Christian Heart Obedience

The Australian TV show I’ve been watching on Prime has become more of a reality drama than a cooking competition. The producers have seen value in using highly opinionated, vocal participants to stir up the conflict between “teams.” I regret this turn but appreciate the struggle that most of the calmer, more reasonable participants have to maintain the dignity of the competition by confronting the pot-stirrers. I wouldn’t like to see a group of sixteen people allow one or two to get away with flagrant insults and nasty remarks at a dinner party setting that’s about cooking. Have you ever confronted someone’s outrageously unkind or mean remarks? How do we deal with sarcasm or irreverence from unbelievers about God or Jesus Christ? Are you offended when someone uses God’s name irreverently? I am so disappointed in the world’s use of OMG as if saying that is better than saying, “Oh, my God!” disrespectfully. If we have been transformed by God’s Spirit for holy living in, with, and through Jesus Christ, we are not those people. Our desire to glorify God overcomes the world’s pressure to conform to cultural fads. Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians speaks of the triumph of God’s grace over the power of sin in Chapter 6. Christ frees believers from enslavement to sin to be obedient from the heart, yielding to his righteousness for sanctification. In verses 17-19, Paul mentions our former enslavement to sin three times, naming our former masters as lawlessness, sin, and impurity. But we should live as those who are no longer enslaved to sin but have transformed hearts, wanting to obediently offer confessions and repentance for sanctification. Now we are harassed by corruption as a hated power, struggling for victory, confronting it rather than yielding to its impurity and lawlessness.

Obedience From the Heart

Paul writes, “Thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.” (Romans 6:17-19) Our confession at church on Sunday, based on Micah 4:1-5, was particularly relevant to our study. “Gracious God, we confess that we have not pursued godliness as we should. Forgive us where we have walked in the ways of this world or not trusted in your judgments. Enable us to trust more and more in the victory of Christ over sin and death. May the peace of Christ flourish in our relationships and our lives.” God has already transformed Paul’s readers’ hearts at regeneration, giving them the Holy Spirit to grow in holiness and their love of righteousness. Now they, and we, “have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you” (v. 17). “By ‘the form of doctrine,’ is meant the Gospel, which is the ‘doctrine’ of the Scriptures, of Christ and his apostles, and is sound and according to godliness…so such are who have a spirit of Gospel liberty, in opposition to a spirit of bondage; who live by faith on Christ…whose repentance and obedience are influenced by the grace of God, and who are zealous of good works, without any dependence on them…and this is the obedience of faith: the reason why faith is expressed by obedience is, because faith receives truth upon the veracity of God, and not upon the dictates of carnal reason; and is always more or less attended with external obedience to the will of God; and that is rightly performed only by faith. And this obedience…was ‘from the heart’; and was real and sincere.” (1) Sometimes, we arrive at heart obedience by first practicing external obedience; stepping out in faith brings us to the end of ourselves to submit our hearts to the Lord. However, it is far better first to seek that in our hearts which hinders our obedience, confess, repent, and enjoy the fruit for ourselves and others. 

Set Free from Sin

Paul knows that the source of our obedience can only be God’s work in us, “having been set free from sin, [we] have become slaves of righteousness” (v. 18). It is crucial to understand what we have been set free from to encourage our continued confession and repentance. “Being then made free from sin…Not from a sinful nature; nor from a corrupt heart; nor from vain thoughts; nor from sinful words; nor from sinful actions altogether; but from the damning power of sin: sin brought all men under a sentence of condemnation…but the blood of Christ sprinkled on their consciences frees them from it; though fresh sins committed bring fresh guilt, which requires the continual application of the blood of Jesus for pardon and cleansing: but what is chiefly designed here is freedom from the servitude of sin, as appears from the context. Now God’s elect are not released voluntarily by their former masters; nor is their freedom obtained by their own power and will; but it is of God, Father, Son, and Spirit; and the Gospel is generally the means of it, and happy are those persons who are blessed with it! They are rid of a bad master; are freed from the worst of bondage; will be no more servants, as before; are delivered from the power, and out of the kingdom of darkness; are heirs of heaven, and shall enjoy the glorious liberty of the children of God: and for the time present are become the servants of righteousness…they give up themselves to a course and life of righteousness, in which there are true honour, peace, and pleasure.” (2)  Freedom brings with it relief and joy. Is there any better way to enjoy God’s love, holiness, and pleasure fully than to bring him our remaining sin for our sanctification, for more effective service and sweet fellowship with our brothers and sisters?

Our Natural Limitations versus God’s Grace

“I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification” (v. 19). “Paul has been using the analogy of slavery to make his point…Either we must serve sin, or we must serve God. There is no neutral ground. This is Paul’s main point. But do we really believe this? If we understood it and really believed it, would we sin as frequently or as easily as we sometimes do? Would we take sin lightly and be as casual in the pursuit of righteousness as we often are?…The phrase ‘righteousness leading to holiness’ [sanctification] teaches that the practice of outward godliness leads to inward godliness; that is, doing right things actually brings a person along the pathway of spiritual growth. There is no secret formula for holiness [sanctification], no magic recipe. The only means is to realize what God has done for us and then discipline the parts of our bodies—our minds, eyes, ears, tongues, hands, and feet—to act accordingly…God has already done everything necessary for our salvation and given us everything we need to live a consistent Christian life. So, if we fail to do it, it is either because we have not been taught what God has done and therefore do not know how to conduct ourselves as Christians, or we are just too sinful or lazy. If this command had been laid upon us prior to our conversion, we would not have been able to do it…This demand is utterly reasonable. In fact, anything contrary to it is unreasonable. Before we were saved, we served sin; that was consistent and reasonable. But now that we are converted, it is equally reasonable that we should serve God…The failures we have in trying to live a holy life are due almost entirely to our failure to realize these truths or to our laziness or sin in failing to apply them to our conduct.” (3) Christ freed the Roman believers and us from enslavement to sin, to be obedient from the heart, presenting ourselves to his righteousness for our sanctification. But will we remember and live like those who are no longer enslaved to sin but have transformed hearts? Like those who want to obediently offer confessions and repentance for sanctification? Will we reject our world’s endearment with conflict and opinionated “rights?” “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1-4)

Related Scripture: 1 Kings 8:35-36; Micah 4:1-5; John 17:15-20; Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:20-24; Colossians 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7; 2 Timothy 1:13; 1 Peter 1:14-15; 1 John 2:15-17.

Notes:

  1. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Romans 6:17, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/romans-6.htm.
  2. Gill, Romans 6:18, Ibid.
  3. Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series,” Romans 6:15-18, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.

September 23, 2021

Running Your Race Unhindered

I took up running once in my life when I was about forty years old. Well, it was more like jogging than running. My course consisted of nicely tarred, quiet neighborhood streets, so there weren’t many things to stumble over. But marathon runners encounter all kinds of things that may impede their progress—uneven ground, a rock in the shoe, a sudden rain shower, or a little twig that trips them. They don’t stop and call the race a failure, staying mired in their temporary trouble. They stop to fix it and quickly catch up with their running companions or competitors. They look forward to crossing the goal line. Our spiritual race is similar; we have hindrances with which we must deal, to make progress in our personal growth. Some are clinging sins that weigh us down. So we stop, confess, repent, and move forward with greater peace and joy. We don’t stop trusting Christ or backslide by being morose about our sin. The author of Hebrews exhorts us with an “image of running the race that is set before us…” He writes, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Shedding Old, Weighty Sins

“By the sin that does so easily beset us, understand that sin to which we are most prone, or to which we are most exposed, from habit, age, or circumstances. This is a most important exhortation; for a while a man’s darling sin, be it what it will, remains unsubdued, it will hinder him from running the Christian race, as it takes from him every motive for running, and gives power to every discouragement.” (1) When I think of my “darling sins” a few come to mind, such as selfishness, coveting comfort, and sometimes choosing convenience over service. Others’ might be suspicion of others’ motives, gossip, idolatry (of politics, education, beauty, etc.), or obsession with entertainment. “The NIV describes the hampering effects of a clinging robe which then may refer to those sins of drifting, dullness, lack of spiritual exercise, or immaturity, which could lead one to lose the race of life.” (2) Gill writes that the allusion “seems to be runners in a race, who…drop whatsoever is ponderous and weighty, run in light garments, and lay aside long ones, which entangle and hinder in running.” (3) Today an entire industry has grown up around the desire for runners to have the best, lightest possible clothing and shoes for running. Shouldn’t our desire for spiritual growth at least equal, if not exceed our passion for a good physical run? We will only grow spiritually by shedding our clinging sins and keeping our spiritual eyes on Christ’s finished work for encouragement and endurance. 

