Inspirational

True Repentance

Psalm 51

Psalm 51 is one of the most beautiful prayers of repentance in all of the Bible. The heading just above the beginning of the Psalm tells us that it is “A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.”

David, the greatest king (other than Jesus of course) sinned terribly against the Lord. I’ve written about this event previously, but you can go back and read about it in 2 Samuel 11 if you want to review. David slept with another man’s wife, the wife even of one of his trusted soldiers, Uriah. He made many unsuccessful attempts to cover up his sin, and ultimately ended up having Uriah killed.

2 Samuel 12 then details an encounter between David and the prophet Nathan in which David is confronted with his sin. This is a fascinating event in the life of David, and if you don’t know the story or haven’t read it in some time, I would recommend you go and read it now. For time sake however, I’m not going to go into great detail here today.

What I do want to talk a bit about today though is David’s response to this confrontation with the prophet Nathan, and David’s response when he is confronted with his sin. That is what we have here in Psalm 51.

David’s sin with Bathsheba and his attempts to cover up his sin are tragic. Sin is tragic. The sad fact of the matter is that all sin is tragic, and the consequences and repercussions of sin are often wide reaching and can be felt for years to come. This is certainly the case with David and his sin. The good news though, is that God doesn’t just leave us in our sin. He confronts us with our sin, he convicts us of our sin, and he gives us the opportunity to repent and turn away from our sin. Once this repentance happens, then God will pour out his grace and mercy upon us and forgive us of our sin.

Psalm 51 is the record of David’s repentance. It is a beautiful prayer of repentance and one that I believe we all would be well served as Christians to look to, and even pray for ourselves on a regular basis. In this Psalm David appeals to God’s character – his mercy and steadfast love – and asks God to blot out his sins. He admits he is a sinner and always has been and his sins weigh heavily upon him. David asks God not to cast him away from His presence, he asks to have the joy of his salvation restored to him. He promises God true worship, and that he would tell all people of the merciful ways of God, and that he would live a life of praise.

As we read through this Psalm, we see clearly that David acknowledges his brokenness over his sin – he truly mourns over his sin. This is an important point I don’t want us to miss. Many times we think of repentance as simply being sorry for sin. I think often times we aren’t so much sorry for our sin, but we are really just sorry that there are consequences for our sin. Ironically, we usually aren’t sorry for our sin, until we are caught in our sin. This isn’t true repentance.

True repentance is brokenness over our sin. True repentance is understanding how serious our sin is. Our sin, all of our sin, is a sin against a Holy God. (Verse 4) Sin is no small matter. David understands this and begs God to forgive him for his transgressions. David is truly broken over his sin.

David also doesn’t try to justify himself, make excuses, or try to blame others. What about us? What is our first response when we are confronted with sin? Usually we respond like our first parents, Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, how did they respond when God confronted them with sin? Adam blamed Eve, and even God himself. Eve blamed the snake. No one was willing to fess up and just say, “Yes God, I disobeyed you. Please forgive me.” I wonder how different things would be if they had.

True repentance doesn’t involve us making excuses or trying to justify ourselves. True repentance involves confession. Why make excuses? God knows the truth anyway!

So, Psalm 51 is a beautiful prayer of repentance because it is an honest confession of sin, and a sincere plea for God’s mercy. Our prayers should be no different.

As I read through Psalm 51, I also get a sense of joy. David is a man who knew God very well. He knew God’s character. He knew God was merciful, he knew God was a God of steadfast love. (Verse 1) As David pours out his heart, you get the sense that David knows that he is forgiven. David isn’t going to sit around and dwell on past failures, he is going to take hold of God’s grace, and live his life in response to it.

