Series: Psalms for the Summer
Declaring Good News to the World
July 30, 2023
Passage: Psalms 96:1-13
Psalm 96 invites us to sing, to bless the Lord and declare his glory among the nations. David penned this Psalm. He knew much of God’s faithfulness and love. We know more! David could only imagine the coming Messiah. We can offer greater praise because we have seen the marvelous work of Jesus in the Gospels and in our own lives.
Part of my work in working with international students is just meeting all different kinds.We have people that are engineers, we have people that are, you know, in biology, we have people that are in archeology, we have people that are just all over the place.
My second year at Penn State, I met some what I would consider unusual internationals, at least back then I thought they were unusual.
We invited some people to our picnic at the beginning of the year and these two people showed up to a man and a woman and they told me that they were conductors in the symphony orchestra. They were there to get a masters in conducting. Well I know nothing about symphony orchestras, not a thing.
They came to our picnic, they learned about our Bible study and the first Bible study they came to it and then the next week they brought two more international musicians, a guy that played the bass and a guy that played the viola. I did not know what a viola was, don't judge me. So, and so the next week they brought two more than two more and eventually we had 12 internationals coming to our Bible studies, all from different countries around the world. Penn was the foremost violinist from the country of Kazakhstan, amazing thing. Every of my dreams know someone like that and we just had a great time and they invited us to their first concert and when I got there, of course they give you a program and in the program they list all the names of the people and on top of all the names there is a bold printed name who is the principal of that section like the first violin, second violin, things like that, they are principals. As I was reading our bulletin I realized, I said, wait a second, we had every single principal in the orchestra came to our Bible study. They were all the international students.
It was an amazing thing and they play amazing music and I just love to sit down and listen to them and I have to admit I am not very musical. Even my last church, the first time I preached there and they left my microphone on when we sang, from then on they cut it off.
And so, but I learned so much from them and today as we begin to look at our scripture, I want you to think about what an orchestra is like, what a chorus is like and how we are God's orchestra, we are God's chorus when it comes to the gospel.
So let's go ahead and dig in this morning. Let's look at our first couple verses. We will be in Psalm 96, it was in the bulletin there, we read it this morning.
It says, "Oh sing to the Lord," a new psalm, "sing to the Lord all the earth, sing to the Lord, bless his name, tell of his salvation from day to day."
You see we are seeing the good news of Jesus, guys. That's part of what we are called to do, to sing the good news of Jesus.
Singing by its nature comes to the heart. When do you sing? You sing when your heart is full. That's overflowing. That's joyful. But you also sing when you are sad too.
I remember my last church before I moved up here, I was there 15 years. I used to joke with the people in the church because they cut my microphone off while I sang. I joked with them that the last Sunday I was there I would sing a solo. Lo and behold, they remembered me saying that. They held my feet to the fire until I did that.
That Sunday I got up and I sang a solo. It took me three weeks of practice to get the solo down. I thought it was over with. I will never see that song again. I'm happy. But unbeknownst to me, my teenage daughter filmed it and put it on my Facebook account. They saw both a mixture of joy and sadness of me leaving that church, but also of release. I will never have to do that again. I will not say that again anymore anyway.
We sing when we are joyful and we are sad.
The Psalms are God's book of Psalms. It's filled with the emotions of His people directed by the Holy Spirit. The Psalms calls us to sing a new song. What is that new song? I believe it's pointing to salvation and pointing to the gospel. Point to Jesus. That's the new song that we need to sing.
The Psalm is a song of God's salvation. God has given each one of us a new heart. We are a new creation. We sing out because of our new position with the King of the universe.
But the Psalm is to be sung to what? All the earth.
That's what I do at Penn State. I sing. I speak the gospel to people from all over the world.
From little countries like Mauritius. Who knows where Mauritius is?
All right. One person. That's one more than most people know. It's a little tiny island in the Indian Ocean. We have a student from there. As a matter of fact, from Mauritius. He's getting his PhD in engineering.
