Morning Prayer

Lord, help me to see You for who You really are – sovereign, holy and just – and help me to see myself for who I really am – a sinner the regularly seeks substitute saviors.  Lord, help me to experience your glory and free grace so that they irrigate my parched soul.  Lord, change my heart, enlighten my eyes and open my ears to see and savor You as supreme.  Lord, transform me and cause me to walk in joyful obedience to your commands.  Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, the king of sinners.

 

 

Posted in Meditations | Tagged

The Providence of God

he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.” (John 4:3–5 ESV)

Seven words form a short sentence that we often read right over in order to get to the “real story.” When we do so, we miss a beautiful truth that will stir our affections for the Almighty.  Jesus did not physically “have” to travel through Samaria.  It was the most direct route between Judea and Galilee, but no respectable Jew would travel that route.  Devout Jews would go around Samaria by crossing the Jordan and going up the east side in order to avoid becoming unclean or defiled by coming in contact with a Samaritan.

The Samaritans were a people that resulted from the intermarrying between Jews and people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva and Hamath that the king of Assyria brought in to settle the region (2 Kings 17:24–31). The Samaritans had their own version of the Pentateuch and worshiped on Mount Gerizim instead of in Jerusalem.  They were half breeds that were despised by both the Jews and the Gentiles.  They didn’t fit in anywhere, they were alone.

Jesus had to pass through Samaria because of the providential call of God.  The Greek word used here (see also John: 3:7, 14, 30; 9:4; 10:16; 12:34; 20:9) means that it was necessary, it was a divine mandate or requirement – it was part of God’s plan.  He had to travel through a land that would make Him unclean, but one of the beautiful realities of the messiah is that He cannot be made unclean by interacting with defiled people.  Quite the opposite, He makes dirty people clean.  Religious Jews would go around this region.  Religion always blinds us and makes us self righteous and avoidant of those we deem to be unworthy – as if we are worthy because of our own doing (1 Corinthians 4:7).

We must ask the question, “why?”  Why did Jesus have to go through Samaria?  Why did God’s providence lead Him there?  Could it be that He is showing us that no one is too unreachable, too unworthy or too unclean?  Could it be that He was demonstrating that the gospel is for all ethnicities, genders, socio economic classes and moral type of people?  Jesus had to go through Samaria because He came to seek and save His lost sheep and apparently there were quite a number of lost sheep in Samaria because many of them believed (John 4:39-43).

The Samaritans asked Him to stay two extra days and He obliged them – I can only imagine what the disciples were thinking!  Many believed in Jesus based upon the woman’s testimony alone.  Jesus stays with a group of outcasts two extra days! Jesus loves those who are unloveable by the world’s standards.  We often times seek to be loveable – that is to bring something of merit before the Almighty – instead of resting in the love that He has for us.

These unclean, outcasts profess Jesus as the Savior of the World.  He is not only the Savior of the Jews, but the Savior of the world.  He saves all people – from every nation, tribe and tongue!  First to the Jews (Nicodemus in John 3:1-15), then to the Samaritans (John 4:1-42) and then to the Gentiles (the official at Capernaum in John 4:46-54). This is the mission of the church.

What does this providential appointment mean to us today?  The Word, Creator, Almighty condescends Himself to a defiled, unclean, unholy place & people in order to redeem.  The Creator serving the created is backwards, but that is what it took to undo the effects of the fall (John 4:30-34, Mark 10:45, Matthew 20:28).  God providentially invades the world of His lost sheep.  God’s redemption means that He makes lost sheep forgiven, acceptable, clean and holy. He makes unclean outcasts clean.  He makes clean people holy.  He makes us family.  In God’s kingdom, the unwanted outcasts are welcomed with open arms.  Jesus’ good words of forgiveness & redemption are only spoken to those who feel unworthy, alone and dirty because  good people see no need for grace.  The grace of God has adopted you and made you His son – perfectly acceptable.  You are no longer on the outside looking in and this was done because He “had to” go through Samaria and He “had to” come to you.  You didn’t seek Him, He sought you.  You were lost and He found you, redeemed you and adopted you according to His plan which He determined before He breathed a star into the heavens.

Posted in Faith, Gospel Centrality, Growth/Pursuit | Tagged , , , ,

We become what we Worship

“But they came to Baal-peor and consecrated themselves to the thing of shame, and became detestable like the thing they loved.” (Hosea 9:10 ESV).