David says, “Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Verse 7)

But David isn’t content just to rest in the fact that he is forgiven. David asks God for a pure heart. He wants a heart that is renewed and on fire for God. David asks God for a “clean heart” and a “right Spirit.” (Verse 10) David then promises to tell other sinners about the mercy of God so that they too may come and experience it themselves, for God will receive all who come to him broken and truly repentant over their sin. (Verse 13-15, 17)

This is good news isn’t it? That all of us have the same access to the God of mercy that David did – the God of mercy that was revealed to us in Jesus Christ. Everyone reading this right now has the opportunity to come to God, confess our sin, receive forgiveness, have our hearts made pure, and joyfully take hold of the salvation God offers us all through Christ.

Once we experience this, the only logical response is praise God, and to go out and tell others about how merciful our God is. Once receiving this glorious salvation all of our prayers ought to be, “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.”

Can we pray that prayer today? I pray that you can.

Your Relationship With God

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God desires to have a relationship with you. God loves you, and so desires to be in a relationship with you that he sent his Son Jesus Christ to die for you and to make it possible. (John 3:16, Romans 5:6) I could write pages upon page about the lengths that God went to in order to draw you into a relationship with him, but that isn’t why I’m writing this. My purpose for writing today is that I want to pause and contemplate the unbelievable reality that the God of the universe desires a relationship with you and to think through the implications of that truth.

I’m sure you have heard the phrase, “Christianity isn’t a religion it’s a relationship.” Normally that statement makes me cringe because I believe it to be too simplistic. That being said, there is an element of truth there that we would be wise to take notice of. Christianity is indeed a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and since it is a relationship there are some things that we need to understand.

Relationships take work. Anyone who has ever been in a relationship understands this. It doesn’t matter if you are speaking of romantic relationships, parent/child relationships, friendships, or work relationships, it takes work. If you want a relationship to work you have to put in time and effort. If this is true of human relationships, why would we think it isn’t also true of our relationship with God?

How often do you talk to God? How often do you take time to listen for what God might be trying to tell you? Do you make time to just be in the presence of God? Do you enjoy being with him? Do you want to get to know him better? What are you doing to try to make this happen? What do you hope to get out of your relationship with God? And here is a big one: Do you love God simply for who he is, or because of what you hope he can give you?

How successful will a marriage be if there is no communication? Not very. If children aren’t listening to their parents, or speaking to them, that relationship is in trouble. How happy would a wife be if her husband never came home? Husbands would be crushed if their wives never wanted to spend time with them. When couples begin dating, they do everything they can to learn what the other person enjoys. The parent is hurt when their child only calls when they need something, and not just so say “I love you.”

It’s not hard to see the parallels that I’m making here. It’s easy to see the correlation between what makes human relationships work and what we ought to be doing to cultivate our relationship with God. If we aren’t spending time in prayer communicating with God, if we aren’t spending time in his presence and listening for him, and learning more about him as we spend time in the Bible, then our relationship with God will suffer. Are your prayers always about what you can get from God instead of simply praising God for who he is? Do you ever simply tell God you love him? Do you thank him for the many blessings he has given you?

The wonderful thing about God is that he takes the initiative in our relationship with him. He made the first move, and even in spite of our failures to do what it is we should be doing, if we have truly entered into a relationship with him, he won’t ever let go of us. He loves us in spite of our many failures. But this isn’t an excuse to try less, it is motivation to try harder to love a God who has loved us so much. Even though we can rest assured that God will never turn his back on us, we are robbing ourselves of so much joy by not seeking him as we should. If you are missing time in prayer or bible study, you are missing more pleasure than you can imagine. If you are neglecting times of worship, both personal and corporate, you are missing one of the greatest blessings the Christian life has to offer and your growth in grace is suffering.

All relationships take work and must be intentional, I think we all know this. We also know that successful healthy relationships are a beautiful thing, and are worth every ounce of effort we put into them. This is infinitely true as it relates to our relationship with God, for there is no greater joy, no greater pleasure, and no more beautiful relationship than this. There is no one more worthy of your love and affection, and certainly no one more worthy of the effort you’ll put in.

You’ll never give God more than he’s already given you.

