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Following Jesus: Fear and Forgiveness

It was still the first day of the week. That evening, while the disciples were behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you don’t forgive them, they aren’t forgiven.”

— John 20:19-23 (CEB)

Easter night. By now, the Disciples have heard the stories of the women who had gone early that morning to the tomb a hundred times. The men who had seen Jesus on the road to Emmaus have returned to Jerusalem, and have told the others their stories.

“Jesus is risen,” was the resounding message.

Yet, fear was still the motivating factor for the disciples. They were locked in a room. Waiting for the Romans to come for them. Surely, they would be next.

There has to be a million questions running through the minds of the disciples at this point. Surely, this Jesus was more than just a man, but he was Messiah. And, Messiah meant the restoration of Israel. But, Rome is still in charge.

Jesus, they are not yet realizing, didn’t come to overthrow a political entity. It wasn’t about a land or even a particular type of people. Rather, Jesus had come to institute a new Kingdom. A Kingdom that wasn’t dependent on land or borders.

“Peace,” he proclaims to his followers. And, that is what he proclaims to us.

Peace. Not an absence of conflict, but rather a process where crooked is made straight, missing is found, and broken is repaired.

Fear had caused these followers to lock themselves into a room. Yet, Jesus comes in, proclaims peace, and then sends them out. Sends them out even though they were still afraid.

Fear is not sin. Fear is a natural human reaction when life is in danger. The problem arises when we decide to order our lives from the place of fear–when we decide that the right response is to lock ourselves in our rooms. However, Jesus doesn’t call us to lock ourselves in our rooms.

Or behind huge walls.

Or behind a giant military complex.

Or behind the doors of beautiful sanctuaries.

wpid-Photo-1-Şub-2013-0233.jpgNo, Jesus sends us out into the very world from which we try to insulate ourselves. He breathes on us the power of the Holy Spirit. A power that is to be used to forgive those who need forgiveness. To forgive even the Roman soldiers who hammered the nails. To forgive even the religious leaders who lodged false accusations.

The christian faith is not intended to be lived out on Sunday mornings in padded pews. Christian faith is lived out in the highways and the byways. It is lived out in the homeless shelters and the corporate offices. It is lived out in the “safety” of the west and the “risk” of the east.

To follow Jesus is to leave the locked room of safety behind. To follow Jesus is to go into every man’s world. It is to proclaim, through the power of the Holy Spirit, that our fear has been turned into forgiveness.

#Lent14 — Overcoming Temptation

As we have done in previous Lent and Advent seasons, we are again blogging our way through the Lenten Lectionary Texts.  In this season, our prayer is that we will bless and inspire you in your walk between the Now and Not-Yet of the Kingdom.  We pray that our meditations will be life-giving to you in your journey.

A reading from the Gospel According to Matthew.

Then the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  Jesus fasted for forty days and nights.  After this, he was very hungry.  The devil came to Jesus to tempt him, saying, “If you are the Son of God, tell these rocks to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written in the Scriptures, ‘A person lives not on bread alone, but by everything God says.’”

Then the devil led Jesus to the holy city of Jerusalem and put him on a high place of the Temple.  The devil said, “If you are the Son of God, jump down, because it is written in the Scriptures: ‘He has put his angels in charge of you.  They will catch you in their hands so that you will not hit your foot on a rock.’”

Jesus answered him, “It also says in the Scriptures, ‘Do not test the Lord your God.’”

Then the devil led Jesus to the top of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and all their splendor.  The devil said, “If you will bow down and worship me, I will give you all these things.”

Jesus said to the devil, “God away from me, Satan!  It is written in the Scriptures, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’”

So the devil left Jesus, and angels came and took care of him.

Matthew 4:1-11 (NCV)

This is the Word of the Lord.

Temptation.  We are all faced with it.  We all have to deal with it.  We all have to learn how to say, “No.”  But, it’s hard to do.

I wish that overcoming temptation was as easy as just ignoring it.  You know, the whole “ignore-it-and-it’ll-go-away” idea.  But, alas, that doesn’t work.  Temptation still shows up.  Still hangs around.  Still, well, tempts.

Or, maybe, we could just walk away from that which tempts us.  Just turn off the television when that racy show comes on, or log off the internet when that picture pops up on Facebook.  Easy, right?  Yet, again, it doesn’t work.  The television still sits in the room.  The internet is still accessible.  Temptation still waits in the shadows.