Our Christian Race

Maybe some of you are or have been marathon runners; many of us haven’t even contemplated the idea for ourselves. However, every believer is called to run a race that will last a lifetime in this world for a guaranteed prize, Christ’s presence and fruit. We need to rest from time to time, and we thirst and hunger for the end. But what makes us the weariest are things that we don’t recognize, over which we trip. Here is the need for confession and repentance. The Holy Spirit is gracious to let us (or cause us to) stumble, so we will be able to remove the impediment and run more effectively toward our Him. “The Christian race is run [in] is this world; the prize run for is the heavenly glory; the mark to direct in it, is Christ…this race is ‘set before’ them, by God; the way in which they are to run is marked out by him in his Word…it is a motion forward, a pressing towards the mark for the prize, a going from strength to strength, from one degree of grace to another; and to it swiftness and agility are necessary; and when it is performed aright, it is with readiness, willingness, and cheerfulness: it requires strength and courage, and a removal of all impediments, and should be done ‘with patience;’ which is very necessary, because of the many exercises in the way; and because of the length of the race; and on account of the prize to be enjoyed, which is very desirable, [Christ himself].” (4)

Jesus—Our Prize, Forerunner, and Champion

Christ has gone before us, taking on himself the burden of our sinfulness, offering his forgiveness and liberation from a life of continual unholiness. We grow spiritually and run with him best by shedding our clinging sins, keeping our spiritual eyes on his finished work for encouragement and endurance. “…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (12:2) Jesus is our companion, champion, forerunner, pioneer, prize, perfecter, strength, wisdom, and encouragement to continue our race when we have gotten stuck or slowed down. “Because of His exemplary life, therefore, which included accepting the opposition from sinners, Christians are encouraged to consider him, to study carefully His life of steadfast endurance so that in their experience they may be able to decide for the same path of suffering, if loyalty to God demands that, rather than the way of easy relief. Thus they will finish the race though weariness may tempt them to give out and quit. The life of Jesus, therefore, is a call to perseverance, for the contest is ‘not a short dash to glory, but a distance race calling for endurance.’” (5)

We look to Jesus as the finisher (perfecter) of our faith. “A believer should be always looking to Christ…he is the author or efficient cause of [our faith]…and he is the finisher of it; he gives himself, and the blessings of his grace, to his people, to maintain and strengthen it…he prays for it, that it fail not; he carries on the work of faith, and will perform it with power; and brings to, and gives that which is the end of it, eternal life, or the salvation of the soul.” (6) All we need to do is pay attention, keep going, and repent of the clinging sins that are holding us back. We can’t do this just once because sanctification is an ongoing process for our cleansing step by step. My little dog loves to play with an insecure puppy in one dog park who insists on staying under a picnic table where her owner sits. Unfortunately, the dirt under the table becomes like a mud pit after a few minutes of them climbing on top of each other, slobbering, panting, and tumbling. My dog is a long-haired white dog; the other dog is short-haired and brown. Guess which one is almost unrecognizable after their playtime. I have learned that it will take about five different cleaning sessions and a full day for me to get the black dirt out of the fur around his face. I have to remove one layer of soil at a time, to expose the next one, and thankfully, he appreciates each cleaning. The Spirit reveals each layer of clinging sins I need to confess and repent of. He provides the cleansing power, but I must want him to apply it. “Do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, ‘Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.’ But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” (Hebrews 10:35-39)

Related Scripture: Romans 8:35-37; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Ephesians 4:22-24; Philippians 2:7-11.

Notes:

  1. Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Hebrews 12:1-11, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hebrews-12.html 
  2. Zondervan Bible Commentary, F. F. Bruce General Editor, Hebrews 12:1-2, One-Volume Illustrated Digital Edition.
  3. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Hebrews 12:1,  studylight.org/commentaries/geb/hebrews-12.html.html
  4. Gill, Hebrews 12:2, Ibid.
  5. Zondervan, Ibid.
  6. Matthew Henry, Ibid.

September 17, 2021

Renewing Our Hearts and Spirits

The other day I tracked a lot of mud through the hall and into my apartment at 6 am when I took out the dog, half asleep. Later, on our long walk, I spilled the water on myself rather than the ground when checking the rain gauge.ThenI tipped the coffee grounds while filling up a canister.I felt like a mess. That same day, while walking at the park, a bird pooped on me in a conspicuous place on my top. Now I really was a mess. Surely this is a picture of my messy heart. I think I have my life and myself under control, but there’s muck and sins, some not so little messes that I don’t even know exist. It’s not a pleasant thought, but it’s biblical. Jesus said, “First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.” (Matthew 23:26) Before Christ’s incarnation, God repeatedly called his people, Israel, to repent, throw off their sins, and make themselves new in their hearts and spirits to live with him. In my last devotion, we meditated on God’s broken heart over the sins of his people. Today we will see that God expected Israel to do what was necessary, on their part, to recommit themselves to him with a new heart and a new spirit. “In Ezekiel 18, [Ezekiel] appears…to focus on the moral responsibility of the individual. Of course, this reading sits well with modern individualism (which rightly stresses individual moral accountability)…the exiles are pressed to repent and take responsibility for their moral lives. Thus the appeal is to make yourselves ’a new heart and spirit.’” (1)Here is the Word“Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.” (Ezekiel 18:30b-32) God preserved the prophet’s message to call us to repent, throw off our heart sins, and renew our devotion to Christ. 

Repent, Turn, and Cast Away

“Man…is perpetually changing. He sets his mind on the things of God but quickly forgets…He wrestles through the issues of eternity and determines to walk in obedience to all of God’s commands but quickly turns aside after idols. His mind fluctuates more than the weather; his emotions churn like a seething cauldron; his will seems utterly unwilling and unable to fix itself in a single direction. At one point he is determined to follow God, at another juncture to follow himself. He loves God enthusiastically but briefly, and the world with abandon but with interruptions. He determines to follow the straight and. Narrow road life eternal but wastes his life on byways. The call to repentance is ever before him. He hears the heart cry of God to ‘turn and live, for why will you die’ (Ezekiel 18:30-32). But will he heed the cry?” (2) God never ceases to call us to turn away from our sins, casting them off, living with him in his Spirit for his pleasure and glory. Jesus did not die for us to have one experience of repentance but to have a life of joy and grace under his gentle, easy yoke. 

A New Heart and a New Spirit

How can God expect Israel to “…make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit” (v. 31b)? “In repentance Christ turns a heart of stone into flesh. The heart is the ‘premum vivens,’ the first thing that lives, and it must be the ‘premum vertens,’ the first thing that turns. The heart is that which the devil strives hardest for. Never did he so strive for the body of Moses as he does for the heart of man. In religion the heart is all. If the heart be not turned from sin, it is no better than a lie…it is odious to make a show of turning from sin while the heart is yet in league with it….God will have the whole heart turned from sin. Sure repentance must have no reserves or inmates. Turning to God makes for our profit. Our repentance is of no benefit to God, but to ourselves. If a man drinks of a fountain he benefits himself, not the fountain. If he beholds the light of the sun, he himself is refreshed by it, not the sun. If we turn from our sins to God, God is not advantaged by it. It is only we ourselves who reap the benefit…[There has been] a change wrought in the heart. The flinty heart has become fleshy. Satan would have Christ prove his deity by turning stones into bread. Christ has wrought a far greater miracle in making stones become flesh.” (3) Don’t we want to continue Christ’s process of sanctification by keeping our hearts soft, pliable for God, molded by the Holy Spirit? The Spirit will work in our favor if we only turn to God in repentance. 

