Let’s be real. You might feel that the church cannot be trusted. And if you don’t feel that way you certainly have friends who feel that way. And it’s important for us to understand that it’s reasonable to be skeptical. This week you might have read that Billy Graham’s grandson admitted to having an extra-marital affair – and he resigned from his church. And that pastor only made the news because he was Billy Graham’s grandson, right?
It might have at one time been scandalous for a pastor to be caught having an affair – but it’s hardly newsworthy anymore – which we must recognize really damages the reputation of the church. My guess is you might very well know a pastor who was forced out of ministry for moral failure.
It’s embarrassing for me to tell you that I read a statistic that 1500 pastors like me and Jim, quit the ministry every month. The number one reason is burnout – which can happen in any profession – one day you wake up and say, “I’m all done.” But the second leading cause of pastors leaving the ministry is moral failure.
So what gives? Well there are a few ways to try to make sense of these kinds of terrible statistics.
Some choose to be fatalistic. “See – this religion thing doesn’t work. There is no God. There is no change. Faith in Jesus doesn’t actually change anyone. It’s some kind of psychosomatic religious fantasy. That would be a rather fatalistic opinion.
And I think an unfair one – because you’d have to overlook an awful lot of evidence of changed lives – one would have to be very selective – AND let’s remember that sometimes true change doesn’t really begin until one hits rock bottom. Sometimes sin needs to be dragged out into the open in order for true transformation to begin.
So I don’t think we can draw that conclusion.
Some choose to lower expectations for change – and there are many who adopt a bumper sticker theology. Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven. But I think the problem with that is that it doesn’t take into account the Bible’s promise that in Christ we are new creations. We are supposed to be new people – the old has gone – the new has come.
It’s true that we aren’t perfect, but is it really true that we are only forgiven? That there is nothing different in the lifestyle and values and choices – between a follower of Jesus and someone who isn’t?
That’s not exactly a hopeful invitation – hey you should become a follower of Jesus – He will make no change whatsoever in your life. (Come on! Join the millions of Christians who expect God to do nothing in our lives!) I can’t wait!
The truth is that once we step across the line of faith, we should enter into a process of transformation into the image of Jesus. We should be progressing and moving forward. And that means becoming more loving – not more selfish. And so the promise of new life in Christ brings with it an expectation of sanctification – becoming more holy.
Which brings us back to the question – how do we make sense of people who have encountered Jesus but who are capable of doing terribly wrong things?
So how do we make sense of people like King David? We’ve been tracking David’s life from shepherd to King. And for the first 47 years of David’s life we’ve seen a person of integrity. Honest and upright. Quick to obey God. With a heart full of praise and worship.
Which makes what happens in 2 Samuel 11 shocking and difficult to understand. If you are unfamiliar with the story I’d encourage you to read it. 2 Samuel 11 tells us the story of the time King David had an affair with the wife of one of his soldiers. Bathsheba reports that she has become pregnant with David’s child. So he tries to cover it up – and when he is unable – he deliberately positions her husband in battle to assure his death.
By doing this, David has created a scenario where Uriah gets hailed as a brave soldier killed in action while at the same time David appears noble by taking this poor pregnant widow into his home – I’ll take care of her it’s okay. And in David’s mind everyone wins. It’s sick really.
How did he get there? Last week I made an argument that David had neglected his soul. And that a soul neglected doesn’t go away it goes awry. And David had become complacent, and the seeds of pride grow uncontested in his heart and he made himself susceptible to a sin that his healthy soul would have warned him against.
I pleaded with you to come back for the second half of the story today – and so thank you for being here. And I want to jump in – and I will read selected portions and make some observations – and then a conclusion.
12 So the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to tell David this story: “There were two men in a certain town. One was rich, and one was poor. 2 The rich man owned a great many sheep and cattle. 3 The poor man owned nothing but one little lamb he had bought. He raised that little lamb, and it grew up with his children. It ate from the man’s own plate and drank from his cup. He cuddled it in his arms like a baby daughter. Awww – So sweet! But the story is about to turn..
4 One day a guest arrived at the home of the rich man. But instead of killing an animal from his own flock or herd, he took the poor man’s lamb and killed it and prepared it for his guest.”
Isn’t it interesting how Nathan the prophet approaches David to confront him about his sin? Would it be difficult to imagine Nathan kicking down the door and pointing a finger at David’s chest – and started with the line – You murderer!
