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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:Immeasurable Pleasure
Text:Psalms 16:8 (View)
Occasion:Public Profession of faith
Topic:Enjoying Life
 
Preached:2011-07-03
Added:2011-07-04
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Sermon also suitable for a regular Sunday.
Liturgy taken from 1984 Book of Praise

Psalm 84:1,5

Psalm 34:3,4

Psalm 16:1,2,3

Psalm 16:4,5

Profession of Faith: Psalm 116:7,8,10

Psalm 84:6

Read:  Psalm 16; Acts 2:22-39

Text:  Psalm 16:8

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

If you have a regular job, and you head off to work tomorrow, assuming that you have not already Facebook’d the answer, more likely than not there is one question that you are going to be asked:  “So what did you get up to on the weekend?”

The Weekend!  It sometimes seems as though we live for the weekend.  We live for the times when we are free to do what we want.  It sometimes seems as though all of life is geared towards those windows of opportunity when you get to do the things that you want to do, when you get to enjoy yourself, when you start living, when you have pleasure.

Pleasure is something that we are all hungry for.  We crave satisfaction.  We yearn for happiness and contentment.  We want to get all that we can out of life, enjoy it to the full.  And many will search and will scheme and will try new things and will hand over their credit cards over and over again in a desperate effort to both find it and hold on to it.

The only problem is, however, that the things that promise us pleasure so often leave us empty.  Just as Eve looked at that piece of fruit in Paradise, saw that it was desirable to the eyes and ate it, only to discover the bitter truth that what looked good to the eyes was death to the soul, so the things that capture us, the things that lure us, very often fail to give us what they promised.

Consider for a moment the glamorous life of a celebrity.  We are often led to believe that to be a celebrity is the thing to die for – and unfortunately that is often the case.  Sadly the story is all too common where a young man or woman has a sudden rise to stardom followed by a steep downwards spiral and a tragic death due to suicide or a drug overdose. It is as though the things that call out to us, the things that promise us a happy and a prosperous life, the things that promise us pleasure do not ultimately work!  The more we have the more we want, and the more we consume, the worse it gets.  Until, sooner or later, we exclaim, “I can’t get no satisfaction!  It’s not working for me!”  Perhaps it feels quite good on Friday night, but the hangover on Saturday morning is more than just a pounding head:  it is the feeling of an empty soul!

And that is the problem with the passing pleasures of sin:  they don’t even last a lifetime!  The passing pleasures of sin are like some of those cheap, foreign imports that you can buy over the internet.  They appear to be the real thing and they look good on the picture, but they don’t work, they don’t last.

So what is the answer? 

Could it be that fallen mankind is searching for pleasure in the wrong places?  Could it be that the things that call out to us, promising us pleasure, success and a fulfilled life don’t work and eventually leave us empty and numb?  Could it be that we are all like lemmings rushing towards the next best thing, only to plunge over a cliff, only to discover that the thing that promised us so much didn’t work?

So what is the answer?  Is there perhaps another way to live, another road to happiness and pleasure?

Psalm 16 says there is.  In Psalm 16, David (the one who wrote this psalm) confessed,

“I have set the LORD always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.”

The answer is having God at your right hand.  To live with Him, to live in Him and to live for Him.  There is no ultimate joy outside the presence of God.  But when we make the LORD our greatest desire, when we have Him at our right hand, then we will not be moved, then we will be in a good place, then we will get satisfaction, then we will enjoy immeasurable pleasure forevermore.

As we hear God’s word from Psalm 16 this morning, I preach to you:

The immeasurable pleasure that comes from having God at your right hand.