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” 1 Corinthians 3:18

In the last post, we discussed how we need to see God more clearly in order to experience His glory and grace.  This post is connected because we rarely stop to think about how our heart really affects our worship.  You don’t need to look too far in your own life to see this truth playing out.  The things that interest you are the things that mark you.  If it is the newest technological wonder, then you will talk about when it is expected to be out and how it will make life better.  If it is health and fitness, then you will talk about your latest workout, diet or special shake that will make you healthier.  If it is a new business endeavor, then you will tell people about it and how excited you are.  If it is a favorite sport or team, then you will know all of their stats and will talk about it all of the time.  Whether it’s a new car, relationship, job or activity, what captivates your heart is what drives your life.

This is not a bad thing.  We were designed to work, relate and rule so we are just doing what we were designed to do.  We can use this basic understanding of life to see how our lives are driven by what we look at and hold dear.  Many Christians believe that the Christian life is to be stoic and that we are not to enjoy anything.  On the contrary, we need to raise our gaze and see Christ as the greater treasure than anything this world has to offer (Matthew 13:44).  Recall the story of the Sirens from Greek mythology. The Sirens were beautiful women with angelic voices.  They lured unknowing travelers to their island by their enchanting voices.  When Jason went on a journey that took him by their island, He took Orpheus, who played the lyre, with him.  As soon as they could begin to hear the Siren’s voices in the distance, Orpheus played a more beautiful tune that drowned out the voices of the Sirens and they successfully sailed past the island.  Odysseus, on the other hand, wanted to hear the voices of the Sirens so He ordered his men to plug the ears and tie him to the mast of the boat.  He ordered them not to untie him no matter what he did.  As they passed the island, he heard the tune and was enchanted, but could not free himself in order to get to the island.

The primary work for us to do is not to build elaborate strategies of tying ourselves to the masts of our boats and plugging our ears with beeswax in order to avoid temptation and sin.  There are good things that we should do to build healthy boundaries that help us to avoid temptations that are real in our lives, but the real work is to hear a better tune.  The real work is not in making other things less attractive, but in seeing God as increasingly more attractive.  The real work is to see clearly because the Creator of all things has called you His own, has forgiven you and has adopted you as His own child.  This should cause your soul to sing its own song.  

Suffering is a valuable tool that God uses to help us to see more clearly.  No one likes suffering, but few Christians have walked through suffering and come out the other side that do not see more clearly and worship God more deeply.  Where do you park your hope? Where is your joy found?  If your hope and joy are on created things, you will walk a life of profound ups and downs because created things cannot hold the weight of your worship.  They cannot provide ultimate soul level satisfaction.  The Israelites set their hope on an idol that they thought would provide rain and bountiful harvests, but in the end their lives became debauched and repulsive (Hosea 9:10).  Why did this happen?  Because whatever we behold in our hearts as ultimate is what transforms us into its image (1 Corinthians 3:18).  What are you beholding?

For further reading, see A Letter to an Incomplete, Insecure Teenager – Desiring God.

Posted in Growth/Pursuit, Mortification | Tagged ,

Glory and Grace Must Be Experienced

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”
(Isaiah 6:1–8 ESV)

Our church is preaching through the book of John this year with an emphasis on the glory of God.  I can’t think of a better book to display God’s manifold beauty, wisdom and power.  Glory, however, is a difficult word to define – it is like beauty.  Beauty is something that must be beheld to be fully understood.  Like the beauty of a sunset, the grand canyon or a beautiful woman – you can try to describe it, but mere words do not do it justice.  Glory is the same way, just describing glory falls short – to fully understand glory, you must behold something glorious; you must experience it, you must be in its presence.  It is important for us to understand this or else we will spend countless hours trying to define or describe something that is best understood when it is experienced.  John Piper helped me in understanding this in one of his “Ask Pastor John” podcasts (see the link and audio below).

Let’s walk through Isaiah 6 together because it is helpful in understanding how we experience glory and grace.  Neither grace nor glory can be explained – they both must be experienced.  In this passage, Isaiah has a vision of the Lord in the temple that is pretty spectacular because the train of His robe fills the entire temple and there are two heavenly creatures (Seraphim) that are crying out, “holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts.”

