Everything old is new again! Psalm 96

Oh sing a new song to the Lord! Sing to the Lord all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.

I don’t know about things in your end of the world, but it’s been a long time since my church group has sung, deliberately and together, a Bible psalm. With all the singing done at church, the 150 songs of God’s composition seem to be ignored. It seems that the thinking behind this practice of not singing psalms has to do with wanting to sing new songs. Singing a ‘new song’ is surely a Bible idea, but I think the Bible’s idea of a new song is different from this modern practice.

First of all, the exhortation in Psalm 96 is to sing a new song, not to write one. The writing of Psalms was to be the work of people who had the designation of ‘prophet’. David, we are told, was a prophet since he foretold, for example, the resurrection of Jesus in Psalm 16 (Act 2:30). In fact, all the writers of the Psalms were prophets/seers (1 Chronicles 25:1-7), who spoke as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20). In that case, these Bible Psalms were of no private interpretation; they were not merely the reflections of the human author but, as they are in truth, the Word of God and the songs of the Lord. We have no prophets of this type any more, the ‘new songs’ have been written. We now have the privilege to sing them.

So how can old songs be ‘new’? When we see them afresh in Jesus Christ. For example, when there was revival in the Old Testament Church during king Hezekiah’s reign, he commanded ‘the Levites to sing praise to the Lord with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed their heads in worship’ (2 Chronicles 29:30). When the Holy Spirit brings our focus back to the Gospel “the good news of His salvation”, these ‘old songs’ – then 300 years old — were sung with vigour and joy. They were made ‘new’ again because the Gospel had come to them again in newness and freshness.

Well, you might say, that’s very Old Testament. We live in the freedom of the New. We do things Jesus’ way. That’s fine. Jesus was a Psalm singer (the hymn of Matthew 26:30 was undoubtedly a Psalm), he told his disciples that the Psalms spoke of Him (Luke 24:44) and he enabled them to see things that way (Luke 24:45). The first three Chapters of the book of Hebrews alone makes it abundantly clear that the Psalms speak of Jesus. Again, Paul in Eph. 5:18-19 and Col. 3:16 urges the church to sing Psalms, Hymns and Songs Spiritual (the adjective applies to all three words). The word ‘spiritual’ usually indicates something that is particularly a work of the Holy Spirit. These songs are word-of-God songs, as the context implies: — ‘be filled with the Spirit’; ‘let the word of God dwell in you richly’. Further, in I Corinthians 14 Paul tells the church to bring a Psalm (note, ‘bring’ not ‘write’) for their community times of worship.  Because Jesus rose from the dead (Ps. 16), we have newness of life. The old songs become new again.

The New Testament church was a Psalm singing church, and they sang Psalms in worship of their risen Saviour Jesus, who is both Lord and Christ (Ps.2) . Why are we apparently so reluctant to do the same?

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2nd Peter Chapter 1, Part 1

Christianity is not blind faith. It grounded in historical events. It is about things that happened in time and space – our wrong doing and God’s good doing in the Lord Jesus Christ. The book we have, the bible, contains history, but it is not just a history. It is our Creator’s version of the events it refers to, and it is our Maker’s explanation of what those events mean.

The books of the Bible are very human books, but they are uniquely God’s word. Together, collected into the Bible, they give God’s message to a lost and self-destructive world. The Bible alone gives us the message of hope that cannot disappoint anyone who trust Jesus Christ.

But it must be the Jesus shown to us in the Bible, not a ‘Jesus’ that we’ve made up for ourselves.

The Apostle Peter wrote to people who had, ‘received the same kind of precious faith’ (v.1) as he himself had received by the righteousness of God.

In context, Peter is not merely saying ‘You and I have the same God-given ability to trust Jesus’ (as true as that is), but rather his emphasis is ‘You and I have been brought to trust the same precious message.’ The Faith. The facts about the Lord Jesus Christ.

In this letter, Peter is focused on the message, the precious message that God has given to the world in a book. This message is vital as the means of bringing salvation to a very lost world. It is the means of bringing the church to a right mind as to its behaviour in the world, and for maintaining its role as the light of the world.

Now, the message is all about who the Lord Jesus Christ is, what he has done, and what that means for sinful people like us. This message comes in written form, and must come in a written form. That form we know as the Bible.

Peter first wrote about the new birth, how sinners are made children of God (given fellowship with  the divine nature) as the Holy Spirit gives them knowledge of Jesus Christ and the promises that come by him. This work of rescue delivers sinners from condemnation and gives to them new attitudes.

