Tag Archives: Broken

The Futility of Created Things

“What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.” (Ecclesiastes 3:9–13 ESV)

What true gain does the worker have from his work? Provision? Yes. Accomplishment? Yes. True satisfaction? Not very often. The satisfaction of a job well down and the satiation that we seek escapes us; when we do feel it, it quickly fades. This is what life is like east of Eden. Work is no longer satisfying as it was intended to be; it is now wrought with thorns and thistles. Additionally, the business that God has given man seems meaningless in so many ways (Ecclesiastes 1:4-11). We get up, wipe the sleep out of our eyes, stumble into our days, do our work (which is often frustrating), return home, go to bed and do it all over again – there is a certain futility to it all. Our familial relationships are stunted; they are only whiffs of the glory that they should be. True friends and community are hard to find. This should cause lamenting in us for something that should be, something that once was, something that is now lost. But, it should produce hope as well, as we see God restoring and redeeming those things to their former glory (Romans 8:18-25, Revelation 21:1-5)! It is a grace to be able to stop and assess this and set our hope above the sun!

Despite the futility of this world and the seemingly endless cycle that we are on, there is beauty to be seen and experienced; there still exists a certain order, harmony and beauty in created things. The birth of a child; moments of true connection with a child, spouse or friend; the beauty of a sunset; the satisfying embrace of one’s spouse and lover; the satisfaction of a project completed; the spectacular glory of mountains capped with snow or a beautiful sunset. May this beauty point to Someone above the sun who is far more beautiful. May the glory that we feel in these moments not terminate upon these created things, but roll up to the Creator of these things.

“Humanity still has Eden in its veins. We have ‘eternity in our hearts (Eccl. 3:11). Our souls instinctively yearn for a purposed life without end under this time-chained sun.”1 God has put an ancient, eternal, everlasting sense in our hearts that we cannot figure out or understand. There is a sense in all mankind that there is more than just life under the sun, but no amount of information, studying or learning can satisfy this longing. Facts and information do not resolve this deep whisper in a man’s soul. As wise and noble as Solomon was, he acknowledged that his ability to understand deep, eternal things on his own was limited. We are no different. We can’t figure it out, we can’t find God. Indeed, He is not lost – we need Him to find us – we are lost. We need Him, without Him we will not “figure out” the deep nag in the soul. Indeed, the answer is not under the sun.

Yes, there is frustration to life under the sun; we intuitively know that it is not as it should be, and that there are things that we do not know and cannot understand. Solomon concludes that we should learn to enjoy the good things that God gives us under the sun.  We should be joyful and do good because we know that anything satisfying east of Eden is a gift from the Creator because all things should be utter futility, but they aren’t. When we see clearly that created things can never fully sooth the nag of the soul, then we can learn to enjoy them for what they are – not expecting something from them that they lack the capacity to supply. We should learn to enjoy the good gifts that God has given us – like eating good food, drinking good drink with friends and finding satisfaction on our work. The ability to find satisfaction in these things is a gift from the Creator; joy is found in understanding the “givenness” of all things.  “In other words, the best good in the madness under the sun is found when we recover some small resemblance to what we were made for in Eden.”2

Against the transient backdrop of the vanities of this world, the absolute sovereign power of the Almighty shines all the brighter. This should cause us to see our position before Him as created beings that are finite, tiny and lacking. It should produce reverence and fear, a theme in Ecclesiastes (5:7; 12:13). But, redemption is coming; Eden will be restored. Lord, help us to park our hope on You, not on the things that you have created.

1Recovering Eden by Zack Eswine, Page 126
2Ibid., Page 15

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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

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.

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.

Thoughts from Jude (part 2)

“These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.” (Jude 1:16 ESV)

These people are grumblers – those who are discontent and complain against God.  These people have a low view of the Almighty, as if He existed to sprinkle them with fairy dusted blessings.  This brings to mind the generation that died in the wilderness for their complaining and grumbling.  Jude goes further calling these people malcontents.  Malcontents are “finding fault or being discontented with one’s lot, querulous; a discontented, querulous person, a complainer”  Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament.  These people follow their own sinful desires instead of subduing them into obedience with the Scriptures.  They boast loudly and manipulate to get what they want.  Wicked people!  How often do we find ourselves complaining, grumbling, finding fault, being discontent?  These attitudes are rooted in an extremely low view of God – as if He owes us anything.

“But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.”  (Jude 1:17–19 ESV)

Jude uses Beloved.  We are God’s beloved.  That is something that we should sit in and marvel over.  How could a perfectly holy and loving God shower us with love and affection?  The better question is why would He?  Just because He wants to.  What glory it heaps on Him to love the truly unloveable – like me.  There are scoffers who are evil & divisive that only desire to follow their ungodly passions.  These people are not redeemed – these are wolves in sheep’s clothing that were false teachers within the church.  We must fight against this in our midsts!

