We are kicking off the final week of our series called The ‘80s. And it has just been a blast remembering this crazy decade. And our band has some more ‘80s fun in store for you today.
But I don’t think we can truly wrap up our ‘80s series without talking about one more thing that made the ‘80s so awesome…the dance moves.
For example, back in the ‘80s, we learned to Walk Like an Egyptian.
We also learned that monsters can dance, when we did the Thriller Dance.
If you wanted to stay in shape, all you had to do was learn the Running Man.
But as always, safety first. So you’d better learn the Safety Dance.
If you were feeling super flexible, you could do The Worm.
And maybe the most iconic ‘80s dance move…The Moonwalk.
The ‘80s were all about rad dance moves. And there was no better place to show them off than at your Jr. High or High School dance. But eventually, the break dancing stopped and the slow dancing started.
And that’s when the dancing usually moved from radical to awkward. Guys are wondering, “Where do I put my hands? How close should I hold her to me? Do you think she’ll notice the zit on my forehead?” It was awkward!
But we’re going to help you remember those cheesy, awkward ‘80s dances. This song was played at every Jr. High dance EVER back in the ‘80s. Enjoy.
This series has just been a blast. And our band has a little more ‘80s fun in store for us before we close out the series today.
In this series, we’ve been remembering the crazy decade of the ‘80s. And I’ve been preaching from the ‘80s…just not the decade. In this series, I’m preaching from the 80th chapters of the book of Psalms.
The ‘80s in the Psalms give us an incredible view of God. In these chapters, we see God’s character. We see the very nature of Who He is, and we see what He wants to do in our lives.
So far in this series, we’ve explored the truths that God Restores, God Provides, and God is Powerful.
Today as we close out this series, we’re going to explore this amazing truth…God is Faithful. We’re going to be in Psalm 89 this morning. Let me pray for us, and then we’ll get into the Word of God.
Like I said earlier in this series, when you see something that is repeated in the Bible, stop. Pay close attention to what is being repeated, because when Scripture gets repetitive, that means God is really trying to get our attention. There is something that He really doesn’t want us to miss.
When you read Psalm 89, you see that the word “faithful” or “faithfulness” is repeated 10 times. 10 times in just one Psalm. It’s pretty easy to see the theme when something is repeated 10 times. So that’s exactly where we’re going to dig down into the Scripture today. We’re going to talk about a God who is faithful.
This Psalm was written by a man named Ethan. In the opening verses of Psalm 89, Ethan wrote, “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.
I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.” (Psalm 89:1-2, NIV)
If you’re a Christian, you believe this. God’s love stands firm. His faithfulness is established in heaven itself, meaning that it lasts forever. It’s eternal. And every single believer on the planet would say, “Amen” to all of that. We believe this. If I were to ask you, “Do you believe in God’s consistent faithfulness?” pretty much every believer would say, “Yes.”
But, what happens to His consistent faithfulness when we live very inconsistent lives? Is His faithfulness to us based on our faithfulness to Him? That’s a much tougher question, isn’t it? That’s a much more uncomfortable question, isn’t it?
When I was a young kid, my family attended a very small church. Thankfully, we didn’t stay in that church, because while there were some good people there, there was also some very horrible theology taught there. And being exposed to it as a young child, it took me years to overcome it. In fact, I still find myself overcoming some of it.
For example, I remember being taught that God’s love was conditional. His faithfulness to me was completely based on my faithfulness to Him.
I remember the preacher using this illustration. Seriously, I was probably 5-6 years old, but I still remember this. The preacher told a story where he was out driving one day. And as he was driving, he was singing a hymn. Later on, he found out that there was a terrible accident that happened on the very road he was driving on. And then he said, “You know, if I had been listening to secular music instead of singing a hymn, God might have allowed me to be killed in that accident.” I kid you not.
So first of all, as a kid, I become immediately scared to death of our car radio. Apparently it was an instrument that God could use to kill me.