All the way up to countries like China. We have about 2500 in India. We have almost that same number now. We have all these people coming and we're singing the gospel to them.
Do you ever know anybody that refuses to sing?
I had a guy in the church that he just wouldn't sing. He would get up.
He always sat in the back of the congregation. I asked him, "Why don't you sing?" He said, "Well, if you heard me sing, you know why." I said, "There are so many people around you." Our church was pretty full.
I said, "Nobody even hears you, but God hears you." Sing unto God. Sing unto him. That's what we're called to do with God's people. Sing unto the Lord, but also present, declare, sing the gospel to the people around us.
You may not know that, but you are put in your place by the Lord.
He puts you in your place to be in your sphere of influence to show the gospel, to embody the gospel, to speak the gospel, and yet sing the gospel to the people around you.
The gospel cannot stay in this church.
It's great to have fellowship on Sunday morning or whenever else you do. It's great to be among God's people, to rejoice, but the gospel is needed out there, out in the marketplace.
Dr. Francis Schaper once talked about cold and hot communication.
Cold communication is you show a commercial and you show anything else than what you're talking about. If you're talking about cars, you show a waterfall. If you talk about Coca-Cola, you show a bunch of people singing about the world and stuff like that.
It's cold communication. You don't ever talk about the subject, but you try to relate to other things. Dr. Schaper told us that we have to have hot communication. Hot communication is where if you're going to sell a car, you talk about the car. That's all you talk about. You talk about how great it is, how fast it will go, what kind of gas miles you get, what kind of engine it has, what it will do performance-wise.
We are called as people to tell the world about our Lord Jesus, about the gospel.
That's what we present to them. That's what we are to sing to them. First of all, we sing the good news to our king. We sing them because we praise him, but we also take that praise and the gospel out of these doors into the world around us. It's the world that needs Jesus. It's the music of Jesus. That's what the gospel is.
Secondly, we declare the good news to a world filled with idols. Look with me further. Verse 4-6. "For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, he is to be feared among all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are worth with idols. But the Lord made the heavens, and splendor and majesty are before him. Faith and beauty are his sanctuary."
What are idols?
First of all, idols, I've got these definitions from somewhere. You ever get a great quote and can't remember where it came from? Well, I got this. I cannot remember where it came from. So, this is the caveat. I'm not trying to prejudice anyone. If you know where it's from, you tell me.
All right, first of all, idols are images that are made by man. Examples are gods of Egypt, Romans, Greeks and everything. I remember one time I was talking about this and a guy raised his hand and said, "Oh, people don't worship idols anymore."
I said, "Have you ever met a Hindu before?Do you know how many Hindus are in the world? One point three billion.One point three billion. And they're all idol worshippers.They all have about a million gods. I'm not joking about it.They are all worshipping idols.
One caveat of that is that you would like to know. Last week, there was a change in the populous country in the world. India now is the most populous country in the world China has followed the second. Because China's population is going down and India is going up So most populated country in the world are populated and a billion of those people are idol worshippers.
So that still exists here. One of my first students was from Nepal. And Nepal has about 25 million Hindus.And his name was Bheeram. And Bheeram came over to the United States. He landed at JFK here. And Bheeram was hungry. He just got off the plane. They didn't feed him on the plane for some odd reason. And so he was looking at JFK. He walks up to one of these shops, these restaurants. He looks up and he says, "He's hamburger, hamburger, hamburger, hamburger."
And Bheeram said to himself. My sect of Hinduism allows us to eat pork. So I'm going to order hamburgers. Because to his mind, if you call something hamburger, what should it have in it? Ham. So he ordered. So the first two weeks in America, guess what he does? Every day he eats hamburgers. Because he loves it. All right. What's the one animal that Hindus are not allowed to eat?