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.”  (Jude 1:20–21 ESV)

 

Pursue Christ!  That is the best defense against these ungodly scoffers!  Pursue an abiding relationship with the risen Christ that is fueled by the Spirit!  God, help us.  Keep yourselves in the love of God.  This means to cherish, to think on, to pursue, to understand more fully how much God loves us and to be deeply moved by that truth.  If it weren’t for the grace of God, we too would be lost!  We should yield to the Spirit’s leading in accordance with His revealed will in the scriptures.  Let us pursue doctrinal soundness, Spirit wrought dependance and worship laden love.

“And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.”  (Jude 1:22–23 ESV)

Be merciful to those who doubt the promises of God. How beautiful is that? Be patient with those who waiver – help them, love them, walk with them. I do believe, help me with my unbelief!  This is a powerful passage on hating sin and its consequences, but mercifully engaging those who are wrapped up in it. Hate the sin, love the sinner. This is really only possible when one knows how deeply depraved they really are and how close they are to the same sin – except for God’s restraining grace. God help us!

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”  (Jude 1:24–25 ESV)

God is the One who keeps me from stumbling.  He is the One Who is able to present me blameless before Him.  He does this for His glory and our joy.  He is over all things!  Praise God that my salvation & growth are not up to my faithful obedience, but are the result of His faithful obedience on my behalf!

Where broken people find true freedom (1 John 1:5-10)

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:5–10 ESV)

God is pure, perfect and totally holy, void of any darkness – He is absolute pure light. We are all imperfect and sinful people, but those who prove that they are His are the ones that make a pattern of walking in light versus walking in the darkness – though imperfectly, they chose light over darkness.  This is part of our progressive sanctification as we grow in holiness over time.

Our actions always speak louder than our words.  We can say that we love God and serve Him, but if we are walking in ongoing sin then we are not in fellowship with Him regardless of what we say.  We are lying to and deceiving ourselves.  Satan’s primary tool against Christians is his ability to manipulate & deceive – it is what he did to Adam & Eve in the garden and it is what he still does today.  Sin is always a declaration of autonomy, we just don’t want to submit to anyone; we want to be in control and to do what is right in our own eyes (Judges 17:6, 21:25).  This is marked by, “I think,” “I feel,” “my experience has been.”  We should never discount our thoughts, feelings, or experiences, but we should always weigh them in light of what is good, holy and right.  This is primarily revealed in the scriptures and applied in the context of Christian community.  We all have blind spots and we need others to help illuminate them and put them to death (Colossians 3:5).

If we walk in the light, we have fellowship with Him and with each other – and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from our sins.  As we walk in the light with other transformed believers, we experience increasing freedom from sin.  Walking in the light means walking in right doctrine, moral purity and not hiding sin from ourselves and from one another.  It means that we strive to put to death that which is sinful in us (Colossians 3:5).  We are to murder the sin that is within us, and not just the external symptoms, but the root from which it springs.  Extreme measures should be taken to kill sin in our lives (Matthew 5:29-30).  This requires others, but not just any “Christian Community” will do!  Putting sin to death requires a grace saturated Christian Community of people who are deeply aware of their own depravity and God’s great holiness and the unearned, undeserved, unmerited favor, approval & affection that bridges this chasm.  This community is marked by grace that is freely extended to other broken sinners who want to confess their sins & turn from them to find true freedom.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  BOLD!  Indwelling sin is a reality of life on fallen planet earth.  Even John recognizes that He is still sinful.  The height of pride and blindness is to say that we have no sin – or to say we are sinful, but are unwilling to address it specifically.  No one is without sin, and the person who wants to downplay their sin and call it dysfunction or wiring or “just the way I am” is someone who is unwilling to acknowledge their sinfulness.  God help us.  There is a difference between walking in ongoing, unrepentant sin and saying that we are without sin altogether.  Indeed, the mature believer is coming to see just how deep the roots of sin run in his heart and is becoming increasingly more appreciative for the grace of God.