Jesus shows us a different way.  When He was faced with temptation, He turned to Scripture.  He combatted the desires of His flesh with the Word of God.  Staring temptation square in the eyes, He quoted Scripture.  Reminding His flesh of what God has said about who He is and Whose He is.

Jesus’ response to temptation is the model for how we should respond.

The reality is that no other method of overcoming temptation will be successful.  We must turn to the Word of God, and find out what He says about the situation.  No matter what the temptation is.  Whether it’s eating that fifteenth piece of chocolate or looking at the photo of that scantily clad person, God has something to say about it.

There’s a verse in Psalm 119 that says this:

“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” — Psalm 119:11 (ESV)

Dealing with temptation isn’t something that you wait until you are tempted to do.  It’s something that you do long before the temptation ever shows up.  Store up the Word of God in your heart.  Then, when you are tempted, use the Word of God to overcome it.

If there is something by which you find yourself repeatedly tempted, then find the Scriptures that address that and memorize them.  Meditate on them.  Pray them.  Let them soak deep into your heart and mind and spirit.

When you have the Word deep in you, then when temptation comes, you have a weapon.  You have an exit strategy.  You have a way to overcome temptation.

What is it that God has to say about your particular temptation?  Find out.  Memorize it.  Meditate on it.  Pray it.

Below are a few temptations with which we are faced or things with which we struggle.  Below them are Scripture references dealing with each.  These are just a start, and are by no means comprehensive (the search feature over at BibleGateway can be used to help you find more).  Yet, memorizing, meditating on, and praying these will be a good start to overcoming temptation.

Anger

Psalm 37:8; Proverbs 10:12; 14:16, 17, 29; 15:1, 18; 16:32; 19:11; 29:22; Matthew 5:22-24; Romans 12:19; Ephesians 4:1-3, 26, 31-32; Colossians 3:8, 21; 2 Timothy 2:24; James 1:19-20

Apathy

Deuteronomy 6:5; Proverbs 13:12; Galatians 6:8-9; Ephesians 4:18-24; Philippians 3:13-14; 1 Peter 1:3; Titus 2:11-14; 1 John 3:2-3

Bitterness

Proverbs 23:17-18; Matthew 6:14-15; Luke 23:24; Acts 8:23; Romans 3:14; 12:14-21; 1 Corinthians 13:4; Galatians 5:24-26; Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8-9; Hebrews 12:15; James 3:14; 1 Peter 2:23

Comfort

Psalm 23:4; 71:21; 119:50, 52, 76; Isaiah 40:1; 51:3; 61:1-2; Jeremiah 31:13; Matthew 5:4; 1 Corinthians 14:3; Philippians 2:1-2; 2 Corinthians 1:3-7; Revelation 21:4

Compassion

Deuteronomy 32:36; 2 Chronicles 30:9; Psalm 51:1; 77:9; 102:13; 103:4, 13; 116:5; 145:9; Isaiah 54:7-8, 10; Lamentations 3:22-23, 32; Matthew 9:36; 14:14; Luke 15:20; Romans 9:15; 2 Corinthians 1:3; Colossians 3:12

Compulsiveness

John 15:5; Galatians 5:22-25; Philippians 4:6-8; 2 Peter 1:5-8

Criticism

Matthew 7:1-5; Luke 6:37-42; John 7:24; Romans 2:1; 14:1-15, 19; Galatians 6:1; Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 3:8-14; 4:6

Depression

1 Kings 19:4; Psalm 38; 42:3-6, 11; Proverbs 13:12; Isaiah 26:3-4; Matthew 11:28-30; Mark 11:25; Luke 10:19; Romans 8:28, 31, 37; Philippians 4:4-13; 2 Timothy 1:7; Hebrews 4:14-16; 12:1-2, 28; James 4:6-10; 1 Peter 2:24-25; 2 Peter 1:3-4; 1 John 4:9

Disobedience

Deuteronomy 11:26-28; 1 Samuel 12:15; Isaiah 1:18-20; Malachi 4:6; Luke 6:46; John 14:15, 21; Ephesians 6:1-2; 1 John 5:2-4

Dissatisfaction

Psalm 34:10; 37:3; 63:1-5; 103:1-5; Proverbs 12:14; Isaiah 44:3; Joel 2:26-27; Matthew 5:6; 2 Corinthians 9:8; 2 Peter 1:3; Philippians 4:11-13, 19

