Sermon on Luke 16:19-31: Eternal Consequences?

Dear Reader, if you are new here, or are looking for answers immediately, please follow this link to our Start Here page: The Start Here page is designed as the beginning point of this website, to which these further posts correspond. Thank you, and may “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14, NIV).

The following sermon, preached on September 25th, 2016, speaks into the eternal consequences of our actions. What does God’s word mean when it talks about the rich being poor and the poor being rich? What about the parable of the rich man and Lazarus? Please click the play button on the audio widget below to listen to the sermon. (The audio can also be downloaded below, as a podcast.)

(Note concerning the audio: we apologize for poor audio quality! Thank you for your understanding.)

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The text follows below.

(Note concerning the sermon text: the sermon text reflects the actual manuscript and was written to be spoken colloquially, not academically. It may contain grammatical errors such as run-on sentences, or special notation, etc. Thank you for your understanding.)

Luke 16:19–31.

19“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
25“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
27“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
29“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
30“ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
31“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

This is the Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, Lord Christ.

OK, this is certainly a very poignant passage, isn’t it? This is known as the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, and it occurs only here in the Gospel, in Luke, chapter 16. You will not find this in Matthew, Mark, and John, because the emphasis here, in Luke, is the radical reversal that God’s Kingdom entails. This parable is precisely about the radical reversals of the rich, and of the poor, in the Kingdom of God, and this is a very important message for all of us today. So that’s what our sermon is all about this morning—how one you expect to be well-off is not well-off, and one you expect to be poor, is actually blessed in the Kingdom of God, and how this should affect our actions in our lives—that is to say, our Christianity.

So, what this parable is all about, is Jesus’ stance on wealth, status, and the role of human action in life. Jesus is engaging the religious leaders and teachers of the Bible (see Luke 15:1 for that context) and he is telling them, that, just like in the Old Testament—hence Moses and the Prophets—we are supposed to live a life for God, in service to God, and not for our own wealth. Jesus is saying, that always striving for status in society, American Dream, having nice things and looking down on the needy people, this is the opposite of how God calls us to live. Things are in fact radically reversed in the Kingdom of God, because the rich are poor and the poor are rich. Something else we learn by extension—not immediately here but important to all of this—is that compassion is actually the very heart of all of Scripture, even the Scripture written before Jesus—Moses and the Prophets—which of course, Jesus came to fulfill, and not abolish (Matt 5:17). So, this parable, again, is about Jesus’ stance on wealth, status, the role of human action in the midst of those two things—wealth and status—and Jesus’ stance, of compassion as the right action, as even previously spelled out by Moses and the Prophets.

Now let me give some background to the central issue of radical reversal here: In the ancient world, specifically in Jesus’ day, and around where Jesus lived and traveled in Jerusalem and Galilee, most people believed that material blessing was a sign from God. They basically thought—and by the way many still think this way today—if you were a good, godly person, you would have lots of nice things: lots of money, lots of friends, lots of nice stuff. But that is not what God’s word says. According to God’s word, plain and simple: “life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” Luke 12:15. Jesus even said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. 25Indeed, it is easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:24–25)—and Jesus is not talking about a camel gate which never existed historically.

So, let’s start at the beginning of our parable. There was a rich man, and in the next verse, we read that there was a poor man, named Lazarus, verses 19 and 20. Now, even here, at the beginning, if we are reading carefully, we can begin to see something of what Jesus is already getting at. So I want us all to notice this. The rich man, he, he is not being named. He is anonymous. The rich man, someone of some standing, obviously—one who you could say made a name for himself—is not being named. But on the other hand, the poor man, he is the one with a name here—the poor man with nothing to his name, has a name. His name is Lazarus, and in fact, he is the only person to ever be named in any parable—Interesting! Not by accident. So we can learn here that, by naming Lazarus, and by not naming the rich man, Jesus is simply saying all of what we’ve been talking about, the radical reversal—who is really blessed here? It’s as Jesus said earlier in Luke, chapter 9, verse 25: “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self” [or their very soul]. The rich man, one could say, is losing his soul here, he’s not even named, but not the poor man. So let me tell you a story.

Outward appearances can be very deceptive, can’t they? A friend of mine recently introduced me to the wonderful world of estate sales. Estate sales. For those of you who don’t know, an estate sale is essentially a way of liquidating the belongings of a family, or estate, when someone is in need of a way to sell items due to downsizing, be it moving, divorce, bankruptcy, or death. In other words, it’s a big old sale, where you could can find some really, really, top-dollar items, at extremely low prices—it’s an estate sale, And, well, I confess to you all, my darkest sin, that there was a point in my life where I became infatuated with this idea of the estate sale—of filling my home with nice things, slowly accumulating them over time, via the estate sale. But in all this, I eventually came to realize something—God worked a work in me. I actually realized that I should not be going out of my way, and spending all of this time, just to acquire nice things. I can spend my time in better ways. And it was very strange to me how wanting nice things—and knowing I could get them cheaply—sort of became a lust that took over my soul. And upon reflection—how much less did I think about God when I was thinking about those sale items instead? I want to say with Scripture this morning, don’t be like this. Don’t be like me. Do not fall for the trap and begin to believe that material blessings always constitute God’s favor, and start to lust after them, like I did. I think this is a mistake we Americans have been making for a long time, and it needs to stop.

OK, continuing in this parable, we read some more interesting things here. When the poor beggar dies, we read about how the angel carries him to the side of none other than Father Abraham, verse 22. Well, what does this mean? What does it have to do with reversal in God’s Kingdom? One thing I used to always ask was, “why doesn’t Jesus say here that Lazarus was carried into heaven? Right? Why is it Abraham’s Side?—Or in older Bible translations, ‘Abraham’s Bosom?’” instead?  Well it turns out, during Old Testament times and places, when great fathers like Abraham were buried, it was customary for the family to be buried with him. Folks were buried with their fathers. In Genesis chapter 49 verse 30 and following, we can read about this—how Abraham buys a field and a cave for a burial site. Genesis 49:31 says, “There they buried Abraham and his wife Sarah, there they buried Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and…” Jacob was also buried here, by his sons, in verse 33 of Genesis chapter 49. So, Isaac and Jacob, and their wives—big names here—were all buried in the same place, at the side, or the bosom, of Father Abraham. So this is where the dead of God’s people go. God’s people go to Abraham’s side in death, not people who are not God’s people. So, since Jesus could have very easily have said “heaven” here, but he instead uses “Abraham’s side,” Jesus is saying that, Lazarus, the man without outward wealth, money, or status—a poor beggar, in fact—Lazarus is the one who was or is God’s people, Abraham’s people, buried at Abraham’s side, whereas the rich man, with all his material blessings— actually he is the one we read about in Hades, by contrast, which is not where Abraham is. The rich man was not—even though by all outward appearances he seemed like he would be—God’s people. This is exactly Jesus’ point.

Let me ask some questions here. Have you ever noticed something about American Christianity? Have you ever noticed that it seems like most people who call themselves Christians are living in a way that is basically indistinguishable from everybody else? This is a sad thing. It’s almost as if the sacrifice of Christ is absolutely meaningless, or that Christianity is simply about believing something in my head, but not really acting a certain way, differently, in the world. Like we’re Jesus words, “If you love me, you will do what I command.” Well, like all of the Bible, including Moses and the Prophets, as Father Abraham says here, we can easily see that being a Christian in fact does mean that we live our lives in a very different way than the rest of the world. We can see that the rich man, here, is wishing, that he did so in his life.

Continuing in our parable, this parable ends by the rich man wanting to warn his five brothers of what has happened to him, verse 28. Essentially, the rich man wants to warn his brothers that if only he would have helped the beggar Lazarus during his own lifetime, he would not be suffering. In other words, his helping and serving others, for God, would have worked, through God, for the salvation of even other people, like his brothers. Jesus said, “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:17)—This parable is telling us the same thing, that living our lives today in a manner where we just sort of experience an unending succession of delight, comfort, and luxury—this is not the kind of life of the Kingdom of God, and there will be eternal consequences. Eternal consequences. I don’t talk about eternal consequences, and the Bible doesn’t say these sorts of things about eternity, just to scare anybody, but rather, in fact, it is just simply the truth of the matter, that’s all: that what we do right now, has eternal significance. This is a good thing. What we do has an effect on everyone we touch, be it our family, our friends, our neighbors, or people we randomly come into contact with, eternally. What we do even has a sort of ripple effect which eventually touches more and more people whom we normally wouldn’t come into contact with. And, for an example, on this,  you can actually see what I’m talking about, what this parable is revealing, you can see this in Kansas City. Kansas City.

If you ever find yourself driving around Kansas City, downtown, and I’m thinking of the Westport area in particular, you can see this very parable, or this concept, in action. One can see house after house, inside gates, with beautiful architecture and well-kept lawns. But, just a few minutes the other direction—hop on some parts of The Paseo, or hop on Troost Avenue—you will see house after house, broken down, dilapidated, and people who genuinely and truly need help—not fakers, but people born into poverty. Clearly and obviously many, including those born into poverty, are not responsible for that poverty. In this parable, we can see that the great wealth of the rich man, exists right next to the poor beggar Lazarus, within less than five minutes of each other, and yet look what happens, eternally. Eternal consequences. It’s the same thing in Kansas City. Great riches—and genuine, poverty, side by side. And if the rich man in our parable suffers because he did nothing to fix this problem, here on Earth, to help Lazarus for example, I have to ask myself, and I want to ask all of us this morning: am I doing, or are we doing, anything to fix this problem? I’m not talking about salvation by works, but here’s the deal. I live in America, a rich Western country, just like the rich man in the parable, but what am I doing for the majority of the world, who live in desolation, and poverty, right next door? Couldn’t I be doing something more—and isn’t a well-known fact that God commands me to do more? These are tough questions.

Well, as we come to a close this morning, I want the message to be a wake-up call for all of us. I’m not talking about guilt-tripping anybody into doing anything, and neither is the Bible. The Bible, and this parable, are also not trying to scare us into some sort of compulsory obedience, or on the other hand, the Bible is not trying to make us feel depressed either. But, the Gospel, is called, the good news. The good news is that God’s Word is telling us that the Kingdom of God is real. Jesus is telling us that what we do matters in this life. Life is not meaningless. And this is very important—why? because everything is sacred and valuable, eternally. When everything has eternal significance, we treasure and we value every member of society, every person whom God has created in the image of God, and He said it is good. This is the radical reversal. So let us go out today, and this week, and for the rest of our lives, may we be transformed by the truth of God’s Word, The Spirit in us, Moses and the Prophets and the Parable of Jesus here, so that what I do matters, and that, I do things, and that material blessing is not the key to my life, and that in fact, material blessing is very deceptive. Let us instead fix our eyes on Jesus, which means doing things for the Gospel, so that we can go and make an eternal difference not only in God our own lives, but also, in the lives of others, particularly those who need it the most, who are suffering daily.


Sermon on Praying for Leaders, 1 Timothy 2:1–7

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The following sermon, preached on September 18th, 2016, explores how God’s word is truly radical—the Gospel is a shocking and offensive thing. We are told to pray for our enemies, and our leaders: this means we should pray for our enemy leaders! After all, if our enemies put Christ first, things would be very different! Please click the play button on the audio widget below to listen to the sermon. (The audio can also be downloaded below, as a podcast.)

(Note concerning the audio: we apologize for poor audio quality! Thank you for your understanding.)

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The text follows below.

(Note concerning the sermon text: the sermon text reflects the actual manuscript and was written to be spoken colloquially, not academically. It may contain grammatical errors such as run-on sentences, or special notation like the asterisk, etc. Thank you for your understanding.)

1 Timothy 2:1-7.

“1I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God and one mediator between God and humankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. 7And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.”

This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

OK, so here we are reading in 1st Timothy, chapter 2. And the books of First and Second Timothy are books written by the Apostle Paul, 1 Timothy, sometime around 63 A. D. Paul is behind the first person perspective which we read in our passage—and, in this passage, like the book as a whole, we see Paul urging Timothy (verse 1) to care for the affairs in the Church, and, in particular, we see that the message here is really focused on the urge to include all people in prayer, especially leaders, (verses 1 and 2), because, the logic is, there is only one God, v.5. And, because this one God really wants—He really desires—like the Scripture here says, v.4, all people to be saved, we should be praying for all people. That’s what Paul is saying here—and so that’s what we’re going to focus on this morning. Essentially, again, because there is only one God, who died for us, even us, verses 5-6, this God, therefore, is the God of all people, even the Gentiles, v.7, even the sinners, which is why Paul wants even the kings to be prayed for. Like I said, we’re going to be talking about all of this—how God wants all people to be saved—and why that means we should pray for all people, especially the leaders, as Paul mentions here.

OK. So I want to ask a question to all of us this morning. I am going to ask the question very carefully because of the nature of the question. My intent is not to offend anyone, well, maybe a little bit of offense is OK. But really, I am just trying to get us to think about this passage critically, because I believe it is what God’s Word is obviously telling us to do, but it is a difficult thing. So here’s the question: In your life, have you ever had trouble praying for certain people? Or a certain someone? You know, have you ever had trouble praying for the enemies in our lives, for example, or, on a grander scale, have you had trouble praying for people in charge of enemy countries, (on an international level now). How about this question: Have we ever had any trouble praying for the people in charge of this country, (ha), and I think you all begin to see what I am getting at. Paul says here, that, after we should be praying for all people, he goes out of his way to specifically name, “kings and all those in authority,” verse 2. So, if you, like me, are reminded of Jesus’ similar saying, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Matthew 5:44, we should put them both together, the words of Paul and of Jesus, to go out of our way to pray first for our leaders, even our enemies, as Jesus says, leaders included, as Paul says, who persecute us. From both Paul and Jesus, we are being told in God’s Word to pray for the most unlikely of people, and this is actually quite the shocking thing, as I am sure we all understand. It is hard to pray for enemies in our lives.

Well, despite the shocking nature of praying for the opposition, there is a logic to it here, but it is not what most people think it is—I believe. Verse 2, says, pray for the kings and the leaders, quote “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness,” verse 2. What does Paul mean by “that we may live … quiet lives”? Does he mean that we are supposed to just be praying like this so that we can live sheltered lives, quiet lives, never hurtin’ nobody? Well, no, it is not saying that we are supposed to live quiet lives, or that we are supposed to, for example, blindly support our leaders, or enemies, no matter what the wicked things they do. Great, great harm has been done, because people think that this, and other passages, mean that we are supposed to, like I said, supposed to (keyword) be quiet and support whatever the government or other-non-government evil actions occur, maybe even in Church Leadership, or people in our lives who take advantage of us. Well, no, we are not supposed to let evil prevail—yes, we are supposed to turn the other cheek, but like the book of James says, “whoever knows the right thing to do, yet fails to do it, is guilty of sin” James 4:17. We do not sit idly by when evil occurs.
The message of the Gospel, and here in our Scripture, is that we are supposed to live a certain way, yes, as Christians, and that way is not in a quiet way, but in a way that expends all energy, and all effort, in Christ, to shine the light of the Gospel to those people that need it most. God does this through us. Why is this the case, and not just that so we can be quiet? Well, because, Paul says, there is one mediator … this is the logic… one mediator between God and human beings, the one Savior, Jesus Christ. This one and only Jesus Christ gave himself as a ransom for all people. Because there is only One God, this One God necessarily has to be the only God for all people. And because this One and Only God died for us, desires all people to be saved, Christ died for all people, which is the very reason why we should be praying for all people—not so that we can live quiet comfortable lives, but so that they may be saved by the power of God’s Gospel. God wants to save those enemy people too. Quote: “God does not show favoritism” (Romans 2:11). In fact, the difficult truth, but the truth even for you and for me, personally, is that God wants to save even the wickedest, most disgusting person, we can all possibly think of. We should be offended by this, like I am, like Jonah was, and we need to take it to God in prayer, because, this is simply the truth, and the very reason that God saved even us, ourselves, we who call ourselves Christians. God quote “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:4.

Well, last week I preached on the Scripture, Psalm 51. In Psalm 51:5 and 6, Scripture teaches that each of us from birth requires the saving grace of God to be saved. However, from a simple common-sense perspective, all of us will agree, I think, that no one is born as a serial killer—in their mind. This can’t be, they simply have the mind of an infant at this point. No one is born, psychologically speaking, with extremely evil machinations. Sadly these human beings who become this way, well they grow up badly, they get hurt, they learn wicked things, and they then go and do wicked things, because they do not have the Lord. I’m not denying that we are sinful from birth; I am denying that someone is psychologically, purposely, a monster, from birth. Here’s why. It’s what Paul is talking about. Yes we all need salvation, but get this: What if, instead of being isolated and further hurt, these sorts of people had someone praying for them, long before they committed terrible deeds? What if these people—our personal enemies, the leaders of our enemy countries, the leader of ISIS, for example—what if all these people, because we prayed for them first, were utterly transformed by the grace and the love of God, putting Jesus first instead of their own wicked desires, or their own terrible intentions—and then every single thing that they did, was for the good instead, was for God instead. I have to say, that our world today, would look very, very, different. The message of the Gospel is that Christ saves, and the repentance of changed lives changes the world for good, so if.. our leaders, our enemy leaders, put Christ first, imagine the kind of good world we would have today because evil would dramatically decrease. So this is why Paul says here, to pray for the leaders, and why Jesus says to pray for our enemies. All of this is the work of God; it is oriented towards the goal of salvation for everyone, which is God’s desire.

Well. I mentioned that this letter, 1 Timothy, was written around 63 A. D. Some scholars say sometime around, 64, 65. OK. It’s sometimes difficult to pinpoint exactly historically when. But here’s the deal. The first documented case, (documented case), of government supervised, and ordered, persecution of Christians, in the Roman Empire, or you might say, ever, begins with the Emperor Nero (who ruled from 37–68 AD in Rome). In 64 AD, right around the time of Paul writing of this letter, First Timothy, A great fire broke out in Rome, destroying whole portions of Rome and devastating the population. You may have heard about the popular legend claiming that Emperor Nero played the fiddle at the time of the fire, which is an anachronism actually, because the fiddle was not invented until the 10th century—But anyways, it was Nero himself who started this fire, and then blamed it on Christians, because they were a small group upsetting the social structure of the day—you know, because the wicked powerful are always trying to remain powerful, but Christians practice peace and true justice—he ordered the Christians to be thrown to the dogs, while others Christians were in fact ordered to be crucified or burned.
So imagine this. When Paul says, to pray for rulers—who was the ruler at the time Paul wrote this? It was Nero, who is persecuting, burning, and throwing us to the dogs (literally), to pray for him—and why? So that we can live, literally live, peacefully and quietly—in other words, not being targeted for execution, and for death—for being a Christian. We should pray for the leaders’ salvation, in fact, so that, instead of persecuting us, they actually do positive things for the Gospel, and of course, God desires their salvation, and so should we—then they wouldn’t be doing what they’re doing.

Paul says in verse 7 that he was “appointed a herald and an apostle,” verse 7, for this reason. His job is to declare this full truth, shocking as it is, of the Gospel. And, if you notice, Paul even says, pleading-like, “I am telling the truth, I am not lying,” I’m a true and faithful teacher of even these sorts of Gentiles. Paul says God wants all people to be saved, even Nero, and that Christ gave himself as a ransom for all people, even you and I. In his context, he means not only the Jews, the people of God, but even these sorts of evil ruling Gentiles. That’s why he says here, I’m a teacher of the Gentiles.

Well, this is simply the Gospel. It’s offensive by nature, because the darkness hates the light. The Gospel in a nutshell is that Christ died for all people, and not just Jewish people. It’s what Paul here is simply reiterating. The most radical thing of all, the thing that ties it all together, what we’ve been talking about, as it were, are verses 5 and 6. This is where again Paul reminds us that there is one God, and one Savior, but that this Savior gave himself as a ransom for all of us. The truth here is that Jesus came to die on that cross—the old story of the cross—to die for you, and for me. And this is offensive.
There are many people in the world, maybe even people who are in the room this morning, who believe that they are too far gone for God. In this room right now there could even be people who believe they are not deserving of God. And to them, and to you, I want to say, with Scripture, and with Paul who says to pray for Nero: God wants all people to be saved, and come to the truth, including you. I will not deny to you that you and I have done bad things. That we are sinners from birth. And also, God will not deny that you and I have done bad things. God acknowledges you, and acknowledges me, and our sin. God knows about the bad things we have done. Actually, because of the bad things that I have done, in my life, God sent the one mediator, the one ransom, the one and only Son, Jesus, so that, only in Him, and through only Him, by only his paying the price for what we did, we could be free to actually live a life for God, and in God, and through God, in all godliness and holiness. When Paul says God wants everybody to come to a knowledge of the truth, he is talking about God who loves us so much, that Christ laid down his life of his own accord, even when he could have summoned many legions of angels to save himself (he says in Matthew 26:53), but instead he laid down his life by his own choice, an act of love and grace, to save us from our own formerly bad selves.

God did this because, yes, He acknowledges that we are in need of help, that we are in fact sinful, but, He loves us… anyways! That’s why it says He wants us here. It would be bad if God simply pretended that we never sinned, or pretended we were never bad, because then it is as if God doesn’t care. But, instead, nothing could be farther from the truth. God loved the world, and you, and I, and us, all, so much, He sent his Son to save us, so that we might be more than simply sinners. That’s not the message. God came to sanctify us, to completely cleanse us from all unrighteous, 1 John 1:9, so that we might live our lives in Christ, freed from the power of sin and its slavery, Romans chapter 8, and live for God.
You, and I, and anyone—you are not too far gone from God because nothing is too hard for Him, and he desires all people to be saved. Place your hope in Christ as your Lord and Savior, and, even if we are saved already, by further placing all of our trust in Him, more & more of it, Christ can take over you more and more, He can completely sanctify you, and make you, as 1 John 4:12 says, perfect, and complete, in His perfect love. Why? Why, to all of this? As our passage says, God, “…..wants all people to be saved” , and He is not messing around, He will save you and save you completely. Amen.

Sermon on Psalm 51: Repentance

Dear Reader, if you are new here, or are looking for answers immediately, please follow this link to our Start Here page: The Start Here page is designed as the beginning point of this website, to which these further posts correspond. Thank you, and may “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14, NIV).

The following sermon, preached on September 11th, 2016, explores scriptural repentance, and how God’s Word teaches us that God truly transforms us in a radical way. God is capable of cleansing us from all of our sin (Psalm 51:2). The good news from Psalm 51 is that God can actually give us a pure heart (Psalm 51:10)! Please click the play button on the audio widget below to listen to the sermon. (The audio can also be downloaded below, as a podcast.)

(Note concerning the audio: we apologize for poor audio quality! Thank you for your understanding.)

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The text follows below.

(Note concerning the sermon text: the sermon text reflects the actual manuscript and was written to be spoken colloquially, not academically, and may contain grammatical errors such as run-on sentences, or special notation like the asterisk, or the like. Thank you for your understanding.)

Psalm 51 reads,
“For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

1Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
2Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
3For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
4Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict, and justified when you judge.
5Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
7Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
10Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
13Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.
14Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.
16You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, you, God, will not despise.
18May it please you to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous, in burnt offerings offered whole; then bulls will be offered on your altar.”

This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

OK, well, this morning we are going to be talking about the various things in this Psalm and what it means for us today—For example, what does it mean by “wash away ALL my iniquity,” (v.2) and “create in me a PURE heart,” (v.10), and what’s this about being sinful at birth (v.5) and God desiring a broken spirit? (v.17). Well to sum it all up, this morning we are talking about repentance, and really the focus is, the truly, extremely powerful action of God, in our honestly repentant lives that He enables us to live, to be entirely cleansed by His action of the Holy Spirit, to purify and sanctify our hearts and free us from the power of sin. So that’s what we are talking about this morning; it’s the same thing this very Psalm is, as a whole, talking about.

OK, this Psalm reflects a time in the life of King David of Israel. Many of you may know that King David is at one point called, a man after God’s very own heart in 1 Samuel 13:14. But now, we see here, that this David is at an all time low. David had viciously killed one of his own soldiers, Uriah, with the nefarious desire to steal Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, and, well, David did so, and he thought he had gotten away with all of these things, too. But, as the title for the Psalm indicates—verse 1 or before verse 1— the Prophet Nathan had called out David on all this, in 2 Samuel 12, where David is humbled and seeks to repent because of all his sin.

So, the Psalm really wants us to look at it and see what repentance is all about. What is repentance all about? Well if we look all throughout the Scripture, as a whole, we see that repentance is the truly-turning-away from sin, that God works through us, so that we can and will live a life where not only have we stopped the sinful behavior, but also we have done a complete lifestyle change—transformed by God. This is what, in the ancient Greek language we find in the Scripture, the verb μετανοέω, from μετάνοια, really means, a turning around. And this word for repentance is even stronger with the Hebrew, found in the Old Testament, “shuv” שׁוּב,shin, shureq, bet, meaning literally to turn around, or a return, bodily, physically spinning 180 degrees. So, in other words, according to God’s Word, if you say that you have repented from something, your actions will prove it, because you will no longer be controlled by that sin in your life, since God has transformed you.

OK, so to get at the heart of this repentance in this Psalm, I believe we have to carefully notice verse 4 of Psalm 51. Psalm 51:4 says, “Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict, and justified when you judge.”

But OK, so why does it say, “Against God only have I sinned”? and what does this have to do with repentance, or even God creating a pure heart? Well, good questions. Right now, I want everybody to consider a certain way of thinking about things. I want everybody to think about how there are only, really, two beings in the entire universe.  Sounds strange, but hear me out. I want everybody to think about this. We know that only God truly knows the secrets of the heart, right, so, therefore, in one way of thinking, there are only really only just two beings in the entire universe. There is really just, you, yourself, and there is God: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And so, when it comes to what I’m truly thinking or feeling, there are only two, in the universe, who know the whole truth. So when we think about repentance this way, and the fancy word is “existentially,” I believe that we, all of us this morning, can say, with the Psalm, that when we sin—even though it is true that all sin also hurts other people—it is OK for our hearts to cry out in genuine repentance, “Against you only have I sinned,” because only God truly knows the real depth of it all.

And you know—I have to say something here. When we read these intense words of repentance in Psalm 51, God does not pretend like David never sinned. God does not pretend like I never sinned. Have you heard that before, or ever mistakenly thought that way—That God pretends like you never ever sinned, and he just *poof* fixes it for you? —Like the cross was a magic trick, and that sin is something abstract? No, that is not right, it is never correct. God does not pretend like I never sinned. Sure, I absolutely believe, that God saved me, and is even saving me right now, because of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, and, my faith in Him that he enabled me to have by His prevenient grace—But, the point of this Psalm, and the entire Bible, is not that God loved us so much that he pretended like we never sinned, but that God actually did something about it, in fact, He fixed it. God sent His one and Only Son, to bridge that impassable gap that sin creates. Far from saying, “Oh, so-and-so is truly repentant, therefore they are forgiven,” no no no, God, God is the one, who acknowledging our sin, doing something about it, actually came to Earth, to completely destroy and eradicate sin, forever. This was done by Christ, and the sacrifice on the cross, His being raised by the power of God, and His pouring out of the Spirit, into our hearts—God Himself, the sinless one, inside me, inside you, inside us, to cleanse us from all unrighteous, and all wickedness (1 John 1:9), and all iniquity, Psalm 51:2. This is actually what repentance is all about, and the key verse on this point, is really Psalm 51:10!

Let’s look at Psalm 51:10. Psalm 51:10 says, “10Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” God’s Word is telling us that..we actually can have a pure heart, right now, because of God’s Holy Spirit filling us and the repentance that necessarily comes with it, from God. The Hebrew word here, the adjective, “pure,” טָ֭הוֹר, (tet, he, holem-wav, resh, in the Hebrew) actually literally translates: pure, as in, clean, where the same word is used of “clean animals,” animals without blemish, etc., for sacrifice, an image used of Christ himself!—the sacrificial lamb of God. It means that there is no defect, not one defect, such that we ourselves, the clean, cleansed ones, would be prevented from being in God’s presence. When elsewhere the Psalmist prays, “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4), and the desire of your repentant and true heart is for a pure, purified heart, I really sincerely believe, that God will give you a pure, 100%, clean heart, and cleanse you, from all of your sin. That’s what this Psalm, and the Bible as whole, says, plain and clear.

But Pastor Michael, some have said to me on this point, Pastor Michael, what about Psalm 51:5: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). Doesn’t this mean that we are just utterly sinful, even from birth, and that we cannot ever hope to be clean in this life, here, right now? Aren’t we all just hopelessly lost sinners doomed to die a wretched death? Well, to this attitude I have to ask: Have you read the rest of Psalm 51, or have you even read the very next word, in Psalm 51:6? The word is, “Yet,” in the NIV. The word is “Yet,” or “But,” or—what about the original language of Scripture? “Behold, ” or “That’s not all there is to it,” in the Hebrew, הֵן, he, tsere, nun. And what about the rest of the Bible? Have you maybe heard the most famous verse, John 3:16? But, Yet, Behold, For, God so loved. The entire point of the Psalm, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is not that you are a sinner, but that God fixed that problem, already; it is finished.

This morning, the message is that you are not just a sinner, tied to your past and the things you regret in your life, and that’s all you can ever aspire to no no! but instead.., God has loved you so much, that He himself, God himself, sacrificed His life, the very Creator of the Universe, died for the very beings He Himself created—put Himself at our disposal in fact, so that—“so that,” “yet,” “but,” behold, Jesus says, we might have life now, right now, and life abundantly (John 10:10) to go and sin no more, from now on, in this life, the very words of Jesus—a life not defined by sin, or the impasse between ourselves and others, but a life where God bridged the gap, and fixed the problem, and would completely sanctify us, giving us a clean heart, so that sin would no longer be our master (Romans 8), which is what is the case, yes, from birth (Psalm 51:5), “but,” “yet,” behold, not after, by God’s prevenient grace, going before, even when we are in the womb, says Psalm 51:6, we are saved through the sacrifice and blood of Jesus’ atoning work on the cross, which God gives us the faith to believe in, and repent.

This morning I want everybody who is down on themselves, I want everybody who is letting the past control them, or who is feeling guilty because of something in their lives, doesn’t matter what it is, day in and day out, to know this: Yes, we are all messed up, and God’s not pretending like we aren’t. Why not? Because God cares. God already fixed that problem—that’s the entire reason and purpose of the Bible, which God has given to us. I want us all to hear these words of the Scripture:

“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezekiel 36:25–27. “The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts . . . so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.” (Deuteronomy 30:6); “God himself, the God of peace, [may] sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess 5:23), you can actually, quote, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:48, because, quote, “without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). God’s Word doesn’t say this to scare us, but to give you joy because He actually does make you holy, perfect, now.

This morning, my plea is that you give your heart, you give your life, to Jesus. He is powerful, and He is able, to fix you, to cleanse you, and He wants you, and nothing is too hard for God. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a Christian, or you once were, or you still are, He is still waiting for you, in fact He is wooing you, to give more of yourself, to completely entirely trust in Him, because God is not going to force you to love Him, since a forced love is not love at all; but Scripture teaches that God will truly sanctify, and purify your hearts, and remove from you, all impurity, that you actually may and do have, a pure, perfect heart.

If God is working on your heart this morning, and you know you need to repent, like Psalm 51, or if you need to make a move, or come to the altar, or simply pray where you’re at, please, let God take control, give to God what Jesus has already bought and finished, and paid for, on the cross. Give yourself over to a life that is truly life, to a pure heart, and a steadfast spirit, in the Lord, that the Holy Spirit can work in you.