Our Heart’s Desires Sanctified

“There is a current debate over whether a desire can be sinful…Some people say, and I think this is incorrect, that those desires are neutral and it’s whether or not you act on them…In Protestant theology even our desires must be sanctified… ‘For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.’ (Romans 8:13) Living God’s way…means putting to death the sins of our [old nature]. When was the last time you cleaned behind your refrigerator…or washer and dryer? So what happens? The only time you clean behind there, except for this afternoon because you’re thinking about it now, is when you move. And what happens when you move to a new house and you move that washer and dryer? Oh, you’re embarrassed, you’re ashamed. Can you believe all that [filth]…oh, that’s where that is! And the idea of the Spirit’s work in our life is that the Spirit will move the fridge, in our life, so to speak, the hard areas in our life…He will move the washer and dryer to clean behind it. This is the process of sanctification…Remember, sin is not just the bad things that we do, it’s the attitude of our heart, our inner thought life.” (4) Once the Spirit removes our blinders and sheds light on the dark recesses of our hearts, it is up to us to sweep out the filth—or maybe vacuum, or even power wash our hearts if need be. Whether with tears, weariness, or relief, we must repent, throw off our heart sins, and continually renew our devotion to Christ. 

Christ’s Call for Heart Repentance 

Paul writes, “Since we have [God’s] promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1) Ezekiel declares, “Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.” (v. 32) “The design of the exhortation is to convince men of their want of such a heart; of the importance of it: and which, through the efficacious grace of God, maybe a means of his people having it, seeing he has in covenant promised it to them. The Targum renders it, ’a fearing heart, and a spirit of fear,’ that is, a heart and spirit to fear, serve, and worship the Lord…The sense is, that he takes no pleasure in the afflictions, calamities, and captivity of men, which are meant by death here; but rather that they would repent and reform, and live in their own land, and enjoy the good things of it; which shows the mercy and compassion of God to sinners…I take no delight in your present deaths, your captivity; it would be more agreeable to me would you turn from your evil ways to the Lord your God, and behave according to the laws I have given you to walk by, and so live in your own land, in the quiet possession of your goods and estates.” (6) I don’t enjoy avoidable messes in my house or myself; I have to put up with unavoidable ones. But God takes no delight in our calamities that result from unconfessed and lingering sinfulness, no matter how deeply hidden it might be. Just like cleaning up mud, coffee grounds, we must clean our hearts. “God does not command what cannot be done, but admonishes us to do what is in our power, and to pray for what is not.” (7) God called his people Israel to repent, throw off their sins, and make themselves new hearts and spirits to live. We must repent, throw off our heart sins, and renew our devotion to Christ if we want to live the good spiritual Life with him. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalms 19:14)

Related Scripture: Exodus 20:17; 1 Samuel 16:7; Psalm 19:14; 24:4; Jeremiah 9:24; Ezekiel 20:7; 33:10-11, 14-16; Hosea 14:1-2a; Romans 8:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:5.

Notes:

  1. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Ezekiel 18:1-32, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  2. Roberts, Richard Owen, Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel, page 44, Crossway, 2002.
  3. Watson, Thomas, The Doctrine of Repentance, pp. 58, 53-54, Banner of Truth Trust, 2016, (1668).
  4. Pastor Allen’s Sermon, Romans 8:12-17, 9/5/21, https://www.trinityboerne.org/sermons/sermon/2021-09-05/the-rights-that-really-matter
  5. ESV Study Bible (Matthew 5:28), Ibid.
  6. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Ezekiel 18:31b-32, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ezekiel-18.html
  7. Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Ezekiel 18:30-32, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/ezekiel-18.html

September 9, 2021

God’s Broken Heart

Our hearts are breaking for the people of Afghanistan, Haiti, Louisiana, soldiers who defended freedoms in Afghanistan, and those who lost their lives there. Everyone is asking, “Was American’s longest war for nothing?” So I’ve been searching for good news, and here is a little that I found. “Muhibullah Sharif, a Kabul-based economist said the US and its allies’ contributions towards building institutions cannot be overlooked… ‘Before the US invasion, there were many fake and regional currencies in circulation, Afghanistan was not represented in any regional or international trade organizations and there was no private sector, but now all that has changed for good’, he said…Iqbal Barzgar, a Kabul-based political analyst said that the US presence has left both positive and negative impacts on Afghanistan. He also argued that Washington and its allies helped to build the country’s ruined infrastructure and injected unprecedented amounts of money into the local economy. ‘For the past 20 years, a young and educated new generation has entered the country’s social arena, a centralized government has been formed, and new opportunities have been created that were never imagined before the US invasion’ he said.” (1) Throughout history, there have been similar wars, tragedies, and grave disappointments. That’s why having a Biblical Worldview is essential—knowing that God is sovereignly using these events to draw people to himself because he is the good, holy, but wrathful Lord of Lords and King of Kings. God never does anything “for nothing,” for no purpose. While he often allows us to do that which is wholly opposed to him, he nonetheless delights in our repentance when we turn back to him, our only eternal, true hope. Anything else disappoints God, to the point of breaking his heart. Present crises tear up our hearts but imagine how much disappointment God must endure, if we may use anthropomorphic language.

Israel’s Degeneration

Hoping in political solutions, material remedies, or national interventions isn’t wrong if we realize their limitations. Only hope in the risen Christ for eternal peace, and spiritual prosperity will fulfill our soul’s desires. Israel had to learn this lesson, and even after God sent many prophets to direct his people, they remained stubbornly gripped by temporal fixes. The Lord used Israel’s enemy nations to bring them to their senses after breaking his heart with their idolatry. God poured out his grace and mercy on the nation for many years, yet both the northern and southern kingdoms degenerated beyond his tolerance. Kind of like the condition of Afghanistan in slow motion, on a spiritual level. God’s prophet Ezekiel informed God’s people that because they had broken God’s heart with their repugnant evil, he would do what was necessary for them to reverence him as the Lord. “Those of you who escape will remember me among the nations where they are carried captive, how I have been broken over their whoring heart that has departed from me and over their eyes that go whoring after their idols. And they will be loathsome in their own sight for the evils that they have committed, for all their abominations. And they shall know that I am the Lord. I have not said in vain that I would do this evil to them.” (Ezekiel 6:9-10) The Lord had given Israel so many chances to repent. They had God himself, his law, kings, and land, yet the nation refused to honor him, breaking his heart. “‘Paul gives a warning that every unrepentant person ought to heed: ‘But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed’ (Romans 2:5). God’s hatred of unholiness is the very reason hell exists. All sin is against God’s name, God’s person, and God’s holiness. David would never have sinned so wickedly against his God had he kept this truth close to his heart. But instead of focusing upon the person of his God, David focused upon himself, his desires, his pleasures. In doing so he forgot the God who made him, the very God of holiness whom he had actually intended to serve faithfully with all his heart. It was not until the person of God came back into focus in David’s life that renewal came. It was the realization of this truth that drew him to repentance. If you will daily remind yourself of the person of our God, you will find it a perpetual motivator to repentance.” (2) Today, we need to do what God was calling Israel to do, acknowledge and repent of our evil attitudes, viewpoints, desires, opinions, thoughts, words, and deeds, taking God’s Word seriously for our sanctification.

Our Degeneration and Repentance

John Gill writes on Ezekiel 6:9, “I am broken with their whorish heart, which hath departed from me: by committing spiritual adultery, which is idolatry…and they shall loathe themselves for the evils which they have committed in all their abominations…when men remember God, against whom they have sinned, and consider how grieving sin is to him; and when they are broken for it themselves, they then loathe their sins, and themselves for it; and where all this is there is true repentance.” (3) If God would do whatever was necessary for Israel to reverence him as the Lord, imagine what he might do for us who are reborn in Christ when we broke his heart with our repugnant sins. “Every sin that a believer commits is against the body and blood of Christ. Whether it be a sin of commission or a sin of omission, it is against the Savior who died in your place. Whether you think of sin as minor or whether you know it to be major, it is against the Lord who has already suffered much for you. Every day you lingerie an unrepentant state you add to the grief of the Savior whose body was broken and whose blood was shed for you. How can you add to His sufferings? Every celebration of the Lord’s Supper is intended to vividly remind you of this suffering. Every remembrance of His crucifixion, every reminder of the tender atoning work of Jesus Christ on your behalf, serves as a powerful call to repentance. Will you heed this call?” (4) We should ask Christ to reveal our unholy attitudes, viewpoints, desires, opinions, thoughts, words, and deeds, also asking him to help me repent. Shouldn’t our hearts break over sin as God’s does?

