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.

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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.

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.

Law versus Gospel

Notes:

  • You are not what you do, rather you are what has been done for you by Jesus Christ!
  • The Christian life on the ground is that you are simultaneously sinner and justified.
  • Not both sinner and justified before God – before God we are clothed completely in the RIGHTEOUSNESS of Christ!
  • There are only 2 messages in the Bible.  Law which is everything that says what we should “do,” and Gospel which is everything that God has “done” for us.
  • The failure to distinguish Law and Gospel accurately always leads to the abandonment of the Gospel.
    • The Law gets softened and produces moralism.
    • The Gospel gets hardened into a list of demands that must be lived out.
  • The Law is God’s unwavering demand for Perfection… BE PERFECT!  The Law demands everything, but gives nothing.  The Law illuminates sin, but is powerless to eliminate sin.  The Law points to righteousness but is powerless to produce righteousness.  The Law shows us what love is, but cannot produce love in us.  The Law informs us of our sin but cannot transform the sinner.
  • The Gospel tells us that since we can’t meet God’s demand, Jesus met it for us.  It’s anthem is, “it is finished!”  There is nothing else that we must do.  Christians live their lives under a banner that reads “IT IS FINISHED!”
  • The law forces us to face our sin, but the Gospel alone forgives us from our sin.
  • The Law accuses us, the Gospel acquits us!
  • The Law exposes us, the Gospel exonerates us!
  • The Law diagnoses sinners, the Gospel delivers sinners!
  • The Law shows how quick we are to run from God, the Gospel shows how quick He is to run after us!
  • The Law shows  us our desperation is greater than we ever realized, the Gospel shows our deliverance is greater than we could have imagined!
  • The Law demands perfection, the Gospel declares perfect all who trust in Jesus!
  • The Law demands that we do it all, the Gospel declares that Jesus paid it all!
  • God’s Law is for those who think they are good, God’s Gospel is for those who know they are bad!
  • We should speak God’s demand in such a way that we are reacquainted with our desperation for a Savior!
  • Sins we cannot forget, God cannot remember.
  • Though the accuser roar of sins that I have done, I know them all and thousands more, Jehovah knoweth none!
  • God’s Demand:  BE PERFECT
  • God’s Diagnosis:  YOU ARE NOT PERFECT
  • God’s Deliverance:  JESUS WAS PERFECT FOR YOU
  • The Gospel demands nothing, but gives everything.

You Will Receive Power

Chapter 22 

“YOU WILL RECEIVE POWER”

In order to live out your honored status in Christ, you need help. And help, indeed, is what you get. So, along with “Thank you,” get in the habit of saying “Help” as often as possible.

The cross was behind him and Jesus was eating with his disciples again. It was during the forty days between his resurrection and his ascension. The topic was the Holy Spirit. In just a few days, after Jesus ascended, the Spirit would come and life as it was then understood would be changed forever. Power was coming.

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now . . . . But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” (Acts 1:4–5, 8)

Power—that’s what you need. The shamed have none of it. They always seem to be on the losing end. They experience oppression and neglect. They are nothing. But even more, you need power for God’s truth to come alive in your soul. Too often God’s words of truth to a shame-filled soul don’t penetrate or last. As soon as hope appears, it is vaporized. You need God’s power so his words of truth can take up residence in your life. You need power to believe, power to act.

Jesus ascended and the Spirit was given. This is a moment in history that affects you right now. (You already know how the past can affect you negatively, but this is a good way the past affects you.) Jesus had promised that he would never leave his people alone. He promised that when he left the Spirit would come. If you know anything about the Spirit, you might as well nickname him “Power” because when he is present things happen (Acts 1:8).

The death and resurrection of Jesus inaugurated the new kingdom; the coming of the Spirit made it all visible. The people of God had dwindled to a handful of women. Now, with the coming of the Spirit, the numbers multiplied daily. Fearful disciples suddenly became bold, even in the face of death. There were enough miracles to prove that Jesus’ work was continuing, and continuing through imperfect followers. Forgiveness of sins was in the air. Out-of-control lives were brought back within the boundaries of self-control. And shame, for those who were willing, was forever changed.