Cow. Beef. No beef, ever. They worship him. Okay. So I met Bheeram. We went out to eat. We went to this restaurant. We sat down and Bheeram orders a hamburger And I know what's in hamburger. And I looked at Bheeram and I said, "Bheeram, you ordered a hamburger. Why is that?" He said, "Oh, it's the greatest thing I've ever tasted. It's ham and it's good American food."
And I said, "Bheeram, I hate to tell you this, but that hamburger doesn't have any ham in it." He sure looks at me and he says, "What?" He said, "It's all beef."
And his face just fell almost to the floor.
He told me later he had to order some special water from Nepal to cleanse himself with. After eating all this cows since he's been in America and everything. But later that day, he took me to his house and we went upstairs and we walked into his room and there in the corner of the room was a table And much like we have here, in the middle of the table was an idol. And Bheeram brought me up to the idol and said, "This is my God."
This is one of my first times I've been with the Hindu. I didn't want to say. I just sort of acknowledge, "Hello," or whatever. And we went down the road. But later on, I talked about idols and idols that are made by man's hands and how they're not even spiritual. They're nothing but what the idols made out of. So there are plenty of people in this world that still worship idols.
But there are other idols and this is the idols of the heart. An idol also is a thing or person that you hope will give your life meaning, purpose, acceptance, approval, or satisfaction. This idol is the center of your life. A God is something or someone you live by.
It is a false hope.
False hopes deceive you. Other things like the intelligence, culture, family, friends, or any kind of material thing can be idols, things that are valuable gifts from God but are worthless idols, false gods. You see, we live in a culture in America where we have these false gods. They're also called idols of the heart.
Idols of the heart is what we have in America.
And when these internationals come over, we teach them about that. We teach them to follow the almighty dollar and we teach them those idols of the heart that we have here in America.
John Calvin. Now if you ever want to get a Presbyterian's attention, mention John Calvin. People on the back row are sleeping, will wake up. They'll lean over because they're here. Here's some good news.
John Calvin said this, that our hearts are idol factories We call these things idols of the heart. They're the things we hide in our hearts that we think will give us significance but we really give us nothing.We put them in the place of Jesus, guys. We put them in the place of Jesus in our lives.
But we declare that the kingship of the Lord Jesus over those idols in this world. We're to tell the works to the nations and call upon them to put their idols aside just like I did with my friend, Bighram. Because God is active in this world and working in this world. That idol will not bring you significance.
I know men who sometimes they'll gather cars up because they collect cars. They love cars to the point they love their cars more than their wives. I told one time and he said, "I think I want to be buried in my car."I said, "I'm sure they'll do that if you're buying a bigger flat but what a shame for the car." He said, "What are you talking about?" He said, "You're going to be gone. But you love that thing so much you will not be with our Lord." He sat down and he thought about that and thought about it and thought about it. He said, "I think you're right."He started selling his cars on.
So there are idols of the heart that we have to help people understand that they're to leave those behind
It says also here that splendor and magistia before him and strength and beauty are in this sanctuary. We can point people when we want to talk about the gospel to the beauty of God's creation.
My first year at Penn State I got to know three Chinese who were all PhD astronomers and never met an astronomer in my life.They were great to me. They used to call me up at one o'clock in the morning and they'll say, "Richard, come up with us. We have the telescope for the night. We go up to the telescope on top of one of the buildings that's looking out.
I would get up there sometimes about one-third of the way or so. We go in there and we start looking and they say, "Oh, we want to show you galaxies." They positioned the telescope where they will show me a galaxy It's amazing to see that beauty of God's creation. I use that a lot with them to talk about God and talk about how God created all this. He created all this.
We are to declare the good news to a world that's in darkness. We're to show the world the claims of Jesus and the work of Jesus in our lives. When I talk about people being instruments of God in a great orchestra, which is called a church, you have a place to play.
When I was younger, I was a youth director. What's one of the things youth directors have to do? Does anybody know? They've got to sing. What else? They've got to play the guitar. Every youth director I knew when I was in that line of business could play the guitar, except me.