But secondly, it taught me that God’s faithfulness to me was completely based on my faithfulness to Him, and it could change moment by moment.
If you’re praying while you’re driving your car, then you’re good. But if some car cuts you off and a cuss word slips out of your mouth before you can stop it, you’re dead.
Anybody else see a problem here? The most common title for God in the Bible is “Father.” And I know for some of us, that’s tough because our relationship with our earthly father was strained. Or maybe it was completely non-existent. But don’t judge your Heavenly Father by your earthly father. God is our perfect Father.
And as our perfect Father, does the kind of stuff that I heard in this church jive? It doesn’t.
A good father doesn’t allow his children to manipulate him, but that’s exactly what this preacher was teaching. God is manipulated into loving us if we act like good little boys and girls. If we’re singing, “The Old Rugged Cross,” then God thinks, “Well, that must mean that he really loves Me. That must mean that she is really faithful to Me.”
But let one cuss word come out of your mouth, and God thinks, “Oh my…that must mean that He is unfaithful. She is not faithful to me anymore.”
If God can be manipulated by our behavior, then He is no longer a good father. And if He can be manipulated be someone as foolish and as finite as you and me, then He ceases to be God.
Now, does this mean that we don’t care about living lives that are faithful to God? Not at all, and if you think that’s what I just said, you are missing the whole point. As believers, we want to live lives of faithfulness to God, but not to manipulate Him. Not to fool Him. Not to try to pull the wool over His eyes. We want to live faithful to Him because of His consistent, unfailing faithfulness to us. Our faithfulness to Him is born out of gratitude for His faithfulness to us.
But, that still doesn’t mean that we’ll be perfectly faithful. In fact, the exact opposite is true. We are consistently inconsistent. But that doesn’t change God’s faithfulness to us one iota.
In Romans 3, the Apostle Paul wrote, “What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar.” (Romans 3:3-4a, NIV)
God’s faithfulness to us is NOT based on our faithfulness to Him. And after some of the stuff we’re going to explore today, it’s a dang good thing. It’s a good thing that God’s faithfulness is not based on our faithfulness.
Skip on down a little bit in Psalm 89. We’re going to explore a few verses that seem kind of crazy, but the deeper I dug into them this week, the more my eyes were opened to just how faithful God is to me. And I bet you’ll resonate with this, too.
Skip down to verse 8. Ethan wrote, “Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.
You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them. You crushed Rahab like one of the slain; with your strong arm you scattered your enemies.” (Psalm 89:8-10, NIV)
Initially, this is going to sound weird. Maybe even a little crazy. But hang with me. There is an awesome truth that is going to come into focus as we work our way through these verses.
At first glance, it seems like Ethan took a hard right turn and gave us no notice. He was talking about how faithful God is, and then all of a sudden he’s talking about the ocean. And someone named Rahab who was crushed by God. And we’re thinking, “Okay, maybe this made sense when this Psalm was written 2600 years ago, but today in the year 2014, I’m lost.”
Let’s work to clear this up. First of all, we have to remember the cultural context when this Psalm was written. In the ancient world, the sea was believed to represent chaos. And a few years ago, I experienced this belief firsthand.
My family was on vacation at Virginia Beach. We thought everything about it was just going to be awesome. Our two boys had never even seen the ocean before, so this was just going to be fantastic. And we did have fun, but there was one thing that we didn’t count on. There was a storm off the coast, and the waves were huge. The beach was under a red flag warning, which is the strongest possible warning about big waves and a strong riptide.
So needless to say, we didn’t go very deep into the water. But even in the shallow water, the waves were intense. It didn’t feel like the Atlantic Ocean at all. These were big, Pacific type waves.
But at one point, I left my family in the shallow and went out a little deeper. Enough of this playing around in the shallow water. I’m at the ocean, so I’m heading out to deeper water.
