2. ‘Balconeers’ or Travellers?
3. Today’s Text – “22 Then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before Thee. 23 Nevertheless I am continually with Thee; Thou hast taken hold of my right hand. 24 With Thy counsel Thou wilt guide me, And afterward receive me to glory.”
4. The Path of a Pilgrim 1
5. Looking Back 2
6. Looking at the Present
7. Looking Ahead 3
8. For Us 4
1 Psalm 73:22-24. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A Testimony Worth Hearing
a. Testimonials are a powerful way of advertising. There is a entrepreneur who is involved in helping men to get rid of excess weight. His only form of advertising is the testimonials of clients who have benefited by his program. It is impressive that these men are willing to give their name, age, location and occupation publicly in this manner.
b. Of course, if you know the person giving a testimonial, it is even more forceful. Say you wish to buy a car, a friend’s assurance that such and such a dealer is honest goes a long way. Or a house, that this real estate agent went the second mile in locating just the right place for someone you know. Or in politics, that a certain candidate is sincere and capable. When someone you respect testifies in this manner it will influence you.
c. This is true in the spiritual sphere as well. Your words of testimony about Jesus Christ to a friend at work or at school or to a neighbour, will be far more meaningful to them than a great sermon by a noted preacher. The reason is simple: a personal contact gives the listener ample opportunity to evaluate what is said. He or she has a standard with which to evaluate what is said: your life. A humble Christian testimony, admitting one’s own faults and glorifying Christ, is of greater influence to an unsaved friend than the weightiest of arguments by the most eloquent of speakers.
a. J. I. Packer introduces his book “Knowing God” in this way: ‘In “A Preface to Christian Theology,” John Mackay illustrated two kinds of interest in Christian things by picturing persons sitting on the high front balcony of a Spanish house watching travellers go by on the road below. The ‘balconeers’ can overhear the travellers’ talk and chat with them; they may comment critically on the way that the travellers walk; or they may discuss questions about the road, how it can exist at all or lead anywhere, what might be seen from different points along it, and so forth; but they are onlookers, and their problems are theoretical only. The travellers, by contrast, face problems which, are essentially practical – problems of the ‘which-way-to-go’ and the ‘how-to-make-it’ type, problems which call not merely for comprehension but for decision and action too. Balconeers and travellers may think over the same area, yet their problems differ. Thus (for instance) in relation to evil, the balconeer’s problem is to find a theoretical explanation of how evil can co-exist with God’s sovereignty and goodness, but the traveller’s problem is how to master evil and bring good out of it. Or again, in relation to sin, the balconeer asks whether racial sinfulness and personal perversity are really credible, while the traveller, knowing sin from within, asks what hope there is of deliverance. … —.
b. For a testimony to be used of God the Holy Spirit, it is much better that it be from the standpoint of the traveller – recognising the daily problems and hardships of walking in the way of Christ – than from the standpoint of the balconeer, speaking in theoretical terms with speech that is loaded with religious jargon. It is the word of one traveller who knows the Way to another who is seeking that Way.
3. Today’s Text, Psalm 73:22-24 – “22 Then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before Thee. 23 Nevertheless I am continually with Thee; Thou hast taken hold of my right hand. 24 With Thy counsel Thou wilt guide me, And afterward receive me to glory.”, words of Asaph or one of his descendents.
a. These words are such a testimony They present today’s experience of a spiritual pilgrim who has set out from the city of sin, and set his face toward the city of God. Such a testimony could equally well have been spoken by Abraham or Moses as by the Psalmist.
b. Abraham: “8 By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. … 10 for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:8,10). Abraham left the security of city life of Ur and Haran – rich but sinful cities – and became a pilgrim in every sense of the word.