God’s Sovereign Work is Never For Nothing

“And they shall know that I am the Lord. I have not said in vain that I would do this evil to them.” (Ezekiel 6:9-10) We hesitate to pray for God to do “whatever is necessary” for our loved ones to come to Christ, but God doesn’t hesitate to do precisely that. When God had offered Judah’s King Ahaz the opportunity to be assured of his power and purpose, Ahaz refused to “test God.” Instead, he depended on Assyria and other nations for Israel’s security. So, God had Isaiah proclaim, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.” (Isaiah 7:10-17) God’s solution to his broken heart is to mercifully give us his only Son’s life and heart for all eternity. God pours out his steadfast loving-kindness on us through Christ. Repentance is the balm for the brokenhearted and delights our Lord. Let’s not act like people who are spiritually dead. Instead, let’s acknowledge and repent, taking God’s Word seriously for our sanctification. When people discuss the tragedies of Afghanistan, Haiti, Louisiana, California, or other chronic crises, let’s be a voice and body for God, having sought his cleansing forgiveness for our fears, anxieties, unjust judgments, and desire for people’s approval. We have these opportunities to be spiritual ambassadors and encouragers. “I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the Lord their God. But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 26:44-45)

Related Scripture: Leviticus 26:40-45; Jeremiah 23:9; Ezekiel 16:61-63; 20:33-34; 36:31-32; Matthew 26:41; Luke 21:36; Romans 3:19-20; James 5:8; 1 Peter 1:13-15; 4:7-8.

Notes

  1. https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/experts-debate-achievements-of-us-in-afghanistan/2283040
  2. Roberts, Richard Owen, Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel, p. 160, Crossway, 2002
  3. Gill, John, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, Ezekiel 6:9,  https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ezekiel-6.html
  4. Roberts, Ibid, p. 167.

September 2, 2021

A Repentance Like Esther’s

Have you had your DNA tested? I have some friends who have spent a considerable amount of time over the years investigating their ancestors. For some, it’s a hobby, but for others, it’s out of peer pressure and curiosity about this fad. If you did get yours tested, did it affect your life positively or negatively? Or was it just a distraction from the life that is going on all around you? I haven’t used a DNA service because right now I am very busy with things in my here-and-now life but I will when I transition out of this season of ministry. I briefly considered getting my DNA tested for a new reason that just came up recently. Since I was born into a Jewish family, I am often asked about my heritage, especially by those fascinated with all things Jewish or Israel. Knowing my DNA will probably not change anything in the way I minister or view myself. Lately I am learned that people are fascinated by supposed “Jewish DNA.” Some even believe that the Jews have Abraham’s DNA. I wonder how anyone could possibly know what Abraham’s DNA was, as I am not aware of any archeological finding of his physical body. I spent a few days thinking about it and was distracted from my Bible studies and writing. I’m beginning to think that my ministry should include a caution about not getting distracted from Christ and the gospel. This week I was led to meditate on and write about one well-known Old Testament personality’s repentance. Esther was faced with a conundrum and so are we when distracted by the world’s influences. 

Esther’s Persian Life Verses Mordechai’s Jewish Loyalty

Esther was a young Jewish woman married to the Persian King, living in his palace, detached from the Jewish community. When the Jews were threatened with extinction in Persia, she was confronted by her uncle Mordecai. Esther repented of her disinterest, called on her community of faith to pray, and acted upon her new freedom to be faithful to God. Like Esther, we should recognize and confess our detachment from the world’s pressures to conform, even to the DNA craze, and refocus on Christ, to bear the fruit of repentance by our fellowship in the body of Christ and witness for God. “The whole Book of Esther is…about the one character who never appears on stage, never speaks, and is never actually spoken to: God. Nowhere is that more true than in chapter 4, where Esther must place her life in the hands of the unseen, unheard, and unrecognized God. This portrayal of Mordecai and Esther and the Jewish community with them as…people whose entire lives are built around theological presuppositions whose existence and implications they studiously ignore…The author’s literary artistry…highlights a very real conundrum that pastors wrestle with on a weekly basis. Simply put, it is this: ‘How can people who confess an orthodox creed week after week so easily and completely lose track of the implications of that theology whenever problems emerge in daily life?’ Mordecai’s worldview may have been based on a solid theology, but he had difficulty connecting that theology to the issues of everyday life. In times of crisis, for all our orthodox theology, our own first response is frequently the whimper of resignation or human strategy rather than the bark of robust faith in God. We believe in God, but in practice react to life’s crises as if we were virtual atheists.” (1) 

Mordecai’s Faulty Practical Theology and Esther’s Ignorance

Mordecai’s partial practical theology caused him to respond to Haman’s hatred of him and his people by lamenting and fasting as letters went out “in every province, wherever the king’s command and his decree reached, [and] there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and many of them lay in sackcloth and ashes. When Esther’s young women and her eunuchs came and told her, the queen was deeply distressed. She sent garments to clothe Mordecai, so that he might take off his sackcloth, but he would not accept them.” (Esther 4:1-4) The text reads that Esther was “deeply distressed,” but most commentators hold the view that what disturbed her was Mordecai’s appearance and actions, not the reason for them since she probably didn’t know about the king’s decree “to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods” (3:13). It’s possible for us to be so engrossed in politics, work, family lineage, sports, shopping, or TV watching that we don’t see and appreciate the need for a gospel influence and biblical worldview. I can’t help thinking of the present situation in Afghanistan as we approach the deadline for the U.S. to evacuate people. We should be openly lamenting and praying while Christians are hiding, targeted for execution by the Taliban. We should recognize and confess our detachment from the world’s pressures to conform and refocus on Christ, to bear the fruit of repentance by our fellowship in the body of Christ, and witness for God. 

Mordecai’s Good Theology and Esther’s Repentance

After Mordecai refuses to remove his sackcloth and ashes—to stop grieving and lamenting with the Jews—Esther sent a messenger to learn the reason for his anguish (4:4). Mordecai held nothing back from Esther: Haman’s fury that Mordecai wouldn’t bow to him, Haman’s determination to kill Mordecai and the Jews, and the vast sum of money Haman promised to give to the King. In particular, “Mordecai also gave [Esther’s messenger] a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her and command her to go to the king to beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people” (4:8) Mordecai’s response isn’t entirely faultless, as he seems to appeal to the King rather than to God, or at least it appears that way. He’s human, like us. And Esther’s first response is one born of fear because anyone who wasn’t invited to speak to the king was doomed. Ironically, Esther’s fear of execution was the same fear that Mordecai had for the Jewish people. He sent her a message with a confrontation: “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish.” (4:13-14a).Mordecai’s statement reveals his trust in God’s sovereignty lies his: “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?’” (4:12) Esther not only embraced his admonishment but acted biblically after her repentance. “Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, ‘Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.’” (Esther 4:15-16)

Esther’s God-Given Courage

When we sincerely confess and enjoy repentance, the Holy Spirit is unfettered to give us the power to act boldly, joyfully, and biblically. Esther acted “without any explicit promises from God to protect her, or to bring about a successful conclusion to her mission…There are no guarantees of success when we stand up for God, if success means getting what we want…God had committed himself to maintain a people for himself, not so that they could be comfortable, but so that they could bring him glory…It was up to God how to glorify himself through Esther’s obedience, whether by delivering the people through her or allowing her to be martyred in his service, but he would be glorified one way or another. It is the same for us, when we step out in faith, however weak and trembling. We cannot know ahead of time how God will choose to use us…[And] if it is true that a mediator was needed to intercede with King Ahasuerus, how much more do we need a mediator to intercede for us with God, the Great King…he is the great King of kings, the sovereign ruler of the universe, against whom we have rebelled. Fallen, sinful people cannot therefore simply saunter into his presence, unannounced and uninvited. On the contrary, his edict has gone forth against us, declaring us worthy of death because of our sin…Jesus Christ is the true mediator between God and man…far from being comfortably isolated from his community, as Esther was, Jesus identified with us fully…For him, ‘If I perish, I perish’ meant not just the potential probability of death, but the absolute certainty of the cross.” (3) We have been invited to seek our Father’s mercy through this lovely Old Testament picture of intercession on behalf of God’s vulnerable people, whether they be Jews, Afghans, Haitians, or any other people group of unbelievers. But before we can intercede prayerfully, we must repent of our indifference, detachment, self-absorption. “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11)

Related Scripture: Genesis 43:14; Nehemiah 1:4-11; Daniel 6:1-9; Romans 13:11-13.