So I made my way out a little deeper, then I stopped and turned around to say something to our boys. And from out of nowhere, the biggest wave we had seen all day hit me from behind. And I was gone. This wave sent me tumbling head over heels. I don’t know how many underwater somersaults I did, but I know it was several.
When I was finally able to get my footing again, I stood up. And there was my family, laughing hysterically…which I thought was a pretty cold response given the fact that I almost died.
It was at that point that I realized the red flags that were all over the beach really meant something. I’ve been swimming my whole life. A few big waves didn’t bother me. I could handle it…until one of them got hold of me. I thought I had everything under control until that wave hit me.
As I was tumbling head over heels in the water, I realized that this wave was in complete control of me. There was absolutely nothing I could have done. I had no control at all. This wave was going to do whatever it wanted with me. I was swept up in the chaos of the ocean, and there wasn’t thing one I could do about it.
So it kind of makes sense that ancient people believed that the ocean represented chaos.
In fact, ancient religions believed that, before creation, there was a primordial battle between the gods of chaos and the gods of creation. The gods of creation won, but the gods of chaos still ruled over the sea.
And Rahab was a mythical sea creature believed to be one of the gods of chaos. This is probably the same creature that is called Leviathan in other parts of the Old Testament.
And many people in the ancient world lived in fear of this god of chaos.
But in this Psalm, Ethan takes a swipe at those beliefs. He reminds us that God rules over the surging sea. Not some mythical god of chaos, but Yahweh, the Creator God.
But Ethan didn’t stop at that. To everyone who believed in this mythological creature, he said, “My God crushed him! My God slayed that dragon. Your gods of chaos are no match for the Lord of heaven and earth. He is greater than the chaos. His faithfulness overcomes the chaos.”
Now, I doubt that anyone here believes in a mythical sea creature, so what does this have to do with us? Everything. You may not believe in a god of chaos, but you are living a life of chaos.
Our world is filled with absolute chaos. All you’ve got to do is watch CNN or Fox News for 15 minutes, and you’ll walk away reminded that our world operates in a perpetual state of chaos.
But let’s bring that closer to home. If we’re honest, our lives are pretty chaotic. Our schedules are nuts. Our jobs are demanding. A lot of days, we don’t know if we’re coming or going.
Some of us are trying to finish up school, and it’s nuts. Some of us are raising young children, and our lives are crazy. Some of us have teenagers in the house, and chaos is the norm. Some of us are caring for aging parents, and everyday brings a new brand of craziness.
For a whole lot of us, if we are honest, chaos is a pretty good description of life. And here’s the worst part…we never feel like we deal with the chaos in the right way. We feel like perpetual losers. We start believing that everyone else knows the secret, but the gods of chaos seem to be winning in our lives.
And then, to make things worse, not only do our lives feel chaotic, but our faith feels chaotic.
See if this resonates with you.
I’m a good Christian. I’m a bad Christian.
I cussed at the car that cut me off on the way to church. I helped a little old lady in the door once I got to church.
I served others at church on Sunday morning, then I was selfish with my spouse on Sunday night.
I encouraged my children last night, and then yelled at them for no reason this morning.
I committed to read my Bible, and I did great for a week. But now, I haven’t picked it up for the last two weeks.
I’m a mess! I’m the very definition of a chaotic Christian!
Maybe that doesn’t ring true for you. And if it doesn’t, then you should probably be up here preaching this message. Because I’ll be honest…everything I just described happens in my own life.
The Irish writer, Oscar Wilde, said, “We are never more true to ourselves than when we are inconsistent.”
We are all inconsistent. The only difference is some of us have more visible inconsistencies, and some of us have more hidden inconsistencies. But the plain fact is you are inconsistent. The person next to you is inconsistent. And the people in front of and behind you are inconsistent. And the person who is preaching to you right now is inconsistent. We all practice a very chaotic brand of Christianity.
And here’s how I know that’s true. It’s in the Bible.
