August 7, 2005





This sermon has been amplified,
and for a broader treatment, with  End-Notes as in a Chapter,
see here.


A Presbyterian Call to the Beauty of Holiness in Christ


Psalm 94


Man is produced by God. Here is the theme. God understands what He makes and His creative brilliance so far surpasses the equipment He contrives as to make the godless thoughts of the grating grandeur seekers, thrill lovers, vaunters, to be as chaff before the wind. Imagine thinking that HE could not listen, who made hearing, or speak, who made man’s speech facilities, or that His rightness would be subversible by man’s mischievous misuse of the facilities given, social, personal, physical!


 Here is a Psalm of victory and vulnerability, of enemies and a Friend, of concern and commission, of mercy and delight. It shows as often in David’s inspired words (cf. Acts 4:25), that solicitude of the Lord, mercy in trouble, strength in trial and triumphant perspective with power, which feeds the soul.


I    THE APPEAL 94:1-7


First we are shown the pride of the boasters, the dashing blows of their guideless, godless arrogance, who imagine no oversight sees, no judgment will come.





There follows such a denunciation, such a divine dénouement as senseless assertions are set back in the thoughtless mouths that utter them, as to be a challenge to all generations. Is the One who makes hearing, deaf, or the one who contrives eyes, blind!  Does not the fabricator of man’s very thought judge it, and know the futility of boastful blah! Do not then imagine their end is as their beginning, for they but spend what is not theirs, and dream what is not there, to make of themselves a grave comedy!





You feel chastened, perhaps hard ? Is this incomprehensible ? Correction is the ante-room to rest, while wantonries reach their appointed end: it is upbringing versus free fall! At the end, the righteous, those imputed Christ’s merit and imparted a place in the kingdom by grace, infilled with His Spirit and adopted into His family, will reach their destiny, amid the downfall of what was based on clouds.




In fact, God calls for those willing to face, confront and expose the wickedness and corruption which vaunts itself, and falls into folly with self-esteem meaninglessly bolstered, with their empty arrogant answers before Him! What a privilege to work for the Lord, applying His word, showing His counsel, attesting His ways and exposing shame so that glory may enter in to the hearts of those who by grace come to realise their place, and His, and where and how it may be found (Isaiah 55, II Corinthians 5:17ff.)!





Meanwhile, it is the LIVING GOD who sustains, and when there seems no way to be upheld, it is His lively presence which does it: it is not theory, but practical, actuality! One translation (Berkeley) has for verse 19:  “Whenever perplexing cares crowd my inmost self, Thy consolations cheer my soul”!





To the political and power structures, the Psalmist proceeds. If a man is purged, what of the government, of the nation ?


"Will the throne of iniquity, which frames iniquity by a law, have fellowship with You!" comes the rhetorical question, in verse 20. Let them gather against the righteous, distort justice, condemn the innocent, it is yet the Lord is the defence, the Rock for refuge. These political, social tempests pass, but the holy ones of the Lord do not bow, and if they suffer, it is not in vain. Their liberties are not licensed, merely the freedom they misuse, and they will suffer their own fruitage, poisonous and infectious. Their unrealistic rebellion will be like a stone that ricochets, or a boomerang that returns to the sender. The Lord will cut them off.


He does not short-circuit the trials, but will give short shrift to the wiles and wickedness of the presumptuous. So does the Psalm's basic message conclude. Let us reflect on this theme.

Corrupt government in fact cannot have alliance with God, nor can man mix in spiritual fellowship with what is alien to the Maker! They spout condemnations of goodness, while practicing evil themselves. They will not escape, who so massacre liberty with loveless arts; but their own follies will bite them, and the Lord judge. He will destroy them in their sin.


Whether to race vyers, like the Nazis, or class conceivers, like the Communists, it is one. The former put their trust in genes, not their genesis, and made their early exodus. The latter are those who have sought to collapse the entire corruption of man into one economic phase, one which on removal only made more classes, and if possible, far worse ones, with an absolutist government playing God, who works by His own power. Eternal over all, judge of all, He sees the childishness of play-pen personnel, trying to act without limits, while ready to die as their equipment fails!