I decided I called a friend of mine who was a great guitarist and I said, "Listen, I want to learn to play guitar." He said, "Sure." He gave me one. I practiced. I worked about three months. He looked at me and said, "You don't want to play the guitar." He said, "Richard, you have what we call biblical hands. The right does not know what the left is doing."
I gave it up. Yet God has called me in this great symphony that's his gospel, that's his church.I could sing and play the music of the gospel to the world.I do it every day at Penn State. Every day, you are God's instruments of decoration. You're the symphony, the chorus that plays the gospel to the people around you.Everyone needs to join.
Everyone needs to join.
You may not be able to play an instrument, but you can sing. You may not be able to sing, but in God's symphony, in God's chorus, you don't have to because he gives you the Holy Spirit to give you the words to say. Just make yourself available to him in your time and place.
We are here to point to the world that there's a true God that's our king and he is the one to worship. Look at verse 6. "Ascribed to the Lord of families of earth, ascribed to the Lord, glory do his name."
Bring an offering and come into his courts. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. Trimble for him all the earth. We come as God's people to come to praise, to give him glory, to give him offering because he is our holy God and he is in the process of making us holy like him. We're not there yet and next year you will not be there yet, but one day we will stand before Jesus. We will stand before the Lord because of his righteousness, the Lord's righteousness and be holy before him.
We also worship him because he is our king. Look at verse 10 and following.
"Say among the nations, the Lord reigns, just the world is established. It shall never be moved. He will judge the peoples with equity. Let the heavens be glad and let the earth rejoice. Let the sea roar and all that fills it. Let the fields exalt and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord. For he comes, he comes at the judge, the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the people in faithfulness."
We have a need to worship the king, a sovereign Lord, someone that is so much greater than we are, a sovereign Lord. As Presbyterians, I think we have a lot on our fellow Christians because we believe in a sovereign Lord.
We believe in the king, guys, and we believe in King Jesus.
About 25 years ago, a friend of mine worked for MTW, which is the PCA missions arm. He was telling me this story.
He said, "Back in the 70s, a boy was born in Istanbul, Turkey. His parents tried to bring him up as a good Muslim should, but the boy refused. From an early age, he refused to do any of the Muslim things you're supposed to do. In fact, he always started out with other books. One day he found the Bible. At age 8, he became a Christian.
When he turned 18, he begged his parents, "Send me overseas to school."They said, "Where do you want to go?" He said, "I want to go to South Korea."That's a bit strong for a Turk to go to South Korea. They said, "What do you want to do?" That was a place I'm really interested in studying over there.He didn't tell his parents this, but it was a mission school, a college that was found by Presbyterians back in the 1930s. He went overseas.
I've got something to tell you, guys.Do you know there are more Korean Presbyterians than there are American Presbyterians?I went to school with a bunch of them. I know.
A guy named Pergai went over there, got educated with a seminary, and went home and decided he wanted to plant a church in Istanbul. It is hard to plant a church in Muslim countries.
Easier in Turkey than others, but it's very hard.He had to go see the Secretary of State of Turkey in order to get permission to start a church. The Secretary asked him, "Pergai, what does your church believe?" He handed them the Westminster Confession of Faith.
The guy went home and read it that night.
The next day, he called Pergai up and said, "Pergai, you may start your church because these guys believe in predestination." He told me, "The Turks, so do we as Muslims." They believe a little differently than we do, but to his eyes, it was the same. Suddenly, this guy, Pergai, is able to plant a church in Istanbul where a church had not been planted for 30 years.
Later on, the church grew, and Pergai said, "I need some help." He read about the denomination called PCA.He gets on the plane, flies to Atlanta, and my friend who was at MTW said he walked into the door and pronounced it to MTW. He said, "I'm here. My name is Pergai. I want you to help me plant churches in Turkey.
When can we start?"
