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Weekly Word

Entries in Repentance (17)

Tuesday
Feb132018

A Proper Response to Judgment

1 Kings 21:27-29.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on February 11, 2018.

In the 1970’s a program was developed to try and help juvenile delinquents, or those in jeopardy of becoming such.  It was called Scared Straight!  It involved giving the teens a tour through a prison facility and then having inmates speak to the kids about avoiding the path that they had taken.  Over the years there has been investigation into how well programs like this really work.  Typically it is found that they typically do not work over the long haul of a person’s life.

When we look at what the Bible has to say about the concept of being scared straight, we find that when people are scared they will draw close to God, but then very quickly go their own way again.  The fear of punishment is not enough to completely change the heart of an individual.

Some people who read the Old Testament declare that they see a God who is vindictive and mean.  They don’t like the judgments that are always talked about in its pages.  Yet, they will often notice a stark difference with “the God of the New Testament,” as if He is someone different.  In the New Testament God seems so nice and non-judgmental.  The problem with this idea is that it is a gross mischaracterization of the Bible and specifically God.  Clearly such people have not read the Bible closely enough, neither have they read it with the proper intellectual honesty.  The truth is that the Old Testament is full of the grace of God (we have been studying how gracious God had been to Ahab though he deserved none).  Also, the New Testament is full of the judgment of God.  The famous John 3:16 verse about the love of God and His grace is followed up by verse 19 which states, “This is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”  The book of Revelation is all about the just judgments of God.  The Second Coming of Jesus is part of God’s judgments upon the kings of the earth and their armies.

Believers have a difficult job.  Many people are not convinced that there is a God, much less that they are in danger of His judgments.  If a person is not convinced that they are in danger, how then can they truly believe in Jesus as their Savior?  What would He be saving them from?

Our passage today explores some of these events as we see King Ahab being scared straight (at least for a little while).

Ahab humbles himself after God’s decree

Last week we looked at verses 19-24 of this chapter and saw that the prophet Elijah was confronting Ahab with the decrees or judgments of God.  Remember, at its core the word judgment isn’t necessarily good or bad.  It simply means that a person or situation comes before God’s attention and He makes a decision about whether it is good or bad.  Thus, judgment can be good if it is in your favor and it can be bad if it is not in your favor.  Of course that is viewing it personally.  From an objective point of view, it is the justice of the judgment that makes it bad or good.  A bad person will not like a good judgment because it will find him or her guilty.

When God had viewed Ahab’s actions, He decreed that His wicked deeds should be punished.  There were three aspects to the judgment:  

  1. Ahab will die and dogs will lick up his blood in the same place that Naboth’s blood was licked up by the dogs (see the first part of this chapter). 
  2. Jezebel, the queen and his wife, would die and be eaten by dogs outside of the city of Jezreel. 
  3. Lastly, Ahab’s dynasty would come to an end with the death of all the male descendants of his biological line.  When Ahab hears these decrees, he is scared by what he hears and responds by humbling himself.

We are told that he tore his clothes, which would have been good clothes as a king, and he put on sackcloth.  Sackcloth is basically what we would call a gunny sack or burlap bag.  Even though he has more clothes, he wears the sackcloth as an outward symbol of his low place or poverty of his heart.  He also fasted (went without food and drink to some degree) and mourned over the judgment from God.  He carries out the traditional actions of one whose close loved one has died.  However, the news he has gotten is far more devastating than that.

Clearly Ahab believes Elijah and he should.  Elijah has a perfect track record.  Even though Ahab doesn’t like it, he is sure though that he is in trouble.  Now the outward signs are not the most important thing.  They only help us to see that the decree bothered Ahab and also that he was outwardly humbling himself.  But what was going on inside?  Repentance always begins with humbling ourselves before the word of God.  But then it must go on to do the actions that are indicative of true inner repentance.  It is not enough to feel sorrow over our judgment.  We must also see the true wickedness of our sin that brought that judgment.  I must sorrow over my decision to reject God’s way and choose my own, but also sorrow over the foolishness of my way.  Thus we must turn away from those sins.  Though Ahab believed the judgment spoken by Elijah, we do not see any later statements of him turning from his sins.  There is no, “Then Ahab got rid of all the prophets of Baal.”  There is no, “Then Ahab called all Israel together and instructed them to worship the God of Israel alone.”  There is no, “Then Ahab sought out the nearest relative of Naboth, gave the stolen vineyard back to him, and publicly exonerated Naboth’s reputation.”  These would have been the actions that were worthy of true repentance.  Regardless of the reality of this, in the moment Ahab is humbling his prideful self before the God of Israel and there is always hope when a person does this.  God met him where he was even though it wouldn’t last.  This is the grace of God.