 All comes to judgment, to join


¨  the earlier oddities of Alexander the Great,


¨  collapsing into Rome,


¨  in turn collapsing into Goths, Vandals and Visigoths,


these dispersing and commingling.


 Added to these exhibits, are the yet earlier ones


¨  of  Assyria, on the rubbled fate of which Nahum so grippingly dwelt;


¨  of Babylon, once a city of an estimated 200 square miles,
then lost to death in the desert for centuries,
never resurrected to glory, multiple mounds for archeology;


¨  of Empires rising to glory, as in Spain,
only to be cut to size after seeking to divide the earth with Portugal.



In parallel theme is the empire of France, roistering into Europe after its uprising of 1789 and following years. This was a surge with its revolutionary mantras of liberty, equality, fraternity, and its goddess of ‘reason’ drawn through the streets of Paris, only to display an amazing absence of that very commodity as the revolutionaries became keen on the blood, one of the other, in an unbased romance that ended in tragedy, and defeat at Waterloo. It is not enough to remove chains, you have to find liberty to avoid worse ones, freedom where it may be found, and that, it is where justice lives, goodness is exuberant and grace abounds, with Christ, not the chaotic motions of personal ambition, revenge, vendettas and a plethora of residual pollutions.


We may now review more intensively the positive side of the matter, in the Rock of refuge (v. 22), while still surveying the ruin of rebellion against the Lord.





If in this world, where liberty has its sanction and is on display as the wisdom of God fulfils all His prophetic words, while the Gospel abounds, so that all may see for themselves the nature of sin, evil and folly, until the return of Christ, which draws exceptionally near: if here there is judgment, consider what it WILL be, when the curtain comes down for the last Scene and the last Act!


Therefore do not be concerned at the power of evil. Instead,  draw on the power of God to understand,
to overcome, for daily wisdom and eternal insight. Trusting in Him “until the pit is dug for the wicked” (Psalm 94:13), rise up in testimony for Him and His salvation, with David whose words stand to this day, found true and practical in every way, and remember,


                                     “He will not forsake His inheritance” (Psalm 94:14),


and make sure your place, for of every Christian this may be said:


“In Him, we HAVE OBTAINED an inheritance …” (Ephesians 1:11).


Trust Him, therefore, act like it, look like it, and bathed in prayer, declare what He has done for your life, for indeed in Him one finds, “Your comforts delight my soul.”



As the Psalmist is led to speak, in Ps. 73:25:


“Whom have I in heaven but You!

and there is none that I desire on earth beside you.”


God is sufficient! His grace is sufficient, His governance supreme and His love begets love (cf. Romans 5:5): WAIT on Him, and follow Him, for He has presented Himself, and made a present of salvation (Romans 6:23, 5:15-17, 3:23ff.), and this received, is the key to the life in grace: His!


But what a prodigy of grace this is,


which so suffuses the heart,


instructs the mind and challenges the spirit of man, that


¨  if there is salt, he seeks to be salty,


¨  if need for forgiveness, he gladly shows it,


¨  if for prudence for the work of God's own kingdom, he finds it,


¨  if for contrition for character defects, he seizes it like treasure,


¨  and if for power to overcome them,


he realises it from the abiding presence of the resurrected Christ (Ephesians 1:19, John 15:7, I Peter 1:3-5; Romans 5:11,17, 8:10-14, II Corinthians 5:16).  



If moreover, he needs chastening, the Lord supplies it (Hebrews 12), that foolishness take wings and fly to its arid abode, while wisdom smiles with eternal joy (Isaiah 51:11, John 15:22).  The wonders of His word, way and presence are like illimitable ranges of vast mountain peaks, the word pointing to Him, and HE suffused with light (John 5:39-40, 8:12, Matthew 17), above all, over all, the eternal Word from heaven (Philippians 2).


