*CLICK THE SOUNDBAR FOR MESSAGE AUDIO…
“What shall I return to the LORD for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.”
This is one of my favorite Psalms, especially these particular verses. It meant a lot to me during my college years, as I was developing a deeper understanding of God’s grace.
I was pretty beat up by lots of bad decisions and wondered how much fight I had left in me. I was starting to think I was incapable of making a decent decision. It took one of my professors to get through to me, as he pulled me aside one day after class to chat. He talked with me about how God’s grace isn’t merely something that tells you its going to be ok, rather God’s grace is something that empowers you. I was acknowledging God’s grace, but I wasn’t depending on it.
To say you understand the goodness and grace of God is one thing, but to experience His goodness and grace is something else altogether. Far too many people have a conceptual view of their faith and not an experiential one. Near the end of college, I began to walk in the way of grace, rather than pass it by on my way to something else. I was reading my Bible, discussing it with my friends, participating in a small group, back to attending worship regularly, and I was praying…about everything.
In our text this morning, we find a Psalm that deals with deliverance. Though it is read at both the Passover meal for Jews and sometimes at the Maundy Thursday services just before Easter, it is actually a rather personal testimony of the work of God in the life of a person who desires to thank God for His goodness and grace toward him.
The testimony of the Psalm is that, in the face of pending destruction, God rescued this person. But its the response to that deliverance that is so important. Once that rescue has taken place, there is a responsibility to let the rescue properly affect the person. If they were unfazed by the action, then they didn’t fully understand it.
So, let me cut to the chase: Do you understand what Jesus Christ has done for you? Do you know that without what Jesus did on the cross, you would be staring at an eternal death sentence that one day would become a forever reality? The core difference between understanding salvation and experiencing salvation is your response to salvation.
What is the response of the Psalmist? He says, “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.” Let’s break it down. To lift the cup of salvation is to give thanks, or to personally thank, God for what has happened. To call upon the name of the Lord is to commit to a relationship of trust. To fulfill the vow is to follow through on the response of thanks and trust. And to do so in the presence of God’s people is to be a living witness and testimony to what God has done.
That kind of response forms you into a person of living-gratitude and encourages the faith of the people around you, sometimes even revealing faith to others. The Psalmist knows that what God has done for him is both serious and life-changing. He has experienced the work of God’s deliverance and is trusting in God from here on out, both privately and publicly.
And then, there’s those who have not experienced life-change. What if someone hasn’t experienced the deliverance of God? What if someone understands the concept of grace but hasn’t experienced it? Then the truth of the matter is that they have yet to encounter the Lord Jesus Christ. For when one encounters Jesus, their sins become evident. And when faced with the evidence of their sin they are convicted in heart, and when convicted desire relief and forgiveness, and when they turn to the mercy of God in Jesus Christ, they are changed.
How are they changed? Through the welling up and experience of gratitude. They believe in their heart that they have been forgiven and they seek to return thanks to God because they know He has saved them.
Gratitude and service are the natural consequences, the inevitable overflows of a life that truly knows that they are saved by grace through faith. And so the call is to lift it up. Lift up your salvation to God, lift up your gratitude, life up your life and let Jesus Christ heal the world through the healing He has brought you. Don’t try to understand grace like a philosophical idea. Experience it!
For some of us this morning that means crying out to Jesus to save us, to apply His salvation to our lives because we trust and believe. For others it means to move beyond the philosophy, the idea, and to let the grace of God rush from our head to our hearts, so that the fire of His life can burn hot. And for others of us this is a call to lift up that cup for the whole world to see, to fulfill your vow in the presence of the whole world and make the name of Jesus Christ famous throughout the entire world! May God be glorified through the work of Jesus Christ as the Holy Spirit works within you today! Amen.