God’s response to Ahab’s humility

It is most likely that this is the first positive word that Elijah ever received regarding Ahab.  God still gives Ahab one last measure of grace, even though He knows that Ahab will not follow through with his humility.  The grace comes in the form of a modification to the original judgment.  Now the death of Ahab is not modified and neither is the death of Jezebel.  However, the calamity that was to come and wipe out all of his male descendants will no longer happen during his life.  It will happen in the next generation.  Now that might not sound like much grace to you, but then you are in the safety of your house and do not have your whole family under the decree of death by God.  Such grace is really a test of our heart.  Will Ahab take God’s grace and run with it?  Will he change his wicked ways and live for the God of Israel alone?  Sadly we will find in the next chapter that this is not how the rest of the story goes.  Yet, God works with people in the moment.  He works with the sinner’s present heart, regardless of what it will be in the future.  Thus we should be careful with the grace that we are receiving today.  It is not an indication that we are now “bullet-proof” and into the future.  It is simply God’s grace.  What we do with it is incredibly important.

This modification of the original prophecy or decree of God begs a question.  Must all true prophecy come to pass?  Our knee jerk response is to quote Deuteronomy 18:22 and declare that a true prophecy must always come to pass and without any variations from the original prophecy.  It is true that passage I just mentioned lays down a principle that if God says something will happen, then it will happen.  Yet, this is not the only verse in the Bible on prophecy and it is not the only principle we should bear in mind when thinking about this question.

Think for a bit about the story of Jonah and Ninevah.  Yes, there was all that whale business (technically the Bible calls it a big fish).  But the crux of the story is God’s judgment on Ninevah.  Jonah finally walks into Ninevah and prophesies “In 40 days Ninevah will be overthrown!”  Wow, pretty specific and clearly a true prophecy representing the actual judgment or decree of God in heaven.  But when the king of Ninevah hears the words of God from Jonah, he is struck with fear and humbles himself in exactly the same way King Ahab does in this story.  He even commands the whole city to humble themselves before God.  Jonah 3:10 says, “Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that he had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.”  In a particular moment in time the Ninevites humbled themselves before the word of the God of Israel.  Thus God relented from or overturned His original decree completely.  Think about it.  On day 40, nothing happened.  I’m sure there may have been a few extra guards posted on the walls that day, but God had relented.  We know the story, but what would stop a person on the ground during those days of accusing him of being a false prophet?  Mustn’t the words of a true prophecy always come true?

This brings us to another principle when dealing with prophecies.  In prophecies of judgment, which decree punishments and even death, it is sometimes stated, but always implicitly understood that the judgments are spoken so that those who are under it will repent and turn from their sin.  In other words, the reason God warns us of punishments is so that we will repent, and be spared from them.  He isn’t going on record so that He will get the glory when people are destroyed.    Rather, it is to melt the hard heart of wicked people and induce repentance.  He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

If you want a chapter and verse on this principle then we need to go to Jeremiah 18:5-12.  We can call this principle the Mercy Clause.  However it is true towards the good and the bad.  Thus we probably should call it the Mercy/Justice Clause.  In this passage God has told Jeremiah that he can refashion Israel like a potter punches down the clay and remakes it when it isn’t shaping correctly.  Thus he tells Jeremiah to tell Judah that God intends to bring disaster upon them.  However, He also wants him to tell them to return from their evil way, and make their ways and actions good.  God then goes on to explain the Mercy/Justice Clause.  In verses 7-8 God posits a hypothetical kingdom that He has decreed judgment and destruction upon.  However, if that nation turns from its wicked ways, then God will relent from sending the disaster that He had already decreed to bring upon it.  Clearly, God’s purpose in declaring disaster is so that we can avoid it.  Notice that Ahab’s decree is only partially averted.  Most likely that is due to the fact that his repentance would not be complete.

In verses 9-10 of Jeremiah 18 we see that the opposite is true as well.  Here God posits a hypothetical nation that He has decreed to bless.  However, if that nation does not obey God’s voice (i.e. His words) then God will relent concerning the good with which He had already decreed upon it.  Of course this would eventually lead to God speaking a word of disaster over that nation in hopes that it would repent.

It is not God who is wavering in this principle.  It is us.  God is always true to His nature, and it is His nature to be gracious, but just.  He gives justice, but leaves room for repentance.  He gives people and nations far more time than they deserve to change their ways. 

Thus we must keep this principle in mind when we are judging whether someone is a true prophet of God or not.  I am not saying that this will make it an easy determination.  Sometimes we have to let things grow until they show their true colors.  Just like God we should give it time, but not for the same reasons.  We should give time out of the humility that we cannot see people’s hearts.  Whereas God gives time for people to repent if they are wrong, or grow if they are right.

Isn’t this the very heart of the Gospel that we are to take to the people around us?  It may not be “40 days” away.  But, all who have not put their faith in Jesus by coming into obedience to the word of God are under a judgment of being guilty.  The decree has already been given.  Its punishments hang over us even now.  Yet, Christians share the good news with people that there is a mercy clause in God’s judgments.  Yes, the soul who sins will die.  But those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved.  These are not contradictory decrees.  One supersedes the other.