Thus the form of sound words and the power of the wisdom and virtue and knowledge of Christ abiding, the beauty of holiness, symbolised by those spreading roots in the garden of His grace, those overlaying branches, that fragrance - and in Australia, we could consider for this, that of the frangipane: they are more precious than diamond mines, than this world altogether, more available than water in a lake, more to be sought than life in the presence of the assassin, whose works come to an assured end (Psalm 94:23)..


That, it is hurtful, but this, it is wonderful!





(and ONLY God is that  - Psalm 62).


That, it is a matter of moments, but this, it is forever (cf. II Corinthians 4:16-5:2).


Such is the immovable foundation and impenetrable favour of the Lord.


In the mind and purpose of God, from



before the creation, there is the salvation (Ephesians 1:4),



before the events, there is the Gospel, that of the Lamb


slain from the foundation of the world”.


So it is written, and so it is, in the beginning, to the end:

“And all who dwell upon the earth shall worship him,
whose names are not written in the book of life
of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
If any man have an ear, let him hear.
He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity:
he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword.

"Here is the patience and the faith of the saints” (
Revelation 13:8-10).

So as always, the test comes, here from the beast; but faith endures (Eph.1:11, 2:8), grace prevails. Psalm 91:1 tells us more of the fact that


"He who dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide
under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God;
in Him will I trust."


Indeed, it is He who in Psalm 90, has this for His testimony:


"Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever You had formed the earth and the world,
even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God."



Before man, is God,


before the temporal is the eternal, always


before anything configured or conformed, there is what it takes, and



before anything ordered or programmed, there is what that requires, and


before compulsion there is liberty,



before creation, the Creator,


before our passing time, its Inventor and Lord (Psalm 91).


So too before honour is humility (Proverbs 15:33), and before salvation, repentance! (Luke 13:1-3).


After Calvary, there is a finished redemption, just as it was assigned (Psalm 32) before it, from the all-knowing mind of God. The wages of sin is death and the gift of God is eternal life (Romans 6:23).




Before pollution, there is purity; and


before the face of the everlasting God,
there is no scope for pride, but only for repentance:
whether from obvious sin
or from being an inane moral standard bearer in one’s own right, a relic of unreason,
as if happenings could make principles, or a man his God.


It is He who declares this, ALL have sinned (Romans 6:23), and this, to the Gentile, you were WITHOUT GOD, WITHOUT HOPE (Ephesians 2:12), and no less to the Jew (Amos 9:7-9, Galatians 3:28): for as to the Gospel, it is all one.


It is not for others, it is for you and for me; but in Christ, there is more than mere hope, there is the assignment of authority, the completion of the gift of eternal life, received by faith through His blood (Romans 3:23-27), without addition, complement or merit of one’s own, for who died ? did Christ or the redeemed ? Nothing changes here; only this world changes, and its contour and destiny alike, move to its terminus. 

"Therefore we do not lose heart.
Even though our outward man is perishing,
yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.

"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment,
is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,
while we do not look at the things which are seen,
but at the things which are not seen.
For the things which are seen are temporary,
but the things which are not seen are eternal."

"For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed,
we have a building from God,
a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." 



This rock, of course, is not only a stable, strong and reliable foundation; it also crushes what insists on getting on the wrong side of it, like a man tippling over in his tractor, and being pinned by his own resource, now wrongly  used. Thus Christ Jesus, the Lord in Matthew 21:44 makes it clear that this self-same Rock is capable of crushing to powder: it is like that with the Truth. If you insist on ignoring it, then it still acts! Mercy forsaken, is not only a life mistaken, but ruined.

The sadness  is not alone in  the insufferable continuity of the human requests for ruin, reluctantly granted by God on occasion, shown in II Chronicles 36, where repeated testimony, exhortation, labour from the Lord produced only a series of defilements and departures, at last leaving no remedy, only ruin. It is seen too clearly for any comfort at all, as one reviews the extortions of history, as man seeks to use the powers of the creation which are from God, for his own self-assertion. He grinds amidst his groanings, as the regress of man continues to its deep abyss in the terminus of this, our present phase of history. Now this world faces a somewhat sudden decline from the putative summit, the imaginary construction of man's godless cleverness, as he starts to savour the eruptive airs of the abyss,  to which, always without reason, but ever with desire aflame, he proceeds.