No Condemnation

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“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

The Bible is filled with unbelievably powerful verses that offer strength and encouragement to the believer. I come to this verse today and I’m in awe of the implications of these words as I ponder the realities of the Christian life and most of all the beauty of God’s grace.

The reality of the Christian life is that we all struggle. We struggle with past failures, past sin, and oftentimes the messes that we have made of our lives. Whether it be damaged relationships, financial ruin, or other lingering physical reminders of past sin, we often mourn our past and the mistakes we’ve made.

We also struggle in the present. Even though we know God has saved us from our sin through Christ and given us a relationship with Him, we continue to deal with sin and its consequences. We want to live lives that honor God, but we find ourselves coming up short so often. We live lives of perpetual guilt as a result.

This struggle in the present also leads to a fear of the future. Even though we might say with our lips that we understand our sin has been taken away, we still fear the judgement of God because of our current failures. How will we be able to stand before a Holy God with all of this sin remaining in our lives? Will God somehow punish me later for what I did yesterday?

This is where Romans 8:1 is so very powerful. The Apostle Paul tells us that there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. If you are in Christ Jesus, if you belong to Him, if you have put your faith and trust in Him, then you have no need to fear. You are not condemned for past failures. God is not going to condemn you for what you do today. Your standing before God is secure regardless of what mistakes you may or may not make in the future.

Those who belong to Christ are forgiven of all their sins – past, present, and future. When Jesus went to the cross he took on himself the punishment for all of your sins. Every sin you have ever committed or will commit was put upon Him. This is why “there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Jesus was condemned to die to pay the penalty for your sin.

Now, some would say, “Does this mean it doesn’t matter what we do?” No, this isn’t what it means. As you read the remainder of Romans 8 you will see that the Apostle Paul speaks about life in the Spirit, and how the Holy Spirit lives inside us and gives us life. Because of the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to overcome sin in our lives. We are given the desire and the ability to live lives of increasing holiness as a result of the work of the Spirit that indwells the believer. Each of us who are Christians have the Spirit of God Himself living within us – the very Spirit of God who raised Christ Jesus from the grave. (Romans 8:11) What more could we ask for?

We are often tempted to dwell on past sin, or even current sin in our life. We feel defeated and see so little progress in our Christian walk. Our struggles with sin often lead us to draw back from God. If we’ve failed in the past, then surely we won’t do much better in the future.

But the beauty of God’s grace is that not only have we been forgiven of our past sin, but God is powerfully working within us to make us more like Jesus. (Romans 8:29) He is using all things, even our sins and struggles to make this happen. (Romans 8:28) So, instead of our fears and failures causing us to run away from God, we ought to see them as opportunities to run to God free from condemnation. We run to Him for not only forgiveness of our sin, but also strength to overcome our struggles and sin.

How wonderful is that? As the Apostle Paul says, “…nothing in all of creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39)

Confidence for the new year…

“The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring. Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the LORD is high and mighty.” –Psalm 93:3-4

Few things in our natural world are as powerful as the ocean and as powerful as the seas. We live close to the coast, we’ve seen the damage that the ocean can do. We saw the flooding in Charleston not so long ago and all of the destruction that caused. When the ocean starts to roar, or when the flood waters start to rise there isn’t anything that is going to stand in its way.

But we serve a God who spoke the waters into existence. We have a Christ who calmed the sea with the word of his mouth. In Mark 4:39 Jesus rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!”…and it listened…

After this happened, the Bible says that the disciples were then “filled with great fear.” The Bible says that they said, “Who then is this that even the wind and the sea obey him…”

We should be asking this ourselves. Indeed, who is this Christ that we serve!?!

We serve Jesus, the one who not only calms the water by the word of his mouth, but he walks over the water and he walks ON the water.

Throughout ancient literature and even in the Bible, floods and waters were symbolic of and metaphorical for turmoil, chaos, and trouble, and I have no doubt that God wants us to learn from this and that God wants us to apply these truths to our own lives. God often teaches us in metaphor, because pictures are sometimes (often times) more powerful that words alone. Therefore, I have no issue saying that I think there is a powerful metaphor that we need to get here.