Notes:

  1. Duguid, Iain, Esther and Ruth – Reformed Expository Commentary, Esther Chapter 4, P & R Publishing, 2005.
  2. Duguid, Ibid.
  3. Duguid, Ibid 

* I highly recommend reading Duguid’s Commentary.August 26, 2021

Groaning for the World

When’s the last time you groaned about something? Not when you groaned at a bad joke. Sometimes I grunt at Far Side cartoons, but that’s a kind of fake groan. A sincere cry is deep and full of pain. Have you injured yourself and groaned as you felt your body part break or get pulled unnaturally? Most of us groan for ourselves when we are needy or in agony. But parents, grandparents, and closes relatives know what it’s like to lament deeply over someone else’s pain or trouble. And, right now, we’re groaning for the residents of Afghanistan and Haiti, which is appropriate. So is moaning internally when we have conflicts with others or are frustrated in our plans. Pain makes us cry when we lovingly feel someone else’s pain. But we probably don’t moan in love as much as we should because we don’t love as we are called. How often or deeply do we mourn over the destiny of the unsaved, condemned to eternal damnation for their unbelief? I have been on my knees (figuratively, at least) for the salvation of some people for over thirty years. By God’s grace, I have matured in Christ and no longer think I know what they need or try to convince them to believe in him. Now I humbly ask the Lord to intervene and share my love for God with them whenever possible. But I rarely groan passionately for them. I hope that these devotions on repentance will continue to significantly impact my view of how compassion and confession lead to sincere repentance on my part and for everyone.

A Model of Lamenting

In Psalm 102, the psalmist, in lonely agony, calls to God for quick help. He intends to see God praised and worshipped for his compassion on the doomed. He models calling on God with groans. On this side of the cross, we remember Christ’s agony, endured for our deliverance. The psalmist laments those who are doomed to condemnation. “Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry come to you! Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call! For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace. My heart is struck down like grass and has withered; I forget to eat my bread. Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my flesh. I am like a desert owl of the wilderness, like an owl of the waste places; I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop…Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be Lord may praise the Lord: that he looked down from his holy height; from heaven the Lord looked at the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die, that they may declare in Zion the name of the Lord, and in Jerusalem his praise, when peoples gather together, and kingdoms, to worship the Lord.” (Psalms 102:1-7, 18-22) Let’s face it, we don’t usually pray like this. Last Sunday our church family confessed together: “Precious Savior, we come to you confessing our pride. We confess our arrogance and tendency to think we are always in the right. Give us hearts that are responsive to your will and way. Make us quick to repent and seek your kingdom first. In so doing, we pray we would show froth your gospel, not just in holy living, but also in humility, sorrow over sin, repentance that leads to life and enduring joy.” If we let our sorrow for the unsaved sink in and repent of our intellectualism and detachment, we will be more useful to the Lord for the sake of the gospel.

A Model of Vulnerability and Christlikeness 

The psalmist honestly and transparently writes about his suffering, partly due to his enemies taunting him, “who deride me use my name for a curse” (v. 8). However, he also acknowledges God’s “indignation and anger,” implying that he has deserved it for his sin (v. 10). As a result, he feels his life is like smoke, his bones burning in a fire, a withered heart, no appetite, loud groaning to his depths, and feeling utterly alone and cut off (vs. 3-7). It’s not easy to yield to Christ’s call for deep humility and weakness, but it’s essential if we are to move past our issues in concern for others. We aren’t loving, gracious, and kind to others when we are caught up in our fears, pride, or anxieties. It’s only when we are willing to pour out our hearts to God that we can focus on the needs of others with the love of Christ, as God works repentance in us. Otherwise, we serve half-heartedly in our own strength, usually unaware that we are doing so. The psalmist calls on God to answer his prayer quickly so that he can put his mind and heart to the people of Zion (vs.1-2). “Good men are always for speedy answers of prayer; they would have them the day, the hour, the moment they are calling upon God.” (1) Job repeatedly voiced his desire to meet with the Lord “Today also my complaint is bitter; my hand is heavy on account of my groaning. Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! I would lay my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. I would know what he would answer me and understand what he would say to me. Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? No; he would pay attention to me. There an upright man could argue with him, and I would be acquitted forever by my judge.” (Job 23:1-7) “Blessed be God, we may know where to find him. He is in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself; and upon a mercy-seat, waiting to be gracious. Thither the sinner may go; and there the believer may order his cause before Him, with arguments taken from his promises, his covenant, and his glory.” (2) 

A Model for Moving On

“Having broken the damaging preoccupation with self that so often strangles our spiritual lives, the psalmist now finds himself thinking about other situations and other people and praying confidently for them…[In verses 18-22] he prays for the rebuilding of Jerusalem…his concern for the city embraces his concern for the people in it. When the people of God cease thinking about themselves so much and begin thinking about the state of things around them, particularly our cities and those who are suffering in them, then God may indeed hear our prayers and send a revival. [He also prays for] the conversion of the Gentile nations, whom he sees coming to worship God at some future day. This is nothing less than a worldwide missionary outlook, a view that has always marked the church in its best periods. We need it today… [A third thing he prays for is] the church of the future. One of the most fascinating things about the transformed, global outlook of the psalmist is that he sees his own time relating to a future time, for he is sure that what God is about to do to save and deliver his people will be recorded in writing to be a source of blessing for the future church. (v. 18)” (3) 

Are we willing to groan for the world, not just ourselves and our immediate circle of family and friends? Are we going to remember Christ’s agony, which he endured for our deliverance, and those who are doomed to condemnation? “Most of the nations of the world are beset with national sins that demand repentance. Abortion defiles entire lands. Sexual promiscuity blackens every corner of the earth….The persecution of God’s children is a national evil that cannot escape punishment…National repentance must start somewhere. Why shouldn’t it start with you? If your repentance is in place, ask God to give you a voice that others will hear.” (4) We must ask ourselves, “Is my repentance in place?” Only then are we able to effectively pray for repentance for others and the world. “‘Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan, I will now arise,’ says the Lord; ‘I will place him in the safety for which he longs.’” (Psalms 12:5)

Related Scripture: Exodus 2:23-24; Deuteronomy 31:19; Job 30:24-31; Psalm 22;22, 29-31; 72:11; 79:11; 84:1-4; 142:1-2; Isaiah 65:24; Zechariah 9:14-17; Romans 8:20-25; 15:4-7; 2 Corinthians 5:1-5; James 4:14.

Notes:

  1. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Psalm 102:1-2, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-102.html
  2. Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Job 23:1-7,  https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/job-23.html
  3. Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series,” Psalm 102, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  4. Roberts, Richard Owen, “Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel,” pp. 292, Crossway, 2002.

August 19, 2021

Mourn, Weep, Repent!

I’ve been watching a TV cooking series in which twelve to eighteen people compete for a monetary prize and the title of winner for the season. You wouldn’t think there would be much crying among people who are determined to fight their way through the intense, timed “heats,” but there is, and not usually from the stress of having to get an expert dish out on time. Surprisingly, most tears come from having to say goodbye to eliminated contestants. This aspect of the show is particularly appealing to me since those who begin as adversaries end up as friends, despite competing against each other. The sorrow of saying goodbye is relatable for everyone. We part from family and friends leaving for college, graduating, when changing schools, moving to another location or neighborhood, leaving jobs, leaving someone after a visit, and ultimately saying goodbye to our loved ones when they die. Recently our missions committee met a new RUF pastor who is beginning a new season with his family in a new city, at a new university, and attending a new church, while his children start at a new school. I was touched when he said, close to tears, that the most challenging part of his work is not all the change but saying goodbye to students who graduate, or recently, to those he left in his former RUF university. (*) We will have many partings in this life and cry because we are sad since that’s the way God designed us. While Jesus encourages us to remember that he will never leave us (Heb. 13:5), he also assures us that he will comfort us when we are sad. Instead of trying to be “happy Christians” who only acknowledge good things and deny the effects of sin in the world, in others, and ourselves, we see and weep over sin.

Weep!