The Seraphim are fiery (the Hebrew means flames) heavenly beings that are super powerful.  They have six wings and can talk.  But even these powerful creatures cover their faces in the presence of the Almighty.   They cry out, “Holy, holy, holy,” which means that  God is in a class all His own.  He is infinitely more perfect, good, worthy and powerful than anything else in all of creation; He is distinctly different and morally perfect.  No improvement can be made on God.  This is what Isaiah is experiencing as these creatures cry out, “holy, holy, holy is The Lord God Almighty.”  We might expect them to say that the whole earth is full of God’s holiness, but that is not what they say.  They say that the whole earth is full of His glory.  Glory is related to seeing God’s holiness – glory is related to seeing and experiencing God for who He really is; glory is connected to being in the presence of the Almighty.

Glory is a technical term for God’s manifest presence with His covenant people.  We see His presence (glory) in the cloud in the desert (Exodus 16:7 & 10), in the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34-35) and also in the temple (1 Kings 8:11).  Worshipers experience His glory (Ex. 29:43; Ps. 26:8; 63:2) and there is coming a day when the whole earth will be filled with His glory (Num. 14:21; Ps. 72:19; Hab. 2:14; cf. Isa. 11:9).  A major theme in the book of Isaiah is the anticipation of a day when God’s glory increases and is manifest over the entire earth (11:10; 35:2; 40:5; 58:8; 59:19; 60:1–2; 66:18).  The Seraphim seem to be longing for God’s glory to fill the earth because this passage can also be translated, “may his glory fill the whole earth.”  This same glory was present with Jesus (John 1:14).

Glory is the manifest presence of God’s holiness and beauty.  It is the sum total of who He is.  God is glorified when we are able to get a glimpse of who He really is – to be in His presence.  To glorify God involves seeing God in all of His “godness,” beauty and greatness.

Let’s keep going though.  What we see in the passage is an experience in Isaiah that we all should long for.  The presence of the immensity of God caused the foundations to shake and the temple to be filled with smoke.  It is terrifying to be in the presence of the Almighty (see Exodus 19:16-20); the Israelites recognized this as they determined that the needed a mediator (Deuteronomy 5:24–27) because God’s glory & greatness is frightening to sinful humans.

 Something beautiful happens when Isaiah encounters the Almighty in the temple – he cries out “woe to me.”  Seeing God causes Isaiah to see things more clearly, he sees himself as  an unclean man dwelling in midst of an unclean people.    He is unfit to be in the presence of God – a stark contrast to the Seraphim who are in God’s presence.  Experiencing the holiness and presence of the King seems to be a death sentence for sinners like you and me (Gen. 32:30; Ex. 33:20; Isa. 33:14) and Isaiah’s words verify that the prophet is feeling the same way.

We spend so much of our lives trying to prove to ourselves and others that we are ok, that we aren’t really that bad, that we are worthy.  Isaiah was a prophet, which means that he was a lot “better” than those around Him – he was a holy man.  But when Isaiah encounters God and all of His holiness and glory, he sees clearly.  Seeing ourselves, and our condition clearly is the first step in walking in freedom – and it always involves seeing ourselves against the backdrop of who God is and knowing that we are woefully lacking.

Isaiah didn’t resolve to try harder or to deny His deficiencies.  There was no ritual, resolve or sacrifice that Isaiah could offer that would remedy the situation.  Grace was the only solution.  God delivers grace via the Seraphim so that his lips would be clean.  Isaiah’s sins have been atoned for by one simple touch from God.  God’s grace is applied.  In a moment Isaiah goes from unclean to clean, outsider to adopted son, enemy to friend.

Now Isaiah’s heart turns to living a life of mission.  He longs to proclaim the glory and grace of God.  He will go and proclaim God’s glorious grace, but the people will not receive it because their hearts were hard, ears were closed and eyes were blind.  Isaiah was called to a very frustrating mission of proclaiming God’s glory and grace in which no one would respond.

We often times want to proclaim grace, but when grace is disconnected from who God really is it falls on deaf ears.  Good people don’t need grace.  The answer is not more grace, more grace more grace.  The answer is that we need to see God more clearly; we need to be ushered into His presence so that we see His immensity and our smallness.  We need to raise our gaze.  When we experience His glory by being in His presence, we experiencing His grace by Him atoning for our sins and allowing us to boldly enter the throne room of grace – and live!

