Plumbing the Depths of God’s Love – Part 3

1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.  2 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. (Psalm 32:1-2 NKJV)

We sin…but can be blessed.  How?  Why?

The three words used to describe sin by David are transgression, sin, and iniquity.  Each word has a specific implication and the three words used together communicate the nature and gravity of our actions when they are against God’s standard of Holiness.

Transgression means rebellion or revolt describing how we go away from God and His authority.  It reminds us when we sin we are sinning against God and departing from the course He has prescribed for us.  The word sin is most like the Greek word in the New Testament and means to fall short or miss the mark.  This is an archery term describing when an arrow falls short of the target and in our lives God’s law is the target and we fail to measure up.  The final word, iniquity, means corrupt, perverse, twisted indicating what we do to the standards of God and corrupting ourselves in the process.

This is where we are without our Heavenly Father.  We are in rebellion, falling short, and corrupting ourselves by twisting God’s standard in thought, word, or deed.  This is not a position from which we can be an effective man…a blessed man…someone who can stand strong in their own life and in the lives of others.  Think about what we said earlier.  Billions of people on this earth all sinning and falling short of God’s standard.  It is no wonder we find all the hurt, pain, and evil in the world.  We hear it all the time…how can there be a God with all this evil in the world.  Man hurting those closest to him.  Man not valuing the soul of another enough to be decent to them.  Man making decisions or taking actions without regard of the consequences to another.  All of this creates pain, turmoil, confusion, dread and certainly does not communicate or espouse hope.  So what do we do?

Well, we are right back where we started.  We recognize that we are sinning and that we are sinning against God alone.  We recognize that if left to our own devices our life and the lives of others will continue to be lacking, pain-filled, confused, and without the direction needed to go from tragedy to triumph in Christ Jesus.  We will lack the perspective and state of being required to make it through this sin cursed world to Heaven…where there is no sin…where God is.

So we go back to the true source of our manhood and we find the one thing we need the most…forgiveness.  David also uses three words to describe the forgiveness we receive from God.  The first is forgiven which literally means “to lift off”…God lifts the burden of our sin off our shoulders and we can stand a little taller.  The second word used is covered which is taken from the imagery of the Day of Atonement on which the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies and sprinkle blood on the mercy seat (lid) of the Ark of the Covenant.  We are blessed because the all-powerful and cleansing blood of Jesus not only covers but washes us clean of our sins.  The final word/phrase is “not impute” which means to not count or account or think of.  This is a bookkeeping term and David is telling us that God does not count our sins on a ledger sheet when we are forgiven…He forgets too.  We understand from our own lives how awesome of a power that is…to forget.

The message is simple.  All of our sins, our corruption, and our rebellion is lifted from us, covered, and not counted against us when forgiven by God.  When we recognize we are forgiven…then we can forgive.  Our life might seem like a drop in the bucket this big world but think about the drop of water falling in the middle of a still pond.  It makes the pond a little fuller and the ripples stir the reeds on the banks.  That is impact.  We have impact…but only in a life lived blessed because our Heavenly Father forgives and empowers us…when we ask Him…but that is a discussion for tomorrow.

For today, don’t wash over the terrible and grave nature of your sin in your life…no matter how big or small.  Don’t forget that when you sin, you sin against God and God alone.  Don’t forget, that even though you sin, God will forgive you and only He can.  And remember, reconciling the sin in your life with your Heavenly Father results is the source of blessed living.  If you consider what you have done and what God has done, you are so much better equipped to reflect the grace, mercy, forgiveness, love and hope of God to others and that will have an impact.  That will make the terrible conditions we face in this world a little brighter and a little more loving for us and those we come in contact with.  Recognize your sin but never forget your Father will forgive you…He is on the porch ready to run to you with open arms (Luke 15)!  What an awesome God we serve!  What an awesome man you can be with His help.  Live blessed today!

Such Were Some of You

Here is an article called Such Were Some of You by Andy Harrison. Our theme for Tuesdays is normally the marriage relationship, but I wanted to go ahead and share this today. Great articles yesterday and today, Andy!


“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of god.  Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” I Corinthians 5:9-11

If you have come to Christ, if you’ve been washed in His blood and cleansed from your sins then I’m guessing you’ve done some things in your past which are now a source of shame.  We all have them.  Dark things, embarrassing things that we find hard to even speak about, things we may have never confessed to anyone except God alone.   On occasion I’ll be in a situation that triggers the memory of some long forgotten event and the disgrace and humiliation will come flooding back as if no time has passed at all.  When that happens there is not a shower hot enough to make me feel clean and the only remedy is to fill my mind with the mercy, grace and forgiveness of Jesus.