Friend, let us not bank on past righteousness and blessing of God.  Even the present blessings of God are not proof positive that we are okay.  Instead, let us walk continually with a heart of humility and the actions of a heart that is turning towards God and not away.  Thus, we need not live in fear, but we must not live in false pride either.  For those who hear this, don’t let the fact that God judges your life as sinful and deserving of judgment cause you to turn from Him.  To do so is to only seal your fate.  But if you will humble yourself, pray, and turn from those wicked ways, He will hear from heaven, relent, and even heal you.

Response to Judgment audio

Tuesday
Feb062018

Speaking the Truth to Power

1 Kings 21:17-26.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on February 4, 2018.

Speaking the truth to power is a catch phrase that has come into use from the 1940’s to the 1950’s.  However, it is a concept that has been around since the dawn of governance itself.  Historically, it has been understood that speaking truth to power is a very, dangerous business.  Yet, it is also historically true that many attempts to “speak truth to power” have had other powers working behind the scenes and pushing the events. 

In the Bible, we find a group of individuals called prophets.  Though there are false prophets, the true prophets are not being manipulated by other powers who want to seize power through them, and neither are they being funded and given ideas by them.  Instead, they receive their marching orders from God. Of course throughout history many have used the pretense of a word from God to manipulate individuals and governments.  The biblical prophet was one who proved themselves to be true, by their life actions, and by the things they revealed (did they prove to be true of come to past at some point).  Sometimes they would do miracles or give amazing signs, but often the only sign they gave was that they spoke the truth.  That’s the thing about truth.  No matter how long it is lied about and manipulated, it is a stubborn thing that no amount of curtains, smoke and mirrors can hide it forever.  The truth will eventually come forth.

God confronts Ahab through the prophet

Several times in this book of Scripture, 1 Kings, we have seen Ahab confronted by Elijah, or other prophets, about his failure to follow the God of Israel.  But this event follows on the heels of a great abuse of power.  On one hand kings and rulers make decisions that can mean life or death for thousands of their subjects, like when they decide to go to war.  Now war can be for a good cause, such as defense of your nation, or an ally that is threatened.  But just as wicked as going to war for greedy purposes, is using your power to have an innocent man who is one of your citizens framed and killed, and then to take his property as the spoils of war.

Now we can recognize government as necessary, only so far as it protects us from tyranny.  In fact this is the true origins of government.  Anarchy theoretically means all are completely free.  You have 100% freedom.  Yet, there are people who use their freedom to forcefully take your stuff, or make you their slave.  So groups will cede a portion of their freedom in order to create a coalition, government, which can ensure that the rest will be protected as they go about their business.  Thus you may not have 100% freedom, but you are safer.  This is all theoretically fine.  However, governments sometimes become the source of tyranny to their own citizens.  In such cases there must be those who are bold enough to stand up and call it to account.  Similarly, in ancient Israel, God spoke through prophets to rebuke kings and call them back to a proper authority.  Of course, those kings generally ignored the true prophets and followed the false ones.

In verses 17-19, we find God’s displeasure with the way Ahab and his wife Jezebel had framed Naboth, and then had him killed, just to take a vineyard that Ahab wanted.  As Ahab travels down to Jezereel in order to take possession, the word of the Lord comes to Elijah.  Yes, God could have spoken directly to Ahab if He wanted.  But recognize that Ahab has proven to particularly resistant to God’s word.  Also, the way God does it here (i.e. through another person) Ahab is forced to face the message in a very outward and accountable way.  On top of this the message will live on regardless of Ahab’s choice.  It is done out in the open so that all of Israel and we who read it today can understand God’s displeasure with the abuse of power and with wickedness in general.

God tells Elijah exactly where he can find Ahab and then tells him to ask Ahab this question.  Have you murdered and taken possession?  The question is rhetorical.  It emphasizes the boldness of Ahab and Jezebel’s actions.  It is a risky thing to draw attention to yourself by taking possession of the property of the very man that you had murdered.  Yet, Ahab is fine with doing both.  It is a sign of the degree to which Ahab and Jezebel’s use of power has become immoral and malicious.  Really the question is this.  How dare you be so brazen in your sin?  Sin has a way of making people bolder and bolder in their sinful actions.  It may not lead to murder, as it did in this case.  The person who lives selfishly and for their own flesh will find themselves becoming worse and worse, and ever harder towards repentance.

Lastly, a death sentence is given to Ahab from God.  Just as Naboth was taken outside the city, killed, and dogs licked his blood from the ground, so too Ahab will have a similar fate.  Even more than that, it will happen in the same place Naboth was killed.  We call this poetic justice.  It is not always given in life, but there are times win the punishment fits the crime perfectly.  What Ahab gave to others, he will receive back.  Ahab has crossed a line.  Though God could have struck Ahab dead at that moment, He doesn’t do that.  Ahab is given a warning so that he can repent and adjust his life.  Yes, God knows that Ahab will not repent.  Yet, God is still gracious to give him warning and time to change.  Ahab has no excuse in eternity.