These new attitudes are a product of the message that tells of the Lord Jesus Christ – the message gives us knowledge of Jesus Christ and the promises attached to his finish work of salvation.

As rescued people, Christians are not only to abandon their old sinful ways, but are also to adopt new ways. As people who trust in God’s mercy in Christ, Christians are to aim at developing virtue, knowledge, self-control, stick-ability, godliness, kindness and love. These are all produced by a right understanding of the message about Jesus Christ. The Bible’s message regarding Jesus Christ produces fruitful and active  Christians.

Peter says that a ‘Christian’ who lacks these attributes, who has no interest in developing these attitudes and attributes, ‘Is blind, has closed his eyes, and has forgotten that his former sins have been cleaned away.’

What do such people NOT see or look at? What has escaped their notice?

The truth about Jesus Christ. The reality of God’s mercy in Christ.

Christians can become clogged, that is, they can lose joy and energy by taking their eyes off Jesus Christ, by not considering who Jesus is, what he has done, and what that means for them. Such Christians can become dull, or fearful, or depressed – they can begin to doubt that they really are Christians.

Peter says that it is vital that Christians make ‘Their calling and election sure.’ How does one do this?

Not by becoming activists and doing stuff in order to convince themselves and others that they are good people. Remember, good, new attitudes come in response to good news, in response to the message about Jesus Christ.

We make our calling and election sure by focusing our minds upon, and keeping our minds focused upon, the truths given to us about the Lord Jesus Christ – His life, His death and His resurrection as our salvation.

We need to be reminded over and over again (as long as we have life) of what we had been heading for in our sinful rebellion, what our sin really deserves, and to consider how our judge has acted to rescue us from the doom that he was to pronounce upon us.

He took our place.

  • By his death, our appointment with everlasting death was cancelled.
  • By his life and resurrection, he gives to us un-losable life eternal.

It is by this message that we are kept from stumbling in our Christian walk. It is by this message that we are brought from death to life. It is this message that will bring us into the new heavens and the new earth that Lord Jesus Christ has prepared for us.

Part 2

2nd Peter Chapter 1, Part 2

(from Part 1)

The apostle Peter says that he would not neglect to remind his Christian readers of things they already knew and knew well.

Peter was going to make sure that they always had trustworthy accounts of the good news of Jesus Christ. He was writing things down.

Why?

Peter knew that he was soon to die (v. 14 – compare what John wrote in John 21:18). Both he and the other apostles were ending their time, and Peter knew that they must provide a permanent record of these things that would remain with the Church until Christ returns (v.15).

It is vitally important that we get this. There are no apostles in the world now. No human being who can tell us anything authoritative about God or Jesus Christ or salvation apart from the words that are given in the Bible.

Here we have Peter, alleged by some to be the first Pope, telling us that we have no need of a Pope to tell us new things that are not already in the Bible. We have no need of charismatic ‘apostles’ on television to tell us that they have received a word from the Lord if those words are not already written down in the Scriptures.

Peter, like the other apostles, was careful to ensure that we would always have a reminder of these things after his death.

  • From Peter we have two letters and most likely his version of the Life of Christ is preserved in the Gospel of Mark.
  • John has given us a Gospel and three letters.
  • Matthew has left us his Gospel.
  • From Luke, the companion of Paul, we have a two-part Gospel.
  • We also have Paul’s letters, and those of James and Jude. In addition we have the Old Testament witness to Jesus Christ, which the New Testament makes clearer.

Remember how Peter had said that Christians must be diligent to make their calling and election sure? Peter said that he would be diligent to provide a reminder, a permanent reminder of the very facts that Christians need to make sure regarding their faith.

  • What is it that I believe about Jesus?
  • How does that belief of mine line up with THE FAITH?
    • What the Bible says I am to believe about the Lord Jesus Christ?
    • How the Bible says I am to respond to that message, that call of the gospel?
    • Is the message of the Bible the message that I trust?

“We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the coming and power of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (v.16)

Peter knew, even in his day, that there were deceivers in the world (2 Peter 2). People who try to use the church for their own profit; who would twist the message and pervert the Good News to another gospel in order to promote themselves.

Peter wrote to make sure that we would be able to tell the difference between the true message and false messages. Peter and the other apostles were eyewitnesses of the things that the Lord Jesus Christ said and did.