THE SPIRIT AND WATER

“Power,” that is, the Holy Spirit, was always central to God’s plan. He was promised long ago, and he was promised when people were a spiritual mess. In other words, no matter how bad you think you are, there is no chance that God will renege on his promises now.

People make promises when there is mutual trust. Wedding vows are the best example. They come only after a period of dating or courtship, when faithfulness can be displayed and verified. You want to have confidence in the other person’s fidelity. Not too many people would knowingly walk down the aisle while their prospective spouse was in the process of trashing the relationship. But this is exactly what God does. He makes promises knowing that his people are either fearful or unfaithful. His story is about his faithfulness and our unfaithfulness. So you can’t exclude yourself from these promises. They are delivered to people who are decidedly unworthy.

“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezekiel 36:25–27)

The Spirit and water promised by Ezekiel. God says, “I will sprinkle clean water on you.” You can add “Water of Life” or “Cleansing Water” to the names of the Spirit. This sprinkling is with no ordinary water. The Spirit himself is the water.

At the very heart of shame is the absence of relationships, the absence of being known, personal isolation. With this in mind you again get the feeling that God’s words to you are all about shame. For example, many religions have cleansing rituals, but the cleansing given by the true God is fundamentally about him uniting himself with you. His world is intensely personal. You are cleansed by the person of God so that the Spirit of God can dwell with you.

The time is coming, Ezekiel said, when you will be ceremonially sprinkled and be clean through and through. That time has come.

Remember that there are two kinds of cleansing. One happens once and lasts a lifetime; the other is the foot washing we need every day. Ezekiel is talking about that initial once-and-for-all cleansing. No matter how we became unclean, whether by the acts of other people or by our own, we know there must be a cleansing that reaches far beneath the skin. This is that cleansing.

Shakespeare’s Macbeth understood the depths of defilement. He needed cleansing from two murders, and he knew water was ineffective. He said,

“Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red.”14

His wife, an accomplice to murder, also found that her acts left her permanently bloody.

“Out, damned spot! out, I say!—One: two: why, then, ’tis time to do’t.—Hell is murky!—Fie, my lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?—Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?”15

Water alone can’t wash our souls, but the Spirit can. Inner transformation is exactly what the Spirit does. It is part of consecration and it is God’s work, not yours. So Scripture counters the futility of washing ourselves with the Lord’s promise that even murderous hands can be cleansed.

“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)

All you have to do is nothing, but nothing, as you know, is very hard to do. The gifts of God to you are getting more specific. Received rightly, they change you.

An African woman had just been given a scarf. It was a ten-dollar item you could buy at a thrift store for two. But she didn’t look like she had been given a two-dollar scarf. She looked transformed in her own demure way.

Why the change in her? You didn’t have to guess.

“This is the first time I was ever given a gift.”

When you understand that God gave you the gift of himself, you discover another kind of shame: you are being treated in a way that is much better than you deserve. You are being cleansed and accepted, and no one deserves such a gift.

When you receive an extravagant gift and have nothing to give in return, you can be a little embarrassed. You feel . . . unworthy, though it is a very different unworthy than you ever experienced. When you receive an extravagant gift from someone that you yourself shamed, you will feel something closer to shame than embarrassment. That is pride talking. We are concerned more about ourselves than we are grateful for the mercy and grace of the other person. But with our pride ousted, humility has the freedom to take our eyes off ourselves and appreciate the greatness of the giver. Humility simply says, “Thank you.”

And, of course, there are even more gifts.

The Spirit and water promised by Jesus. Jesus had the “Water of Life,” a.k.a. the Holy Spirit, in view whenever he spoke about cleansing and water. He said to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Next, he offered living water to the Samaritan woman (John 4). Though he doesn’t specify to her the connection between the Spirit, water for drinking, and water for cleansing (John 4); he will make that connection clear just a little later.