In verse 20 the scene jumps.  Apparently Elijah has left his place and found Ahab at Naboth’s vineyard or close to there.  Ahab refers to Elijah as his enemy.  A person should always take care whom we label as enemy.  We can make the mistake of treating someone as an enemy when they don’t deserve it.  Elijah was not Ahab’s enemy, as if he was trying to usurp the throne or get him killed.  The only thing Elijah is guilty of is obeying God.  Can you imagine how many times Elijah must have thought to himself, “Why doesn’t God just remove Ahab somehow?  Why does God keep giving him grace?  He doesn’t deserve it.”  Yet, each time God told Elijah to go speak to Ahab, Elijah did so faithfully.  Some people you call your enemy could be better friends then you know.  In fact the opposite is true as well.  Some people you call your friends are actually your enemy.  Ahab’s problem is not his inability to discern those who mean him harm versus good.  Ahab’s problem is that he has “sold himself to do evil.”  We will come back to this phrase since it is used again in verse 25.

At this point Elijah continues to share more judgments from God that are coming.  It seems the writer is using a literary device where God’s word to Elijah and Elijah’s word to Ahab are to be understood as the whole conversation of God to Elijah, as well as Elijah to Ahab.  So Ahab knows that God has decreed his death, but there is more.

Elijah tells Ahab that calamity (a generic terms for something bad) will cause the death of every male descendant of Ahab.  This would be the end of his dynasty, which had started with his father, Omri.  In some pretty choice words, Elijah describes that when this calamity strikes every male descendant will be executed whether free or slave, and whether in the city or in the field.  The reference to the house of Jeroboam and Baasha is a term that was understood as dynasty in this context.  These were the two previous dynasties that had been destroyed for similar reasons.  So Ahab is put on notice, your dynasty is next.  In all of these cases God had warned the kings that their kingdoms were in jeopardy and would end in the death of all of their descendants who could lay claim to the throne.

Lastly, Elijah reveals that Jezebel is also going to die.  Here fate is similar, but with one twist.  Jezebel is going to be eaten by the dogs.  Such a humiliating death basically means that either no one cares to bury her or they are commanded not to.  Jezebel will die in the territory of Jezreel and be eaten by dogs.  These prophecies will prove true down the road.

A summary of Ahab’s life

In verses 25 through 26, the writer gives a summary of Ahab’s life.  He hasn’t died yet (that will take place in the next chapter). However, we are given the phrase again that no one sold themselves to do evil like Ahab (at least up to that point).  It is a curious phrase because Ahab is king and therefore the freest person in Israel.  To whom or to what did he sell himself?  We could say that he sold himself to Baal.  Ahab clearly served Baal with much of his life even though he should have served the God of Israel.  This would be true.  However, in light of the New Testament, I think there is a more precise answer.  Ahab had sold himself to sin.  In Romans 6:16 Paul says, “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?”  Sin tempts us with pleasure or some other form of payment by which we sell our souls into slavery.  We are left in bondage to sin, living a life of trying to please the desires of our flesh.  This is similar to the story of God confronting Cain before he killed his brother Abel.  There God told Cain that sin crouched at the door and sought to master him.  God’s advice was for Cain to master sin, in the sense of bringing it under control.  When we serve our own fleshly desires, we become slaves to sin, and as our master, it drives us to destruction.  However when we know the truth about sin and its awful destruction, we can turn to God and repent.  Believers recognize that they have been purchased with the blood of Jesus off of the auction block of sin.  Even though God has purchased us, He is a good master who leads us to freedom, sonship, and eternal life.

The summary of Ahab’s life is also marked by the fact that he was stirred up or instigated by his wife, Jezebel.  This is not meant to justify Ahab in any way.  He is guilty.  Neither should we see this as a female or male thing.  Men are just as capable at instigating women towards evil as Jezebel was.  However, her boldness enabled him to do far worse than he would have done on his own.  This can be true of a spouse or any one that we become close friends with.  Our choices of companionship are extremely critical to our life.  Friends you can walk away from.  But, if you marry someone who stirs you towards evil, what can you do?  You can keep your eyes on Christ and serve him over the top of those instigations and the passions of your own flesh.

This summary ends with the recognition that he worshiped idols in the way that the Amorites did, whom God had cast out before Israel.  The Amorites practiced idolatry, human sacrifices and sexual perversion.  Ahab did not understand or take seriously the inheritance that he had received.  Others were removed so that I could have this place.  That should make me wonder if I could be removed.  Ahab didn’t think about what God thought.  He only thought about what he wanted, as if all of Israel belonged to him by his own power. 

We will all be held accountable for our actions and choices in this life.  What will the summary of my life, or your life, be?  We are not talking about accomplishments, but rather a spiritual summary.  What am I serving, and by what or by whom and I stirred up?  To what am I being stirred?  May God help us to be stirred up by the Holy Spirit to serve the God of heaven and earth.  May we also do our part to stir each other up towards the things of God rather than the things of the flesh.  In this we find that the most critical power that I must speak truth to is my own flesh.  May God help us to be bold.