We experience God’s glory as we get glimpses of Him.  We will be looking at ways to behold Him more clearly in coming posts!

http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/what-is-god-s-glory#

Posted in Growth/Pursuit | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Motivations Matter

“You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34 ESV)
“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”
(Matthew 15:18–19 ESV)

Tim Keller says that “the key difference between a Christian and a Pharisee is motivation. One obeys to get God’s stuff, the other obeys just to get God.”  This is true and we see it cover to cover in the bible.  God is not after any kind of obedience, God is after our JOYFUL obedience.

We are leaky people – what is on the inside leaks out of us.  If we are angry people, it has a way of leaking out on others;  if we are anxious, then it leaks out; if we are discontent then it leaks out; whatever is on the inside leaks out of our heart in the form of our feelings, words and behaviors.  This is why simply trying to manage our sinful behaviors never works.  We might try to buckle down and be extra disciplined to guard our tongues against gossip, our eyes from pornography or our quick whit from injuring others, but we ultimately fail.  The reason we fail is because we are fighting a losing battle because we have not destroyed the supply lines that keep the battle raging.

Should we not be concerned with our sinful words and actions?  Of course!  We should work with all of our might to align them with the words of scripture.  But, ultimately, just managing behavior will never make you free and it’s for freedom that you have been set free (Galatians 5:1).  Our real problem is the heart.  It is the GPS for our entire life (see Matthew 12:34, 15:18-19).  The heart is much harder to manage than our actions.  It seems to have a mind of its own!  It is easily distracted by random thoughts, emotions and desires.  We don’t really know what to do with it, so we tend to ignore it.

Our heart’s problem is a treasure problem – “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21 ESV).  Trying to manage its thoughts, emotions and desires will never lead to freedom.  What we need is a better view of what is really worthy of captivating our hearts.  We far too easily believe that worldly wealth, good relationships, success, acclaim, Christian service or comfort will provide us with what we are longing for.  Until you come to a point to which you see that these things, as good as some of them are, will never sustain you, you will never be free.  The “perfect” marriage will not set you free, the “perfect” job will not set you free, “perfect” relationships of love and acceptance will never set you free. 

Until we see that chasing good things, believing that they will satisfy us, is like running a marathon on a treadmill, we will never be free.  Jesus said that “the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44 ESV).  Don’t miss the fact that the man JOYFULLY WENT AND SOLD EVERYTHING THAT HE HAD TO ACQUIRE THE FIELD.  Is there a cost to following Christ?  Absolutely!  But when you view it at 20,000 feet, like the man in this parable, you will see that the cost is infinitely small as compared with the infinite joy that you receive.

How do we do this?  Paul tells us that “if then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1–3 ESV).  What are you seeking?  What are you telling yourself will make you happy, content or complete?  Start there and beg God to change your heart to see Him as the greatest treasure and to cause you to long for Him more than you long for the things that He can give you. 

Posted in Faith, Growth/Pursuit | Tagged , , ,

Confession & Repentance

David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.”  (2 Samuel 12:13 ESV)

“Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.”
“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
(Psalms 51:1–5 ESV)

Isn’t confession the same thing as repentance?  NO!  Confession alone is merely acknowledging our sin without turning from it at a heart level. Confession means that we feel bad about our sin or it’s consequences, but we don’t really want to change.  When we confess  our sin without repenting of it we display that we believe that sin does not have real consequences.  Repentance means that we turn from our sin and towards God and those we have offended with a contrite heart.  Repentance involves a heart level desire to change and a plan to change.  Repentance is not just turning from the external behaviors that wrought destruction in your life and the lives of others, but digging deeper into the heart motivation that drove those behaviors.

When there is acknowledgement of sin, but no real repentance of sin there’s no true understand of the offense that has been done.  There is no real understanding of the consequences of sin.  When there is no real understanding of the consequences, there’s no real need for atonement.  When “there’s no atonement, there’s no penalty paid for sin. There’s no Jesus, there’s no Savior. There’s no new life in Christ, there’s none of that, just a bunch of counterfeits — worldly sorrow.”1

Confession ≠Repentance

David confesses and appears to be repentant, but only time reveals if his heart is really repentant because the repentant heart ALWAYS yields fruit (Matthew 3:8, Luke 3:8).  David has a truly repentant heart, he wrote Psalm 51 during this season of his life.