In the New Testament book of 1 John, the Apostle John wrote, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8, NIV)
If you claim to be without sin, you’re just deceiving yourself. You’re not deceiving God. You’re not fooling Him. You’re not pulling the wool over His eyes. You might be able to fool others. You might even be able to deceive yourself. But if that’s the route you take, then John said that the truth is not in you.
The truth is that your faith is chaotic. So is mine. The truth is that you are consistently inconsistent. I am, too. The truth is that you fail far more often than you want to admit. So do I. The truth is that you sin. And I do, too.
If God’s faithfulness to us is based on our faithfulness to Him, we’re toast. There is no hope there. If God’s faithfulness to me is as inconsistent as my faithfulness to Him, then I’m done for.
Go back and look at what Ethan wrote in Psalm 89 again. “Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you. [No one is as powerful as God. No one is as faithful as God. God’s faithfulness surrounds Him. His faithfulness is pervasive. His faithfulness is completely consistent.]
You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them. You crushed Rahab like one of the slain; with your strong arm you scattered your enemies.” (Psalm 89:8-10, NIV)
God’s faithfulness is greater than the gods of chaos. A lot of the time, our lives are just one big, hot mess. And yet, God is steadfast. God is faithful.
In the Old Testament book of Nehemiah, the nation of Israel was confronted with their sin. And they gathered to repent and to return to God. Listen to this part of their prayer of repentance.
“In all that has happened to us, you have remained righteous; you have acted faithfully, while we acted wickedly.” (Nehemiah 9:33, NIV)
How awesome is that? God is righteous when I am wicked. When I am unfaithful to Him, He remains faithful to me.
Does that give me license to just let it fly, do whatever I want, because I know that however unfaithful I am, God will still be faithful to me? No, and if that’s what you’re getting out of this, then you’ve got a deeper issue at work in your heart.
This isn’t something that we abuse. This is something we cherish. This is the source of joy and hope for us. Even though our lives are messy and inconsistent and chaotic, God’s love for us is firm and steadfast. His faithfulness never changes.
Now, look at the next couple of verses in Psalm 89. This is awesome.
“The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it. You created the north and the south; Tabor and Hermon sing for joy at your name.” (Psalm 89:11-12, NIV)
Ethan reminds us that God created the north and the south. And then he mentions Tabor and Hermon. Those are mountains. Tabor was a mountain on the western side of Palestine. Hermon was a mountain on the eastern side.
So when you put that all together in this verse, you get all the directions…north, south, east, west.
And here’s the point of this verse…God is faithful no matter what direction I’m going. God is faithful when I don’t even know if I’m coming or going. God is faithful in the midst of my chaos.
I wish I could say that I am always faithful. I wish I was always steadfast. I wish I was always moving toward a life that looks more and more like Jesus.
But the truth is, I’m all over the map. But no matter what direction I move, God’s faithfulness is there. Sometimes, to encourage me to keep going. Other times, to love me enough to call me into another direction. My life is all over the map, but God’s faithfulness is all over the map, too. If I move north, south, east, or west, I can’t outrun his love and faithfulness…because it’s all over the map.
Now, check this out. In verse 14 of Psalm 89, Ethan wrote, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.” (Psalm 89:14, ESV)
God’s character is captured perfectly in this one verse. Righteousness and justice are the foundations of His throne. God is holy. God is perfect. He is absolute righteousness. And His righteousness demands justice. When sin occurs, God’s righteousness demands that that sin be punished. That is God’s justice.
But steadfast love and faithfulness are just as much a part of His character. God’s love and faithfulness desire to forgive sin.
How did God solve this seeming contradiction in His character? Through His Son.
Jesus died on a cross as payment for our sin. Sin was punished and God’s justice was satisfied. We are forgiven, and God’s love was satisfied. In Jesus, we see the culmination of both God’s justice and God’s love.
