Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Friday, July 14, 2017

God's Grace is Bigger Than Our Sinfulness: Allellulia

This morning our subject was Anyone for Sex. This evening we look at a great Biblical hero, King David, who thought it was Anyone for Sex, and we see the destruction sexual sin can cause. But our focus will be on the good news that, in the story of David and Bathsheba, and in your story and mine, the last word is not David’s sinfulness but God’s grace.

One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. 

Though David comes to the throne of Israel only after a long period of trials designed by God to sanctify him, he is by no means a perfected man. Indeed, his greatest stumble comes some years after his coronation. Walking on the roof of his palace one evening, he spots a woman bathing and apparently goes temporarily insane over her. I must point out that it was quite normal for people to bathe on their rooftops ... it was the only place you could get some privacy. The only person who could see onto the rooftops was the king from his palace and he should have turned away and respected her privacy ... but he doesn’t.
His inquiries reveal that she is Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, one of his “mighty men”, but even her marital status does not dash the plan he is forming in his heart. He has her brought to the palace and has sexual relations with her ... I believe he abuses his position of authority and he rapes her. Then he sends her away and hears from her again when she discovers she is pregnant. David soon falls even deeper into sin in an effort to conceal his iniquity. Summoning Uriah to Jerusalem, David urges him to go home and spend the night with his wife, hoping that he might have relations with her and believe that David’s baby is his own. But the faithful soldier refuses to go and sleeps at the palace door. David then gets Uriah drunk, but again he does not go home. Finally, David concocts a plan by which Uriah is killed in battle, and David proceeds to marry Bathsheba. He has by now committed broken half the 10 commandments, with no apparent remorse. He gives every appearance of a man whose conscience has hardened.

God of course sees everything. He sends Nathan the prophet to tell David a parable about a rich man who steals a poor man’s beloved ewe lamb. Apparently assuming the story is real, David expresses outrage, saying the rich man ought to make restitution and should die. Then Nathan delivers the blow that wakes David from his spiritual decay: “‘You are the man.’” He then reminds David of all God’s goodness to him and asks why he has “‘despised the commandment of the Lord.’” David sees the truth: “‘I have sinned against the Lord,’” he admits. He then goes on to make one of the most heartfelt repentances in Scripture, expressing his sorrow and desperate longing for restoration to God in Psalm 51.

Psalm 51 calls to our attention an age old feature of the human situation: sin. Someone has said of human history, “Any good history book is mainly just a long list of mistakes, complete with names and dates. It’s very embarrassing.” This characterization is very true of the Bible. Israel’s story is a long list of mistakes. David’s story and the history of the subsequent monarchy are indeed very embarrassing. So is the behaviour of the disciples in the Gospels (see Matt 26:56). So is the situation of the early church, revealed in the letters of Paul and John’s letters to the churches in Revelation. So is the history of the Christian church throughout the centuries. So are the denominational and congregational lives of the church today. So are the details of our life stories, if we are honest enough to admit it. In short, Psalm 51 is not just about Israel or David; it is also about us! It is about who we are and how we are as individuals, families, churches—sin pervades our lives. It’s very embarrassing.

That is the bad news.

But the good news of Psalm 51 is even more prominent. Psalm 51 is not just about human nature; it is also about God’s nature. And the good news is that God is willing to forgive sinners and is able to re-create people. David’s life is an example. Make no mistake, sin is a powerful and persistent reality, but God’s grace is a more powerful and enduring reality. By the grace of God, a persistently disobedient people become partners with God in “an everlasting covenant” (Isa 55:3). By the grace of God, dull and disobedient disciples of Jesus become known as those “who have been turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). By the grace of God, Saul, the former murderer, becomes Paul, ambassador for Christ.

By the grace of God, you and I, sinners in our unique ways, become cleansed and renewed.

Grace is fundamental. That is the good news.

As preparation for communion this evening, I’m going to read Psalm 51, slowly, so that you can make it your own. My prayer is that when you come to receive these elements, you will have a fresh sense of your sin being forgiven and your spirit being renewed. 

Let’s read the Psalm in the context of what we looked at this morning and seek God’s forgiveness for our sexual sin ... but also in the context of any of the sin we have committed and want to bring before our Lord.

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
    and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
    sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
    you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
    and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
   or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    so that sinners will turn back to you.
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
    you who are God my Saviour,
    and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
Open my lips, Lord,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

May it please you to prosper Zion,
    to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
    in burnt offerings offered whole;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.

I close with the words of Wesley's "Come sinners to the Gospel feast" ... hear in these words Christ's invitation to you.
Come, sinners, to the gospel-feast,
Let every soul be Jesu’s guest,
You need not one be left behind,
For God hath bidden all mankind.

Sent by my Lord, on you I call,
The invitation is to all.
Come all the world: come, sinner, thou,
All things in Christ are ready now.
Wesley wants to be sure we each know there is a place for us at the communion table and in life with Jesus. If anyone thinks the invitation is not for them, Wesley is clear,
Sinners my gracious Lord receives,
Harlots, and publicans, and thieves,
Drunkards, and all the hellish crew,
I have a message now to you.
In the verses that follow, Wesley urges us who have accepted Christ’s invitation to become servants who invite others to come to the feast and enter into this new life of discipleship. He puts these words on Jesus’ lips,

Tell them, my grace for all is free,
They cannot be too bad for me.
Tell them, their sins are all forgiven,
Tell every creature under heaven.

Wesley then closes the hymn with a reminder that this gracious invitation is also a call to live a new life in Jesus that can begin today.
This is the time, no more delay,
This is the acceptable day,
Come in, this moment, at his call,
And live for him who died for all.

These notes on the hymn obtained here

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