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive . . . . (John 7:37–39)

The apostle John spelled it out: The living water is the Spirit.

Can you see it? The gifts are mounting up. In Ezekiel you see the priest sprinkle the water of cleansing on you, and the water of cleansing is the Holy Spirit. Even more, the Spirit doesn’t just wash off. Instead he seeps into you, going all the way to your heart to become the identifying center of your life. The progression from unclean to holy is complete. You are clean inside and out, and you are consecrated. How could it be otherwise? The Spirit lives within you.

Jesus adds that the Spirit in you gushes out from you. There is nothing surprising here. God is generous. When the Spirit is given to you, you get a lot of the Spirit. Jesus is splicing Ezekiel’s prophecy with a later vision when Ezekiel watched the temple spring a leak (Ezekiel 47:1–12). In that vision, Ezekiel was brought to the temple and observed water coming from the Holy Place, where God dwelled with his people. The water was coming out in a stream, flowing outside the temple gates, starting as a trickle but gathering momentum so that it kept getting wider and deeper as you followed it—deep enough to swim in—with life springing up wherever the water went.

No little sprinkling here. There is no chance that any part of you will go unwashed. It’s time for a swim. Usually in Scripture, large amounts of water symbolize danger. Water was where you could drown. But now, for the first time, you are invited to swim without fear of drowning because this water is safe. The water is life itself.

The gusher coming from the temple is the Spirit. You are invited to dive in. When you do, you will find complete cleansing. Places in you that were dead will come to life.16 Then, once you go about your daily business, a mini-gusher comes out of you, enabling you to bless and bring words of life to other people. No more hiding and avoiding. You have been given a mission and you have the power to accomplish it.

The cleansing Spirit has washed you, brought you into the community of God, and authorized you to bless others. You are no longer the beggar but the giver.

THE SPIRIT AND THE TEMPLE

]And there is more still. Since a scale version of the Spirit-gusher comes out of you, you are the temple of God.

Keep the story in mind. The cleansing Spirit, who had been with the people in the Old Testament, was waiting for the perfect sacrifice to be made by Jesus. Once that sacrifice was verified as effective and complete, and once Jesus returned to heaven as the reigning King, the Spirit was released. Attach yourself to Jesus by faith and the Spirit washes over you and fills you. The Spirit is in you. Even more, since God is generous and lavish in the way he gives himself, you can expect the Spirit to overflow from your heart. You are the temple in Ezekiel’s vision.

God never intended to make a beautiful but lifeless building his permanent residence. The Jerusalem temple was fine, but it wasn’t much good for people who lived a few days’ walk away. No matter how beautiful a building it was, people are more appropriate temples. God always planned to dwell in living tabernacles, tabernacles with legs and arms that would represent, love, and serve him.

Yet who could qualify for such honor? Only God in the flesh.

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. (John 2:19–21)

Jesus was the living temple, the place where God himself was present. Jesus was the Holy of Holies, the very heart of the temple, the place of his throne on earth (Ezekiel 43:7; Revelation 21:22). There you found the Ten Commandments, which Jesus kept perfectly. There you found the manna, the Bread of Life. Everything about the temple pointed to Jesus.

But where you find Jesus, you can expect to find his people because his people are united with him. The first inkling that we were connected to the tabernacle or temple was when we examined the clothing of the priests (Exodus 28). Look closely at this clothing and you will discover that it is suspiciously similar to the tabernacle itself. As the Holy Place was surrounded by the beautiful tent God had designed, so the priest was surrounded by that tent in miniature, his priestly garments. He was, indeed, a walking tabernacle, consecrated by God.

As we are joined to Christ by faith, we too become walking tabernacles. The apostle Paul understood this when he wrote, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

You could easily get overwhelmed by all this, as when you ask someone for directions and they give you more detail than you want. By the time the person gets to “You will pass the house with two pink azaleas where you take a soft left after the second right at the fourth light,” you remember absolutely nothing. When you hear one or two directions, you might remember; hear a lot and you hear nothing. In other words, don’t let this montage of spiritual gifts leave you dazed and stuck.