In Romans 6, Paul is dealing with the idea of continuing in sin after having been baptized into Christ and he says in verses 20-22, “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.  Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed?  For the outcome of those things is death.  But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.”  I look back at my life of filth and sin and I try to determine what benefit I thought I was deriving from those things.  The pursuit of pleasure in its many forms almost always ended in pain and suffering for me and those I care about the most.  But having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, I can now see that there is benefit I can derive from my former life…if I have the courage.  Let me explain.

I was recently asked to help a young Christian man who is struggling with alcoholism.  He comes from a good Christian home; he has been active in the church and, after college, began a very successful and profitable career in the pharmaceutical industry.  From the outside, he appeared to have the world by its tail.  However, internally he was battling his “demons” and they have gotten the best of him.  So the question is; why was I asked to help?

The answer; “such were some of you”.  Based on my past, I am fairly well equipped to help in this situation.  Those very things I am ashamed of are the experiences that help me relate to this young man.  I can relate to his powerful desires and yearnings.  I have experienced that hollow and empty feeling inside that, at least for an instance, can be filled with emotion-numbing substances like drugs and alcohol.  I have felt the hopelessness of trying and trying and trying to get myself “clean” only to end up in a more desperate and dark situation.  I know what it is like to be filled with so much self-hatred and loathing that I just want to give up.   I have experienced the power of God’s mercy and grace as He pulled me from the pit and washed me clean.  And most importantly, I know what it is like to live one day at a time seeking to please my Father.

Such Were Some of You

My encouragement to you is to share your experiences with others.  Be courageous and let others know what you have been through, not in boastful longing for the past, but as a testimony to the love and power of our amazing Father.  And if you are in a dark place, struggling with sin, realize that God has placed His people all around you to help lift you up.  We were not designed to walk this world alone.

God is amazing!  He can take the most broken life, mend it, and put it into service to help others.

It is the coward that hides their past and pretends that it never happened.  It is the coward that tries to “man up” and deal with their problems on their own.  True courage is revealing the real you to others so that we can experience the true strength that comes from God and His people.

And please pray for me as I endeavor to help a young man find his way out of darkness and into the Light.

Not A Hoof Shall Be Left Behind

“…not a hoof shall be left behind…” (Exodus 10:26)

I’m sure a lot of you reading this are involved in or have been involved in negotiations at work. It might have been for your own salary and contract or a labor dispute. Maybe it was with a parts supplier. Regardless, negotiations are part of our everyday life. Give and take. Compromise. “Meet in the Middle” as the Diamond Rio song says.

We are used to seeing this around us, even on television shows like American Pickers. Frank and Mike go around the country and the world haggling to get some valuable piece of history they can resell later for a higher price.

Even the Proverbs talks about it. “It is good for nothing,” cries the buyer; but when he has gone his way, then he boasts (Proverbs 20:14).

There are even men who successfully negotiated with the Lord. Abraham was one of those examples who pleaded for God’s mercy upon Sodom and Gomorrah because of his nephew Lot (Gen. 18:22-33; 19:29).

But there are other times, like the one we will consider today with Pharaoh and Moses, that negotiating is out of the question. Pharaoh kept trying to negotiate the terms of release for the children of Israel, but God wasn’t going to bargain.

When Pharaoh was first approached, he arrogantly declared, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2). As the plagues progressed however, Pharaoh began his attempts to negotiate. After the plague of the flies, Pharaoh said, “Go, sacrifice to your God in the land.” Moses replied, we are not going to do that. The response of Pharaoh was, “I will let you go…only you shall not go very far away” (Exodus 8:24-28). Of course, Pharaoh changed his mind after the plague was removed.

When Moses warned Pharaoh of the coming locust plague, the servants of Pharaoh reasoned with him to let Israel go. At least someone had some sense! Once again, Pharaoh attempted to cut a deal by saying, “only the men can go” (Exodus 10:8-11). No deal…the terms are the same, everybody leaves together (Exodus 10:9)!

Eight devastating plagues were followed by the ninth plague of darkness which debilitated Egypt for three days. Pharaoh still tried to set terms with God and Moses. Ok you can go, “only your flocks and your herds shall be kept back” (Exodus 10:24).

Pharaoh just didn’t learn, did he? There was not going to be a meet in the middle compromise. God wasn’t going to give a little. Pharaoh was given the terms of release, and with great pain and sacrifice he had to submit to the conditions. Everybody in Israel goes, “not a hoof shall be left behind” (Exodus 10:26).

Not a hoof shall be left behind

In order to apply this to our lives today men, let’s do some comparing. Consider Pharaoh to be like Satan, and Moses to be like Jesus. We are like the children of Israel, and the slavery in Egypt is like our slavery and bondage to sin (John 8:32-36; Hebrews 2:14-16).