Doubt

Proverbs 3:5; Matthew 14:31; Mark 9:24; 11:23-25; Luke 12:29-31; Colossians 1:23; Romans 10:17; 14:22-23; Hebrews 11:1, 6; James 1:5-8

Envy/Jealous

Proverbs 14:30; 23:17; 24:1-2; Mark 7:20-23; Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Corinthians 3:3; 13:4; Philippians 4:11; 1 Timothy 6:3-6; James 3:14-16

Failure

1 Chronicles 28:20; Psalm 89:28; Proverbs 15:22; 1 Corinthians 3:8a; Lamentations 3:22-24; 1 Peter 1:6-7

Fear of Man/Things

Exodus 14:13-14; Joshua 1:5-9; Psalm 23:4; 27:1-3; 34:1-4; 46:1-2; Isaiah 41:10; Luke 8:50; John 16:33; 2 Timothy 1:7; Hebrews 13:5-6; 1 John 4:18

Forgiveness

Psalm 32:1-3; 103:2-3, 12; 130:4; Isaiah 1:18; 43:25; Mark 11:25; Matthew 6:12-15; 18:21-22; John 20:22-23; Acts 13:38; Ephesians 1:7; 4:32; 1 John 1:9; Colossians 3:12-14

Gossip

Psalm 19:14; 34:13; Proverbs 11:13; 17:9; 18:21; 20:19; 26:20; Matthew 12:34; James 1:26; 4:11-12

Greed

Deuteronomy 15:7; Proverbs 1:19; 15:16, 27; Ecclesiastes 5:10; Jeremiah 17:11; Acts 20:35; Galatians 6:10; Philippians 4:19; 1 Timothy 6:9-11

Guilt

2 Chronicles 30:9; Isaiah 43:25; 55:7; 1 John 1:7, 9; 2:12; 4:18

Hatred

Proverbs 10:12; 1 John 2:9-11

Honesty

Exodus 20:16; Leviticus 19:35-36; Isaiah 33:15-16; Colossians 3:9-10

Inferiority

Psalm 139; 2 Corinthians 3:5; 5:17; Ephesians 1:5-7; James 4:10; 1 John 4:4

Insecurity

Joshua 1:9; Psalm 34:18; 91; 139; 145:18; Proverbs 3:5; 1 John 3:1; Isaiah 26:3-4; 43:1-3a; 1 John 5:14; Jeremiah 29:11-13; Philippians 1:6

Laziness

Romans 12:11; Ephesians 4:28; 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Loneliness

Genesis 28:15; Exodus 33:14; Deuteronomy 31:6; 33:26; Joshua 1:9; Psalm 34:18; 139; Isaiah 41:10; 43:2; 54:10; John 14:16, 18; Romans 8:35-39; Hebrews 13:5-6

Lust

Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Galatians 5:16; Romans 6:11-14; 13:14; 1 John 2:17; 2 Timothy 2:22; Titus 2:11-12; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Jude 20-21

Patience

Ecclesiastes 7:8; Isaiah 25:9; 26:8; 33:2; Luke 21:19; Romans 12:12; Hebrews 10:36; James 1:4; 2 Peter 1:6-9

Pride

1 Samuel 2:3; Proverbs 8:13; 11:2; Jeremiah 9:23-24; Matthew 23:12; Mark 9:35; Romans 12:3; Galatians 6:3; Revelation 3:17-18; 2 Corinthians 10:5, 17-18

Rebellion

Exodus 34:6-7; Deuteronomy 28:15; 30;15-19; 1 Samuel 12:14; 15:22-23; Ezekiel 12:2; Matthew 26:39; Ephesians 5:21; James 4:7-8; 1 Peter 5:5-6

Rejection

Psalm 18:28, 35; 27:19; 34:18; 42:11; 91:14-16; 94:14; Isaiah 42:16; 54:10; John 14:18; Hebrews 13:5-6

Resentment

Leviticus 19:18; Ephesians 4:1-3, 31-32; James 3:14-18; 1 Peter 3:8-9

Selfishness

Proverbs 28:27; Matthew 19:21-22; Romans 15:1-2; 1 Corinthians 10:24; Galatians 6:2; 1 John 4:17-18