Truth to Power audio

Tuesday
Jun062017

The Promise of the Father III

Acts 2:32-39.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on June 4, 2017.

Today we remember and celebrate the momentous event, almost 2,000 years ago, in which the promise of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled in Jerusalem during the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost.  Though the Holy Spirit had been active throughout the Old Testament times, the prophets pointed forward to a time when God would pour out His Spirit upon all His people, to be with them and enable them for all of life, not just certain events. 

We should also notice that God chose a feast that celebrated the harvest as the day for pouring out His Spirit.  Thus, it pictures the great harvest of people, throughout every generation, who have become desirable to God by repenting of their sins and believing on Jesus as their savior and lord.  It also recognizes our need for the Holy Spirit in order to bring this harvest in.  When the Holy Spirit came upon those 120 disciples who were gathered in Jerusalem, they began to speak in other languages that they did not know.  However, other people who had gathered for the feast from all around the world recognized that they were praising God and speaking about His wonderful deeds.  This opens the door for a great harvest of 3,000 individuals who put their faith in Jesus that day as the Apostle Peter stood up and addressed the crowd.

The crowd was asking, “What does this mean?”  For the sake of time we will pick up half way through Peter’s answer.  Basically Peter explains that they are seeing the fulfillment of God’s promise of the Holy Spirit.

The Fulfillment of the prophecies of David

Before verse 32, Peter had quoted from Psalm 16, a Psalm of David.  In this psalm David prophesies that the Father will not leave His Holy One in the grave to decay, but instead he will be resurrected.  It is easy to read this and think that David is speaking of himself.  However, Peter makes the point that David is speaking of the Messiah who would come from His lineage.  It was Jesus who had fulfilled this prophecy.  Now it is not every day that specific prophecies are fulfilled.  People had been hearing conflicting reports from some that Jesus had been resurrected, and from others that the disciples had stolen the body while the guards were asleep.  Peter stands up and publicly declares the truth about Jesus.  He had been raised up by God from death, and the 120 who were experiencing the baptism of the Holy Spirit were all witnesses of this.  It is worth noting that there were at least 500 witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus within the early church.  Over the course of 40 days following his burial, at a variety of places, and for extended periods of time, Jesus appeared to His disciples.  This was no hallucination or a made up story.  They witnessed it with their own eyes and felt him with their own hands.  So we have human witness to the resurrection of Jesus.  We also have a heavenly witness to the veracity of these claims in the amazing events that the crowd is seeing.  These Galileans, who did not know languages from around the world, were miraculously speaking the wonders of God in the midst of Jerusalem.  Of course this is not the end of it.  The book of The Acts of the Apostles could also be called The Acts of the Holy Spirit through the Disciples of Jesus.   They would see miracles and powerful presentations of the Gospel by people who were not special by man’s determination.  This is precisely what the coming of the Holy Spirit was all about.  No longer would it be certain special people who would be used by the Spirit.  Now it would be all of God’s people, most of which were not anything spectacular by the world’s standards.

Next Peter states that this Jesus was exalted to the right hand of God.  Now the disciples did not see Jesus physically being resurrected.  But they did see him after the event.  They saw the effects of it.  In this case it is the opposite.  They had seen Jesus ascend in front of their eyes into the sky until a cloud obscured their sight.  Here they see the event, but not necessarily the effect of that ascension, which is Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father.  However, they are taking what they have seen, and adding to it what Jesus told them and what the prophets prophesied, and then trusting that what they can’t see has happened.  In fact the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is intended to be proof that Jesus had been accepted in heaven and now had all power and authority at his disposal.  Notice that it is Jesus who has received the promise of the Holy Spirit and it is he who pours it out on his disciples.  This is important for us to recognize.  Technically all of the blessings of God are given to Jesus.  He alone has merited the favor and blessings of God.  However, Christ shares this with those who belong to Him.  Thus all the blessings of heaven are available to those who are in relationship with Jesus.

Verses 34 and 35 are quoting Psalm 110 verse 1.  Here David is speaking of his lord being seated at the right hand of God.  He is basically saying, “The LORD (The Father) said to my lord (master) sit at My right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”  Thus Jesus is the Son of David by birth, but even David recognized the Messiah as his lord, or master, because of his divinity.  Now the verse also gives us a terminus or end point for this situation.  Jesus will be at the right had of the Father until his enemies are subdued beneath his feet.  This does not mean that God has been trying to subdue the enemies of Jesus for 2,000 years and somehow can’t quite get the job done.  What has the Father been doing for 2,000 years?  He has been offering terms of peace to the enemies of Jesus.  The grace of God made possible through the sacrifice of Jesus is offered to those who do not deserve it.  By the Holy Spirit the call goes out to the whole world, “Stop being a foe of Jesus and become a friend!”  All that said, this time of Grace will come to an end in an event referred to as “I [will] make your enemies your footstool.”  The Second Coming of Christ is the Father bringing the time of grace to an end as well as Jesus’ residence in the heavens.  At that point forward Jesus will dwell on earth with His Saints.  Today is the day of salvation, and the day of the Grace of God.  Seize it now, for the window of opportunity will not stay open forever.