Whenever possible, put these new realities into speech. Talk about them. Tell your friends what you are learning. When you live in the kingdom of God, you will notice that public proclamations are highly valued. We are a community that learns from one another, so you owe it to the rest of us to speak these realities. And you will discover that your confidence in God’s words to you will grow as you proclaim them.

THE SPIRIT AND YOU

This is just a sample of the things the Spirit does, but it should be enough to persuade you that you are clean in Christ. If you doubt that just watch these new realities cascade down on you. In Christ you have been drenched by the cleansing Spirit.  You have been sent swimming in him. That certainly is enough to cleanse you.

You have also been reclaimed as a living tabernacle. Where idols once reigned and tainted associations separated, the Spirit has come to stay. His holiness overcomes any uncleanness within you. The Holy Spirit cleanses you once and for all; you have gone from uncleanness to cleanness. Cleanness, however, can still be common and not holy. That’s why the Spirit’s residency is also important. It shows that God’s intent is to make you his own. You, who were once common and unclean, have now become holy and clean. Now, instead of contaminating others, you can touch them and somehow sanctify them. Your presence in the lives of other people is more powerful than you think. You can, in some real way, make them holy. Your presence announces God’s unique interest in the other person.

I observed this on a human scale when I married. My parents did not meet my wife until a month after our wedding, but the moment they met her they loved her. My parents loved me; I loved my wife; so my parents loved my wife. They were linked to me; I was linked to her; so they were linked to her.

This does not mean that those who are linked to us immediately belong to Christ, but it does mean that they enjoy an enviable position. At the very least, they have daily opportunities to witness the Spirit within another person. In a real way they too have been set apart.

The apostle Paul gave a concrete application of this. In ancient Israel there were strict taboos against marrying people outside Israel. Such a marriage brought pagan contamination into the home and defiled any Israelite. After Jesus ascended, the early church encountered similar relationships: one spouse put his or her faith in Jesus but the other one did not. A possible application of Old Testament principles to this situation was to advise the believer to divorce the unbeliever, thereby breaking the link to the unclean person. The apostle Paul, however, used different logic. If the unbeliever was willing to live with the believer, Paul advised the believer to stay because the believer—the holy one—can spread holiness to others in close association with him or her. With Christ in you, by way of the Holy Spirit, you can touch other people.

 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. (1 Corinthians 7:13–14)

So get out there and start touching. This is the era of action. If you have said “I love you” to Jesus, you have all the benefits that come with your new relationship. You also have the responsibilities. In other words, you have purpose. You have a reason to live. You claim all the benefits of Jesus Christ and he claims you. Just as Jesus moved toward you in love, you move toward others on his behalf.

And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. (1 John 3:23–24)

There is nothing burdensome in this purpose. It is hard but invigorating. Imagine that you are the new Isaiah. You have been purified by the King. He lives in you by his Spirit, and he gives you a mission.

Welch, Edward T. (2012-04-30). Shame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness and Rejection (pp. 227-237). New Growth Press. Kindle Edition.

Echoes of an Empty Tomb

Echoes of an Empty Tomb
by Tad Pruitt (@tadcpruitt)

An echo starts then fades away
While dawn begins a dreaded day.
A thought perhaps that three days on
Will bring more hope than three days gone.

She rises, tired, restless, sad.
All seems lost, as if a fad
Deemed useless now to all with reason,
Faded faith, a worn-out season.

Hoping not to hope as past
But just to share a moment last
With lifeless, shrouded, silent friend
Who’s life less sounded Law, but End.

Less Law, but what? The echo rang
Around inside her heart and brain,
But came confused with curse and fears,
Drowned out by questions, sobs and tears.

Down the path to hated tomb
She walked and murmured funeral tune
And prayer, for death and Rome had taken,
Tortured, pierced and left forsaken

Her good friend, her healer, teacher,
Prophet, shepherd—more than preacher.
Echoes of Hosanna ringing,
Then replaced with chains and clinging

Blood-soaked tunic, jeers and jibes
From those so easily turned by bribes
Of peace or order, power kept
If under rug The Way was swept.