1.    The present blessing.

2.    The future reward.

1. The present blessing.

We know that Psalm 16 was written by David but we are not told when or why he wrote it.  Perhaps he wrote it when he was in the wilderness, running away from Saul.  Perhaps, as Acts 2:30 seems to imply, he wrote it at a later stage in his life.  But whatever the occasion might have been, there are a few things to note from the Psalm itself.  In the first place, David was in some sort of trouble.  Verse 1 is a cry for help:  “Preserve me, O God!” and verse 10 indicates that humanly speaking death was a real possibility.  And in the second place, while David rejoices in the LORD in this psalm, he makes no reference to any physical form of blessing.  David says nothing about finding pleasure in a golden palace, nor in full storehouses, nor even in a wife and family.  In fact, Psalm 16 seems to imply that he did not have any of these things.  All he had was God Himself! And that reminds us of the time that David was in the wilderness, fleeing from Saul.  It reminds us of the time when he had lost his house and home, when he had to leave his wife, Saul’s daughter, behind and when his life was reduced to running from one cave to the next.  At that time, in 1 Samuel 26, David said to Saul,

“. . . they have driven me out this day from sharing in the inheritance of the LORD, saying, ‘Go, serve other gods.”  (1 Samuel 26:19)

At that time of his life, it was as though David was excommunicated from his own people and his own land.  He was not able to share in the covenant blessings that God had promised His faithful children in Deuteronomy 28.  And Psalm 16 either points to a time in David’s life when all was stripped away, or it is a confession that whether or not you have these things, pleasure can only be found in the presence of God.  God is all he wants, and God is all he needs.

Another thing that is striking about this psalm is that David was not serving God to get something out of Him so that he could indulge in whatever his heart desired and try to gain some pleasure out of that.  Yes, he did ask the LORD to preserve him, but this was not so that he could somehow enjoy life apart from God, indulging in whatever his heart desired.  He wanted God to preserve him by keeping him in his presence, because his ultimate pleasure was not in the things that God might give him, but it was in God Himself!  In Verse 2 of Psalm 16 he said:

“My goodness is nothing apart from You.”

And verse 11,

“In Your presence is fullness of joy.”

David was not asking God for health and wealth, for a big house and a nice car.  He wasn’t looking for the city lights or for star-studded celebrity fame.  He said to God, “It is You that I am looking for!  It is You that I need.  It is You that makes me happy, that gives me pleasure.  You are my LORD; my goodness is nothing apart from You!”  And then he said something very striking in verse 5,6:

“O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot.  The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Yes, I have a good inheritance.”

In these verses David confesses, “YOU, LORD are my inheritance and my cup.” YOU are the One! “  David had set the LORD before him; he had made Him his heart’s desire.  He said, “Lord, YOU are the One I need for now and the future.  I don’t want anything else; all I want and all I need is You!” 

When David declared that the LORD was his inheritance, he confessed what gave him pleasure in life.  Technically speaking David did have an earthly inheritance.  David was from the tribe of Judah.  He came from a farm outside of Bethlehem.  That land in Bethlehem was, officially, the portion of his inheritance.  And along with the promise of land, David also had the covenant promises of Deuteronomy 28, that those who kept God’s covenant would have their storehouses filled and they would enjoy the fat of the land.  But nice though those things were, they were not the things that David was living for, they were not the things that in themselves would give him pleasure.  And so David aligned himself in Psalm 16 not with the tribe of Judah and with the physical blessings of health and wealth, but with the tribe of Levi, with those whose inheritance was the LORD.  Concerning the tribe of Levi Deuteronomy 10:8,9 says,

“At that time the LORD separated the tribe of Levi to bear the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before the LORD to minister to Him and to bless in His name, to this day.  Therefore Levi has no portion nor inheritance with his brethren; the LORD is his inheritance, just as the LORD your God promised him.”

And that is ultimately what David saw as the present blessing that he too could have in the LORD.  To have God for one’s inheritance and portion in life was not just for the tribe of Levi but for David too.  For he had the LORD at his right hand, he was living before His face, rejoicing in His goodness and His mercy, loving Him and finding in Him immeasurable pleasure. 