c. Moses: further on we read that “24 … Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; 25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin; 26 considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.” (Hebrews 11:24-26)
d. Asaph’s testimony, though written under the limitations of the OT, describes the experience of all believers. This is because it is the story of a man’s experience with God, something which is changeless. Though by the NT we have further revelation concerning Christ and His redeeming work, and of the Holy Spirit and His sanctifying work, the OT and NT saint experienced the same Divine blessing of knowing God. Is this not the reason that the psalms are the favourites of believers of all ages?
e. Let us then look at Asaph’s testimony as he stands as it were, a pilgrim on a foot-hill, looking first back at the city of sin from whence he has come, now at his present situation, and then ahead to a path obscured by more foothills, and, finally to the mountains where the city of God is situated.
a. “Then I was senseless” – that was his former spiritual state: The word conveys the thought of being insensitive and unresponsive. In practical terms his thoughts did not properly account for God. Does this mean that he was an out-and-out evildoer. No, let us read verses 3 and 13. “For I was envious of the arrogant, As I saw the prosperity of the wicked. … 13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure, And washed my hands in innocence;” Asaph had at that time a sense of moral right and wrong, and yet he questioned how he was better off than if he was immoral. He was envious of those whom he had then considered foolish – godless – for his religion of good works brought no satisfaction. NOW looking back he calls himself senseless – he was just like those with whom he had once contrasted himself. There was no difference between himself as moral and lost, and those who were immoral and lost – both were lost.
b. “Then I was senseless and ignorant”. He not only didn’t take account of God’s working, but had no real knowledge of God. Book and head knowledge are not enough – a personal knowledge of God is needed. He concludes by saying, “I was like a beast before Thee.” The distinguishing mark of a beast is its living a here-and-now existence. Its provision for the future is purely instinctive. It is contented so long as it is fed. Though animals exhibit affection, fallen creation shows no moral qualities. Our common proverbs reflect this: “dog eat dog” or “they don’t bite the hand that feeds them”. So it is with men: it is only a knowledge of God that raises him above an animal in his actions. Man without God descends to actions which no animal would do, yet often with the claims of morality. Man without God amass wealth as does a squirrel nuts, beyond one’s needs, for no permanent benefit to oneself.
c. It is because it is a fat man who is giving the testimonial that his words strike a responsive chord with other fat men. It is our confession of our own past situation that gives us a common ground with those to whom we give a testimony.
d. Such was Asaph’s former state: he was moral, but coveted the prosperity of the wicked. He was without God, without knowledge of God, and without spiritual consciousness. But then something happened. It is not described in vv. 22-24, but we are told of it in verse 17: “Until I came into the sanctuary of God; Then I perceived their end.” that is., the end of the wicked. There couched in OT language, we read the account of a man’s conversion. The OT sanctuary was the place of God’s Presence, the place where the Scriptures were kept, the place of prayer. In such a place Asaph met God in a living and vital way. In the NT we learn that we sinners meet God at the cross where God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. Morals, works, religion are insufficient for salvation – man must meet God by repentant faith in Christ.
a. Asaph shares his present spiritual condition: “Nevertheless I am continually with Thee.” In the OT, God’s people are described as a people “Near unto Him”. In the NT man is made nigh unto God through the blood of Christ. If we join together OT & NT revelation together, we find that a Christian is one who is nigh unto God by faith in the shed blood of Christ. We also find that Christ dwells in our hearts by faith. That is Asaph’s experience. He does not explain it, but this one thing he knows, that whereas he was once without God, now he is with Him, continually.
b. The next point that we see in this testimony is that as well as God being with Him, and he with God; as well as this new relationship being established, there is also a realization of God’s power. He had questioned the prosperity of the wicked – God’s power answers that question. “Thou hast taken hold of my right hand.” The right hand is the hand of strength and work and designates all that is powerful in a man. God has taken that hand into His own, all-powerful hand.
c. The result is twofold:
i. first there is a newly imparted power and strength from God. Man’s evidence of strength, his right hand, instead of depending upon the man himself, receives power from God’s omnipotent hand. The Almighty becomes his Sustainer. The testimony of so many that “God has saved me and kept me,” though so common is yet unique to each Christian. Praise the Lord that he should take hold of our right hands — no longer in our own strength we trust but in His.