Well, everybody thought he was alone until they looked him up. He was the real deal.He said, "Guys, y'all believe in the sovereign God? Y'all believe in predestination? Come over here and help me convert these Turks. They're halfway there for us."And then they did. Even today, there's still church playing teams in Turkey.
That one boy that became a Christian at the time, because he believed in a sovereign king, a ruler, just like the Turks did. This Lord that we have, he's going to come and judge this world.
One of the phrases I've always liked is out of Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe. I mean, y'all have read that book. Oh, you're good Christians.It's a fabulous book.
They're sitting there, they're talking about Aslan, which is the lion in the story who is the Christ figure. One of the girls in the story, I can't remember if it was Lucy or Susan, asked about Aslan, that whether he was a safe lion. The creatures looked at her and said, "Well, this lion is not safe." "This lion is not safe, but he is good."
And that's our Lord Jesus, guys. He's going to come judge the world.And he can be a terrible lion.
He can be a terrible judge. The guys for us, we are safe.We're safe from that judgment that the Lord is going to bring.
We all have to serve somebody. We really do. Our senior pastor, his favorite theologian, is a guy named Bob Dylan.Bob Dylan had a song, "You've got to serve somebody." "It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but I will not sing." But you've got to serve somebody.
I can do him a little bit, but I won't hear.
We have to serve somebody. We serve somebody by being the instruments of God, the instruments of God in his symphony, in his chorus,seeing the gospel to the world around us.If we believe that Jesus is the one and only Savior,that can only make us bold ambassadors and witnesses.
Now, how do I apply all this? First of all, the message cannot be kept in these walls. Worship is great. Seeing the music is great. Everything you do is great.But if it stays here,it doesn't reach the people that are starving.They're hungry for something of the significance in their lives. They're out there. That's why I'm at Penn State.
Do you know in our first Bible study that we had at Penn State,we had 40 people in the room.
Guess how many of them had ever opened the Bible?None. Zero.Some of them have heard the name of Jesus that Jesus was an American that came long ago, or something like that.
But there was no one that had ever opened the Bible. And I have a privilege every year of having at least 80 to 90 percent come to us that have never opened the Bible, know nothing of the gospel of Jesus.
And what they do know is wrong.
We're now getting some Christians from Africa and stuff like that, but mainly it's still just unbelievers that come. And God has called me to go to this campus and bring that message to the people all over there.
Secondly, we're to be revealers of false idols at the heart. You have friends that have these false idols. Well, become a revealer to them. And this, you know, be a reflection of what a true Christian is that believes in Jesus. Show someone the worship of God and maul it for them. Now, it's great that you're here this morning,but have you ever thought about just inviting somebody here?
Just come to my church.You know, that's not because it's become,you know, it used to be a vogue thing to do to invite people to church. It's not anymore. But, you know, by being here this morning, you're even a witness by being here.
What's out in that parking lot? Your cars, right? If people know your car, whether they know that you're where? You're worship. Even your car is a witness of Jesus because you've chosen to be here on a sunny morning.
You know, I lived in the community that sunny morning was a great golf morning for most of the men. And I also lived in the community that deer hunting was a great thing for the men. And so I convinced them that they could come to the Sunday morning worship in their camos.And they would that it was it became a scandal some somewhat. But after that, but they came to church. Just come to church.
And lastly, join the symphony of the gospel people. You don't need to play our instrument. You just need to be a faithful servant or Lord. Sit back, and like I did that first time I saw those people play. I was in wonder. And the people around you, when they truly see that witness, lots of wonder happened and watch Jesus work.
Lord, we thank you for your word. We pray that you would give us your word, Lord, that you would change your heart.That Lord, that you would help us to be instruments in your hands. For in Christ's name, I pray. Amen.
Every summer Peter and an occasional guest speaker take us through the Psalms. Of the Psalms Luther said " the Psalter is a book of all the saints, and everyone, whatever his situation may be, finds psalms and words in it that fit his situation and apply to his case so exactly that it seems they were put in this way only for his sake..."