The gospel declares the good news that God is faithful to heal sinners who come to Him and confess their sin to Him.  Confession and repentance are all that are required to be clean and free.  But, we rarely want to confess and repent of the deepest, darkest parts of our hearts.  To confess it means the risk of judgement from others, but to hold it in is to walk in slavery.  To be free, you must find some grace saturated Christians to confess your deepest sinfulness to so that it can be put to death (James 5:16)!  There is no penance that you must do, however there may be consequences.  We are all shocked when a “tame” lion attacks someone who is close to it.  We say, “it was such a gentle and tame lion, I can’t believe he’d attack that poor person!”  What!?!?  He is an alpha predator, all he does is kill and eat things.  We are shocked when we keep our secret sins on a leash (like a tame lion) and they turn around and attack us and destroy our lives.  We must be willing to drag our pet lions out into the light of day and put a bullet in its head.  This is a community effort, we all need to get our guns and help each other kill our sin!

Our identity is in Christ and our inheritance is in glory

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” (1 Peter 4:1–5 ESV)

Since Jesus suffered, so too should we expect to suffer.  We should “arm ourselves with this way of thinking.”  We should expect suffering – we should not go looking for it, but when it comes our way we should not be surprised.  When suffering comes, we must remember that our identity is in Christ and our inheritance is in glory.  We must remember that this world is broken and that one day God is going to make all things right; He is going to make all things new (Revelation 21:5)

Peter says, “for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,” which represents either Jesus as our sacrificial sin offering, our new “dead to sin” nature that Paul discusses in Romans 6:1-11 or the fact that suffering has a way of killing sin at its root.  All of these are true and regardless of how this is interpreted, Peter points us to abandon our fleshly, human passions and embrace the will of the Lord – which for this audience was suffering.  If God is really sovereign, as Peter emphatically says in 3:22, then suffering must be part of His grander plan.  Though we rarely see the reason during trials, and often times don’t after the trial (remember Job?), we must trust in His goodness & sovereignty and set our hearts toward heaven.  We are exiles, sojourners, aliens & strangers – this is not our home.  Our home and inheritance is in glory.

The believer that finds his identity in Christ & inheritance in heaven will readily abandon fleshly acts of debauchery.  This will surprise those around them who participate in these acts and they will likely malign believers for not participating.  This world is all that they have so they need to get everything that they can!  All people will have to give an account for what they have said and done.  All sin will be paid for – either at the cross of Jesus Christ or by the sinner himself.  Justice will be served.  This enables the saint to persevere when he suffers injustices.  So set your eyes upon Christ, trust in His sovereign goodness and know that you have an inheritance waiting that is grander than you could ever imagine.

Exiles with an Inheritance

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:11–12 ESV)

Remember that this is not your home – we are sojourners & exiles – therefore abstain from the passions of your flesh.  The way to beat fleshly passions is to know (remember and believe) that we have an inheritance coming.  An inheritance that is far greater than anything the world has ever seen.  When we foster fleshly passions, they do harm to our souls.  We cannot foster fleshliness and holiness simultaneously.  We tend to think that we can have both, but we cannot.  You will be growing in one and the other will be loosing strength in your heart.  They are divergent paths.  What are you fostering?

Peter views believers as the new Israel and views non believers as Gentiles.  We have indeed been grafted in by the Vinedresser.  Live uprightly so when they accuse you of wrong doing, they will have no evidence to support their charge.  They will see your good deeds and glorify God for them.  This sounds like Matthew 5:16.  Though, not all will glorify God, some will come to repentance.  The way to walk in obedience is to dwell upon the goodness, mercy and grace of God – Who has adopted us.  We must remember our identity in Christ – a chosen people, adopted children, objects of His affections, co heirs with Christ.

God is enough

“Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind. Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment. Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies. They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth. Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them. And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?” Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning. If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed the generation of your children.
But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.
Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms. When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you.
Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.” (Psalms 73:1–28 ESV)

I love the honesty of Scriptures – the writer acknowledges the reality of how it seems that wicked people often times seem to have relatively few problems and walk in relative ease.  “For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (Psalms 73:3 ESV)  This can even cause us to be envious.  This is a psalm to push us to contentment, even when it seems like those who do not follow God are walking in prosperity.  It cautions us not to be tempted to follow their lead.

Verses 4-12 reveal some of the ways that their lives are prosperous & easy – they have plenty of food & resources and seem to be spared the futility & troubles that the rest of humanity walks in.  Verse 6 is a turning point:  “therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment.” (Psalms 73:6 ESV).  Because their lives have been relatively easy, because they have had few difficulties they become prideful – as if they had spared themselves from these difficulties due to their own abilities.  This is like Romans 1:28-31 where there is a failure to acknowledge God and His goodness.  When we take credit for the good in our lives and don’t give it to Him we become glory thieves.  We have natural abilities that we did not generate on our own.  We did not choose the families that we were born in or that we were exposed to the gospel.  We could have just as easily been born in complete poverty where the gospel is not preached and anarchy is the law of the land.  We did not choose that.

