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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Redeemed from the Pit; Crowned with Love and Compassion
Text:Psalms 103:1-22 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Forgiveness of Sins
 
Preached:2020
Added:2020-03-31
Updated:2020-10-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Note for reading services: This was used for the Lord's Supper. It can be used in a regular Sunday service by omitting the sentences in parenthesis.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


 
“Redeemed from the Pit; Crowned with Love and Compassion”
Psalm 103:1-22
 
John Calvin pointed out that as Christians we must have a knowledge of ourselves and of God. He began his classic work, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, by writing: “Nearly all the wisdom which we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.”
 
We cannot appreciate God unless we have a knowledge of His greatness – His majesty in creation, His wisdom in providential care, and His redeeming love, demonstrated through the giving of His Son, Jesus Christ.
 
But if we just have a knowledge of God's love – a knowledge of His greatness, mercy, compassion, and His willingness to forgive and redeem – but don't properly see ourselves in the mirror of His word, then we won't appreciate the Lord and live for Him as we ought. 
 
The inspired author of Psalm 103 understood this. In verse 15 and 16 he described the weakness and brevity of all humanity:
 
   As for man, his days are like grass,
       he flourishes like a flower of the field;
   the wind blows over it and it is gone,
        and its place remembers it no more.

 
 And then in verse 17 he contrasts that to the eternity, righteousness, and love of the Lord:
 
         But from everlasting to everlasting
            the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
         and his righteousness with their children’s children—

 
In those verses David drives home the truth that to appreciate our salvation we must have a knowledge of both ourselves and of God. We are fragile finite sinners with a brief mist of a life on earth. By contrast, God is infinite, eternal, righteous and holy, the only One who is perfect in every attribute and action.
 
Knowing these truths is essential for our day to day living. (And it is essential when we take the Lord's Supper. As we take the bread and the cup we must have both a knowledge of ourselves and of our Lord). Yet, the knowledge of ourselves is a knowledge that we don't often want to come to grips with. The Psalmist is so blunt about our true condition. In verse 4 David writes: "He redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion…"
 
We are eager, perhaps, to look at the last part of that verse, that we are crowned with the love and compassion of a very gracious God. But to properly appreciate our salvation, (especially as we take the Lord's Supper) we need to zero in on the first part of verse 4, "He redeems your life from the pit."
     
Have you ever known anyone who was redeemed from the mountaintop of Christianity?  I don't; and neither does Scripture! The Bible reminds us time and again that we are redeemed from the deep pit of sin. Scripture repeatedly reminds that our sinful condition makes for a deep, dark, treacherous pit from which no person can escape – apart from saving faith in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.
 
South of Chicago, on a stretch of Interstate 80 near South Holland, Illinois, there are deep quarries – deep pits – on each side of the Interstate. Those quarries are so deep that the largest earth-movers and trucks look smaller than Tonka toys. Yet those quarries are nothing like the depths of depravity and sin that we are redeemed from. The Lord tells us, in Isaiah 51:1: “Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn.”  The word "quarry" in that verse is literally "hole of the pit" – the deepest, darkest, depth of a terrible pit.
 
When David wrote this Psalm, he knew firsthand what it was like to be redeemed from the pit of sin and misery.  He knew that because of our sinful nature, we are already in the deep pit of sin at birth.  In Psalm 51 he agonized: "For I know my transgression and my sin is always before me...Surely I have been a sinner from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." (Vss. 3, 5)  
 
David knew the reality of original sin from conception. And he knew the reality of sinful deeds that spring from that sinful nature within us. David knew all too well that someone who has been redeemed from the pit of original sin can be walking along, seemingly strong, and then fall into the deep pit of sin again.
 
It happened to David when he was walking on the roof of his palace on a tranquil, pleasant evening. His eyes became riveted on Bathsheba, and, as his heart yearned for another man’s wife, his life was plunged ever deeper into the pit of horrific sin. No wonder the Scripture tells us, in 1 Corinthians 10:12, "Let him who thinks he is standing firm beware, lest he fall."
 
And there are so many different pits to fall into. Each one of us has been redeemed not only from that deep pit of sin in general – original sin – but also from specific pits of sin that trap us. Sin renders us helpless until the Lord, in grace, redeems us by faith in His Son and crowns us with steadfast love and compassion.
 