For dangerous, disruptive was
The Way, the Teacher’s sacred cause.
It seemed to tear apart the Law—
The life religious all now saw.

And what then? Echoed words from wise,
Both skeptics, guards from false-taught lies,
And seekers, wandering, wanting still,
But wondering how Law’s void to fill?

But she cared not for thoughts so lofty,
Philosophical while softly
Near the cave she came so sure
That death was final, hope no cure.

And what of sin? What did He say?
It had not died that skull-cross day.
Or so it seemed at this dark hour
New day dawning bitter, sour.

But at the tomb a thing not right
Filled her with dread. This horror might
Get worse! “Dear God, I could not bear,”
She thought, “if desecration paired

With death.” The stone so massive moved,
Unsealed the grave, unlocked and shoved
Aside by forces greater than
The guards could muster or demand.

So now unguarded was the trail
That led to final lifeless tale.
Now all had left, abandoned him
Who came to join those cursed by sin.

But wait, where is he? There’s no bone
Inside that shroud now left alone,
Abandoned as like chains put down
And walls now echoed different sound.

It was a voice, a face so glowing
Speaking what her heart was knowing,
That he was not here, not now,
Nor ever more; and more, ’bout how

Death could not keep him in that grave.
His life had lived to ransom, save,
Secure and station at His side
In Father’s love—for that he died!

She knew it! Surely he had come
Not just to teach, then die or run
From what we needed most of all,
A cure from sin and warped wrong call.

But his life in exchange for yours
And mine and hers. An open door
To any who will call his name
As Savior, Chosen One Who came.

Now echoed from that tomb her cries
Of marvel at His sacrifice
And songs of praise and thanks resounded
From the stone the slab surrounded

Out into the sun she bolted,
Hope renewed, despair revolted
From, as those she rushed to tell
Came all to mourn their friend who fell.

“He is not dead! He lives, I’m sure!”
She said three times because they were
So stunned. “Her grief has made her mad,”
They first thought, til she visaged glad.

And as she spoke His words came back
To mind and heart, and now unpacked,
Now understood, the Good News clear
And what he said made sense to hear.

For grace now echoed from the tomb,
And gospel filled that hopeless room,
And all believed or soon would see
The Law fulfilled on alter’s tree.

And echo of the lifted curse,
It rang throughout the universe,
And rings today in Easter’s bells
For all to hear and all to tell

The Good News that his power to save
Is yours; it’s mine! But more, He gave
In grace, sustaining, changing might,
Not ours, but His! Because the fight

Was won that day as Jesus rose
From death to life. And so it goes,
The echo of that empty tomb
Is grace for all, our new found tune.

Yes, Christ is risen from the dead
For sinless life he crowned his head
And Church is made His chosen bride
Sing loudly, Church! His grace is life!

Forsaking God and managing behavior

“I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.” (Galatians 4:1–11 ESV)

The Jews were like children – heirs to the promises – but too young to have inherited them immediately.  There was a period of waiting.  This Jews had to wait for the true promise of the kingdom.  However, they were enslaved to the elementary teachings of the world.  They were enslaved because rules and laws are powerless to liberate.  If you are only trying to manage behavior then you will never be truly free, and it is for freedom that Christ has set you free (Galatians 5:1)!  

In the fullness of time, God sent Jesus in the flesh, born of a woman, under the law.  God’s timing is always perfect, even in the midst of difficulties and hardships when it doesn’t seem like He is present.  We must learn to believe and rest in the fact that God providentially rules and reigns over all things, and nothing is outside of His authority.  At the right time, God sent Jesus to redeem fallen man and to adopt them into His family.  We are adopted sons.  God redeems AND God adopts.  Our sonship is sealed with the Spirit of Big Brother Jesus – we have been given the Holy Spirit.

