James MacDonald: Not According to Our Sins #TGC11

James MacDonald is the founding pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel here in Chicago. His message comes from Psalm 25.

The audio is available for download here. Video footage can be viewed below:

My notes follow.

Not sure if this was a gift or Carson throwing down the gauntlet—“let’s see you preach Christ out of this text, yo!”

Before we can preach Christ, we first need to preach. Many are not actually heralding the Word that has been given to them. We need to preach Christ from all the Word.

4 things by way of background on Psalm 25:

  1. It’s a psalm. They’re the most quoted books of the OT in the NT. They’re quoted over 400 times in the NT. The psalms are the songbook of Jesus.
  2. It’s a poem. Ancient Hebrew poetry with two main artistic structure. It’s an acrostic and the truths come in couplets, synonymous parallelism.
  3. It’s a pattern. Prayer, creed, prayer. It’s David in pursuit of total trust in God. That’s why I’ve called this message “When You Don’t Know What To Do.” Some of it’s about learning, some is about leaning, but it’s all about building trust.
  4. It’s the plea of a broken-hearted man. Don’t ever let your study cause paralysis in remembering that this is a real life. A psalm like this can only come from someone who understood what it was like to be crushed. Many debate when this took place in David’s life, but most agree that this has to do with Absalom (see 2 Sam 3-15).

Psalm 25:1-2a: Trust God. The whole theme of the psalm. The word for “soul” means the center of the desires, but can include the whole body.

Psalm 25:2b-3: No Shame. Can his prayer be anymore clear? “Let me not be put to shame.” It may look really bad today, your heart might be in the vice of some crushing reality, but it’s not over. What we have to learn is that there is no shame. Not in the end, not when God’s done. Is there ever an excuse or reason to be betrayed? Pastors, parents, children, people don’t deserve that.

Psalm 25:4: God’s Way. Not a prayer for specific guidance. It’s a petition to understand God’s patterns.  If you’ve never been in the place where you don’t know what to do, then you don’t understand Psalm 25. That’s a big part of trusting.

Psalm 25:5: Wait for Salvation. If you’ve ever been in a place where you’ve said, “God I need you to get me out of this,” this is what this verse is about. It’s a place of waiting on God to get you out of the situation. I’ve had to learn the hard way that the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Wait for your salvation.

Psalm 25:6-7: Remember God. Remember your mercies to me, David says. Remember what you’re like. He’s saying in effect, “You know what you’re like, God.” We all have rebellious ways, but here’s the thing: When God puts you in a palce where you don’t know what to do, anything that is hidden has to go. You will scour every corner of your soul because you have to know that you know that you know.

Psalm 25:8-10: Obey Instruction. The word “instruct” is literally to cast or to shoot; this is more than just take it if you want it, it’s God casting us into the place where we have to get the instruction. He leads, teaches, “weighs” you in the way. This leaning into the lord is a renewed dedication of obeying the Lord, God help me. Notice it says, “to those who keep His covenants.”

Psalm 25:11: Need Forgiveness. I can’t carry this sin, anymore, Lord, what should I drop? What if I drop my sin? That’s what he’s saying here in this verse. I’m laying it down before you have to pry it from my cold, lifeless hands.

Psalm 25:12-14: Choose Covenant. Fear is the attitude of heart that seeks a right relationship to the fear source. The problem is we fear the wrong things—stuff instead of God. Notice the things that come to the one who fears the Lord: Instruction, abundance, friendship. And to them He makes known His covenant.

Psalm 25:15-19: Always Expectant. I just want to acknowledge that I’ve learned a lot from the Gospel Coalition. One of the mistakes I made as a young pastor was studying really hard and over-prepared. And one of the problems with that is you don’t get to the best part.

Psalm 20-21: Keep Me Lord.

So let’s ask this question: Is Jesus in this passage? He’s everywhere in this passage.

  1. Jesus Christ embodies my trust. 5 times in the text it says, “O LORD” The LORD here is Yahweh, the covenant name of God. Yahweh is “I AM,” and Jesus is I AM. Every gospel writer agrees that the LORD is Jesus. It was Jesus at the burning bush, it was Jesus high and exalted.
  2. Jesus Christ exemplifies my trust. Jesus is the example of trusting God in the midst of betrayal. Jesus sitting at the table and at least six separate times in the gospels and says, “one of you will betray me.” Jesus was already feeling the crushing weight of the betrayal.
  3. Jesus Christ enables my trust. He is not only the one upon I lean, He is not only the one who teaches me how to lean, but He is the one who lives in me and gives me the desire to get through a trial. He is the one who keeps me out of the ditch and by His grace enables me to trust.