David appeals to God’s gracious character and covenantal, steadfast love (chesed – Exodus 34:6-7) and abundant mercy because he knows that there is nothing that he can do to make things right between himself and God.  There was no sacrifice for adultery or for murder that he could offer, both offenses deserved death according to the law (Exodus 20:13-14, Leviticus 20:10-12, Numbers 35:30-31).  David’s sin was paid for by death – the death of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah and the death of David & Bathsheba’s first born son (and the death of Another).

Only God’s grace could restore David.  But, how could God do this?  How could He “just forgive” David of these destructive sins?  David’s sin could only be forgiven because a truly perfect first born son died the death that David deserved; Jesus paid the penalty for David’s sin.  The cross of Christ is in full focus in this passage – all the sins of God’s elect were placed squarely upon the shoulders of Jesus, regardless of whether they lived before or after the cross.  Jesus did not take a blank sheet of paper to the cross and then passively wait to see if we would accept His offer of forgiveness and write our names on the paper.  NO!  He wrote our names down and took them to the cross - He took David’s, mine and millions of others of the elect!

Grace is abundant, but it does not negate the consequences of David’s sin.  This is important.  My sinful acts in my life still have consequences on me and on others – it is not a lack of God’s grace, it is an evidence of grace.

David seeks to be ceremonially washed (Exodus 19:10) and cleaned (numbers 19:19) so that he can be in the presence of the Lord.  David seeks this from God because he knows that there is nothing that he can do to be acceptable because of the nature of his sin.  David is seeking to be in the presence of the Lord.  He is painfully aware of his sinfulness.  This is the first part of receiving God’s healing in our lives – naming and owning our sin.  David does not, nor should we, seek to justify his sin, blame it on others, seek to explain why or minimize it.  We should name our depravity and let it sit deeply on us.

We know that David sinned against Bathsheba and Uriah so why does he say that it is “against you only have I sinned?”  David recognizes that God is the ultimate judge.  God sees all and will bring all things to justice – all things!  We are not tried in the court of human justice, but in the tribunal of the eternal God of the universe.  This does not, in any way, lower the harm done to others – if anything, it raises it. This passage echoes 2 Samuel 11:27 & 12:9.  God is the ultimate just judge!

David traces his sinfulness back to conception – even before his birth!  This text does not mean that he was conceived by his mother in some sinful way, but rather that sin reigned in him – even in the womb.  We are by nature objects of wrath.  David does not cite this as an excuse or to justify his sin in any way.  He cites this and it elicits worship in him.  Worship & transformation occurs when we move from, “I couldn’t help it, that’s the way God made me,” to “what kind of God loves and forgives people like me who are so depraved – even from conception!”  You can tell you are repentant if you are able to worship – even in the midst of extreme difficulties.  If you are amazed, moved and overwhelmed that God calls you his “treasured possession” (because of Jesus’ perfect obedience that He gave to you) then you know that repentance has been granted to you.

God redeems & restores, He brings beauty out of ashes.  He doesn’t operate the way that we do – Solomon was the son of Bathsheba and is in the line of Jesus (2 Samuel 12:24).

1 http://theresurgence.com/2010/07/05/7-counterfeits-of-repentance

Posted in Growth/Pursuit | Tagged ,

The Consequences of Sin

““Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’”

And the LORD afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick. David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. And the elders of his house stood beside him, to raise him from the ground, but he would not, nor did he eat food with them. On the seventh day the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spoke to him, and he did not listen to us. How then can we say to him the child is dead? He may do himself some harm.” But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David understood that the child was dead. And David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” They said, “He is dead.” Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped. He then went to his own house. And when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate. Then his servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.””  (2 Samuel 12:10–12, 14-23 ESV)

Despite the fact that David was eventually repentant, there were still very real consequences as a result of his sin.  Confession and Repentance don’t negate the consequences for our sinful actions.  David’s house would be wrought with internal struggles and destruction from then onward (Amnon, Absalom & Adonijah all die by the sword).

We tend to believe that if we are repentant that we won’t have to deal with the consequences of our sinful behavior.  Being repentant does not mean that we will be spared the consequences of our sinful behavior.  Walking through the consequences while remaining contrite and even joyful is a sign that the heart is really repentant.  Worldly sorrow just wants to be spared from the consequences, but true repentance is willing to accept the consequences for our sinfulness.  The consequences for David were very real, his sin scorned the Lord and as a result the baby that he and Bathsheba conceived would die.