So with that in mind, read this verse from Psalm 89 again. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.” (Psalm 89:14, ESV)
God’s righteousness and justice are the foundation of His character, and they have been satisfied in Jesus. God’s love for us is steadfast, meaning it is unchanging. It’s based on who we are in Christ. It’s not based on what we do, what we can accomplish, how good we can be, etc. And because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, God remains faithful to us even when we are not faithful to Him.
In fact, this verse tells us that God’s steadfast love and faithfulness go before Him. In other words, if we are in Christ, we get love and faithfulness ahead of justice. And aren’t you glad?
It doesn’t make God any less righteous. It doesn’t diminish His justice at all, because Jesus fulfilled it all. His sacrifice for us is the complete fulfillment of God’s nature. His righteousness and His love. His justice and His faithfulness. Jesus fulfilled it all.
So let me drive this home for us. A lot of us came here today feeling frazzled. Life is just chaotic, and a lot of the time we just don’t handle it as well as we should. We know how we want to handle it, but we fall short.
A lot of us walked in here today feeling like, “I’m not the husband I should be. I’m not the wife I should be. I’m not the son I should be. I’m not the daughter I should be. I’m not the employee I should be. I’m not the boss I should be. I’m not the student I should be. I’m not the friend I should be. I’m not the mother I should be. I’m not the father I should be. I’m not the Christian I should be.”
Life is chaotic. It’s crazy. And so many times, we just don’t feel like we measure up to the task. It seems like we fall short in every single area of our lives.
Listen to these words from Psalm 89. Start in verse 15. Ethan wrote, “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord. [Your hope is in God’s presence, not in your own perfection.]
They rejoice in your name all day long; they celebrate your righteousness. [They don’t celebrate their own righteousness. They celebrate God’s righteousness.]
For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt our horn. [In this verse, the word “horn” symbolizes strength. We live in the glory and strength of Jesus. Our lives are based on the strength of His sacrifice on the cross and the glory of His resurrection from the dead.]
Indeed, our shield belongs to the Lord…” [God is our shield, meaning He is our defense. Life is crazy, and we won’t always handle it well. But Jesus is our Defender. His love for us is our security. His death is our defense. When we fail, we are restored. When we fall, He picks us up.] (Psalm 89:15-18a, NIV)
It’s all about Jesus. It’s all about what He has done for us. His love is so solid, so sure, so steadfast. His faithfulness never wavers, it never falters, it never fails.
Will life always be chaotic? Sure it will. Will I always respond to the chaos the way I should? Of course not. Will I stumble, fail, fall short, and sin? Absolutely. But thank God that my hope is not in me. My hope is in Jesus.
My hope is in this promise from 1 John. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9, NIV)
This is our hope in the midst of the craziness. This is our peace in the midst of the chaos. Our hope and our peace is found in this truth…it’s not about us! It’s all about Jesus and what He does for us! It’s not about how faithful we are to Him. It’s about how faithful He is to us!
This series is one of the most fun series we’ve ever done. But also one of the most powerful, because we’ve seen firsthand just what God is like. His character. His nature. What He wants to do in us.
He wants to restore us. He wants to provide for us. He is all-powerful. He is eternally faithful. And our prayer is that this series moved you closer to Him. As with anything else we ever do at Connect, we hope this series has helped you connect with Jesus in a deeper, more powerful way.
And as His church, we’re going to keep pursuing Him. We want to know Him better. And we want to celebrate everything He has done and everything He’s doing in us.
That’s why we believe it’s okay to have fun at church. In fact, it’s not just okay. It’s good! So with that in mind, we’re going to close out with one more ‘80s tune. And it’s the one that you chose. We had a Facebook vote earlier this week on which song you wanted to hear our band rock out one more time, and the vote was very, very close. Apparently you have loved ALL the songs they have rolled out in this series. So let’s give them a little love for all the work they put into this series.
We love our band. Thank you guys for everything you always do for us.
Now, let’s rock out one more time. Here’s the song that you chose to end our ‘80s series.