So we see the pouring out of the Holy Spirit as God enabling the disciples of Jesus to be led by and empowered by the Spirit in order to be witnesses to the world and bring in a harvest of individuals who become believers in Jesus.

The conclusion of the matter

Verse 36 concludes the matter.  The leaders and people of Israel had crucified Jesus.  Yes, the Romans were involved, but they would have never done it without the pressure put on them by the Israelite leaders.  Yet, God disagreed with this rejection.  They killed Jesus, but God raised Him up and made Him both Lord and Christ.  We need to recognize today that there are two different things: what man is doing, and what God is doing.  We want to be a part of what God is doing because it will last and we will be blessed.  This reality puts them in a position of being an adversary to God and His work.  And, though we were not there to crucify Jesus, our flesh is just as hostile to God and His work.  This world actively rejects and fights against the work of the Holy Spirit in the followers of Jesus.  We have a choice to make.  We can trust in man and throw our lot in with them, or we can trust in God and throw our lot in with Jesus.

This conclusion cuts to the heart of many of the people there that day.  They were shocked by what Peter was saying.  The Old Testament was littered with the stories of those who resisted God and were destroyed because of it.  “What shall we do?”  Even today, we often go about our lives with all kinds of reasons why we are okay.  But the Word of God in the mouth of a Spirit empowered Christian can cut through all of that and raise the question, “What can I do?”

Before we let Peter answer that question, I want to spend a few moments talking about the spiritual work of conviction.  “Cut to the heart,” is a picture of the conviction of the Holy Spirit.  He is enabling them to understand their true condition before God.  On one hand there is fear as we recognize the reality of our sin and its consequences.  However, on the other hand there is hope because only God can open our eyes to our sin, and He does so in order to lead us to salvation.  It is easy when you feel conviction to accuse the other person of condemning you.  Condemnation can occur when we tell people they are lost without the second part of the message, the hope there is in Jesus.  Conviction feels as bad as condemnation, but it offers a door of hope for us to walk through.  It cuts through all the personal and cultural baggage that keeps the truth from reaching our heart.  This is a scary moment, but it is also a wonderful moment.  Conviction is a spring of life to a person stumbling in the desert.  There is a powerful picture here.  Before the Holy Spirit, Peter tried to help Jesus by using a literal sword to hack off the ear of one of the enemies of Jesus.  There was no life and no hope in such an action.  You could even say that his actions would affect the ability of that man to hear the truth about Jesus later (he damaged his ear).  In healing the ear, Jesus is telling Peter that there is another way.  Now in this episode we see Peter helping Jesus by using the Sword of the Spirit (God’s Word) in order to cut to the heart of his enemies and leading over 3,000 of them to become his disciples.  The Spirit doesn’t just empower us.  He redirects us in a path that can actually help people.

Now let’s look at Peter’s answer to the question, “What shall we do?”  Peter tells them to repent of their sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus.    To repent is to turn away from those sins and involves agreeing with what God calls sin.  To be baptized in his name is a purposeful and public declaration of a switching of allegiance.  The effect of these actions is to have our sins remitted by God.  Now the medical community uses the word “remission” for both permanent and temporary absence of disease.  So it could be easy to think that the “remission of your sins” might only be temporary.  But the word being translated does not have a sense of it being temporary.  There is another word that is used of the Old Testament era people.  Their sins were laid aside in order to be dealt with later.  That word had a sense that the sins were completely dealt with yet.  But this word means a separation between us and our sin, which also means that there is no longer any punishment.  So being in a state of repentance, identification with Jesus, and sins removed, they are told to then receive the Holy Spirit.  Of course receive is passive and active at the same time.  Jesus is the one who actively gives us the Holy Spirit.  However, we need to look for Him and cooperate with Him.  He takes up residence within all who put their trust in Jesus.  But, He also wants to fill us completely with Himself, which will direct and empower us with spiritual gifts.  This was not just for the first century.  Peter states that it is for all whom God calls to salvation.  Jesus is still calling people to salvation today, and thus He is still pouring out the Holy Spirit upon those who res pond in faith.  Let’s not settle just to be saved and have the Spirit within us.  He is seeking to do so much more in and through us.  Take time to wait upon the Lord in prayer, each and every day, asking Him to fill your life with His Spirit.  Let Him become your direction and power.

Promise of the Father III audio

Thursday
Jan262017

The Heart of a Righteous Person 3

We apologize, but we do not have an audio for this week.  

Psalm 51:1-9.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on January 22, 2017.

We are going to look at the first half of Psalm 51 today, as we continue talking about the heart of a righteous person.  Here we see that the heart of a righteous person deals with its sin before God.  Of course, like anyone else, our flesh tries to avoid the issue of sin because it makes us uncomfortable.  However, at the end of the day, the righteous have learned that this is precisely the area that we must face if we are going to have freedom and joy. 

