Summary: God has a perfect plan for your life: 1. Be forgiven (vs. 8-12) 2. Be in His family (vs. 13-16) 3. Be His follower (vs. 17-18) How can we follow God? By giving Him reverence, by relying on His covenant, and by remembering His commandments to do them.

God’s Perfect Plan for Your Life

Psalm 103:8-18

Sermon by Rick Crandall

McClendon Baptist Church - Oct. 4, 2009

*We are here today all because of Jesus Christ! God’s Word tells us that Jesus is “The Almighty, The Alpha and Omega, The Author of Life, The Author of Salvation, The Bread of Life, The Creator of all, Deliverer, Emmanuel -- God with us, Faithful and True, Firstborn from the Dead, The Good Shepherd who gave His life for His sheep, The great I Am, The Judge of the living and the dead, King Eternal, The Lamb of God, The Light of the World, Lord of All, Our Protection, Redemption and Righteousness, The Resurrection and Life, Our Rock, Our Savior, The Son of God, The Way, the Truth and the Life.”

*We are here today because Jesus is the Mighty God! -- And He has a perfect plan for your life.

1. First: God wants you to be forgiven.

*Vs. 8-12 give us a compelling picture of God’s abundant mercy, and the forgiveness He richly gives to all who trust in Him.

-In vs. 8 the LORD is slow to get angry with us because His “mercy” is so great. The NIV tells us it’s because God’s “love” is so great. The whole idea in the original language was God’s loving-kindness. You could call it His “merciful love” or His “loving mercy.”

*Next, in vs. 9, God may get mad with us, because we richly deserve it, but He doesn’t stay mad.

-And in vs. 10, we see that the LORD has not given us what we deserve: “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities.”

*If we got what we deserved, most of us would have been in hell a long time ago.

-And all of us would have gotten there by and by.

-But God has NOT given us what we deserve, because His mercy is so great to those who humbly worship, love and serve Him.

*God’s mercy is so great that vs. 11 tells us that it’s as high as the heavens are above the earth. And in fact, His mercy is so great that He sent His Son Jesus Christ all the way from Heaven to earth for us.

-Jesus came to die on the cross for our sins.

-Then He rose again, so that He could be our eternal Savior and Lord.

*If we will “fear” or “reverence” Him, if we will humbly worship, love and trust Him, He will forgive our sins.

*And vs. 12 tells us that He will take our sins away “as far as the east is from the west!”

-How far is that? -- It is infinitely far away!

-Go east in the universe and never stop going.

-Go west in the universe and never stop going.

-That’s how far Jesus takes our sins away from us, when we turn to Him.

*Herb Hubbard once shared a testimony about God’s love and the length to which God will go to get someone saved. Herb heard this story from a co-worker named Jimmy. Jimmy’s son, Jay, had been witnessing to one of his friends for a long time, but had seen no response.

*These two friends were big duck hunters. And as they drove out one day, it was obvious that Jay’s friend had been thinking about everything. But he felt like he needed a sign, and he said, “You know, I’ve never shot a duck with a tag before. If I shoot a duck with a tag today, that might be a sign from God.”

*That young man shot 3 ducks that day, and the third duck did have a tag. When the friend cut the tag off, he was absolutely amazed that it said “Jesus loves you.” And yes he did trust in the Lord.

*God has gone to amazing lengths to let us know about His love and forgiveness.

-He wants you to be forgiven.

2. And God wants you to be in His family.

*Vs. 13 reminds us of this great truth, because it says: “As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him.”

*You may not know that the Hebrew language of the Old Testament and the Greek language in the New Testament were both based on word pictures.

-Verse 13 tells us that the LORD is like a father who “pities” His children. The word picture for “pities” there is “touching or holding someone with tender, gentle love and affection.”

*Think of a small child who is hungry or hurting or frightened. Then his loving father tenderly reaches down to his small child and gently picks the baby up to comfort, soothe and help. That’s the kind of father God wants to be to you, and this is not just a figure of speech or an illustration. It is the life-changing reality for all who trust in the Lord!