Just as God is more powerful than the ocean, and any sea, God is also more powerful than any trial, turmoil, or chaos that we have going on in our lives. Just as Jesus says to the disciples after he calmed the sea, I think he is often saying to us, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

And just as he said to the disciples as he was walking on the water, and they were so frightened, he tells them “take heart, it is I…”

We truly have no reason to fear. We can look back at our lives and over the last year and we can center ourselves on the promises of God. We can take heart. As we look forward into 2016 and beyond, we can walk with no fear. We serve a God who is all powerful. Not only is our God more powerful than any ocean, any trial, any storm, or any turmoil in our lives, but He is in complete control of them.

This is the God we walk with. This is the God we serve. This is the God whom we are to be telling people about. This is the God who is working through us! And if that doesn’t give you boldness and confidence going into 2016 then I don’t know what will!

Christmas Reflections

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I wonder how many of us truly grasp the miracle of Christmas. This time of year we are filled with warm and fuzzy feelings, there seems to be joy in the air. I think is by providential design. I wonder though, how many of us truly grasp the gravity of what took place that first Christmas night.

We talk about the miracle of the birth of Jesus. Some marvel at the miracle of a virgin birth, and rightly so. But God says, “I see that miracle, and I raise you one.”

John 1:1 says that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” A little later in verse 14 of that same Chapter it says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

1 John 4:9-10 says, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

The miracle of Christmas, is not a cute little baby boy in a manger that grew up to do some amazing things. The miracle of Christmas isn’t that this baby boy was born to a virgin. The miracle of Christmas isn’t that this baby boy with the miraculous birth is still able to help us feel warm, fuzzy, and full of joy one season out of the year. The miracle of Christmas is that God himself took on human flesh, became a man, and lived a sinless life despite being tempted in all things just as we are. Yes, this man performed many miracles and this man taught many great things about how we are to live. But, this man, was the God-Man who wrapped himself in a human body, who condescended to earth in order to one day die on a Roman cross for the sins of all those who would accept his sacrifice.

Jesus didn’t come to the earth just to allow us to be filled with joy one season out of the year. Jesus allows us to live lives of perpetual joy. To live lives defined by joy, knowing who we are in Him. Knowing that we are reconciled to God because of what He has done…

I don’t think we can fully grasp this. We may have an idea, but to fully grasp this concept, I don’t think we can. And thank God that we can’t.

All praise be to God.

The Greatest Gift

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Whether we like to admit it or not. We all like gifts. The thing I like about children is that they are way more honest than most adults. Adults talk about the “true meaning” of Christmas and pretend that they don’t get excited about the presents they see wrapped up under the tree with their name on it. But, I have good news for us all, we can stop pretending. It’s okay to get excited about gifts, because God designed us that way. Not only did God design us to like gifts but he gave us the greatest gift of all, His own Son.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” -John 3:16

This verse is by far one of the most familiar verses in all of the Bible. Even people who don’t read their Bibles or don’t know anything about the Bible have heard this verse, and what a beautiful verse it is. I was speaking to a pastor friend of mine recently about this verse, and the gift of Jesus, and he made the point that he thinks sometimes people don’t understand why it is that Jesus is a gift.

To answer this question fully would take way more time than a single blog would allow, but I think the book of Romans helps us to shed some light on the question at hand. Romans 3:23 tells us that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Every person reading these words right now has sinned against God. The Bible time and time again tells us that God is Holy. Since God is Holy, he cannot dwell in the presence of sin. Most of us would like to believe that God could just look past our sins or just “get over it.” But to do that would violate who He was as God. So, if we know and believe that God is indeed Holy, but we are sinful, and that God and sin cannot dwell together, then that creates an obvious problem.