A unique thing to point out about the Psalms is that some of them have musical notations and statements that are not part of the Psalm, but give us information about it.  Thus, we are told that Psalm 51 was directed to the Chief Musician, but written by David.  More than this, we are also given the situation that led to David penning this Psalm, which is really a prayer.  “A Psalm of David when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.”  I think it would be good to take a few moments and remind ourselves of this situation.

In 2 Samuel 11 we are made aware of an amazing moral failure by David.  I do not say amazing because I cannot conceive of David sinning.  Rather, I say it is amazing because David has continuously stood strong against some very strong temptations: waiting patiently to be made king, showing restraint when he could have killed Saul, and refusing to reject God out of anger in difficult times.  David had weathered decades of difficulty, trusted in the Lord, and now was King of Israel.  More than this, God had blessed him and his armies were systematically subduing all the kingdoms around him.  At this point in his life, David begins to take it easy.  We are told that he, Israel’s most successful general, decided not to go to the battlefront that spring.  Instead, he stayed home.  One evening, while walking on his rooftop (think of a flat style roof), David sees a beautiful woman bathing.  This should have stopped right there.  But, David’s flesh began to leverage his power.  He inquires who the woman is and finds out that she is Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, who is one of David’s top 30 warriors and who had been with him in the wilderness times.  Again, it should have stopped there.  But David’s flesh keeps leveraging him.  He invites her to his place and they end up sleeping together.  David had committed adultery with the wife of one of his loyal friends.   To make matters worse, Bathsheba later sends word to David that she is pregnant.  Remember that her husband has been gone to the battlefield for a while.  David tries to cover his sin by requesting Uriah to be sent to the palace.  When Uriah arrives, David questions him about how everything is going and then tells him to go home for the evening.  His plan is that Uriah will take advantage of the opportunity and sleep with his wife.  This would cover up that Bathsheba had been unfaithful and would keep any further questioning leading to David.  Yet, we find that Uriah was a righteous man.  He refuses to go home and sleep with his wife, while his buddies are sleeping on the ground away from their wives.  So Uriah sleeps at the door of the palace.  David even gets him drunk, but Uriah still will not go home.  When David realizes that Uriah is not going to cover up his sin for him, he then changes plans.  He decides to send a note to Joab, his general, to have Uriah put at the front of the battle, and then to withdraw so that he will be killed.  Even worse, David has Uriah deliver his own death sentence.  Joab complies with David’s unlawful order and so Uriah is killed.  At this point David has been able to fix his problem.  But, he hasn’t really.  God speaks to the prophet Nathan and tells him what has happened.  Nathan then confronts the king.  David is guilty of adultery, deceit, betrayal, murder, giving unlawful orders, and pretending righteousness before the people (and much more).

We must understand that God will not allow us to get away with our sins.  We may be able to do so for a long time, but eventually we will be made to face them.  Righteous people are not people who have never sinned, or at some point were able to conquer sin.  They are not exalted people who are better than the rest of us.  They are people, just like you and I, who have learned to go to war against their own sin.  They are people who do not turn to pride and arrogance when they are confronted with their sin, but instead break down in repentance.  This is a righteous person.  So Psalm 51 is David’s prayer of repentance before God when he was rebuked by the prophet Nathan.

It repents of its sin

The word repentance literally means “to turn.”  When we repent we are turning away from our sin, and the path it is leading us down, and we are turning back towards God and His paths of righteousness.  Of course, this is difficult because we have sinned.  Yet, it must be done if we want to be alive spiritually.  It is only through repentance and the mercy of God that we are freed from the tyranny of sin.

In verse 1 David asks for mercy because he knows the character of God.  He knows that God is loving, kind, steadfast and unfailing in His care for mankind.  Yes, David has blown it completely.  But he has hope that God will forgive him.  We are not just talking about feelings that God has.  God doesn’t just have merciful feelings from time to time.  But, rather, God has proven Himself to have mercy as an integral part of His character.  Now, there is a difference between asking mercy when you are forced to do so, and to ask it when you are not forced.   It is interesting that in some ways God is forcing David to face his sin; there is judgment coming upon David.  Yet, in other ways, God is giving David room to respond.  Imagine if, when one sins, a policing angel from God immediately grabbed us and brought us into the heavenly court of God and we were judged there for our sin.  Of course, everyone would immediately plead mercy.  Instead, God gives us enough warning and confrontation to cause us to fear where our sin is taking us, and yet not so much that there is no room to make it right.  I say that because sins that are done in this life must be faced and dealt with in this life.  If you wait until you are brought before the judge upon your death, it will be too late to make your peace.  Through repentance we can approach the heavenly court before hand in order to deal with our sin.  This is what we see in this Psalm.  David begs for mercy.

He also acknowledges his sin, verse 3.  Yes, he had tried to hide for a while.  But in the end we find David humbling himself and acknowledging that he has sinned.  In fact, this is the reason he can hope that God will have mercy; because he acknowledges his sin.  God loves to give mercy, but He will not do so if a person refuses to acknowledge their sin.  It is through these actions of acknowledging sin and asking for mercy that God forgives and we are declared to be righteous by God.