We are no longer enslaved to the elementary principles of this world because of our relationship with God – not so much that we know God, but that we are known by God!  Powerful!  We are known by the God of the universe, we have been declared clean and free by the sovereign ruler of the cosmos!  Amazing!  After this amazing grace laden adoption, why in the world would we return to the “elementary principles” of this world?   Why would we want to exchange our sonship for slavery?  We tend to return because it is natural for us, but it irritates the apostle because there is no power there – quite the opposite, there is nothing but bondage and oppression there.  These elementary principles are “weak and worthless.”  They say, “observe this,” “do that,” “act like this.”  When we return to our performance as the means by which we grow, we exchange our sonship for slavery.  The real power for transformation is believing at a deep level that the God of the universe, due to nothing good in you, called you to Himself and He not only saved you, but adopted you as a son.   You are not just forgiven, you are adopted as a son.  The judge took off the robe after declaring you “not guilty,” and then went outside and threw the football with you.

These elementary principles (see also Colossians 2:8, 20) are the elements, principles or requirements of a religious system that dictate what must be done in order to be acceptable to God; they are rooted in our performance.  There is something in us that longs to return to these rules and systems because they put the power to change under our control.  When we return to our performance, we are forsaking the streams of living water offered in our relationship with God and digging our own broken cisterns that hold nothing but muddy sediment (Jeremiah 2:13).

We want a list, a system or some tip to change the uncomfortable consequences of sin in our lives.  The problem is that lists, systems and tips are powerless to produce true and lasting transformation in us.  You know what you should do, but find yourself powerless to do it and yet you insanely keep returning to the same things thinking that they will change you (Proverbs 26:11).  Insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” (Albert Einstein).

The real problem is that there is not an utter distaste for sin, but rather the consequences that sin is wreaking on our lives.  We don’t see sin as an offense against God and utterly repulsive, instead we see sin as uncomfortable and we don’t like the dysfunction and consequences that it is causing in our lives.  When we, like David did in Psalm 51, develop an utter repulsion of sin itself then, and only then, are we in a position to be freed from its grasp.  The consequences of sin are gracious because they point us to the sin itself, but just wanting to be free of sins consequences without wanting to be free from the root of sin is a fools errand.  

Freedom is NEVER FOUND IN A LIST, SYSTEM OR SET OF TODO’S to be performed.  Freedom is only found in a Person.  And more than just a Person, but our association with and relationship to that Person.  Freedom is found in marveling in the unbelievable fact that the eternally holy Creator would forgive you and adopt you – that He would make you His child and write you into His eternal will with all of the rights of a natural born son.  Stare at that truth until it resonates deep in your soul.

There is not a 3rd Option

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”  (Galatians 5:16–18 ESV)

How do we overcome the sinful desires of our flesh?  There is  only one answer:  walk in the Spirit.   Sinful desires of the flesh are not only the external, easily measurable  sins, but are also everything in our natural man that is sinful – our behaviors, motivations, feelings and thoughts.  In verses 13 & 14, Paul encouraged the Galatians not to view their freedom in Christ as an opportunity for the flesh, but rather as an opportunity to love.  He now juxtaposes walking by the Spirit with gratifying the flesh.  Walking by the Spirit is firmly rooted in our adoption as sons and the freedom that is associated with being His children.  The word that Paul uses for “gratify” here is interesting – He could have used the word for satisfy.  Gratify is different than satisfy, it literally means “to carry out a command” or “to do as commanded.”  It communicates the inevitability that we will follow our sinful desires because we are not walking in the Spirit.  If we are not walking in step with the Spirit, we will gratify our sinful desires.  There is no third option.  This sounds like Romans 6:12-14 where Paul tells us not to let sin reign in our mortal bodies and Romans 8:6:  “for to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

We are commanded to walk by the Spirit.  Walking by the Spirit means that we are directed by the Spirit’s leading (and certainly the revealed word of God is part of that) and that we depend fully upon His power to walk in obedience.  This does not mean that we goto the bible to find things to do and then try to obey them on our own with an occasional prayer for help.  This looks like seeking to be filled by the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) – which means that we are actively influenced and directed by the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.  We not only seek His influence and direction, we are completely dependent upon Him to walk in obedience to His direction.  We tend to think of filling in terms of filling a glass to the brim with something.  A better, and more accurate, picture of being filled by the Spirit is when the sails of a ship are filled by the wind which carries it along the water.  The Spirit becomes the controlling influence in your life, like alcohol is when you are drunk.  He fills you and carries you along.