But, here is the amazing thing. Romans 5:6, “…Christ died for the ungodly.” In Romans 5:8 the Apostle Paul said it like this, “…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

I can’t think of a more beautiful picture or a more wonderful thing to celebrate this Christmas than the fact that a Holy God would love sinners so much that He would give his only Son to the world. Many times when we read John 3:16 we think of God “giving” Jesus to the world simply in terms of his birth, or maybe even his life and ministry while on earth. And while the birth of Jesus, His incarnation and everything that flowed from that is an amazing thing, and something we should celebrate…God went even further than that.

Not only did God send His Son Jesus to be born into a world of sin and to live amongst sinners and to teach us about God and do all of the amazing miracles that He did. But God the Father actually sent His Son to earth to die for sinners. Christmas isn’t simply about the cute baby Jesus in a manger, but it is also about a Roman Cross and the death of our Savior for us. It is about Jesus coming to earth to take upon Himself the sins of His people.

God gave His Son to the world so that we might believe in Him and receive eternal life. Is there a greater gift than this?

Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

You and me, through our sin we earned death. But God has gifted us with His Son Jesus, and in Him Eternal life. In Matthew 7:11 Jesus says, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

Friend, the greatest gift God could give us is His Son Jesus. My question this Christmas season to you is, have you received this gift? Those of us who have children know, there are few joys greater than giving our children gifts. God feels the same way about his children, and if you are yet to ask him for this gift of eternal life that only comes through Jesus, I ask you today to come to Him and ask. It is a gift. There is nothing you can do to earn it, the gift is free…all you have to do is ask.

Breath of God

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“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16

We live in a world today in which we have more access to the Bible than at any other time in history, especially here in our own country. If I were to go into almost any home I would find at least one Bible, and perhaps several. On my smartphone right now I have every major translation of the Bible along with several commentaries and other reference materials to help me understand the Bible. You can go into almost any bookstore and purchase a Study Bible that has notes to help you understand the Bible and gives you information that Bible Scholars of yesteryear only dreamed of having at their fingertips.

Yet, even with all of this being true, we have never lived in a time in which people were so ignorant of the Bible and what it says. This is a sad truth.

Psalm 1:2 tells us that the blessed man takes his delight “in the law of the LORD.” Basically the Psalmist is speaking of the Word of God, or God’s instructions. So that is my question, do we delight in the Word of God? My dear reader, do you delight in the Word of God? Do you read it? Do you meditate on it? Is it on your mind in your day to day life, and is it your guide?

Why should you read the Word of God? Why should you delight in God’s Word? 2 Timothy 3:16 that I quoted above tells us that the Scriptures are breathed out by God. The Bibles that we read, the Bibles that we are able to hold in our hands are the very breath of God. So, when we sit down and read the Bible, when we meditate on the Word of God, when we drink deeply of the truths of Scripture…we are breathing the very breath of God. This is an amazing truth.

And what happens when we breathe in the breath of God? We get life! In Genesis 2:7 we see that it was when God breathed the breath of life into the nostrils of man that he became a living being. This is an amazing truth…that we can breathe in the very breath of God, and through it we find life! Yet, so few of us take advantage of this awesome privilege.

Many people will say, “Well I don’t really need to read the Bible, I just follow my heart and do what I think is right.” But this is a dangerous thing. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.” Friends, just “following your heart” will lead you astray. We are humans with human emotions. We are fickle. We change our minds. But the Word of God doesn’t change. God doesn’t change.

If we want to know who God is, the only place we can learn that is through His Word. If we want to know how to live a life that pleases God, that truth is only found in the Scriptures. If we want to know the blessings of God, and the wonderful treasures that he has in store for us through His Son Jesus Christ…we can only learn these things in His Word.

Please don’t forsake the reading of the Word of God. Delight in the Word of God. You have the amazing privilege to breathe in the very breath of God and find life in its pages as it points you to the One who is the Life. Jesus Christ Himself. Turn to the Bible and be blessed.