And the same applies to us.  We are all hungry for pleasure, but the reason why we don’t always find it is because we are looking for pleasure in the wrong places!  We are too easily satisfied with the simple, even with the sinful, pleasures of this world instead of seeking and finding our pleasure in God!  The fullness of joy and immeasurable pleasures can only be found in Him.  And you are only going to enjoy that pleasure when the LORD is at your right hand, when you live in Him and through Him and for Him.  Then you will not be moved, then you will not be shaken.  Then you will be secure and you will be satisfied.

The problem is, however, that Satan wants to twist our understanding of what is real pleasure.  Satan wants us to believe that the pleasures of the world are more satisfying than God.  He wants you to chase after money, or success, fame, sex, alcohol, drugs or the virtual world of the internet to find your ultimate pleasure in that, apart from God!  And so it even happens that we are tempted to go some place, to enter an establishment, to walk into a room, but expect God to stay outside for a while, so that we can have a bit of fun, or so that we can satisfy the cravings of our heart.  But that will not and that can not work!  Teenagers, children, brothers and sisters:  Do you do something or do you want to do something without God being there?  Is there something in your life – or in your fantasies – where you don’t want God at your right hand, because after all “girls – and boys – just wanna have fun”?  Trust me – no, trust God – it will not work!  It will not give you satisfaction.  It will not give you immeasurable pleasure.  Because there is no true pleasure, there is no fullness of joy outside of the presence of God.  And without God at your right hand, you will be moved, you will be shaken, you will eventually fall.  And there will be nothing left.

The problem, however, is that sin is addictive, and we end up with a warped sense of what will give us pleasure.  For those of you who have read or watched C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, do you remember Edmund’s cravings for Turkish Delight?  One bite and he was hooked and he became obsessed with it to the point that he was ready to sacrifice everything for just another bite of the wicked witch’s Turkish Delight.  That’s how we are with the sinful pleasures of this world.  They distort our understanding of where true pleasure lies, and they ensnare us in the lie.  One pastor and scholar, Ted Tripp, said that “the experience of the counterfeit, of false pleasures, dulls and deadens our souls.”  When we become obsessed with the alluring pleasures of the world, with sex, beauty, drugs or alcohol, these things deaden the soul to what is lasting and beautiful.  Just as the witch held Edmund in her grip through the offer of poisoned Turkish Delight, so Satan gets his grip on us by the addictive nature of sin and he turns our hearts to the pleasures he offers us to the point that we can’t even see for ourselves just how ugly sin is and how good and how beautiful and how thrilling and how utterly awesome is the real pleasure of being in the presence of God!

Sometimes we get the impression that the world has all the fun.  Sometimes we get the idea that being a Christian is rather dull and boring, that the real fun, that the real pleasure is out there.

But then maybe we should start by looking not at the party but at its aftermath.  Perhaps we should look not just at the alcohol and drug induced high, but also at the consequences.  Perhaps we should look in at the emergency centres of our hospitals on a Friday or Saturday night, perhaps we should look at the ugliness of the broken glass, the blood and the vomit that is becoming more and more of a problem.  Perhaps we should look at the shattered lives, at the STD’s, at the unwanted pregnancies, and all the other grief that results from such pleasures that one indulges in when God is not at your right hand.  Perhaps we should reflect on the deadness that works its way on the inside, on the hollowed-out souls and on the ultimate despair that many people fall into.

“Their sorrows shall be multiplied who hasten after another god.”  (Psalm 16:4)

And that should be enough to turn us away from the false pleasures of the world and to the pleasure we have in God.  But that is not all that we should look at.  Even more important is the need to look at the alternative, to see what it is like to always set the LORD before us, to always have Him at your right hand.  To set before us the joy, the beauty and the intense, thrilling pleasure to live in the presence of God!  To gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to be enthralled by His goodness. 

We sang from Psalm 34,

“O come, then, taste and see that He, the LORD, is good and just.

Blessed is the man who turns to Him and puts in Him his trust.”