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus taught, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). “Because mourning for sin lies at the heart of Christ’s message, it is natural to expect this theme in the first of his great sermons. When Jesus entered the synagogue at Nazareth on the day that he began his formal ministry, he read from the scroll of Isaiah. He [proclaimed freedom for prisoners] (Luke 4:18–19). What was the deliverance Christ preached? It was not a proclamation against slavery, although that rightly followed in the history of the Christian church. Jesus did not set about to overthrow the slavery of the Roman Empire; he never preached against it. The deliverance he proclaimed was a deliverance from the tyranny of sin…The Gospels tell us that Jesus wept twice in his ministry, once for the unbelief of the Jews at the grave of Lazarus and once over the sin and hardness of heart of Jerusalem. Sin was the great problem. And, thus, he asked men to weep for it.” (1) Jesus promises to bless and comfort us when we mourn for sin in the world, in others, and ourselves, willing to see it for what it is—the worst offense against him. “It is only possible for human beings to develop relationships in three dimensions: upward toward God; inward in relating to self; outward toward others. Christ speaks powerfully to these three dimensions in the Beatitudes…The first four describe the self-emptying process that always leads to an intense hungering and thirsting after righteousness that results in fulness. [The first] deals with the upward realm…When God’s revelation of Himself crushes and breaks you, you will begin to feel the poverty of spirit that Christ blesses. [The second], ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted (v. 4)’ deals with the inward realm. When one is truly sick of his sin, he will mourn and weep over it. If you will not humble yourself before God and grieve over your poverty of spirit, you will never see and feel the horror of your own sin sufficiently to mourn over it. Those who do not mourn over sin do not find true comfort. When sin and self become sufficiently obnoxious that you flee from them to Christ, you will know that emptiness in the inward realm that leads to the fullness of Christ.” (2) Is sin truly “obnoxious” to us? Are we willing to let it become so repulsive that we cannot bear it and run to Christ for repentance? One of the things I noticed over the seasons of the cooking show is that those who are most self-confident at the beginning of the competition never win—their view of themselves prevents them from hearing and applying the chef’s corrections and instructions. Instead of acknowledging their failures and areas needing correction, they justify and hold tightly to their pride—something we do unconsciously when it comes to sin—the opposite of what God desires of us.

Jesus Wept!

“Confession is one thing, contrition is another. One might almost translate the second beatitude “Happy are the unhappy” in order to draw attention to the startling paradox it contains. It is plain from the context that those Jesus promised comfort are not primarily those who mourn the loss of a loved one, but those who mourn the loss of their innocence, their righteousness, their self-respect. It is not the sorrow of bereavement to which Christ refers, but the sorrow of repentance…Jesus wept over the sins of others, over their bitter consequences in judgment and death, and over the impenitent city which would not receive him. We too should weep more over the evil in the world, as did the godly people of biblical times. It is not only the sins of others, however, which should cause us tears; for we have our own sins to weep over as well.” (3) “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence” (Hebrews 5:7). Jesus’s reverence is directly connected to his mournful weeping over sin’s consequences. We make ourselves out to be pridefully superior to him if we refuse to be brought low because of sin, which itself calls for our sincere repentance. 

Weep Now, Laugh Later!

Luke offers us another viewpoint: “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” (Luke 6:21) “In Luke’s setting…the emphasis is on the difference between now and later…Jesus is distinguishing between the way things are now and the way they will be when the kingdom of God is manifested and God’s justice reigns supreme. [God] is telling us to be wise, to think in eternal categories, and not to be slaves to the present. What happens right now, counts eternally, and this is the essence of the message that Jesus is giving here.” (4) When we put all this together, we should be highly motivated to confess quickly for repentance, knowing that Christ will comfort us now and through his perfect peace in the next life. Jesus blesses and comforts us when we mourn for sin. “Repentance is the inlet to spiritual blessings. It helps to enrich us with grace. It causes the desert to blossom as the rose. It makes the soul as the Egyptian fields after the overflowing of the Nile, flourishing and fruitful. Never do the flowers of grace grow more than after a shower of repentant tears. Repentance causes knowledge: ‘When their heart shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away’ (2 Cor. 3:16)…Repentance inflames love…Repentance ushers in temporal blessings…The happy and glorious reward that follows repentance: Being made free from sin, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life’ (Rom. 6:22). The leaves and root of the fig tree are bitter, but the fruit is sweet. Repentance to the fleshy part seems bitter, but behold sweet fruit.” (5) We can rightly be motivated to mourn for sin by Jesus’s promise of his comfort.

Jesus came into this world; the Word became flesh to free us from our enslavement to sin. He will return to liberate the world, but until then, we have his power, presence, and love to spur us on as the Spirit does his deep work within our hearts—if we yield to him. When he read from the scroll of Isaiah in the temple, “he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’” (Luke 4:21) What was fulfilled? “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3) Having received his righteousness, repentance is our path to gladness.

Related Scripture: Psalm 145:18-19; 147:3; 2 Corinthians 3:16-18.

Notes:

* RUF—Reformed University Fellowship, a “Community for Hope” for college students, https://ruf.org

  1. Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series,” Matthew 5:4, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  2. Roberts, Richard Owen, “Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel,” pp. 183-4, Crossway, 2002
  3. Stott, John, “The Beatitudes” (Bible Study), pages 17-18, InterVarsity Press, England, 1988.
  4. Sproul, R. C., “A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke’s Gospel,” Luke 6:21, Electronic Book, 2016.
  5. Watson, Thomas, “The Doctrine of Repentance,” pp. 79-83, Banner of Truth Trust, 2016 (1668)

August 12, 2021

Lamenting Our Sin

No one likes to grieve, but there’s plenty in life that calls for grieving. The news is full of accounts of or about sorrowful events that make our hearts ache. Recently, Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, a Belarusian Olympic sprinter, had a public feud with officials from her team at the games. She said that authorities “made it clear” she would face punishment if she returned home. (Belarus has an autocratic government that stifles criticism.) The Delta variant of COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire. And, speaking of fires, the Bootleg fire in Oregon has consumed over 413,000 acres and may burn all summer. The world is subjected to sin. “We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:22-23) But we often read news stories without them affecting us. I sometimes skip over reports that have no impact on my life and then confess my apathy for the trials of others. I’m glad to have a friend who recently told me that she is tired of pointing out all the sins of this world to those who are in denial about them. She reminded me that lamenting sin is precisely what we should be doing. We don’t lament nearly enough. Lamenting, a profound demonstration of sorrow, goes one step beyond grief. Sincere lamentation in the Bible is especially evident in Job, David’s psalms, and Jeremiah’s Lamentations. Biblical lamentation leads to greater hope in the Lord’s provisions and faithfulness. Tsimanouskaya’s criticism has helped the world to know about the restrictive atmosphere of Belarus. More reluctant people are getting vaccinated for COVID-19, helping to curb fatalities. But it’s hard to understand why God allows the devastating wildfires in Oregon, California, and other places. If nothing else, he has given us a dramatic, unmistakable picture of sin’s effect on life. We are meant to lament the consequences of sin, though painful, to deepen our hope in God, especially in our trials.

David’s Lament

David lamented that his sin was crushing him, causing him great pain, so he confessed. “My iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me…For I am ready to fall, and my pain is ever before me. I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin.” (Psalm 38:4, 17-18) John Gill comments, “For mine iniquities are gone over mine head…Like an inundation of waters, as the waves and billows of the sea; for the waters to come up to the neck or chin shows great danger; but when they go over the head the case is desperate, and a person is sinking and drowning…the simile may denote both the number and weight of sins, and also signifies the overwhelming distress the psalmist was in, under a view of them; they are too heavy for me; the guilt of sin upon the conscience, without a view of pardon, lies heavy indeed, and makes a man a burden to himself.” (1) In Psalm 38:1-8 “the singer describes the anguish of his body and mind, acknowledging that he deserves it because of his sin (vv. 1, 3, 5, 8), and that these troubles come from God (v. 2)…In such a hopeless situation, the faithful must look to God alone, and here he implores God to come to his aid (38:15–22). He shows true faith in confessing the iniquity for which he is being disciplined (v. 18) and in calling the Lord his salvation (v. 22).” (2)

