2011 10 09
Reverend Anthony R. Locke
October 9th, 2011 www.FirstPresTucker.org
at the First Presbyterian Church of Tucker
Click HERE for the Zephaniah Sermon Series. Sermon # 12
This sermon was preached on the morning of Darrin Christ’s passing.
Zephaniah 3:17 Sermon Series in Zephaniah # 12 English Standard Version
17 The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
Everyone needs a champion. Someone who believes in you and cheers you forward during the good times and the bad.
My parents never stopped believing in me. Their positive reinforcement through the years encouraged me to pursue my dreams. My wife is now my biggest fan. They provide me support, strength and encouragement.
But my fan club can only do so much to help me. They can’t fix my self-destructive behavior, my procrastination or addictions. They can’t guarantee my health or the security of my family.
But I have one champion who can guarantee all that and more.
God is our Champion. Listen to this cheer God throws out to His people.
Isaiah 62:1-5 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch. 2 The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give. 3 You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. 4 You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. 5 For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.
God gives us more than sweet words of love and support. God promises to be our mighty warrior. And God will fight for us. He will restore what was lost.
What was lost?
The greatest loss humanity has ever suffered, the greatest tragedy and sorrow, was when God separated Himself from His own children for fear of killing them in His wrath. Every time we disobey God we are declaring our independence from Him, from His laws and from His holy paths. Sin is a form of insurrection against God’s reign. It is mutiny against his crown rights, and revolution to His Kingdom.
So God put a flaming sword to keep Adam and Eve out of the Garden. God’s love kept us from eating fruit from the tree of life and living as sinners forever. God’s mercy removed His presence from His own children for their protection.
We lost God.
This brings untold suffering and sadness to our souls that we often label depression or insecurity. Loneliness, anger and bitterness only reside in the soul that hasn’t spent time walking with God.
And God loves you so much that He isn’t willing to sit idly by and watch you suffer.
God’s mercy decreed an eternal plan to redeem humanity from the sin and despair we would pull down upon ourselves. God made the decision to save a people for His name sake even before he created the universe. (Supralapsarian position)
Before the Fall of humanity into sin, God had already determined to be The Lord our God is in our midst, a mighty one who will save.
The first thing that the Holy Trinity determined would be true, was that salvation would come for His Chosen People. Everything that follows (permission for mankind to fall into sin and the eternal decree to organize and make a creation) hinges on the truth of this First Trinitarian Act. If this first action fails, then all the rest of the actions of God fail.
God predestined us to be adopted into His family, God elected us to salvation, God called us to faith, regenerated our will, opened our eyes to see the beauty of Jesus and lead us to repentance. We embrace Jesus in saving faith only because God determined to be The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save. This is His real identity. God is Savior.
We are declared as righteous as the Son of Man, our elder brother the Lord Jesus.
And the power of His indwelling presence will keep saving us until we are sanctified into the image of His Son. By the Holy Spirit we will persevere in this faith until we see Jesus face to face. We will be transformed into His image by the radiance and fire of His glory. And we will forever live perfected in the presence of a thrice Holy God.
God made all these plans before time began. God determined that The Lord our God is in our midst, a mighty one who will save.
There is no enemy of your soul that can beat God. The Devil can’t slander your reputation to make God feel hesitant or stop believing in what He will do for you. God is your biggest cheer-leader. God is your biggest fan.
God will never stop believing in what He can accomplish in your life through the power of the cross, the resurrection and the ascension.
God loves you with an everlasting love which is not diminished when you have a bad day.
We might push Him away, but His steadfast love will not take no for an answer.
Three items in the last part of verse 17: he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
God is bursting with joy and gladness when your name is mentioned.
I remember expressing my love for a young lady named Jennifer Lynn Vick at Peachtree Corners. I was the new Associate Pastor at the church in December of 1999. Jenn stood in the front row of the choir right behind the pulpit chair where I sat. It was distracting in a good way.
It took me nine months to tell her how I felt. I memorized my first two lines. I said, “My greatest regret is life is that we never had the chance to date, and if we ever do, I promise to love you more than anyone has ever loved you before.”