*And everybody desperately needs to be part of God’s eternal family, because we have no lasting family in this world.

-This is the somber truth on God’s heart in vs. 13-16:

13. As a father pities his children, So the Lord pities those who fear Him.

14. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.

15. As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.

16. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, And its place remembers it no more.

*But God has a family that will last forever! And every one of us can be part of God’s family by receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. John 1:12 in the Amplified Bible tells us that as many as receive and welcome Jesus, He gave the authority (power, privilege and right) to become the children of God, -- that is, to those who believe in (or trust in, and rely on) His name.

*Do you trust in the Lord? Have you relied on Jesus?

-Have you received Jesus as your personal Savior and Lord?

*When we ask Christ to come into our hearts as Savior and Lord, His Holy Spirit comes into our spiritual heart, and we are born again. We are born again spiritually into the family of God. So if you are a believer, then you are part of God’s family. We are truly brothers and sisters in Christ.

*And though there are times when we cannot be together in this world, we know that we have all eternity together in a place of total perfection, because through Christ we are part of the Family of God.

*Max Lucado told the story of Matthew Huffman. He was the 6-year-old son of missionaries in Salvador, Brazil. One morning Matthew began to complain of fever. As his temperature climbed, he began to lose his eyesight.

*Matthew’s mom and dad knew he needed medical attention, so they placed him in the car and rushed to the hospital. As they were driving, Matthew was lying in his mother’s lap, and he began to do something his parents will never forget. Matthew raised his hand in the air.

*When his mother gently brought his arm back down, Matthew pulled it away and reached up again. Once again she pulled his arm down. And the third time, Matthew pulled free and reached into the air.

*His mother was confused, and asked her son, “What are you reaching for, Matthew?” -- He answered, “I’m reaching for Jesus’ hand.”

*With those words he closed his eyes and slipped into a coma. Matthew never woke again. He died two days later, a victim of bacterial meningitis. (1)

*Nothing could hurt worse than losing a child. But Matthew’s parents have peace, because Matthew wasn’t just their son. He was their brother in Christ! And they know that they will see Him again, because they are all part of the family of God.

*God wants you to be in His family.

3. And He wants you to be His follower.

*How can we follow God?

[1] One of the main ways is through reverence for God. As we see in vs. 17: “The mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him.”

*God wants us to fear Him, understanding that this kind of fear is not a bad thing. It’s not the kind of fear we would have in a nightmare or if we lost our child in a store.

-Reverential fear of the LORD is a good thing.

-In Prov 9:10, God’s Word tells us that this fear is the beginning of wisdom.

*And in our Scripture today we see some of the great benefits of fearing the LORD:

-In vs. 11: “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him.”

-In vs. 13: “As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him.”

-And in vs. 17: “The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him.”

*But what is fearing the Lord? -- It mainly has to do with recognizing the truth that God is God. He is high and holy. He is infinitely far above us. So we recognize that He is the Almighty God. And we respond to Him with humility, adoration, worship, trust, love and obedience.

*We follow God with reverence.

[2] And we follow God by relying on His covenant. In vs. 17&18 the LORD’s “righteousness is to children’s children, for those who keep His covenant.”

*This idea of a covenant is unfamiliar to most of us. It seems strange and mysterious, but it is very important for us to understand.

*Rodney Buchanan explains: “A covenant is not just a mutual agreement between two people, like a contract. It was a binding agreement that the parties involved committed themselves to under pain of death. It created a binding relationship between them, based on the character of the persons involved.

*The common practice of making a covenant in Abraham’s day was to kill a few animals: a goat, cow, ram, dove and pigeon, and cut them in half from head to tail. The halves were then placed in such a way as to form a path between them. And the parties making a covenant would walk with each other in the path between the pieces. They were saying, ‘If I break this covenant, may this be done to me.’

*Covenants were a matter of life and death. But in the case of God’s covenant with Abraham, only God went through the pieces, because the Lord knew that Abraham could not keep his part of the covenant. And the Lord knew that He was going to suffer that death, not only for Abraham but also for you and me. This is what Jesus did when He died on the cross for our sins. (2)

*Almost 500 years after Abraham’s covenant, God rescued the Children of Israel from slavery in Egypt. And through Moses, God made a covenant with them. But time after time they broke that covenant.