Quiet, Private, Vulnerable Lamenting 

Lamenting over sin is not wailing and beating our breasts, as if this great show of grief will somehow satisfy our hatred for our sin. In Africa, the Jewish culture, and other people groups, people value dramatic displays of grief. But God does not call us to put on a show. When Jesus visited the sick, he made a point of creating a quiet, private space inside while people were wailing outside (Mark 5:38-39). We are told to go into our “closet” to meet with the Lord (Matthew 6:6). Biblical lamenting takes the form of a prayer with confession and a desire for repentance. “Spurgeon says, ‘The psalm opens with a prayer (v. 1), continues in a long complaint (vv. 2–8), pauses to dart an eye to heaven (v. 9), proceeds with a second tale of sorrow (vv. 10–14), interjects another word of hopeful address to God (v. 15), a third time pours out a flood of griefs (vv. 16–20), and then closes as it opened, with renewed petitioning (vv. 21–22).’” (3) We approach our lament as a burden that we want to cast onto God for relief (1 Peter 5:7). We are to come to the Lord as we meet with a doctor in an examination room, asking for her scrutiny, diagnosis, and treatment. We feel exposed and vulnerable in that skimpy gown that never entirely closes while we wait for the doctor to enter. This is the kind of vulnerability we should have with the Lord about our sin. “Sin is a burden. The power of sin dwelling in us is a weight (Heb. 12:1). All are clogged with it; it keeps men from soaring upward and pressing forward. The guilt of sin committed by us is a burden, a heavy burden; it is a burden to God (he is pressed under it), a burden to the whole creation, which groans under it…Sins are wounds, painful mortal wounds. A slight sore, neglected, may prove of fatal consequence, and so may a slight sin slighted and left unrepented of…Sickness will tame the strongest body and the stoutest spirit. David was famed for his courage and great exploits; and yet, when God contended with him by bodily sickness and the impressions of his wrath upon his mind, his hair is cut, his heart fails him, and he becomes weak as water.” (4) 

Deep Contrition 

The Bible says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Ps. 51:17). “Joel 1:8, ‘Lament like a virgin wearing sackcloth for the bridegroom of her youth.’ Contrition is deeper than regret. We may all regret something we have done but still not sorrow over it. Mariano Di Gangi writes in his study of Joel, ‘Do we know what it means to be contrite? God desires that sinners sense their guilt and weep within for what their sins have done to defile self, destroy neighbor, and dishonor Christ. When we experience poverty of spirit, we are on the right road to everlasting enrichment from the treasury of divine grace. When we mourn over our sins, we pass through spiritual winter. Then comes the springtime of God’s comfort’…[David] has confessed (and is confessing) his sin. He is troubled by it. The purpose of discipline is to bring honest confession followed by a corresponding change of life. That purpose has been accomplished. David has confessed his sin. Therefore, it is time for the heavy hand of God that is upon him to be lifted. ‘Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation!’ (Psalm 38:22)” (5)

Grieving is our work for repentance while the Holy Spirit helps us remember and apply the knowledge “that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin” (Romans 6:6-7). Today, when we read the news, let’s not pass over it so quickly, as if the sin of the world is not ours. Like David, let us look at the reality of sin’s effects, mourn it’s consequences, and turn our eyes upon the Lord for our hope and help. (6) Lamenting all sin is our work here, to glorify God more fully. “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” (Romans 6:12-14)

Related Scripture: Job 7:20-21; Psalm 69; Romans 7:24; 8:21-22; Hebrews 12:1

Notes:

  1. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Psalm 38:4,  https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-38.html
  2. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Psalms 38, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  3. Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Psalm 38” Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  4. Henry, Matthew “Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible,” Psalm 38:1-11, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/psalms-38.html
  5. Boice, James, Joel 2:1-18, Ibid.
  6. I highly recommend Pastor Allen Taha’s sermon on Romans 6:5-14, “The Christian’s Emancipation,” https://www.trinityboerne.org/sermons/sermon/2021-08-01/the-christians-emancipation

August 5, 2021

Grieving Without Regret

Did you see the film “The Bucket List” that came out in 2007? That movie created a big, long-lasting fad. Do you have a bucket list of things you want to do before you die? For many people, now having a “bucket list” means listing your goals and the experiences that fulfill those goals as you plan your life around them. I don’t have a bucket list, and I often wonder about them. Some have told me it’s because they don’t want to have any regrets about things they haven’t done, unread books, or places they haven’t seen before infirmity of old age will hijack their bodies. Our world would have us focused on what we haven’t done and what we must do to be fulfilled because life will end with all its opportunities here. The goal, of course, is to be happy and free (since having a bucket list implies the ability to-do items on the list). But God doesn’t want us to list personal ideas for achieving personal joy, fulfillment, and holiness. He has already given us the means to glorify him for all eternity in his Word. If we don’t want to have regrets, we are encouraged to seek the wisdom of Scripture and apply its truths to our lives and ourselves often. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) If we allow him, the Holy Spirit will work through Word to pierce our pride, materialism, covetousness, gluttony, selfishness, and self-centeredness. The cure for regret is grief in confession and the resulting repentance.

Paul’s Joy for the Corinthians’ Grief

After Paul planted the church in Corinth, he was greatly concerned about his brothers’ and sisters’ sanctification. In his second letter to the Corinthians, “Paul’s opponents were undermining his work, claiming that his suffering proved he was not a true apostle. Paul responds that his suffering highlights his dependence on Christ, as it points to Christ’s strength rather than his own. Second Corinthians includes stirring perspectives on gospel ministry, encouragements to holy living, and instructions about giving.” (1) In his discipleship for holy living, he writes, “I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.” (2 Corinthians 7:9-11) The Corinthians’ grief assured Paul of their salvation, purity, hatred of personal sin, holiness, and innocence. This is the work of true repentance in God’s power. Rather than regret our failures to glorify God and live a holy life, we grieve knowing that our repentance will lead to assurance, purity, holiness, and innocence through God’s forgiveness.

Godly Grief Versus Worldly Sorrow

“The apostle speaks of sorrowing ‘after a godly manner’ (2 Cor. 7:9). But what is this godly sorrowing? There are six qualifications of it [a few of which I will quote here]:

  • True godly sorrow is inward. It is a sorrow of the heart. The sorrow of hypocrites lies in their faces: ‘they disfigure their faces.’ As the heart bears a chief part in sinning, so it must in sorrowing. It is a sorrow for heart-sins, the first outbreaks and risings of sin…The true mourner weeps for the stirrings of pride and concupiscence [lust].
  • Godly sorrow is ingenuous. It is sorrow for the offense rather than for the punishment. A  Christian grieves for sinning against that free grace which has pardoned him.
  • Godly sorrow is a great sorrow. Sorrow for sin must surpass worldly sorrow. We must grieve more for offending God than for the loss of dear relations…for in the burial of the dead it is only a friend who departs, but in sin God departs…Our sorrow for sin must be such as makes us willing to let go of those sins which brought in the greatest income of profit or delight.
  • Godly sorrow is abiding. It is not a few tears shed in a passion. True sorrow must be habitual.  O Christian, the disease of your soul is chronic and frequently returns upon you; therefore you must be continually physicking [medicating] yourself by repentance.” (2)

The Seriousness of Sin Deserves Our Most Serious Grief

Sin is serious business. Some ministries, like Ligonier, have been built upon the importance of holiness because sin is such an insidious, fatal problem. If we are to grieve over anything, it should be the effects of sin, including the death of unbelievers, tragedies, crimes, congenital disabilities, and the love of evil in the world. As my Pastor said on Sunday, “We need to have a grace-filled killer instinct toward our sin.” He compared our approach to sin like that of a fly hovering in our kitchens. Do we invite it to stay, ignore it, or most likely, try to kill it or get rid of it as soon as possible? (3) We should notice our sin and do everything we can to kill it off, rather than ignore it, with its annoying presence or even power to control us. “Sometimes confronting sin requires going beyond what love and compassion might be comfortable with. But it is necessary to do so because sin is a deadly killer. The Corinthians’ remorse was not the sorrow of self-pity, of getting caught, of despair, bitterness, wounded pride, or manipulative remorse. Their sorrow led to repentance which produced genuine change. They were not defensive; they did not view themselves as victims or seek to justify their sinful behavior. Their sorrow was according to the will of God; it was the healing, transforming sorrow for sin that God intended for them to feel, because it produces repentance.” (4) Deep, godly sorrow leads to healing from the devastating disease of sin.