Shame

Psalm 119:6, 80; Proverbs 3:35; 11:2; Isaiah 50:7; Romans 10:11; Philippians 1:20; 1 John 2:28

Sorrow

Psalm 30:5; 126:5-6; Isaiah 25:8; 60:20; Matthew 5:4; John 14:1, 18; 16:33

Temptation

Matthew 6:13; 26:41; James 1:2-3, 12; 1 Corinthians 10:13

Worry

Joshua 1:9; 10:25; 1 Kings 8:56; Psalm 34:14-17; 55:22; 91; Proverbs 3:24-26; 12:25; 16:3-4; Isaiah 26:3-4; 43:1-2; Matthew 6:25-34; 11:28-30; Luke 12:34-36; John 14:1, 27; 16:33; Romans 8:28; Philippians 4:6-13; Hebrews 13:5-6; 1 Peter 5:7

 

Gutenberg Bible, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Gutenberg Bible, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Lent 2013: Some Other Beginning’s End

As we have done throughout previous Lenten and Advent seasons, we are again blogging through the Lectionary readings in this Lenten season. This year, however, due to our travels in Central Asia, we have asked a number of guests to blog for us. These guests are individuals who are influential in our lives and work. We're honored to share this space with them-and with you–in this season of reflection.

An Old Testament reading from the book of Joshua.

While the people of Israel were encamped at Gilgal, they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening on the plains of Jericho. And the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. And the manna ceased the day after they ate of the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.

— Joshua 5:10-12 (ESV)

And, now, the end has come. At least that's how it likely felt for the Israelites. They have been traveling–a journey that should have taken weeks at worst–for years. An entire generation has died. They've changed leadership. And, now, the end has come.

Well, sort of.

There was a pop song (Closing Time by Semisonic) that had the line, “every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.”

And, that's where we find the Israelites.

They have entered the land. Canaan. The land to which God had promised to bring them. They've made it. The Jordan has been crossed.

But, this isn't really much more than some other beginning's end.

Years earlier (Exodus 15), they were wandering in the wilderness–that's far too nice of a word, they were in the desert. And, as we often do, they were concerned with their bellies.

“We're hungry,” they whined.

“You brought us out here to starve to death,” they accused.

Now, at this point in the journey they had been on the road all of a few weeks. While they didn't know it, they would have forty plus more years of this trip. But, nevertheless, they complained.

So, God agreed to rain bread down on them every night. They didn't know what it was, so they called it “What is it”. And, that was what they ate for the next forty years. Everywhere they went, every morning–except the Sabbath, because God wanted His people (and us) to worship Him by resting–it rained “What Is It”.

Later, they complained about the bread, and God sent them quail. So, here they are, roaming in the desert eating–literally–from God's hand. Bread and meat.

And, now, they've crossed the Jordan. They've entered that fertile land of milk and honey. And, God stopped sending “What is it”.

They ate of the fruits of the land. A new beginning at some other beginning's end.

There are so many times in our lives where we have eaten at the hand of God. Where He has miraculously fed us from His table. Yet, there comes seasons when God allows us to eat of the fulfillment of the promise.

We, too, at the fulfillment of the promises of God to us, eat of the fruit of the land. A new beginning at some other beginning's end.

There many years later, in that Promised Land into which Joshua has led the people, Jesus stands at a table. Arms opened and palms up–the posture of prayer in this part of the world–and says, “Do this in rememberance of me.”

A new beginning at some other beginning's end.

And, now, we find ourselves like the Israelites being fed from the hand of the Messiah. Proclaiming His death anew, as Paul put it, each time we remember our Messiah over the table.

Longing with each bite of bread and each sip of wine for the Messiah to come again and rescue us from life.

Life that's hard.

Life that isn't fair.

Life that often leaves is screaming: “What is it?”

And, this is where I sit tonight. Thinking–and praying–for friends and family in the thick of it. Not quite at the end of an old beginning. Still eating the manna in the desert. Screaming to God: “What is it?!”

A set of new grandparents fighting a battle with cancer.

A girl struggling to understand how to forgive that which seems unforgivable.

A young mother in pain from a back injury.

A worker mourning the death of a colleague in another distant land.

A couple trying to hear what their next steps should be after being asked to leave a nation to which they have given their lives.

A family with a newborn baby born with many complications that is spending more time in doctor's offices and hospitals than anyone should have to spend in a lifetime.