Jeremiah wept for his generation: who would not weep for this one! (Jeremiah 9). Christ wept for Jerusalem to which His own presence gave instant access to mercy and life; and who would not weep for those eagerly imbibing this world's woes, as if determined to be intoxicated with its foolish passions of modern-day idolatries, centring around man, his wisdom, his knowledge, his power and his precepts. It is as if a computer addressed its Maker, and re-arranged its purpose; and though man has a magnificently installed liberty allowance, yet the thing is if possible more ludicrous. For IF a computer COULD do that, at least it would not have be MADE that way; but man, made with liberty, with mind, with reason attached, attacks it to his own heart's content, even to the point of the philosophies of irrationalism, arguing with reason for them in an epic of mental disaster. He sinks into a life lethargy where evil, ugliness, reductionism and irrationalism join hands, and dance, prance and when sufficiently intoxicated, lance each other.

This, it is cause of sorrow; but the opportunities are rife, reason is clear, faith is sure, the word of the Lord is alone standing while man falls, like someone not merely without a parachute, in the stratosphere, but one who conscientiously REFUSES to open it. Ruin is here to be found; yet modern man seems all but surprised at its ready encounters as his complex life of lie reaches the final reductio ad absurdum. Here is loss indeed, wilful, arbitrary, needless and often impassioned. Yes, they even "gather themselves against the righteous" (Psalm 94:21) as if to be SURE of multiple grounds for their own ruin, but God will as He already is seen to be doing, "bring upon them their own iniquity" (94:23).

As a rebuke, there is little like it: put differently, this is to "eat the fruit of your own doings." Your psyche sows; your sorrow reaps. It is found in instability, horror, simplistic substitutes for living, envy, revenge, intolerance towards truth, manacled to fairy tales, even for the students (cf. The gods of naturalism have no go! and in particular, TMR Ch. 8 with Beauty for Ashes Ch. 3).

Sorrow for this generation ? It lies no less in the evacuation of the beauty to which human life has access, while it flounders and then founders in the muck of reductionism. When people like King David adorn the earth, despite their evident inability to act as idols, since they are too concerned in the interim with dependence on God themselves, and the holy discovery of the power, position and wonder of His life, direction, guidance and grace: then the impact is great. There is rest in the abundant life in Christ; and this goes with labour, not to have it, but BECAUSE it is yours; for what is alive, evidently lives, and what is spiritually alive, is spiritually vital.

Why strive to arrive, when Christ is there already, and to get there, LOWERED Himself from the wonder of eternity. Here was the Eternal Word of God, to show on this earth, God AS man, to exhibit in lowly dress, the increate in the format of the created, to show God to man in his own form, and to make yet clearer and simpler, this: how we may gain Him, whose word is life! (John  10:10, 3:16-19).

Yet man strives, dances, prances and lances, intoxicated with mordant melancholy, when not with inane mania, proposing to himself what he never attains;  and now in his early senescence as a race, his reductionisms appear even in his fallen cartoons, as if even humour must abase itself to the pit, to be companion to the lives it lampoons! 

Despite all this, the testimony of the saints continues like Autumn flower shows:  from Seth to Paul, from Elijah to John, from Daniel to Peter, from Ruth to Esther, and those like them in their thousands suffering and suffused with a grace divine, many absorbing torture and abuse (Hebrews 11).

This they do, and the show continues,  increasingly, by contrast, a show of shame, while the world whirls on its swirling dances, as if drunkenness were a natural state, or cruelty a way of life.