Grief-motivated Repentance Proves Our Innocence 

“For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.” (2 Corinthians 7:11) In his book “The Mortification of Sin,” Puritan John Owen encourages us to hate sin, to be watchful against anything and everything that disturbs our souls. If we are only uncomfortable because of it, and our conscience is not wounded, we will ignore it. God gives believers a desire to kill sin. But many digest sin without any bitterness in their hearts, imagining that God will be gracious and merciful, without any remorse for sin. Some are on the brink of falling away from God and turning God’s grace into permissiveness, being hardened by sin. Owen writes, “To use the blood of Christ, which is given to cleanse us, the exaltation of Christ, which is to give us repentance, the doctrine of grace, which teaches us to deny all ungodliness—to countenance sin, is a rebellion that will break the bones.” (5) “The Corinthians’ genuine repentance manifested itself in a desire for vindication. [They] had a strong desire to clear their name, remove the stigma of their sin, rid themselves of their guilt, and prove themselves trustworthy. Therefore, they made sure that all who had known of their sin now knew of their repentance…Truly repentant people have a strong desire to see justice done and to make restitution for the wrongs they have committed. Instead of protecting themselves, they accept the consequences of their sins. Repentance had brought purity to the sinning saints in the Corinthian assembly, and every aspect of their lives reflected it.” (6)

Are you chained to a worldly bucket list to prevent regrets? Do you grieve sincerely over your heart sins? Will you begin grieving today, knowing that you have a choice between regretting your failures to glorify God and live a holy life, or grieving, knowing that your grief will result in repentance, transformation, assurance, purity, greater distaste for your sin, more holiness, and innocence through God’s forgiveness? “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Related Scripture: Isaiah 22:12; Jeremiah 22:10; 16:6; Zechariah 12:10; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Philippians 4:8; James 3:17-18; 1 John 1:8-9; 3:3.

Notes:

  1. English Standard Version, The Holy Bible, Introduction to 2 Corinthians, 2016, Crossway Bibles.
  2. Watson, Thomas, The Doctrine of Repentance, Banner of Truth Trust, pp. 21-28, 2016 (1668)
  3. Taha, Allen, Christian Identity, July 25, 2021, https://www.trinityboerne.org/sermons/sermon/2021-07-25/christian-identity
  4. MacArthur, John, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 2 Cor. 7:5-16, Moody Publishers, 2015.
  5. Owen, John, The Mortification of Sin, Urbanophile, LLC (August 7, 2019), Kindle Edition.
  6. MacArthur, Ibid. 

July 29, 2021              

When Broken is Good

#30                                          When Broken is Good

I have a few broken or torn things in my possession that I do not want to replace because they have sentimental value or remind me of critical phases of my life. And, I have a rule that I won’t purchase a new item until the old one is useless (or too ugly to even look at). I try to fix broken things but am usually unsuccessful and must replace them. But I confess that I like new and have about five things in my Amazon shopping cart right now. But I don’t like to spend money unnecessarily, so my conflicted desires battle each other. Do you like new things and buy them often? Do you try to fix things, so you won’t have to replace them? We carry our views about old versus new and broken versus into every area of our lives. They are even here in our Bible reading and study. But the biblical concept of brokenness, especially when it’s a good thing, is counter-cultural. In the Bible, things and people aren’t broken because they wear out or are worn down from age. Brokenness is evidence of a need for God’s supernatural help, and an opportunity to be “remade.” In his psalms, David asked God to deliver him by breaking his spirit and heart. In Psalm 51:14-17, he writes, “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

Broken and Dysfunctional

God is not looking to replace us with something new because we become dysfunctional or useless—we’re that way from conception. Instead, he wants to remake us to be better than before, but of the same essence, like a potter reworks clay. Our transformation begins with our regeneration in Christ through God’s salvation. Then it continues in our sanctification since we have our old sin-nature as long as we are in this world. God sent the prophet Jeremiah to the potter’s house to illustrate his intentions with Israel. “So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do” (Jeremiah 18:3-4). The potter “reworked” the clay, that is, he changed it entirely, but with the same material. Some potters will leave their vessels alone if they are almost perfect, but God wants us to be “pots” representing his faultless character. He wanted Israel to be different from other nations and different from how she had been in her national idolatry and rebellion. David, Israel’s king, knew that every personal and national fault was an opportunity to be transformed into something better. Do we know that about our failures and flaws—that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9-10)? If so, we will move toward, not away from spiritual brokenness to praise Christ, our Savior.

Worshipping God Through Our Brokenness

In our Pastor’s sermon yesterday on Romans 5, he reminded us that sin wrecks everything, that “the world is the wreckage of Eden.” We are all born spiritually and legally guilty—the consequence of Adam’s fall, which we refer to as original sin. (1) In our Christian Ed. Class on the Westminster Confession of Faith after worship, our teacher noted that God displays many of his attributes and intentions through the world’s brokenness. David recognizes that he cannot worship God rightly as long as the guilt of his sin ensnares him. “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise (Psalm 51:14-15). Anyone “who has used this psalm to confess his sins and to receive God’s assurance of pardon is the one who can genuinely worship the gracious God of the covenant.” (2) In our hymn of grace during worship, we sang “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” When I reflect on its words, I wonder if David would sing the third stanza first: “O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be! Let that grace now like a fetter bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.” Having received God’s unique, loving grace, drawing us back to him, we remember that “Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God; He, to rescue me from danger, interposed His precious blood.” That is why we want God to tune our hearts to sing His grace; “streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.” (3)

The Best Brokenness Leads to Repentance

David knew he needed to be “sensible of sin, repent of it, acknowledge it, and ask for mercy…[his] lips were shut with a sense of sin, with shame of it, and sorrow for it; and though they were in some measure opened in prayer to God for the forgiveness of it, as appears by various petitions in this psalm, yet he still wanted a free spirit and boldness at the throne of grace, which the believer has when his heart is sprinkled from an evil conscience by the blood of Christ; and especially his lips were shut as to praise and thanksgiving; the guilt of sin had sealed up his lips, that he could not sing the praises of God as he had formerly done; and only a discovery of pardoning grace could open them, and for this he prays.” (4)  After all, Jesus taught that “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:12-13, quoted from Hosea 6:6). “Those who are thoroughly convinced of their misery and danger by sin, would spare no cost to obtain the remission of it.” (5) So, David asked God to deliver him by breaking his spirit and heart, to sing aloud and declare praise for the God of his salvation. “These verses seem to make sacrifice and burnt offering relatively unimportant for the faithful, even replacing them with the inner disposition (a broken and contrite heart). However, since verse 19 goes on to speak of offering physical sacrifices, it is better to take these verses as implying that the animal sacrifices look to the worshiper offering himself to God as ‘a living sacrifice’ (Rom. 12:1), and without this they forfeit significance.” (6) “The sacrifices of God [are] a broken spirit…[we are] humbled under a sense of sin; have true repentance for it; are smitten, wounded, and broken with it, by the word of God in the hand of the Spirit, which is a hammer to break the rock in pieces…broken and melted down under a sense of it, in a view of pardoning grace; and mourning for it, while beholding a pierced and wounded Saviour: the sacrifices of such a broken heart and contrite spirit are the sacrifices God desires, approves, accepts of, and delights in.” (7)

“The good work wrought in every true penitent, is a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart, and sorrow for sin. It is a heart that is tender and pliable to God’s word. Oh that there were such a heart in every one of us! God is graciously pleased to accept this; it is instead of all burnt-offering and sacrifice. The broken heart is acceptable to God only through Jesus Christ; there is no true repentance without faith in him. Men despise that which is broken, but God will not.” (8) Will we see our old motives, habits, and desires to have them “reworked” by God? Will we move toward, not away from spiritual brokenness, to praise Christ, our Savior? “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry…When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:15, 17-18)

Related Scripture: 2 Samuel 12:9; Psalm 66:18-20; 103:1; 147:3; Isaiah 61:1; Ezekiel 16:23-34; Mark 12:33.

Notes:

  1. Witten, Pastor Kevin, “Grace Abounding, (Romans 5:12-21),” https://www.trinityboerne.org/sermons/sermon/2021-07-18/grace-abounding
  2. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Psalms 51:14–17, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  3. “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” words by Robert Robinson
  4. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Psalms 51:14-15, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-51.html
  5. Henry, Matthew “Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible,” Psalms 51:16-19, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/psalms-51.html
  6. ESV Study Bible Notes, Ibid.
  7. Gill, Psalms 51:17, Ibid.
  8. Henry, Ibid.

July 22, 2021