It desires its relationship with God to be fixed

In verses 4-9 David moves from trying to be freed from his sin, to asking for his relationship with God to be made right.  You see it is good to repent out of fear of God’s punishment.  But it is even better to also want our relationship with Him healed.  David did not want to go through life without God’s presence in his life, and God’s approval upon him.  So how can this be fixed?

Though David is king of Israel, he still has a higher King over him, and that is God.  In verse 4 David says, “Against you, and you only, have I sinned.”  To our ears it sounds like David is minimizing what he did to others, like they don’t matter in some way.  What David actually is doing is recognizing that his sin was actually worse.  In other words, when he sinned against Bathsheba by inviting her to the palace and seducing her, he was even more sinning against God.  When he sinned against his friend Uriah by sleeping with his wife, it was if he had slept with God’s wife.  David is recognizing what we often fail to do when we sin against each other.  The next time you are tempted to yell at someone and mistreat them, ask yourself, “What if this was Jesus?”  It is easier to tell ourselves that what we are doing is not that big of a deal, or that the person we are sinning against is an even worse sinner than we are.  But in truth all sin is not just against each other, but even more, it is against God.  Let me make the point another way.  In Matthew 25 Jesus stated that when we help the hungry, poor, and naked, he treats it as if we did it unto him.  If this is true for the righteous things that we do, what about the unrighteous things we do?  When we mistreat one another, does not Jesus see it as if we did it unto him?  God is our judge and we will one day stand before Him to give account for our sins.  How could David ever be seen as righteous before God after what he had just done (not just to Uriah, but to God)?  How can a righteous judge forgive our sins without being seen as wicked himself?  He can do so because Jesus paid the price for the sins of “whosoever would believe on him” at the cross.  But the wicked who refuse to humble themselves, confess their sin, and ask for mercy, will receive none.

The real problem is not the outward things.  The real problem is what giving into sin has done to our heart and mind.  We have been twisted inside and only God can heal our heart and mind.  The real battle against sin must be fought in these areas of our life.  We can’t fix our own wicked heart.  We need God’s help.  Thus in verse 6 David recognizes that he needs God’s help and that God will give it (“You will make me to know wisdom”).  Only God can bring the light of His Truth into our minds that have been darkened by sin.  Nathan’s rebuke was a gift from God to David.  God was revealing to David that he would not be allowed to get away with this sin.  The whole Bible is filled with God’s wisdom for the hearts and minds that have been darkened by sin.  But we will have to humble ourselves to receive it.  We will have to let go of the sensual, earthly, demonic wisdom that led us into sin in the first place. 

Also notice that David talks about being cleansed.  Verse 2 says, “Wash me thoroughly…cleanse me from my sin.”  Verse 7 says, “Purge me…wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.”  This is a metaphor of dirt.  Sin is to our heart what dirt is to a clean garment.  It defiles our heart and mind with a layer of filth that will only become harder and harder to clean the longer we wait.  Thus the mind of a sexual addict, cannot just say, “I won’t do it again,” because their mind has been defiled.  There has to be an inner cleansing that is done as we repent before God and come into relationship with Him.  No mere words can accomplish this.  Only the Spirit of God can come into a heart and cleanse it from all unrighteousness.  When we have a clean relationship with God and there are no layers of sin between our heart and His, then we can know the joy and gladness that verse 8 is talking about.  David had lost his joy and gladness.  He knew that he was destroying his relationship with God and defiling his soul.  But he had been trapped by his lusts and bound in chains by his sin.  Only God could cleanse his heart.

Lastly, as we take the initiative to “deal” with our sin, God will deal with the part of our sin that we can’t.  I can confess my sins and ask for forgiveness.  But only God can remove them from me as far as the east is from the west.  Only God can throw my sins into the sea of forgetfulness and refuse to let them be brought against me in His courts.  In fact, David asks that they be “blotted out.”  This is the picture of the heavenly books that record the actions of every person.  Yes, our actions and even our thoughts are recorded in the books of heaven.  David knew that he had a lot of bad stuff recorded on those pages.  He begs that God would blot out his sins.  Again, the only way God can legally do this is if someone pays the price for them, and that is precisely what Jesus did at the cross.  God can acquit us.  Also, once the price of a crime has been paid for we cannot be tried for it again.  We will pick this up more next week as we look at the 2nd half of this psalm.

Hopefully this walk through David’s heart has encouraged you to not run from God and try to hide your sin.  All our attempts at hiding our sin is like Adam and Eve trying to hide their nakedness from God with fig-leaves.  The fig leaves will not last; they are only a temporary fix.  Also, the very wearing of them signals to God that we have sinned.  Quit dealing with sin your way.  Quit hiding it, and pretending that it is not that bad.  It will destroy you and any relationship you could have with God.  In the end you will stand before the judge and be found lacking, unless, of course, you humble yourself and cry out to God for mercy.  Let’s be a people who are clean before God by dealing with our sin this week.