A family mourning the loss of a child who died way too young.

A group of women who gather as a home fellowship and pray for their husbands to come to be followers of Jesus.

A man who is feeling the tug of Jesus to leave the nets, the boats, and the fish to follow Him to a distant shore.

And, I pray that in the midst of their deserts they clearly feel in their hand the hand of the Father who walks beside them.

I pray that their eyes are opened to seeing the work He is doing.

I pray that their ears hear His gentle voice saying, “just hang on.”

I pray that the Kingdom will come.

I pray that they will cross their Jordan River, will take a deep breath and will eat of the fruit of the land.

And, there in that moment of joy, that they will find some other beginning's end.

The bread and the wine at a Passover Seder

The bread and the wine at a Passover Seder

 

Lent 2012: 2.3 — Board the Ark

Throughout Advent, we posted blogs each week based on the Lectionary Readings for the previous Sunday. It was truly an awesome experience to travel through Advent with the universal church by praying, meditating, and responding to those texts. We loved it so much, we thought we’d do it again throughout Lent.

Then God spoke to Noah and his sons: “I’m setting up my covenant with you including your children who will come after you, along with everything alive around you-birds, farm animals, wild animals-that came out of the ship with you. I’m setting up my covenant with you that never again will everything living be destroyed by floodwaters; no, never again will a flood destroy the Earth.”

God continued, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and everything living around you and everyone living after you. I’m putting my rainbow in the clouds, a sign of the covenant between me and the Earth. From now on, when I form a cloud over the Earth and the rainbow appears in the cloud, I’ll remember my covenant between me and you and everything living, that never again will floodwaters destroy all life. When the rainbow appears in the cloud, I’ll see it and remember the eternal covenant between God and everything living, every last living creature on Earth.”

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I’ve set up between me and everything living on the Earth.” — Genesis 9:8-17 (MSG)

One of the underlying themes of this Lenten season is Covenant. Throughout the Scriptures we find instances where God is making a covenant with man. And with each of these covenants, we see signs pointing to God’s Great Rescue Plan.

At Advent, we hope for Messiah–Rescue–to come. At Christmas, we celebrate His coming. In Lent, we watch as the Rescue Plan comes to fruition.

Covenant.

In today’s text, we find Noah and his family emerging from the Ark. They have been rescued from a flood. While all others have perished, they are rescued. And God makes a covenant.

A covenant that says, not only did I rescue you, Noah, but I will continue to rescue your descendants. Generation to generation to generation, I will rescue.

Covenant.

As we march through Lent, we will find ourselves talking about covenants. Lent leads us to the fruition of God’s Great Rescue Plan–His ultimate covenant with man. With each passing text throughout this season, we will see God’s covenantal nature, and watch as He brings His Kingdom to bear.

Covenant.

Covenant says, “I will do anything it takes at any cost to me to see you become who God made you to be.”

God’s rescue plan for Noah and his generation was the Ark. Enter the Ark and you survive. Don’t enter and you die.

And so, here two thousand years later, we are spiritually presented with the same options. Enter into the rescue plan and you will live.

While that is a stark point, the beauty of it is that God always has a rescue plan. He has covenanted with man that there would be rescue. He has covenanted that He would keep open a rescue. Accept the rescue and live. Yet, not just live. Live life to the fullest. The whole package deal–soundness (body, soul, spirit), general well-being, happiness, forgiveness, prosperity, rescue, liberation, release, restoration, safety, preservation, healing, and deliverance. In other words, to have life and have it to the fullest (John 10:10).

Board the Ark.

Lent 2012: 2.1 — The Lord of the Broken

Throughout Advent, we posted blogs each week based on the Lectionary Readings for the previous Sunday. It was truly an awesome experience to travel through Advent with the universal church by praying, meditating, and responding to those texts. We loved it so much, we thought we’d do it again throughout Lent.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God.  Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.  No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse.

Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.  Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old.  Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O LORD.

Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.  He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.  All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant.

— Psalm 25:1-10 (NIV)

David is in such a beautiful place in this Psalm.

The place is repentance.  Humility.  In need of grace.

David picked up the broken pieces of his soul and lifted them as an offering to the Lord whom he trusted.  We see a readiness in his desire to know the Lord’s ways, His paths, His truth.  As a faithful shepherd himself, he also takes the role of a sheep and trusts the Lord to be Shepherd.