Consider the pit of doubt. Most of you are familiar with the disciple who came to be known as “Doubting Thomas.” He doubted that Jesus was truly risen from the dead, even when the other disciples rejoiced and believed.  But did you know that the name “Thomas” means “twin”? How often have you and I, like Thomas of old, been a doubter? Perhaps we haven’t doubted the truth of the resurrection, but in times of trouble and trial, how often have we doubted? How often has our faith flickered and wavered?
 
Or, often like Peter, we have been in the pit of public denial. Perhaps we have not called down curses on ourselves, declaring we have never known who Christ is, but how often have we been silent when a golden opportunity to witness is put before us? How often have we been timid instead of boldly and joyfully professing our faith – not just to the church – but to the world, to those around us who need to hear of the hope that we have within us?
 
And many times we follow the footsteps of Elijah. He had a great victory over the priests of Baal at Mount Carmel. 1 Kings 18 describes how the Lord used Elijah to display His power over false gods as He revealed His ability to provide for His people. Yet in the next chapter we find Elijah on the run from wicked Queen Jezebel, despairing of life itself. 1 Kings 19:4 describes how he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, Lord, take my life…”  Every Christian, even the most vibrant and joyful believers, can fall into that deep and sorrowful pit of despair, that slough of despondency, just as Elijah did.
 
There is also the pit of fear, a pit that can cause us to do foolish things because we are afraid.  David knew firsthand the power of God; he knew that God's strength is made perfect in weakness.  David had been blessed with courage and strength; he was a mighty man of valor. Yet, in 1 Samuel 21 we find him trembling before Achish, the king of Gath, feigning insanity, letting the saliva drool down his beard because he was afraid.
 
There are innumerable pits to fall into. Today, an untold number of professing Christians, including many pastors and elders, are in the same pit that Samson was in: The pit of insatiable lust.
 
A recent editorial in the Washington Examiner noted that the largest website for pornography receives 115 million visits per day. 42 billion visits were recorded in 2019 alone, with the majority coming from North America.  A recent Webroot study found that everyday 68 million search queries are related to pornography, which is 25% of total searches generated. And the same study reported that every day – every 24 hours – 2.5 billion emails containing porn are sent or received. And it’s not just adults who are in the deep pit of porn. A Bitdefender study, conducted in 2018, found that 22 percent of online porn is watched by children – children under the age of 10.
 
How deep does God go into the pit of sin and misery when He redeems us and crowns us with love and compassion? Rahab was in the pit of prostitution.  Moses was a man of violent anger, a murderer.  Jacob lived in the pit of deception.
 
Having been redeemed from the pit of his many sins, David must have had a sense of awe and wonder, deep gratitude and joy as he wrote verses 10 to12:
 
He (God) does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
 
It may not be pleasant to look at the depth of the pit from which we have been redeemed, but we cannot appreciate our salvation until we recognize our own depravity and sin. As Calvin pointed out, we must have a knowledge both of ourselves and of God.
 
It is when we see and confess our sin that we also see, by God’s grace and regenerating Spirit, our Savior. It is then that we can acknowledge with David, in verse 8-12:
 
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.

 
And that is one of the reasons why Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. Whenever we take the sacrament we see graphically how the Lord has redeemed us. In the sacrament we see the bread and the cup, which represent the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The redemption that comes from the sacrifice of our Savior is foreshadowed in Psalm 103:3-4:
 
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
– (speaking of the spiritual maladies that plague us all)
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion...
 
How are we forgiven?  How are we healed and redeemed?  Only through faith in Jesus Christ. If any of us is trusting our own good works, trusting in our own supposed obedience to the law, trusting in anything outside of true saving faith in Christ, we are not redeemed, but mired in the deepest of pits. Apart from saving faith in Christ, we are mired in the pit of self-righteousness which only deceives its victims, and never earns its way into heaven.
 
Jesus put it plainly in John 14:6: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Peter echoed that truth in Acts 4:12, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” And Paul and Silas answered the question, “What must I do to be saved?” by replying, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” (Acts 16:30-31).
 
This Psalm reminds us then, first, that our redemption is found only through faith in Christ. And, secondly – with deep gratitude – we are reminded that we must strive to keep God's commands, for the promise of verse 17, “But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—” is conditioned on the obedience of verse 18 – “with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.”
 