If Saddam Hussein epitomised the latter, even by report, teaching underlings by the watching of torture and death, how to live a life of despotic disgrace, if Hitler rationalised it, if General Toyo implemented something of its swashbuckling swaggers (until the iron ran too short for much more!), and if Stalin specialised in the explicit detachment from God in order witlessly and implicitly to worship a system  of blatant ignoramuses, shod with steel: yet these were but leaders in delusion.

Foxe's Book of Martyrs is one of a number which accredit and testify what the saints have endured, and this is the obverse of the swilling sailors on the waters of the philosophic Sargasso (cf. SMR Chs. 3, 10).

In Christ, you see the beauty of holiness with fragrance and strength combined, as the deep Original for all creation, investing it with Himself, died to pay the difference between such godless acts and meaningless abysses of erratic, domineering man, and the life of God, that some at least, might enter (Matthew 20:28, 26:28, Galatians 3). It is not as if any are debarred by the lack of love (Colossians 1:19ff., I Timothy 2, Ezekiel 33:11), but through their own rebellion; and just as God who knows all, ensures that none who may be found in love, are lost, so it results that none who play games with God, are taken seriously! It is time to reflect.

It is now that entry may be obtained, freely; because of the Gospel of grace: the cost is not to come, but paid already, and their place is long assigned to those who have come, do come and will come (in time as we have it, being created - Ephesians 1:4). It costs God nothing more if you come, but it costs you eternity if you do not, refusing in obfuscatory rebellion, or indifferent complacency. Those who do come to the Saviour then reside in the realities of the new creation which is the necessity for arrival (II Cor. 5:17ff.), with an inheritance in the very presence of the living God (John 14:1-3, II Timothy 1:9).

To live, even now, in the presence of the Son of God, you need another passion, another perspective, another elevation, another strength and a new grace. This too is freely given (II Peter 1), but it costs, oh yes it costs!

That is why Christ demanded that man count the cost (Luke 14). It costs the dissection out of sinful impulse, self-centred conceptions, be they the social or the personal self, yes or the political or the cultural. It means the actual creation of a new person (II Cor. 5:17ff.), not merely by the omission of the errors which gripped, but by the commission of a new relationship with the dynamic God, who as Lord shows the way, not only in word, but in spirit, and leads on the pathway to glory, changing, chastening, forming the life now in His hands (II Cor. 3:17-18).

While it is delightfully free, for one fears now none by God, and that with reverential joy (Psalm 2), yet there is simply no limit to the manner in which He forms one, bringing to fruition the image which man defiles, and Christ reconciled.

It is a reconciliation available, then, not forced.

Yet someone may say,

Is it really a cost to be led on such a path as that ?

Assuredly it is. It is like some course of instruction, where you are changed on entry, and given place through entering the gate (John 10:9).

You may say,

Is it a cost to undertake it ? Surely to have such a result at the end of it is no cost.

But no, it is not in reality; yet the way acts as a cost in this, that it means you need to be real, to be dedicated, directed in the nature of it. If it is not in you, it would be more like a hell than a haven to be in this Highway of Holiness, this pasture of the love of God in the grace of His care (John 10:27-28).

If it is taken in due course, this way, yes, then it is a cause of rejoicing, since you are not only directed to the destiny, but In the pathway itself, given a meaning that is fitting, a correlation of capacities and tasks, an issuance of command which brings depth and a challenge which makes of victory over sin and its squalors, like the greening of a pit, the landscaping of a quarry, a thing of wonder. It has rigours, but these are not to determine you, but to embrace you with grace; it has purification, but who wants impurity that loves God!

Moreover, it is when you KNOW God as your friend, that the inimitable marvel of knowing the Infinite God who is personal, gives to life what it always needed: its basis, its beginning and its Maker. There is no end there, for He is eternal, and what He begets in His own Spirit, through His own infinitely costly covenant, for which He has paid, shares this eternity (I John 3:9, 5:11-12, 1:1-4).

Thus the ransomed of the Lord do indeed have everlasting joy upon their heads, a joy of which Peter speaks in I Peter 1:5-8, deeming it "unspeakable and full of glory". Yes, here indeed is the Rock and the Refuge for mankind, as many as come.