*A new covenant was needed. So on the night before the cross, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. Matt 26:26-28, tells us:

26. As they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is My body.’’

27. Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you.

28. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”

*Jesus was pointing to the great shift God was making in the way He related to mankind. It was the shift from the Old Testament or the Old Covenant to the New.

*For a thousand years God spoke His written Word in the Hebrew language. Now, after a silence of 400 years, He is going to start speaking to people in the Greek language, the language of commerce throughout the vast reach of the Roman Empire.

*That’s why our Bibles are divided into two sections.

-The old covenant was the Law given to Moses on Mount Sinai. The new covenant was grace and truth given by Jesus on Mount Calvary, where He died for our sins.

-The Old Covenant was given primarily to the Jews, a relatively small group of obscure people living in Palestine. The New Covenant would be offered to all peoples to the end of the world.

-The Old Covenant gave us the law, which could never save us. It could only point us to our desperate need for a Savior. The New Covenant gave us that Savior, Jesus Christ.

-The Old Covenant saw the sacrifice of millions of lambs that could never take away sins. The New Covenant gave us the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!

-The Old Covenant pointed us to Jesus in ceremonies and hundreds of prophecies He would fulfill. The New Covenant gave us the fulfillment of these prophecies as Jesus was born of a virgin and became the sacrifice for our sins.

-Under the Old Covenant, God was almost unapproachable. His glory rested on the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem. Only the High Priest could go into the Holy of Holies, only once a year, and only by the sprinkling of blood to protect him from death. Now through the cross of Jesus Christ, we can have instant access to the throne room of Heaven! In fact, God urges us to come to His throne, so Hebrews 4:14-16 says this to Christians:

14. Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.

15. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

16. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

-Under the Old Covenant, God was almost unapproachable. Now through the cross of Jesus Christ, we can have instant access to the throne room of Heaven, and the constant presence of His Spirit living in our hearts!

*God’s covenant then is everything God has given us and will give us through His Son Jesus Christ. Our part of the covenant is to receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and then to do everything we can to keep the covenant. That means to observe it, give our careful attention to it, and keep watch over it.

*We follow God by relying on His covenant.

[3] And in vs. 18, we follow God by “remembering His commandments to do them.”

*Jesus asked a relevant question in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?”

*Jesus Christ wants all of us to be His followers, but how can we follow God?

-By giving Him reverence, by relying on His covenant, and by remembering His commandments to do them.

*Jesus wants all of us to be His followers. And if we will follow God, we will have a life that is more fruitful than we can imagine.

-It will not only bless us.

-It will bless our children.

-It will bless our children’s children.

-And it will bless more people than we can imagine.

*About 15 years ago, a man I know was having some terrible problems in his marriage. His heart was broken, torn to pieces.

*There surely didn’t seem to be much that I could do, but a friend of his asked me to try to talk to him. So we went over to his house, talked a little bit, and had prayer. We were there maybe 30 minutes, certainly not more than an hour.

*It did not seem to help very much at the time, but about 5 years later the man and his friend went on a business trip together. Out of the blue, the friend started talking about the situation 5 years before. He said, “You have no idea how bad of shape I was in, and how much you and Bro. Rick helped me. I even had the gun in my mouth, but God used you to help turn me around.”

*You never know how much good you can do for other people when you try to follow God! -- And it’s all because of Jesus!

*Jesus Christ is reaching out to all of us today in mercy and love. Have you trusted in the Lord?

-God has a perfect plan for your life. He wants to forgive you! He wants you to be part of His family. He wants you to follow Him.

*Will you do it?

-Will you open your heart to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?

-Trust in the Lord, and then commit to follow the Lord the best you can every day.

-Let’s go to God in prayer.

1. David Charlton in “Proclaim” shared Max Lucado’s story of Matthew Huffman

2. Adapted from online sermon “Christmas and Covenant” by Rodney Buchanan - Luke 1 68-79 - 12/10/06