And if he had who could blame him – but how do you think David would have responded? Usually we respond to anger with anger. And it is easy to imagine David becoming defensive and angry had Nathan burst through the door guns ablazing.
And there is something in this here for all of us – when it comes to talking to someone about their sin – there is something about the effectiveness of softness. Nathan comes to David with gentleness.
This brings me to a point I want to make about this weeks ruling from the supreme court legalizing same sex marriage. How do we respond to the courts decision? I am going to do my best to address it scripturally – and if I play my cards right – everyone in here will be a little bit ticked off at me.
But I would ask you to listen to everything I am going to say here – even if you find this uncomfortable and even if you disagree with me.
You and I – once we place our faith in Jesus – we become dual citizens. We are born citizens of the United States, but once we place our faith in Jesus we become citizens of heaven. We begin a life in a Kingdom where Jesus himself shepherds and guides and cares for us.
Once we place our faith in Jesus – our citizenship there becomes our priority because it is an eternal kingdom. It’s more important than our citizenship to the United States.
Now within the Kingdom of Heaven there is such a thing as sin and not sin. Jesus died to take our sin away from us – and so we are taught to put to death the deeds of the sinful flesh – we are trying to live our life apart from sin.
But when it comes to our country – our country is not run by sin and not sin. It operates on what is legal and what is not legal. And from time to time, our country makes legal, that which the Kingdom of God considers sinful. (And I need to be completely clear about this – the Bible lists homosexuality as a sin. As clearly as it possibly can in places like Romans 1, 1 Timothy 1, 1 Corinthians 6)
And by the way if we went to these verses and read them today we are all going to find ourselves somewhere landing in these lists. Most of us will be nailed to the wall by something in these three passages. But that’s the point of the bible. The point is that we are all sinners in need of a savior. But homosexuality does land clearly in the list as sinful.
As a follower of Jesus we submit to God’s law. It is over us. And I dare not tell you anything other than what the Bible clearly teaches. And the Bible says that I will be held accountable for what I teach – which sometimes terrifies me. But I am committed to teaching all of God’s word.
Q: So how do we respond when the law of the land legalizes sin?
Well this is certainly not the first time our country has made legal something that the Bible considers a sin. For instance, in our country, it is legal to be drunk. So long as you aren’t driving. In our country it is legal to have sex outside of marriage – but in the Kingdom of God that is considered sinful. In our country – no law against pornography, abortion, gluttony. All sinful but not illegal.
So how do we respond? Well, the Bible is actually extremely clear about this issue. It presents us with two scenarios.
First – If the law of the land requires you to sin – in other words- Sin or go to jail? Then off to jail we go. Our priority lies with obeying Jesus – not the law. Acts 4:18-20
They commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus.
19 But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? 20 We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.”
And so, for instance, the time may come when I could be put in jail for showing you what the Bible says about homosexuality. And I’m not trying to sound alarmist – I’m just saying it could happen. And just recently the NYTimes had a front page editorial that ended by saying the time has come for us to force pastors to stop teaching what the Bible says about homosexuality.
And the truth is that if I were to be arrested I would be joining thousands of believers around the world jailed this very morning for teaching the Bible. So if the law requires us to choose between God and man, we always choose God.
But what if there is no demand upon a citizen to sin? What if there is a law passed that allows sin but does not demand it? Well, Paul is equally clear about how we should respond: Romans 13 Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. 2 So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.
See, now I have everyone hacked off at me. Oh it’s easy to be a pastor. You only have to work one day a week. Well this day is a doozy.
Now does this mean we are not allowed to work within the framework of our government to change the law? Of course not. Be lawful and follow your convictions. Be active in government and politics. But submit to the government until the government requires you to disobey God.
Now let me ask this question: Q: How would Jesus say we should respond to a world that hates us?
And maybe you feel that word hate is too strong? I certainly don’t. And neither did Jesus who said in
Luke 21:17 Jesus tells his followers, 17 And everyone will hate you because you are my followers. Jesus says to expect the world to hate you. John 15:17 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.
I look around here and see people who have devoted thousands of hours to the poor and needy in our community. I see people who have faithfully sacrificed to be able to put food in the mouths of orphans in Haiti. I see people who are selflessly loving people at the ends of the world in Mali.