There is a point at which we have to ask ourselves if difficulty & suffering that ultimately strengthens our faith is worth it or do we really just want an easy, comfortable life.  Do we want comfort, security & ease or Jesus?  They seem to be mutually exclusive.  The psalmist’s logic goes like this:  because their lives have been relatively painless & prosperous they have become prideful at their circumstances & now they walk in all sorts of hard hearted “follies.”  They look down upon others, oppress them & pridefully brag against God & others.  ““How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?”” (Psalms 73:11 ESV).  The writer concludes like this:  “Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.” (Psalms 73:12 ESV).  We have to begin to see some of the difficulties in our lives as a gift of grace to us because it causes us to see Him more clearly.

Why is it that we seem to think that we can have prosperity & fail to see how prosperity can create problems in our pursuit of Jesus.  You can’t chase both at the same time (Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13).  If you have a life of relative comfort, ease & prosperity be grateful, but be aware of its power to draw you away from singular devotion to Jesus!

There is a tinge of bitterness and jealousy at the prosperity of the wicked – it doesn’t seem right or fair!  “All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning. If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed the generation of your children.” (Psalms 73:13–15 ESV)  A true heart of bitterness is revealed.  Who hasn’t felt this way when life seems to be going so unjustly?  Our bitterness in situations like this spill into all areas of our life – and is normally rooted in a bitterness towards God.  Honesty & bitterness at what seems to be unjust is welcomed by God.  Is He not the Sovereign omniscient Lord of all?  He knows what’s in your heart, you might as well tell Him!  Jesus’ death bought you the right to confidently approach God as Father and share what is really going on inside of you.  There is no more hiding or pretending for the Christian.

What we see revealed was the psalmist’s real motives.  “All in vain have I kept my heart clean.”  The singer reveals that what he really wanted was God’s blessing.  Isn’t this true of us – don’t we desire God’s blessing & protection more than we desire His presence?  This is especially true when life is difficult; don’t let the bitterness sit in your heart, let it diagnosis your idolatrous desire for God’s goodness and protection more than His presence. The bitterness in verses 13-15 are really aimed toward God if you peel the layer of the onion all the way back to its core.  Life has not gone the way that we wanted, expected or planned and we are mad at God because He has not given us what we really think that we need or deserve.  The beauty of the gospel is that we get reconciled with God – that is it.  We get God, nothing else is guaranteed which frees us from bitterness and anger.

We feel like the psalmist when we believe that God has abandoned us?  Brutish ignorance is the result of a bitter heart that feels like it has been treated unfairly (verses 21-22).  And yet, the psalmist is careful not to let his bitterness spill over onto others so as to undermine their faith (especially the faith of the next generation, see verse 15).  This is wise counsel, but it still does not deliver us from bitterness.  Trying to understand this is a wearisome task on our own; it is futile, meaningless.  We can mull it over, try to figure it out and weigh it on all sides, we can wear ourselves out trying to understand, but the answer is not in us; the answer is not found under the sun.

It is wearisome, futile & meaningless until we come in to the presence of God.  Perspective becomes clear in the presence of God, we get above the trees in order to see the forest, we are comforted at His presence, we see that there is a larger & grander plan than just us.  In His presence, trusting God doesn’t seem meaningless any longer.  The psalmist starts to sound like Habakkuk (see Habakkuk 3:17-19) as his perspective shifts.  The smallness of creation becomes apparent when we are in the presence of the infinite Almighty.

The Psalmist turns the corner as a result of being in the presence of God (v23).  He realizes that he is with God because God is his sustainer, protector & guide.  Whom do we have in heaven besides God (more specifically Jesus, who is interceding at our right hand)?  The heart has shifted from dwelling upon the horizontal to seeing the vertical realities as it proclaims “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.” (Psalms 73:25 ESV).  Is this your singular affection?  This is what happens to the heart that has been in the presence of God – to gaze on the beauty of majesty, albeit veiled, always produces a peace that surpasses all understanding & a heart that sees Him as the supreme treasure worth trading everything for.  Sanctification involves us getting ourselves to the sanctuary and begging God to reveal Himself.

Regardless of what happens in this world even though our heart & our flesh fail us, we find that God is our strength and our portion – He is enough, regardless of what is happening around us (v26).  Tough marriage, difficult child, physical ailment, financial stress, relational breakdown, overall futility in life?  Go to the sanctuary and beg God to reveal Himself and stare until you see it.  When He reveals His majesty, your perspective will begin to change.  Things end badly for those who don’t desire God, “but for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.” (Psalms 73:28 ESV).  This life is brief, pursue Him as the supreme Treasure that He is!