Far too often, we survey our lives and see that they are free from the sins that we deem to be really bad or destructive so we think that we are ok and we begin to coast spiritually.  There is no middle ground, we are either actively killing sin or sin is actively killing us (John Owen).  For the Christian, life is a spiritual war – the Spirit and the flesh are diametrically opposed.  You have to choose one or the other – there is no middle ground or “balance” to be found.    To be personally & actively led by the Spirit is to not be under the onerousness of obeying the Law; we now obey from our acceptance, not for our acceptance.  The Spirit doesn’t lead by sending us out, He goes with us – He accompanies us along the way.  Being led by the Spirit is personal and relational.  The Creator of the universe accompanies you.  Let that sink in.

Lord, teach us to surrender and walk by your Holy Spirit so that we will not gratify the desires of our flesh; help us to understand what this looks like, create in us a desire for it and empower us to surrender to you.

The Power to Change

“You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2 ESV)

“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14 ESV)

Often times, in our Christian experience, we believe that morality is the goal of our faith.  It is relatively easy to define, there are many scriptures that reinforce that we should live moral lives and we are able to accomplish morality by being disciplined; in short, morality is measurable.  We can produce morality on our own which should scare us!  There are plenty of non Christians who are very moral (far more so than I am):  they don’t cheat, steal or lie, they are benevolent, faithful to their spouses, and kind to others.  These are good things, right?  YES, they are!  Morality can be easily defined, and sometimes produced, by a list of things “to do” and things not “to do.”  We like lists because they put us in control.

Morality is not, however, the goal of the Christian life – holiness is the goal of the Christian life.  Morality doesn’t require Jesus, but holiness is built entirely upon Jesus.  Far too many have settled in to a Christless Christianity.  If morality is the target then we look to ourselves and our own power to produce it, and when we do we become very self-righteous.  Those who have a hard time producing morality are looked down on because they aren’t strong enough, disciplined enough or don’t measure up.  So should we not be moral people?  No, we should be!  But morality is not the aim.  When our target is holiness then we are driven to Christ in despair because we know that we are not holy as He is – and as we are commanded to be.  When we aim for holiness, morality is produced as a byproduct.  One is built upon us and our own efforts and one is built upon Jesus and the work He did for us.

Morality focuses on behavior and the consequences associated with our behaviors; holiness focuses on the heart’s motivations and the power of God to transform our hearts of stone.  Should we not be concerned with our external behaviors, should we just live however we want?  NO!  But we all know that managing behavior, suppressing our feelings or just trying to take our thoughts captive never results in true and lasting transformation.  Our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are indicators of what we really believe down deep in our hearts – in our gut!  It is so hard to change because the root of our sin runs very deep and we seldom do the work that is required to unearth what we are really believing so we become content with just replacing our sinful thoughts, feelings and behaviors with less offensive ones. This is why Jesus said that our work is to believe (john 6:29).  So let us learn to do the painful and difficult work of excavating the false beliefs that are driving our sinful thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

Beliefs -> Thoughts -> Feelings -> Behaviors.
Our beliefs lead to our thoughts which lead to our feelings which lead to our behaviors.  Most people who attend church are pretty good at managing external behaviors because we know what is acceptable and what is not and we really want people to think highly of us.  So we become content with not swearing, sleeping around, drinking too much and trying our best to stay out of the ditch of the really “bad sins.”  We aren’t overly concerned that our hearts are filled with anger, impatience, angst, lust, jealousy or discontent.  All we are really doing is replacing “unacceptable” external behaviors with more “acceptable” ones like self-righteousness, self-reliance and self-control.  Managing behaviors is rooted in self.  If we are really honest, we’d far rather deal with the self-righteous elder brother’s life than we would deal with the egregiously sinful life of the younger brother (Luke 15:11-32).  This is because the consequences of the elder brother’s self righteous behavior is not as disruptive to our lives as the consequences to the younger brother’s sinful life.  Despite the fact that the younger brother is the one in the parable – and normally the one in real life – that understands his need for grace.  We prefer good behavior over contrite hearts.