Taste and see that the LORD is good.  At His right hand are pleasures forever more.  Brothers and sisters, indeed all of you who are here today, what are you pursuing?  What do you live for?  Where do you seek your pleasure from?  Set the LORD always before You and keep Him at your right hand.  Then your heart will be glad and your flesh will rest in hope.

2. The Future Reward.

Sometimes we seem to think that to be a Christian, we have to give up a lot.  And it is true that we are called to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus.  It is true that we are called to put to death the works of the flesh.  But sometimes, like the wife of Lot, we glance over our shoulder and wistfully look at what might have been.  Sometimes we have the urge to just stand in the place “where sin its pleasure offers”. 

It is crazy!  It is absolutely crazy that anyone would ever dream of exchanging life in the presence of God for an ultimately empty and directionless life in the darkness.  It does not make sense that we do not keep the Lord as our highest joy, that we do not always set Him before us and make Him alone our portion and our inheritance.  It does not make sense to serve the god of this age and not the True and Eternal God of the Ages. 

But it happens.  Even after we escape the pollutions of the world we may wake up one day – perhaps for you it is this morning – and be faced with the crushing conviction that we have not kept the LORD as our highest joy, that we have not always set Him before us at our right hand.  And then we will be cut to the heart and, like the Jews in Acts chapter 2 we will ask, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

But Acts  also has the answer to that question:

“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized In the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  (Acts 2:38)

Repent and, if you have not been baptized yet, be baptized.  And live in the promises of your baptism.  Psalm 16:3 says,

“As for the saints who are on the earth, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.”

In other words, be joined to God’s covenant and congregation, come into God’s house, His church, and be joined to His people.  Profess your faith before God’s church, declare that you love the Lord and that it is your heartfelt desire to serve Him according to His Word, to forsake the world, and to crucify your old nature.  Commit your whole life to the Lord’s service as a living member of His church.  And then, in God’s church and with His people, rejoice in the beauty of the Lord!  Hold up His majesty, His loveliness, His holiness.  And, the with the Lord before you at your right hand, you shall not be moved.

And from there follows the confidence of verse 9 of Psalm 16,

“Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope.”

And why can we have this hope, this assurance that we will not be moved, not be shaken?  Because of that amazing promise in verse 10 of Psalm 16,

“For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.”

Who is this Holy One who did not see corruption but who lives forever?  In Acts 2, the apostle Peter pointed out that David ultimately could not have been talking about himself because

“he is both death and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.  (Acts 2:29)

Rather, this is a clear prophecy of the resurrection of Jesus Christ!  And because Jesus Christ is raised from the dead and exalted to the right hand of God, He has poured out on us His Holy Spirit, He gives to us His pleasures forevermore.  And therefore the promise of Psalm 16:11 is for us too:

“In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forever more.” 

Indeed that is true.  For at the Father’s right hand is Jesus Christ, our Saviour.   And He had the power to conquer sin and Satan, and to release us from their chains and delusions.  He has permanently opened the way for us to go to the Father, and He gives His grace and the Holy Spirit to us His children.  He gives us those pleasures forever more, and He brings us, washed and cleansed, before the very face of God.

And in Him we are regenerated, we are made new.  And being made new, we hunger more and more to have the LORD always before us, at our right hand.  And so, with our eyes fixed on Him, the shining lights of this world lose their shine and we hunger for the light of His glory.  Already today we may begin to marvel in the glory of God, already today we may taste of the fullness of joy that we experience in Him and bask in the immeasurable pleasure of life in His presence.

When God is at your right hand, He will give you satisfaction.  He will fill your soul.  He will give you the immeasurable pleasure of finding your joy in Him.  And from here on it is only going to get better.  From here on it is never going to end!  At the right hand of God are pleasures forevermore!  And we have the blessing to receive them.  The invitation goes out to us all:

“Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy?  Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance.”  (Isaiah 55:1-3)

It is beautiful!  It is glorious!  And it is to be found at the Father’s right hand!  Come, then!  Let us enter His presence and may our souls be satisfied in Him.  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2011, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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