David speaks of Israel as His beloved. "That thy beloved may be delivered." God's love for his people is a guarantee of their ultimate and complete triumph over all their foes.
  • His power to give His people the victory. "Save with thy right hand." "Through God we shall do valiantly; He shall tread down our enemies;" "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper." (Isaiah 54:17) "The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly." (Romans 16:20)
  • His promise to His people is the Victory. "God hath spoken in His holiness." The holiness of God is the pledge that He will perform His promises. He has promised to those who believe on Him the victory over all their foes; and what He promised He will perform, for His word is both almighty and unchangeable.
Here is encouragement for the Christian soldier. Ours is not a doubtful battle. The Lord is on our side; therefore we must conquer.

Here is counsel for the Christian soldier. If we would conquer we must be found in the way of duty. Trust and fight, watch and pray, so shall you come off at last more than conqueror through Christ.
"Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:37-39
In intense turmoil, Luther wrote his greatest hymn, A Might Fortress is Our God. It was the worst of times, 1527, one of the most trying years of Luther’s life. On April 22, a dizzy spell forced Luther to stop preaching in the middle of his sermon. For ten years, since publishing his 95 Theses against the abuse of indulgences, Luther had been buffeted by political and theological storms; at times his life had been in danger. He was suffering severe depression. Sometime that year, Luther wrote the hymn he is most famous for.

This verse, translated by Frederick Hedge in 1853:

And though this world with devils filled
should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God has willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim,
we tremble not for him.
His rage we can endure,
for lo His doom is sure.
One little Word shall fell him.

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