Are we ready to release our position as leader and allow God to lead and teach and reveal and guide and instruct?

Do we trust Him and put our hope in Him to know what is best for us?

Are we ready to retrieve the pieces of our souls from those who have broken and shamed us and in our place of humility and need for grace, to turn fully to our Father and lift that brokenness to Him?

He loves us.  He is faithful.  He is true and right.  He is gracious.  He protects us.  And He sees you, not according to your sins and rebellious ways, but according to His love.  He is good!

 

Lent 2012: 1.3 – Forgive me, as I have Forgiven Them

Throughout Advent, we posted blogs each week based on the Lectionary Readings for the previous Sunday. It was truly an awesome experience to travel through Advent with the universal church by praying, meditating, and responding to those texts. We loved it so much, we thought we’d do it again throughout Lent.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when your judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you do not despise. — Psalm 51:1-17 (NIV)

David. The “man after God’s own heart” has really dropped the ball. In 2 Samuel 11:1-12:25, we get the story that leads us into this Psalm. That story, in a word, Bathsheba.

David, a king who was supposed to have been with his army, stays behind. Neglects his people. Allows selfishness and pride to take over. In a few short verses of 2 Samuel 11, he has broken several of the 10 Commandments.

Adultery? Check.

Lie? Check.

Murder? Check.

Covet? Check.

Things are in a rough place. Nathan, the prophet, comes and tells David exactly how bad things are.

Then comes David’s response — our text for today. “Have mercy on me, O God,” David cries. Psalm 51 takes us through the process of forgiveness.

Realization

David realizes the extent of his sin. Not that breaking four commandments is worse than breaking one, rather that David has said to God, “I don’t want to be in relationship with you right now.” He has realized that he is not in that relationship any longer, and he wants to be.

Repentance

David repents. Yet, his repentance was more than a mere, “I’m sorry, God, please forgive me.” David calls out, “Create in me a clean heart (mind, will, and emotions)!” Clean my mind! Clean my will! Clean my emotions! So often we view repentance as a simple, “I’m sorry.” Yet, repentance is a complete turning away from the thing that took you away from God, and turning toward God. Sin says, “I don’t want to be in relationship with You right now.” Repentance says, “I want to be in relationship with You so much that I will completely turn from that which I left relationship with You to pursue.”

David repents.

Righteousness

God responds to David’s repentance. He responds by granting David righteousness–right legal standing and right relational standing. God and David are back in relationship. Yet, it’s not just a relationship that says, “David, you are now legally ‘OK’ with Me.” Rather, righteousness goes further than that, and says, “You are now legally ‘OK’ AND we are back in relationship.” As we highlighted a couple of weeks ago, “Righteousness is to be put in both a right legal standing and a right relational standing with God. Right legal standing makes us citizens of the Kingdom. Right relational standing makes us children of the King.”

Restoration

One more really amazing thing happens in this process. David is restored. Not just his relationship with God, not just his pure heart, not just restored in trust, but also the joy that comes from relationship with His King and His Father. Restoration.

Here’s where we miss the boat on forgiveness. We’re all about letting people who say to us “I don’t want to be in relationship with you right now”, realize that they’ve done wrong. We have no issues when they repent of their wrong. And we’re even pretty well ok with bringing them into “right legal standing” with us.

Yet, our interest in placing the person who has wronged back into a right relational standing is proportional to the level of hurt they caused. And, we have little to no interest in restoring “trust” (we say really ridiculous things like, “You have to earn it”). Finally, when it comes to fully restoring the joy of the relationship, we won’t even put that on the table.

Nevertheless, we will pray, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Thankfully, Father says, “I don’t work that way.” Father says, “I will completely restore you in righteousness, in joy, and in trust.” Imagine with me a world that works in the way of the Kingdom. Imagine a world that says, “I will forgive in EXACTLY the same manner that David was forgiven.” Imagine a world where forgiveness is not conditional, and where trust is not negotiable.

David.

The law breaker. Realizes his state of being out-of-relationship. Repents and turns himself completely back toward relationship. He is placed into a right legal and relational standing with His Father. Finally, he is restored in trust, joy, and position.

And, then, he has a testimony and an obligation to share it. Just as we do! When God has done something as wonderful as this, we are compelled to shout it from the rooftops!