Here are a few observations:
  1. God didn’t negotiate terms with the Devil. He crushed Satan through the cross of Jesus Christ. Our Lord doesn’t want any part of His people in “Egypt” (sin) under Pharaoh (the Devil).
  2. Satan will hold on to any part of you that he can, even a hoof. Remember the rich young ruler? He kept “all” of God’s commandments, at least so he thought. But Jesus knew part of him was still not out of Egypt yet, and the “hoof left behind” was the young man’s attachment to money and things.
  3. You and I are not to leave a “hoof behind” in that old world of sin. God wants to deliver us completely from sin. If there is still a part of us that we have not completely given over to God, then we need to stop trying to negotiate terms. Stop flirting with Egypt, and get out of there, not a hoof shall be left behind. Don’t be like Israel and leave your heart in Egypt (Acts 7:39). “Resist the devil,” James says, don’t try to negotiate with him.

Not a hoof shall be left behind…

No knowledge of good or evil

And as for your little ones, who you said would become a prey, and your children, who today have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there. And to them I will give it, and they shall possess it (Deuteronomy 1:39).

Little children have no knowledge of good or evil. Sometimes a person would come up to Anna or me when we were holding one of our little babies, and they would ask, “Is he a good baby?” What does that mean? I know what is intended is whether or not a baby sleeps through the night and doesn’t scream his head off. So, if a child has trouble sleeping through the night, does that make him a “bad” baby?

The above passage is referencing the time when the Israelites had to wander in the wilderness for 40 years before inheriting the Promised Land of Canaan. This phrase about children is tucked into the discussion of the parents being punished for their sins. I want you to take note that the children did not have any sins for which they were being punished. Little kids are incapable of sin. What a baby does is neither bad nor good, a baby is a baby. It is neither keeping rules nor breaking them. They, as Moses said, “have no knowledge of good or evil” (please also see Isaiah 7:15-16 and Romans 9:11).

No knowledge of good or evil

If that is the case, why do some argue that babies are “born in sin”?

Children do not inherit the sins of their parents (Ezekiel 18:20). Cain, Abel and Seth did not inherit the sins of Adam. There are a couple of passages that people may twist and misunderstand (2 Peter 3:16) to say that we are born in sin, but the plain Biblical teaching is that we are born innocent and without any knowledge of good or evil. That of course changes as we grow and learn more about our world. We then all choose the wrong pathway and lose our innocence. But we did not start out this way.

See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes (Ecclesiastes 7:29).

Sin spreads to all mankind, not by birth, but by the choices of each individual (Romans 5:12). All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). “All” there does not include babies. Babies cannot choose good or evil, so they by definition cannot be sinners.

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature (1 Corinthians 14:20).

Be infants in evil. Think about that statement, men. Paul is teaching us to become like infants when it comes to evil, but to be unlike children in our maturity level. May this guide our choices in what we put into our minds, what we dwell upon, and the words we say today.

Soot

Soot – by Jason Salyers

Many years ago, while working at mail facility, I received a piece of advice, “before you go home, make sure to blow your nose.” I thought that was pretty strange at the time, but after wading into semi-truck and tossing out box after box, I took the advice and decided I would blow my nose. Amazingly enough, black, sooty material filled the Kleenex. As a matter of fact, I had to blow my nose for 2-3 minutes just to get all of the soot out. I was not by definition soot, but carbon material that comes off of the cardboard boxes rubbing against each other.

Recently, I encountered the exact same experience at a small bedroom fire. The area had been officially cleared, there was only a light haze present, and respirators were not required. Assisting a few patients we cleared the scene and headed back to the station. I felt pretty stuffy and blew my nose, there was so much soot I was stunned! In just a few brief moments, exposure occurred to substances that can hurt or even kill an individual if they are left unattended.

In Eph. 4 Paul tells the Ephesian brethren 17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ (4:17-19)!” AT the beginning of this chapter, Paul says “walk worthy of the calling to which you have been called …” To WALK the correct way, the Ephesians had to NO LONGER WALK as the Gentiles do – in the futility of mind, with darkened understanding, and hardened hearts. Instead, the Ephesians were told “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (:23-24).”

Paul then refers to very practical things which can and will get the Ephesians in trouble: Falsehood, Anger, Theft, Corrupting Speech, Bitterness, Slander, and Malice.

These things are soot. We need to recognize their effects on us as they surround us. We need to realize they do in fact surround us, they do in fact dwell readily and easily in this world, AND WE ARE EXPOSED TO THEM. We have the ability to remove these from our lives (such is the gift of God), but we have to take an active/conscious approach in their extraction.