ii. the second aspect is this: Asaph declares that now all his own power is placed in God’s hand. Does this not mean dedication and service to God? No longer My strength, My time, My talent, but these are surrendered to Him. No longer is it my strength to be expended by my efforts according to my own wavering, weak will, but to His own perfect will. This, too, should be the testimony of every child of God.
d. This submission to the divine will must come first before we can realize in its fullness the message of the next part of Asaph’s testimony: “With Thy counsel Thou wilt guide me”. Desire to do God’s will must precede his guidance by counsel. Where is God’s counsel? In His Scriptures. How is it known? By the work of the Holy Spirit their Author. Let us not get the wrong idea concerning the counsel of God. It is not merely negatives. For the believer in God it is a way of life. It is instruction of a kind Father to his children. By it they experience the blessings of divine joy of an obedient child. Many of God’s commands are self rewarding: the very performance of them results in heaped up blessing from God. As we sing:
There is joy in serving Jesus,
As I journey on my way,
Joy that fills the heart with praises,
Every hour and every day. 2
a. Asaph concludes his testimony by turning to spiritual joy, and especially the joy of assurance. Indeed he has already implied this when he used the word continually: “Nevertheless I am continually with Thee.” Here he brings that theme to its logical conclusion: “And afterward receive me to glory.” Now, it is true that the word, “glory”, can be translated “honour”, but that is unsuited to what precedes. For what is in view is that after all the joys of an abundant and meaningful life in relationship to God in this present time, there are yet to follow greater joys. The half that awaits has never been told of what joys heaven will hold when we are ushered into the glory of God. “Eye hath not seen nor hath ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man what God hath prepared for them that love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9 AV) The Bible does not describe very fully heaven or its joys, but it tells enough to show that they are past knowledge. There is an emphasis in the Bible rather on the terror of hell. That is called the place of gnashing of teeth, of sorrows, of everlasting fire and of everlasting destruction.
b. So, Asaph’s testimony is he was once sinful, but he met God in His sanctuary, and received Him, and now lives in joy with God in assured expectation of God’s coming glory. Our Christian hope is key in telling our Christian testimony
a. Does what Asaph has written apply and resonate with us? Ask, “Is this my testimony?” The NT reveals the way to God for us: “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself”. To reconcile means to cause the enmity between two parties to cease, and bring a cordial relationship. God has done the work in making the way to peace with Himself: it now is left to man to make the step of faith. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.’” (John 14:6). Asaph’s testimony is ours only through salvation by Christ. Morals won’t do; good works won’t do; religion won’t do. What is needed is to meet God in the sanctuary, and that sanctuary is to be found at the foot of the cross, believing that Christ has died instead of us, in our place, for our sin. Be sure that today you are trusting in Him.
b. But as a child of God is your testimony worth hearing? Is it a testimony that encompasses the past, present and future. Do not let it be only an historical fact about such and such a day, important as that is. Live so as to be able to testify that Christianity for you is a present living reality of trusting and obeying; that you can wait on God’s direction for you life with expectancy and joy. This is what God intends for you – be satisfied with nothing less. Make no reservations, hold nothing back, seek the victorious Christian life to be found in Christ. “If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1). Live in the eager expectation of Christ’s returning again. Share these truths in testimony and witness to your friends that they, too, may know them themselves.
© 2018 by Garth Hutchinson, Faith Fellowship Baptist Church of Aurora (Ontario): may be distributed or quoted freely, only let this be done to the glory “of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ” (Titus ii.13). Except as noted otherwise, quotations are from the New American Standard version, used by permission. This sermon is a reworking of one I originally preached on April 1, 1962, entitled “A Personal Testimony”. See Kerux Sermons #24300.
By Oswald J. Smith – © 1931, ren 1959 The Rodeheaver Co.