Yet the Lord knows that we have not kept his covenant perfectly. He knows that we have not kept His precepts as we ought. He knows that we break his commands, if not externally, then internally in the thoughts of our minds and attitude of our hearts. That is one reason Jesus came to earth, to make an atonement for our sin.
 
But He came, not only to sacrifice Himself as an atonement – a propitiation, a covering – for our sins. He also came to live a perfect life, to obey every commandment with absolute obedience so that His perfect righteousness is now credited to the life of everyone who, by God’s grace, has saving faith in Him alone.  
 
By way of analogy, he not only paid the debt of your sin and mine – a debt so great that you and I could never begin to pay even a tiny fraction of it.  But having paid the debt, He didn’t leave your spiritual bank account at zero. No, He deposited a sum of riches into your account beyond what we could ever calculate or imagine – for He has deposited in our account the riches of His righteousness.
 
And the Holy Spirit tells us to remember that wonderful truth. The Holy Spirit inspired David to write in Psalm 103:
 
    Forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,

Whenever we take the element of bread and drink from the cup, we do so in remembrance of Christ. We do so because Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
 
In effect, in the sacrament of Holy Communion, the Lord is saying: “Remember I have not treated you as your sins deserve. Remember that I have not repaid you for your iniquities. Instead I took the curse of your sin upon myself. I shed my blood to cover your sin. I allowed my body to be pierced and crucified for your sake – for your salvation. Because of that, your sin is separated from you as far as the east is from the west – a distance that cannot be measured.”
     
When we eat the bread and drink from the cup we are to remember these truths! As we taste the bread and savor the cup, our senses are to focus on the astonishing grace of God, that “as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him” – meaning those who reverence Him with awe and wonder, praise and adoration through saving faith in Christ alone.
 
And when we remember, with grateful hearts, what God has done for us in the giving of His Son, then our redemption – our salvation – will result in praise. If we truly know the depth of the pit from which we have been redeemed, if we grasp anything of what it means to be crowned with love and compassion, then what people of praise we will be!
 
Did you notice how David begins this Psalm in verse 1-2?
 
Praise the Lord, O my soul;
         all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
        Praise the Lord, O my soul,
          and forget not all his benefits—

And did you notice how he ends it in a similar way?  He concludes the Psalm by writing, "Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion. - Praise the Lord, O my soul!"   Our lives, each and every day, are to be lives that reflect gratitude and praise to our faithful Lord and Savior.
 
(It is true that whenever we take the Lord's Supper, we do so solemnly as we recognize that our sins led Jesus to the cross of Calvary.  But we also take the sacrament joyfully, recognizing the amazing grace of God who came from the glory of heaven to redeem us from the pit of sin).
 
This morning, do you acknowledge that you have been redeemed from a deep pit of sin? Do you have profound gratitude that you have not only been redeemed from that pit, but you have also been crowned with the tender mercy and loving kindness of the very God against whom you have sinned?
 
And with a knowledge of your sin, and a knowledge of your Savior, have you, by God’s grace and Holy Spirit’s power, made that confession from the heart, that John Calvin made?   Many of you are familiar with his motto. It is a motto printed on a drawing of a hand holding a heart upwards. And the motto reads: “My heart I offer to you, O Lord, promptly and sincerely.”
 
If, by God’s grace and Spirit’s power, that is also the sentiment of your heart, then (as you take the Lord’s Supper, and) always, may you and I rejoice with David, exclaiming, “Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name!” Amen!
 
 
 
                                                       - bulletin outline -
 
 
   Who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion… (Psalm 103:4)
 
                      “Redeemed from the Pit; Crowned with Love and Compassion”
                                                        Psalm 103:1-22
 
I.  To truly appreciate our salvation, we must have a knowledge of both
     ourselves and of God.  This Psalm teaches us:
      1) We are sinners (3) redeemed from the pit of sin (4)
 
 
 
 
 
      2) The Lord forgives us, redeems us, and crowns us with steadfast
           love and tender compassion (3-4, 8-14, 17)       
 
 
 
 
 
II. Applications:
     1) Our redemption is found only through faith in Jesus Christ (3-4;
          John 14:6; Acts 4:12)
          
 
 
 
 
     2) Out of gratitude we are to strive to keep God’s commands (18)
 
 
 
 
 
     3) Our redemption - our salvation - must result in praise! (1-2, 20-22)
         
 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2020, Rev. Ted Gray

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