Warning: Graphic Biblical Punishment

“So after all this the Lord smote him in his bowels with an incurable sickness. Now it came about in the course of time, at the end of two years, that his bowels came out because of his sickness and he died in great pain. And his people made no fire for him like the fire for his fathers. He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years; and he departed with no one’s regret, and they buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.” II Chronicles 21:18-20

I read the passage above and I just cringe at the thought of what King Jehoram went through. When Elijah is pronouncing God’s judgment he says in verse 15 “you will suffer severe sickness, a disease of your bowels, until your bowels come out because of the sickness, day by day.” So day by day for two years Jehoram suffered until he died in “great pain.” In my opinion, this might be the worst recorded death in the bible. But notice that the passage said “So after all this”. The Lord started by invading Judah and carrying away all the king’s possessions together with his sons and his wives, leaving only his youngest son. The youngest son was only spared for the sake of David.

But even after all this, I think the saddest part of the story might be the people’s reaction. They built no fire for him, they did not bury him in the tombs of the kings and “he departed with no one’s regret”. “No one’s” would even imply his own son showed no regret.

What could this man have done to deserve such a fate? How could a king of Judah fall so low that his own people wanted nothing to do with his funeral? You can read the details earlier in the chapter but in verses 12 and 13 we are told that he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and caused Judah to play the harlot like the house of Ahab did and he killed his own brothers to secure his kingdom. He killed his brothers “who were better than you”. Verse 6 highlights that he walked in the way of Ahab “for Ahab’s daughter was his wife.”

The easy response for me would be to say “well I’d never do those things” or “what a terrible person…glad I’m not like him”, but I think there is something I can learn.

1. Walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, just like Ahab – Who influences me? What company do I keep? Do my friends and close associates draw me closer to God or pull me farther away? Young man, that special lady you’re dating, does she encourage a life of faith or of idolatry?
2. Caused Israel to play the harlot – What is the result of my influence on others? Are people encouraged when they are around me? Do I stimulate love and obedience to God in the lives of others? Or do I teach people how to chase false gods like wealth and entertainment and pleasure? Does my example show discontent and complaining?
3. He killed his brothers to secure his kingdom – “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (I John 3:15-17). I can honestly say that I’ve never, ever considered murdering anyone. But I have closed my heart to a brother. I have ignored the needs of my brother when I could have helped. I’ve chosen to keep a safe distance so I wouldn’t be aware of their pain and their struggle so that my comfortable, tidy life wouldn’t be disrupted.

I can read passages such as this one in II Chronicles 21 and walk away feeling superior or I can take it as a warning, evaluate my life, and strive to me more like Jesus.

I Acknowledged My Sin to You

I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”; and You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah (Psalm 32:5).

The Bible is the best dictionary we have to define Bible terms. Do you want to define love? Read 1 Corinthians 13. Do you want to define grace? Read Ephesians 2. Do you want to define faith? Read Hebrews 11.

How about confession of sin? There are many great texts that will help to illustrate confession of sin, but for today I want to focus in on Psalm 32:5. Psalms 32 and 51 were both written in a very dark time of King David’s life. David’s heart is made plain in what he said in these Psalms regarding confession.

David stole another man’s wife, had her husband killed, and desperately tried to cover up the sin and the pregnancy.  The Lord God rebuked David and punished him severely. Through all of this we see the heart of David for serving God. Yes, he behaved very wickedly, but his spirit yearned to be back in a right relationship with His God. He was completely sick, not because he got caught, nor because he was going to lose any prestige, possessions or power, but that he had sinned against the Almighty Creator.

The English word “confession” means to “speak the same thing.” When I confess Jesus as Lord and Christ, I am saying the same thing about Him that God has already spoken. When I confess my sins, I am speaking the same thing about my sins that God has already declared about them. God is not being informed about our sins, nor is He being instructed on how to think about our sins, but we are coming to His throne and owning up to what He already knows.

I acknowledged my sin to You.
  • “I” – David made this personal. David said “my sin,” “my iniquity,” and “my transgressions.” He did not try to confess someone else’s sins to God. It’s me, God…I did it. No one else.
  • “Acknowledge” – David owned up to what he did. He did not “hide” it anymore. No excuses, blame shifting, minimizations or justifications were made. He previously had tried to cover up his sin and as Psalm 32 makes clear, his sins were eating him up from the inside out.
  • “My sin…my iniquity…my transgressions” – Three terms (sin, iniquity and transgressions) combine to give a composite picture of what David did to God. The word sin can also be translated offence, iniquity brings with it the concept of perversion and moral evil, and “transgression” includes the concept of revolt or rebellion. David sinned, meaning he broke God’s law. David committed iniquity, meaning that he was perverse and morally evil in his behavior against God. David in his “transgression” rebelled and revolted against a Holy and Just God.
  • “To You” – Not to a priest. Not to my brethren (that comes later). Not to those we hurt (that comes later).  In Psalm 51:4, David wrote, “Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge.” David, through his confession, drew back the curtains in his heart on what never was hidden from God.

This confession is couched in a Psalm relishing in the blessed state of the man who is forgiven by God, and forgiveness is certainly a beautiful thing. What precedes that forgiveness? Genuine heartfelt confession of your sin to God.

“I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide.”