Some of you have devoted your entire lives to loving for the oppressed and hurting and needy and now to see the world turn on you and hate you?
Well you understand how Jesus felt in a whole new light, right? Jesus devoted himself to loving the world and the world hated him in return. Put him on a cross.
But this is not new. For the past two thousand years the world has been persecuting people who follow Christ. Nero burned our great great grandparents of the faith in his gardens to light up his dinner party. And this year thousands of our christian brothers and sisters have been slaughtered for their faith.
And to no avail. It cannot work. There is no stopping the Kingdom of God. The glorious gospel of Jesus will continue advancing through every country – and honestly -throughout history the greater the opposition against the church – the greater the results.
As Nero burned Christians the gospel was sweeping through the kingdom. In china when Mao kicked all the christian missionaries out of china and tried to squash faith – millions upon millions of chinese people who are followers of Jesus today.
The message of Jesus is an unstoppable force for good – it is the message of hope and help and grace and forgiveness and a fresh start with God.
Finally though, I want to show you one more very important verse from Jesus. My brothers and sisters in Christ – please listen to our Lord Jesus. Who taught us this… in Luke 6
27 “But to you who are listening I say: …do good to those who hate you,28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
So I am imploring you brother and sister to believe Jesus knows what he is talking about. Trust that he knows best. Do good to people who hate you. Bless people who are cursing you. Pray for the one who is mistreating you.
And I am asking for you to display grace, and love, and gentleness and humility. And that might go against what you feel like saying – or posting – or standing up and shouting right now. You might not like the word gentleness – but it is the word that Jesus uses to describe himself – humble and gentle. Meek. Power under control.
Gentleness is a fruit of the spirit. So let’s display it in abundance.
Finally this. If you have questions or want to email me about this issue and dialogue with me – send your emails to Jim@warren.net. Actually I’m taking off for vacation here right after the service for the next two weeks but if this is something you’d like to dialogue with me about let’s do it face to face okay? Email is lousy when it comes to communicating issues close to the heart.
So back to our story – Nathan comes to David in gentleness. He is not gun ablazing here. And that’s because this is how God treats us.
God did not come at us about our sin with guns ablazing. If he did we would all be swiss cheese, right? There’d be nothing left of us. Instead, God often confronts our sin with gentleness, even kindness.
Because God has a purpose when he confronts people about their sin. He wants to lead us to restoration. God doesn’t go for the throat. He’s not out to be proven right. He already knows he is right. Instead God desires to bring us to a place of restoration – he wants us to be made right again.
God isn’t out to condemn us. Right? John 3:17 says that God didn’t send Jesus to condemn the word but the save the world through Jesus.
And so Nathan brings this same attitude with him. He doesn’t go for the throat. He isn’t there to condemn David but to bring him to repentance and restoration.
So what is his plan? Well in 1000 BC, a kingdom like Israel had no court system like we might have today. In a kingdom like Israel the King was the ultimate judge. He was the supreme court, so to speak. And so Nathan comes to him with a justice issue. A rich man steals the only sheep of a poor man.
5 David was furious. “As surely as the Lord lives,” he vowed, “any man who would do such a thing deserves to die! 6 He must repay four lambs to the poor man for the one he stole and for having no pity.”
Now let’s take a look at David’s judgment. The Mosaic law required a thief to pay back four times what was owed – and David nails that sentence. But I think it’s worth noting that David goes far beyond the law – and displays this righteous indignation!
I mean he is way over the top, isn’t he?! As surely as the Lord lives that man deserves to die! Well it’s not uncommon for someone who has a guilty conscience to be keenly aware of other people’s faults and sins. So a person with a guilty conscience will often lash out against the slightest injustice they perceive in others.
So there’s this heightened sensitivity to wrong – and David exhibits it here, doesn’t he? A man stole a sheep? That man deserves death! And so the trap has been set and David has walked into it…
7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are that man! The Lord, the God of Israel, says: I anointed you king of Israel and saved you from the power of Saul. 8 I gave you your master’s house and his wives and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. And if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more. 9 Why, then, have you despised the word of the Lord and done this horrible deed? For you have murdered Uriah the Hittite with the sword of the Ammonites and stolen his wife.
And here I notice the insatiable appetite of our flesh. Nathan points out – you had everything you imagined you could ever want – but… it wasn’t enough.