The sovereignty of God is so boldly on display here that it is striking.  “Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’””  (2 Samuel 12:11–12 ESV).  Absalom rebels against David and takes over his throne and has sex with his concubines on the rooftop.  This is reminiscent of Job 42:1:  “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2 ESV)

The Lord afflicted the child and he became sick; God is in sovereign control.  Innocent people suffer as a result of our sin – a sad, but true reality.  David steadfastly petitioned the Lord to spare his child from death; He pressed into God and appealed to His mercy.  But, ultimately, the child died.  Only death could pay the price for adultery and murder and the death of this child is a picture of a truly innocent Son, who was not the result of a defiled union, that would die to bear the penalty of our sin.

David responds to the death of his son by worshipping (v20) – He was truly free.  There were still painful consequences as a result of his sin, but he was free.  It was a grace that he could go into the house of the Lord and worship because there was no acceptable sacrifice for adultery & murder, but the Lord had put away his sin (v13) and spared him from death.  This is one of the most beautiful pictures of grace in the Old Testament and it doesn’t sit lightly on David.  David realizes that he has been forgiven much so he definitely loves much.  There is no hint of bitterness or anger at God for Him not healing his child.  When we try to justify ourselves we become bitter and angry, not free.  David accepts God’s decision and marvels at the grace that has been extended to him in the midst of his total depravity.  

Lord, help us marvel at the undeserved amazing grace that has been extended to us.

Posted in Depravity | Tagged , ,

Confronting Sin

“And the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.” (2 Samuel 12:1–9 ESV)

The Lord sends Nathan to David in order to confront him on his sin. The strength it took for Nathan to confront the king is incredible.  His hope was not in David’s response or even in the hope that He was a man after God’s own heart.  He could have been killed for confronting David.  Nathan feared God more than He feared man.

Nathan started by telling David a story of a poor man who had a prized lamb and a rich man who took it, killed it and served it for dinner for a guest.  It’s a tearjerker.  We, like David, can have so much empathy for others and be so blind to the ones close to us that we have offended; sin always blinds us.  David’s empathy and zeal for justice is real, but he is blinded to the parallel in his own life.  Sin always blinds us.  David starts rolling out how to make restitution.  David took Bathsheba just like the rich man who took the poor man’s lamb.

Nathan is not afraid to call sin what it is – SIN!  He boldly confronts David, proclaiming that David is the man who did this thing!  We don’t like to call sin, sin.  We have more sophisticated words for it today – like dysfunction – words that are less offensive and harsh so that we won’t feel bad about ourselves.  By doing this, we dumb down the justice of God and make His grace less than amazing.  In order for grace to be amazing, we must feel the crushing weight of our sin under the perfect standard of God’s law.

In verses 7 & 8, God reviews His grace to David.  God anointed David king, delivered him from Saul, gave him Saul’s house, wives & kingdom.  And God adds a comment on the end:  “And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more.”  God had been good to David.  Remembering God’s grace and goodness is important in walking uprightly.  We have nothing that we have not been given (1 Corinthians 4:7).

Nathan calls out David’s sin for what it was – murder and adultery.  How did Nathan know this?  Was there a group of people who gathered together to strategize how to confront David?  No, there is profound rest in believing that Yahweh sees all, knows all and rules over all so we don’t have to.  The specifics of David’s sin is no match for the Sovereign eye of the Almighty.

When we are called to approach a brother or sister in sin, we normally experience uncertainty, doubt or fear.  In these moments, we must learn to rest in God’s goodness and His sovereignty; we must fear Him more than we fear man – this is easier said than done!  As we approach another, we must do it boldly, but with grace – never self righteously because except for God’s grace towards us, we would walk the same path.  We don’t love others well if we are not willing to help them see their blind spots and we are not loved well if we don’t have people in our lives who are willing to point out our blind spots. 

Lord, help us to see you as the greatest treasure in the world so that other things pale in comparison to knowing and following you.