Our feelings are underneath our behaviors and they are far more difficult for us to manage.  They come on like a wave and can be overwhelming.  Feelings of angst, impatience, lust, covetousness, jealousy, inadequacy, guilt, shame and discontent – just to name a few.  Who hasn’t resolved to be more patient only to find themselves stuck behind a intolerably slow driver or picking the slowest check out line at the grocery store?  Most won’t scream out the window at the driver ahead of them to “hurry up,” or yell at the clerk at the store to “put a move on it!”  This is because we have learned to manage our external behaviors, but the feeling of impatience (and probably growing angst) is overwhelming and nearly impossible to manage.  We don’t know what to do with these feelings so we try our best to ignore them or shove them down.  This is not the biblical way to handle our feelings.  Instead of suppressing them, we should follow them – all the way to the root belief that is producing them.  This takes time, energy and dependent surrender upon a good and gracious God to do this.

Instead, we resolve to change how we think; we resolve that we should take every thought captive to obedience to Christ (and we should 2 Corinthians 10:5) and we resolve to think on excellent things instead of those things which stir up our anger, lust, jealousy and impatience (Philippians 4:8).  So how’s that working for you?  We all know the answer to that question!  Resolving to think differently does not work because your thoughts are a byproduct of your beliefs – you are closer to your beliefs, but attempting to just change the way that you think is a frustrating and unfruitful endeavor.  We must follow our sinful thoughts to their roots of unbelief in the heart.

Just because you didn’t kill someone, didn’t steal something or didn’t honk at the driver in front of you doesn’t mean that you are free.  And make no mistake, Jesus came to set you free (John 6:36; Romans 6:7, 18, 20, Galatians 5:1).  Angry hearts aren’t free hearts, lust filled hearts aren’t free hearts, impatient hearts aren’t free hearts.  Therefore, we must learn to follow our thoughts, feelings and behaviors to their roots – we must use them to diagnose the roots of sinful false belief in our hearts.  The unbelief in our heart is the root of all sinful behavior (Matthew 12:34, 15:18-19).  We must learn to repent of the sin underneath the sin.  We must learn to ask and mine out why we are angry, greedy, lustful, selfish, rude, prideful?  We must ask ourselves, “what have I really set my hope upon, where is my treasure really?”  When you begin to ask these questions you will ALWAYS FIND that your real problem is a worship problem.  You will always find that you have attached ultimate value and worth to a created thing (relationships, marriage, success, pleasure, children, morality, service, acceptance) and this thing is not able to hold the weight of your worship.  And whatever we worship converts us in to its image.  You BELIEVE that this thing at the center of your heart will produce security, significance and happiness – it will not, it cannot.  This is why the gospel always invades the heart – not primarily the thoughts, feelings or behaviors.  As Christ begins to reign in those areas of our hearts as its greatest treasure then our thoughts, feelings and behaviors slowly begin to change.

It really is simple, it’s just not easy!  Running is not mechanically complex – anyone can run.  Running is simple, but driving your mile time to 7 minutes, 6 minutes or even less is not easy!  Just because following our behaviors, feelings & thoughts to their root of false belief & false worship in our hearts is simple does not mean that it is easy.  It requires grace driven effort.  But let us not shy away from pursuing godliness – for it is what we are called to.  If you will pursue Christ like this then you will find liberating joy, regardless of the circumstances that you face.  God is most glorified when you are most satisfied in Him.

"Not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard"