Sunday, June 13, 2010

Now You Shall Be Real

Here are my notes for today's preaching.  It's a kind of summary of many things that have already been said this week.  It's based mainly on Second Samuel 11:25-12:14 though just before the sermon we read Luke 7:36-8:3.  The audio from 11:00 a.m. preaching is available by clicking here (mp3 - 21 minutes including the Luke 7-8 reading.)

People who have been forgiven, people who’ve been released from demons, people who have been brought out of darkness—people like that are generous to the point that we might wonder why.

In today’s gospel (Luke 7:36-8:3) there’s a focus on generous and thankful women. The woman who pours her affection on Jesus’ feet, the women who provide for Jesus and his disciples out of their own resources. I wonder if Chuza, for example, the husband of one of the women who gave money so Jesus could carry out his ministry—I wonder if Mr. Chuza approved.

After all, generosity and thankfulness, they need to be kept under control. Let’s not be unreasonable!

But it is unreasonable thankfulness that is poured on Jesus! It’s praise to the highest degree, praise that doesn’t fit here…—we’re too well behaved.

But when you know the amazing grace of God, when you know that YOU are forgiven and LOVED no matter what, when you KNOW the height and depth of your SIN and know you are LOST but that Jesus has FOUND you and will TREASURE you forever… then you shall be FILLED with praise. And, in praising God, you shall be real.

There’s an old children’s story about becoming real. In the story an much loved stuffed animal has become real to a child… and the animal says this: “By the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.”

What’s the key to being real for you and for me? Many times we live fake lives. This week at a funeral we shared a song from Emmylou Harris about how we so often go around “bottled up inside”? How is it that we can become real, pouring out our thankfulness like the women in our gospel? There are two keys really—the first is admitting and confessing our sins—and the second is God’s free gift of forgiveness. These keys are illustrated in the story of King David. Let’s look over there for a minute… Second Samuel 11…

By the way, the worship and music committee decided something you should know. Beginning in September we won’t be using bulletins that have the scripture lessons printed on them. We encourage you to bring your own Bible, or to use the one in your row.

Anyway, in Second Samuel 11-12 we have a story about King David. It would be good to read the whole story, chapters 11 and 12. In this story King David takes his neighbor’s wife, just because he can, he covers up that sin, and, when the cover-up doesn’t work, he has her husband killed. The woman is Bathsheba. Her husband is Uriah—a foreign soldier far more honorable than the king himself.

What has happened in this story, before the prophet Nathan comes to David, is that David is living a lie. He is no longer being real. He has retreated from reality. He has barricaded himself in lies and violence. He is lost and he does NOT want to be found.

Read the story in Second Samuel 11. Imagine yourself having used power and influence to push your way. Imagine yourself not wanting to be found out. Imagine the loneliness as you watch every word and plan every detail to keep yourself protected. Unfortunately, many, many people live in lies today.

Can you be real when you’re living in lies? No. You’re as artificial as a toy—controlled and manipulated by demonic fear.

Is there hope! Yes! When God comes to you as He did to David, and when you allow the Word to push you out of your hiding place, so you take off your mask, step out into the light, and LIVE!

And you will be SO grateful, SO thankful, you just might not be able to control yourself. You will shed tears. You will shout for joy. You will be generous. You won’t be able to blend in with the crowd anymore. But it will be worth it—stopping your fake life, you will be REAL!

Today, in this house, as you hear the Word of God, as you let God speak about how you are hiding from God, and as you know that you are LOVED anyway, no matter who you are or how you are, you can stop being false. You can find the real you that you think you lost a long time ago.

I love this story of Nathan and David. In 2nd Samuel, at the very end of chapter 11 it says “The thing that David had done displeased the Lord…” The “thing” David had done was not just the original sin of taking his neighbor’s wife—it was the cover up—the lying—the murder. All of that became ONE thing, one stronghold, that kept David trapped.

So, like God sent MOSES to Pharaoh in Egypt; like God sent JESUS to that sin-filled woman in Luke 7 to set her free, the Lord sends Nathan to David…” … and like a top notch spiritual warrior Nathan gets around David’s defenses… Equipped with God's Word and God’s own wisdom, Nathan disarms David. Through the prophet Nathan God presents David with parable. The parable tricks David into pronouncing judgment on himself. Like the tyrant judge he is so used to being, David speaks his own judgment: "The man who has done this…” The rich man who stole from the poor man so he could party and serve his guest… David says “The man who has done this deserves to die."

David is caught. With that statement of truth David steps out of the stronghold that he has been building for himself. With that true judgment David steps out into the light, and the Word of God roars “YOU ARE that man.” YOU, David, who took Uriah’s wife… you are the man. You are the man who deserves to die for your sin. You deserve the condemnation of God.

The remarkable thing is that David doesn't retreat at that point.  He doesn't go running back into hiding.  He doesn't put up more excuses.  The Lord speaks to David about his sin… and, miracle of miracles, David listens! David must have known that Nathan was God’s man. David does not shut his ears or close his eyes. He doesn’t run back into his shelter of lies.

David hears the truth… "Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I anointed you king, I rescued you from the murderous hand of Saul, I gave you his house and his wives… and if that would have been too little I would have added more! WHY HAVE YOU DESPISED THE WORD OF THE LORD to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah with the sword and have taken his wife… now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house."

God’s Word lays out the REAL consequences of what David has done. Amazingly, David does not hide. He deals with what is REAL.

This is David’s moment of truth. He doesn't run away.  He agrees with the Word of God.  He does what we all must do if we are to be real people with real lives. He says, in verse 13… read what David says… “I have sinned against the Lord.”

And when we do not hide, please say those words with me… “I have sinned against the Lord.” it’s the only way to be free and real and new

Then, when we don’t hide from God’s Word that convicts us of our sin and our cover-ups… then we can hear a still more excellent word. …This is later in that same verse, verse 13… These things come one on top of another.  There's not a moment's gap between them.  Nathan said to David,
“Now the Lord has put away your sin.” Say that with me… “Now the Lord has put away your sin.

This is the promise—we know this is true because of what Jesus has done on the cross—when we admit our sin—when we stop running and hiding and covering it up—then God comes with his healing and renewing and life giving WORD. But it’s only when we admit our sin. It’s only when we stop running away.

Now there are consequences that sometimes even go down through the generations.  This is true in human life.  But the ultimate penalty is taken away.

Today, now, in this house, it’s time to step out of your fortress, your stronghold of lies and cover-up. It’s time to come clean. It’s time to be real.

Sometimes it’s just when things feel the absolute worst worst, when we’re in the depth of conflicts and trouble, when we’re at the end of our ability to cope, that’s when God’s Word comes to heal and cleanse and raise us from the dead.

Because of Jesus, you never need to be afraid of the truth. Say this with me "Because of Jesus I never need to be afraid of the truth."  Jesus has taken every sin, every guilt, every shame. He has dealt with it and it is gone. Now you can come. Now you can be REAL.

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