Never believe the promises of a coveting heart. It is trying to convince you that you would happy if only you had ‘that’… But your heart is lying to you.
13 Then David confessed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replied, “Yes, but the Lord has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin.
So what are our takeaways from this second half of the story.
1. Don’t underestimate the power of sin.
One of the most difficult things for people to come to grips with is that the seeds of terrible sin can grow in any heart, including yours. If it finds fertile ground in your heart, a seed of sin can grow in your heart. You are capable of terrible things. Yes you.
You are a far worse person that you think you are.
You know, Peter meant it when he told Jesus he would never desert him. He wasn’t lying to Jesus. But Jesus knew there was something in Peter’s heart that Peter didn’t even know was there. And so Jesus says – by dawn you will have disowned me three times.
Listen – you are in worse shape than you know. You are capable of terrible things.
I remember one evening before Jody and I had children Jody and I went to dinner with the senior pastor and his wife Ida. And Ida was one of the most gentle souls you can imagine. Just kind and gracious and full of love. But we were eating dinner and Ida said, “It wasn’t until I had children that I realized that I had murder in my heart.”
Just as straightforward as can be – and I was like, Laughing – Right huh? Those dang kids. And she just looked at me and said, I”m not kidding. And I remember going home afterwards and saying, Ida is jacked up! Ida has got some problems!
And then I had kids! And I came to understand that children have a way of getting you in touch with just how much of a selfish jerk I can be.
It’s important to your spiritual health to know that you are capable of terrible sin. Because sin is powerful. Sin is powerful. Don’t underestimate it.
But here is the good news… The glorious message of the Bible is that as powerful as sin is, it is NO MACH FOR THE grace of God. (Grace is far greater)
Sin is no match for Grace.
Sin is like the bug versus the windshield of grace.
It’s like a sand castle versus the ocean of grace.
Sin is like an empty pop can versus the locomotive of grace.
Sin is like the marshmallow versus the bonfire of grace.
It has no chance. It has no chance. Grace burns up our sin and cleanses us from even our darkest thoughts and actions.
The glorious message of David and Bathsheba is NOT that we are capable of sin. The glorious message is that sin is no match for God’s grace. Sin is completely over matched by Jesus.
13 You were dead because of your sins… Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. 14 He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. 15 In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.
Sin is powerful and it is no match for the grace and goodness of God. Sin is overmatched, overwhelmed, undone, beaten down, destroyed by Jesus.
And so listen, you might be the David in the story today and you might be fresh on the heals of some heart wrenchingly bad decisions. The unstoppable, unyielding impossibly ridiculous grace of God is available to all who will repent. Even to you right now.
See this brings us back to the question. How can someone who has professed faith in Jesus still fall into sin? The answer is because sin has wrecked us. But the point of the Bible is that grace is available to all through faith in Jesus.
We are all in far worse shape than we can imagine. But the good news is that there is a savior whose love for us is unimaginably greater than anything we can imagine.
This is why the Bible so often compares faith to a fight. You are in a fight. And be careful. Sin is crouching at the door of our heart and wants to have it’s way with us. But through faith in Jesus we are no longer at its whim.
We have been freed by the all-powerful grace of God. The cords of death that were wrapped around us have been cut. And we are free – free from the power of sin and the penalty of an eternal death – we are freed now to serve God and to Love God and to serve others and to love others. We are free.
God knows that sometimes we have a hard time understanding just how forgiven we are and so the Bible goes to great pains to help us catch a visual of what it means to be forgiven.
So here are some of the ways that the bible expresses our forgiveness…
• Our sin is removed from us as far as the east is from the west. Psalm 103
• It is cast into the depths of the sea Micah 7:19
• Swept away like a cloud – like mist Isaiah 44:22
• Our sin is cast behind God’s back. Is 38:17
• Covered, Rom 4:7
• blotted out Ps 51:9
• Our debt has been cancelled in Matt 6:12
• Our sin is not counted against us in 2 Cor 5:19
• Not remembered in Jeremiah 31:34
• Our sin has been nailed to the cross in Col 2:14.
We’ve been washed in Acts 22
Cleansed in I John 1:9
Purified in Hebrews 9:22
Our sins were as scarlet, we have been made white as snow through faith in Jesus.
Sin is powerful but it is no match for grace. And now we will turn our attention to the communion table. What a great way to celebrate and remember the price Jesus paid to make all of this a reality.