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  • Keystone

    I try to give all pastors the benefit of the doubt, that their homily or sermon is Jesus centered, at least when crafted. We have a local church expanding from a 3 year ago massive build of a mega church outside of town…mega for our area. Now, three years later, they are building a “campus” (wonder why they don’t put up a church?) to be nearer the people. I chided them on a public blog for using resources in their gospel of prosperity, not always in accordance with the Bible. (I attended there 20 years ago when I lived in town; new people have taken over. The agenda is said to be Christ, but their works mostly visible when there is notice…as when the Extreme Makeover TV show built a home and this church was all over our TV, with the national production)

    There was a vehement reply, not from any of the multitude of pastors, but from the custodian…..that they were NOT marketing, wanted to be where the people are (why did you build 40 miles away three years ago?), and would be meeting in a high school starting Easter. This has flared a local debate on church/state separation, as the school is public. I reminded the community that when I was there long ago, they always held Easter and Christmas at a nearby school on the opposite side of town, where the then small church was located, before the mega build. Folks who did not go all year, go to church on Easter and Christmas, and they just did not have room. They paid for the empty public resource, and no one complained.

    Further, on election day, we all vote in churches throughout the county, rather than forcing people to drive 80 miles to vote at say, the Convention Center, I presume payment for use of worship areas by voters and machines was done in reverse.

    We are in a time of change. There is fuss about the word of God, and our public, right down to posting the Ten Commandments in a Courthouse.

    You mention throwing down a gauntlet to preach Christ with Psalm 25.
    The same challenge can be made to preach Jesus from any other text too.

    Your sermon preparation and deliverance may be magnificent and eloquent, even blessed and ordained.

    But we were all warned of the problem long ago, and it is surfacing anew:

    ““The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD,
    “when I will send a famine through the land—
    not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
    but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.
    ~~~ Amos 8:11

    It is NOT the Bible, or chosen text. It is the recipient in the audience.

    We are in a period of FAMINE of Hearing the Words of the Lord.

    A famine of no water, and you will perish quickly.
    A famine of no food and you will perish soon.
    But, a famine of no longer hearing the words of the Lord, as Amos told us would happen, means you are dead already. The dead do not hear. Whether it is Psalm 25 or any of the Old or New Testament, this famine, comes to point out our death has happened, not that it will.

    The problem is not the text at all.
    Ask Amos.

  • http://profiles.google.com/bobfromchicago Bob Gio

    Hi Aaron, Thank you for your blog, and for your heart for the Lord. I appreciate the depth of scholarship that you display, alongside your humility. I’d like to weigh in on one point of Rev. MacDonald’s sermon. “Psalm 25:8-10: Obey Instruction. ” It’s normal in Christendom to assume that the word “keep” means “obey.” In fact, it has a much deeper, richer meaning, that is usually overlooked.

    From Strong’s: 1) to guard, watch, watch over, keep, 2) to preserve, guard from dangers
    3) to keep, observe, guard with fidelity 4) to guard, keep secret 5) to be kept close, be blockaded 6) watchman (participle)

    The verse is telling us to guard or treasure God’s promises, He promises Mercy (checed) which is the old testament word for Grace!

    8 Good and upright is the LORD;
    (It’s God’s character driving the paragraph, not our obedience)
    Therefore He teaches sinners in the way.
    (there’s nothing for us sinners to add to God’s work, but to sit at His feet and learn!)
    9 The humble He guides in justice, And the humble He teaches His way.
    (There’s nothing for us to add to God’s work but to humbly accept his justice and teaching!)
    10 All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth, To such as keep His covenant and His testimonies
    (Treasure and guard God’s promises in your heart, and he will pave your path with grace and truth).
    11 For Your name’s sake, O LORD,
    (So He gets the glory)
    Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.
    (My contribution is my sin, which God graciously forgives!)

    To insert human works into this wonderful passage of God’s grace and mercy kinda dulls the message, doncha think?

    Anyhow, God Bless,

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