Posted in Growth/Pursuit | Tagged , , , , , ,

Concealing Sin

So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab was doing and how the people were doing and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” And Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?” Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.” Then David said to Uriah, “Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. And David invited him, and he ate in his presence and drank, so that he made him drunk. And in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.” And as Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew there were valiant men. And the men of the city came out and fought with Joab, and some of the servants of David among the people fell. Uriah the Hittite also died.
(2 Samuel 11:6–17 ESV)

The conniving wickedness of David should not make us feel self righteous, but should serve as a mirror to us in our own sinfulness.  Unconfessed sin is never content to live by itself.  Though David had supreme rights as a king, some things were off limits – like another man’s wife! Instead of confessing and repenting of his sin, he set a plan in motion to cover it up.  Getting sin out in the open with confession and repentance is freeing.  David summoned Bathsehba’s husband, Uriah, and asks how the battle is going.  Then he sends him home to clean up – and expecting that he will have sex with his wife.  But Uriah did not cooperate!  He slept outside with the king’s servants.  David asked Uriah why he didn’t go into his home.  Uriah responds, ““The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing (v11).”  Uriah is a righteous man, he viewed this as being improper.  It is ironic that he is righteous and the king is not.  David doubles his efforts and throws a party for Uriah and gets him drunk, thinking that would do the trick.  It did not.  Uriah again will not go into his house and have sex with his wife.

David is consumed with covering up his sin.  That is what sin does, it drives us to conceal it.  But, concealed sin will destroy you.  David sends a letter by way of Uriah (ironic!) unleashing a plan to have Uriah killed by placing him in the most fierce fighting area and then withdrawing all of the troops so that he is alone.  Joab is complicent in this and Uriah is killed.  Living an upright life, in the fear of the Lord like Uriah, does not ensure a good outcome in this world.

Sin rules and reigns in this world. Don’t miss how unconfessed sin always drives us to conceal it and that we will go to great lengths to hide it.  But, just because we think that sin is hidden does not mean that it is absent.  It is still swirling around below the surface, wreaking havoc on our lives and the lives of others – destroying our communion with God.  Even in this story, don’t miss the echo of the gospel – the righteous (Uriah) dies for the sins of the unrighteous (David).  It is because of the beauty of the gospel that we can boldly approach the throne of grace.  Confess your sins and repent of them and receive the cleansing grace of God.

Posted in Gospel Centrality, Growth/Pursuit | Tagged , , ,

The Anatomy of Sin

In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house.”  (2 Samuel 11:1–4 ESV)

David had defeated the Syrians and was now concentrating on Rabbah.  Something is wrong, though.  Kings normally go out to battle, but David stayed back.  David was enjoying leisure (he arose from his couch) while his men were out fighting.  The sin started long before Bathsheba.  He should have been out with his men, leading them in battle.  Idle hands are dangerous.  We were not built for idleness, we were built for work (Genesis 2:15).  To be idle is to be disobedient.  This, of course, does not mean healthy rest, but far too many men are content to be bored and idle in life.

During David’s idleness, he saw a beautiful woman bathing on her roof after her menstrual period.  David knew that she was married to Uriah the Hittite, but summoned Bathsheba anyway.  It is doubtful that he made his intentions clear to her because he sent messengers (plural).   He probably disguised it in concern for her wellbeing and for her family.  That was not the case, of course, the lust of David’s heart – despite having multiple wives to fulfill his sexual desires – ruled the day and he took Bathsheba and they had intercourse.  She became pregnant.

So what happened here?  What drove this offense?  It  did not start with adultery, it started with coveting.  David wanted that which was not his.  It started by breaking the 10th commandment (Exodus 20:17), which led to breaking the 7th (Exodus 20:14), which ultimately led to breaking the 6th (Exodus 20:13).  Sin ALWAYS STARTS IN THE HEART.  Sin says, “God is not good and that He is depriving us of something good because He is oppressive. It elevates us above God – determining right from wrong in our own eyes.  It puts us in a place where we believe that we have a clear view and absolute perspective.  We don’t.  Sin always uses created things to tempt us.  That is what Satan used in the garden to tempt Adam & Eve – a created thing.  External strategies like bouncing eyes, porn filters and accountability are all good things, but they are powerless to free the heart from the grip of sin.

Jesus came to set you free; a life that is free from sexually acting out but is still ruled by lust is not free.  Whatever we stare at and ascribe ultimate worth to is the object of our real affection.  When you worship sex, you will be ruled by lust.  The answer is to see Jesus as the risen and reigning Lord and that knowing Him is far superior to any lesser desires.  Lord, give us eyes to see and ears to hear.

Posted in Depravity, Growth/Pursuit | Tagged , , ,