I spoke for another 40 minutes but don’t remember what I said. I went home, got on a plane, and spent the next 16 days bicycling from Geneva, to Milan, to Nice and around to Barcelona. And the whole trip I was kicking myself in the pants for maybe getting myself fired for speaking that way to someone in the congregation.
But true love must be spoken or you live with regrets. When I got back, Jenn told me her boyfriend, and almost fiancé, had broken up with her and that she felt God was leading us to date.
We were married eight months later.
And for eight months the church had to endure our romantic journey. The ministers lead the choir into the sanctuary, and I am told my face would gleam when I turned around to face the congregation as I watched Jenn walk up into the choir loft.
God’s face gleams every time He looks at you. God’s heart rejoices over us with gladness. That means that inner joy of the heart bursts-out in unrestrained gladness. God can’t help it.
God never gets tired expressing His love for His children. We are the apple of His eye.
We are the joy that was set before Jesus that enabled Him to endure the cross and despise the shame. This is the Welcome that God gives to His children. It is new every morning.
Second, God can heal your broken heart.
I have lots of people who cheer me in my goals, but can’t do a thing to help me when life gets bad.
I grew up with some family friends named the Prices. They were here for my installation. We grew up together, exchanged gifts every holiday and we took our vacations together.
They have two daughters Cecilia and Jamel. CiCi married Darrin Christ. Darrin is an assistant minister at Lebanon Baptist Church where I grew up in Roswell. They have two children the ages of Tyler and Caleb.
Darrin died this morning, very suddenly, from a heart attack.
At 4 am I got a call from my mom who is in Texas with my dad. My mom was crying uncontrollably. Everyone’s in shock, tears, anguish and sadness. Heartbreaking.
And this story isn’t unique. Each of us have our own experiences that placed a little pain and sorrow in our soul.
But when we get to heaven, God will quiet us with His love.
All the unsettled questions we have about life and the universe, our distress and heartache will be put to rest as we are immersed in the unsearchable ocean of God’s love.
It’s a remarkable promise: we will be given the power, with all the rest of the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of God and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that we may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:18).
Did you know that it takes a special anointing from the Holy Spirit to understand the unsearchable greatness of God’s love for the saints?
1 Corinthians 2:9 no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.
What glory does God have secretly stored up for the saints in heaven? Heaven only knows.
1 John 3:1-3 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
Finally, God exults over us with loud singing.
When I first considered this phrase I thought of the loud and joyful singing we do during our Wednesday Bible Study. Then I thought about the loud singing from my children when lying in their crib before they got out of bed. But then I remembered some Biblical examples.
In Exodus 15:19-21 Israel sang saying, Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.
Psalm 149:1-4 (RSV) Praise the Lord! Sing to The Lord a new song, His praise in the assembly of the faithful! Let Israel be glad in his Maker, let the sons of Zion rejoice in their King! Let them praise His Name with dancing, making melody to Him with timbrel and lyre! For The Lord takes pleasure in His people; He adorns the humble with victory.
Even King David sang and danced before The Lord with all his might, 2 Samuel 6:14 (RSV)
But God isn’t saying that He will enable us to make a fool of ourselves, rather, God makes a spectacle of Himself as He exults over us with loud singing. This is something I have never done to my wife. I have never serenaded her.
God throws off His inhibitions and sings about His love for His people.
And like verse 14, the word exult is more than emotion, it must include some outward form of expression like dancing. We will be blown away when we see God do this.
God will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
Behold, your God!
And this God has opened the door for you to begin to enjoy all of these promises right now. Jesus is Emmanuel: God with us. He resides with the Church by the power of the Holy Spirit.
If you are not walking with Jesus, in sweet fellowship every day, then you are choosing to keep God at arms length. You are shutting God out.
But God doesn’t just walk away. God seeks. God calls to us. God is bringing us back to Himself.
Don’t tell God to wait. If your life is lived in the solitude of your own choosing, then repent of that solitude and join the family of God. There’s a grand welcome that awaits.
Maybe you have questions about why God let bad things happen. God will answer those questions in His time. He will heal your soul today with peace that passes understanding. He will quiet you with His love and heal your broken heart.
And God will fill your life with the Joy of His salvation. God is a mighty one who will save! Nothing can keep you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Jesus is here with His people right now. Open your heart to this love.
May God give us the strength to do so. Amen.
 The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.