  • They told of his power as God; (divine glory)
  • They told of his real humanity (his appearing).
  • They told of his perfect obedience to God the Father.  They heard God’s voice from  heaven.
  • They heard from Jesus himself what his life and death means :
    • This is my body broken for you
    • this is my blood for the forgiveness of sins, for your sins.
    • They told of his death on a cross.
    • They told of his resurrection – the same Lord Jesus alive again after his death,

    They could do all this because they saw and heard these things themselves.

We can know that they were not making it up. Their lives were on the line because of this message. The message of Jesus is very unpopular. It always has been.

I know that some people have died for a lie that others have told to them. But the apostles, these fisherman, tax-collectors and Pharisees, risked their lives for a message about what they themselves saw and heard. They could not help but speak. The Love of God compelled them.

We know that some crazy people have died for crazy things that they believed. Waco, Jonestown… But Peter and Paul did not store up weapons for a revolution. The apostles did not urge their followers to suicide. Quite the contrary.

Sane but dishonest people don’t die for their own lie, not when there is a way of escape. Peter and his fellow apostles were very sane, and they were not at all dishonest.

  • The religious leaders threaten Peter and John with death, but they told them that they’d be fine if they stopped spreading the message about Jesus Christ. Peter and John defied death and kept doing the job that Jesus gave them to do.
  • The Romans were very ‘tolerant’ of people who believed different things from them. All you had to do was not believe them firmly and consistently. If you wanted to believe in Jesus, that was fine as long as you worshipped Caesar as well.

Paul talked of the risks, the beatings, the imprisonments, the wild beasts in the Coliseum.

So their message was good and reliable, because it was received from Jesus himself.

They heard God from heaven attesting to Jesus credentials.

This Lord Jesus Christ is the Just One who Justifies ungodly sinners.

(to Part 3)

2nd Peter Chapter 1, part 3

(from Part 2)

Peter James and John had heard God’s voice from heaven pointing to Jesus as the Son of God who was perfectly good, the one who was to die in Jerusalem as a substitute for his sinful people.That was a very certain revelation to them regarding who Jesus is, what he was to do, and what that meant.

But wait. Peter says that we have a more sure prophetic word about Jesus than even God’s voice from heaven.

To this more sure word, ‘We do well to pay attention.’ Remember, Peter wants us to make our calling and election sure by receiving the message of Jesus from a reliable source.

The more sure a prophetic word is not a voice from Heaven.  Those rare events were for those first witnesses of Christ’s person, life and words.

That more sure word is the one we have in the Bible – the OT scriptures and the New Testament writings of the apostles.

The Bible is a light in a filthy, grimy, darkened world. It is the source of true information about the Lord Jesus Christ. It is this message that brings a person into the Kingdom of God; it is this message that gives confidence to those who are in the kingdom, and it is our guarantee that we will share in that eternal kingdom.

Jesus said, ‘I go to prepare a place for you. If it were not so, I would have told you.’ We know He said it because the people who saw and heard him say it, wrote it down for us.

But these are more that mere eyewitness accounts.

Some people used to say that the Holy Spirit did not need to inspire people to write things that they could know by ordinary means, like things they had heard and seen. Not true says Peter. No prophecy of Scripture is of private, uninspired origin.

We make little myths about our own lives. We embellish our own stories to suit our purposes. This is not what the apostles and prophets did.

  • The Bible is not just the opinions of the apostles or the OT prophets.
  • The writings of the old and new testaments are not simply things that they made up for themselves.
  • Neither are they just what they’d like you to know about the events they saw and heard.
  • These are not the apostles’ private views or ideas about the Jesus they knew.

The words of the Bible are God’s word. ‘Prophecy came not by human will, but selected men (holy = set apart for a purpose) spoke (spoke = wrote; written words in the ancient world were read aloud, even if only to one’s self) as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.’

The writings of Peter are identifiably Peter’s. Peter’s writing style is clearly evident, but his words are also truly God’s words. The Holy Spirit moved Peter to write. Carried him along God’s path in his topics, word selections and argument.

The Holy Spirit kept Peter from Peter’s wrong-headedness. The same is true of Moses, Jeremiah, Paul, John, Luke Matthew, Habakkuk, David in the Psalm and all the rest.

These words combined in the Bible are the words of Life. The words of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are God’s words. A Gift of God to sinful people so that we might make our election and calling sure.

They are given that we might have eternal life; that we might live energetic and fruitful lives serving our Great God and Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.