Sermon delivered at Grace Presbyterian Church, November 26, 2000
Spiritual Consequences - Psalm 51, Part 6
Its dangerous business when we decide to live contrary to the One who blesses us. Even dogs know not to bite the hand that feeds them.
Yet even believers often deceive themselves as if since they are saved, sin isn't a serious problem. Since God doesn't strike people down with diseases or sudden death when they sin, and will not send redeemed believers to hell, some get the idea that it must not matter much.
In our imperfection in this life, we may not always be as keenly aware of our offense to God. To get our attention, to discipline his children, God may withhold blessings and enablements. This is the Fatherly chastising which God will not neglect because he loves us.
This is so clearly taught in Hebrews 12
Offending God can disrupt our lives in ways other than outward judgments. In loving discipline our Lord may withdraw our awareness of his comfort and lessen our confidence in the assurance of hope. And he may take away our ability to do our job well by withdrawing the help of the Holy Spirit.
King David had learned the horrible consequences of his moment of sin. In Psalm 51 he laments the offense he had committed against God, and prays that God will cleanse away his guilt and restore him to his fellowship.
But he continued to be concerned about the further consequences of his sin.
David was concerned that his sin might alienate him from God.
David didn't fear alienation from the physical presence of God. The Holy Spirit is God, Omnipresent. Even those who TRY to hide from God cannot. God is everywhere, always. He fills all space in the universe he created.
This is clearly summarized in Psalm 139:7-10
And David didn't mean that he feared that God would take away his salvation. He had already shown his trust in atonement that turned away God's wrath.
And he didn't think he would lose the Spirit's, indwelling. This isn't the physical presence of the Lord, since God is always everywhere. Indwelling refers to the promised seal of the Holy Spirit upon us to enable us to spiritual life. Every redeemed person has this special presence of God in his heart, and it cannot be taken away.
But evidently David sees some threat to his relationship with God the Holy Spirit To understand this, we need to remember where this Psalm fits in with biblical history. There had only been one King of Israel before David. That was King Saul. 1 Samuel 10 tells about the anointing of King Saul by Samuel.
The Spirit was promised to Saul to enable him with the skill to rule Israel on God's behalf. Even to act as the voice of God in special cases. Samuel said to him ...
Saul was enabled to be another man, one chosen to be king over God's people.
But Saul sinned grievously and was left without God's blessing. Chapter 13 tells us how Saul was impatient and intruded upon the priest's office. He made a burnt offering which he was forbidden to do. (:9) Because of this horrible sin, the Kingdom was to be taken from him. His enemies would not be utterly destroyed (:19)
And the Holy Spirit's enablement to rule as king would be taken away from him.
It stands to reason that David, after his sins, would fear the same judgment. He feared that God may choose another king to rule, or that God would take away the gift for his vocation, as had been done with Saul before him.
Spirit's Presence enables us to accomplish our duties before the Lord. These enablements are often called the "fillings" of the Spirit.
Here, the durative form of the verb means "be being filled with the Spirit." Throughout the book of Acts there are repeated fillings of the Holy Spirit to the same person. These fillings are associated with specific tasks or assignments from God. In the Bible these fillings enable believers to teach, to rule, to preach God's Word, and so on.
The church has many members (1 Cor. 12), each with his own task and ability from God. Each area of service in every area of the Christian community needs the Spirit's enablement.
Any success that honors God with our talent in being salesmen, managers, teachers, parents, spouses, programmers, deacons, elders, students, builders, fixers or servants ... is provided to us by the work of the Spirit in us.
This is the loss which David feared, and which should concern us when we do wrong. He knew he had sinned. He had seen God abandon Saul, the king before him. So David humbly offered this psalm of confession and prayer.
Even among the heathen, their ability to keep order in society or in their homes is only possible by the restraining power of God to keep their depravity contained.
Every human ability is a gift of God and may be disrupted as God determines is best. To the heathen, God brings down kings and kingdoms and punishes all sorts of personal evil. The condemning tragedy of it all is that they fail to honor God with the abilities he gives them. To the Christian, God acts as a loving Father to withdraw his enablement at times to discipline them, sometimes strongly, so that they will wake up from their sin and turn to him in even greater humility and obedience.
A few weeks ago I was working on my computer researching information for a sermon. At the time I was searching the internet for some details on a difficult text I was studying. Suddenly my internet program kept giving me errors when ever I tried to link to a web address. I became very frustrated and tried to connect again and again but with the same results. I was about to pick up the phone and call my internet provider to report that service to my area had been interrupted. Then I noticed that the lights on my VCR across the room were not on. Then I looked around my study and noticed that the numbers on my cable box were not lit. I looked down at my computer and noticed that it had switched over to batteries. The problem wasn't in my internet provider. The electricity had gone off and my cable modem was out of power. When the electricity came back on a few moments later, everything was fine again.
Another time I was getting frustrated that our remote control for our cable box wasn't working. It had given me trouble before so I figured that there was a bad connection inside. I did the high tech thing, I started banging on it to get it to work. But nothing seemed to help. Before I got in the car to take it to the cable office for replacement I thought to check the batteries. Sure enough, they were both low on power. I changed them and the remote worked perfectly.
I'm sure that in our electronic age you have all had similar experiences. You may seem to be doing everything right but still something doesn't work. Sometimes it might be as simple as forgetting to plug the device into the wall socket. Without a source of power, even the most sophisticated piece of equipment won't work.
You may have great skills as a teacher, as a mechanic, as a father or mother, as a student .... But if God withdraws the Spirit's enablement, His power, nothing seems to work right. Our failure often gets our attention back on the Lord, to ask humbly for his strength, and to remember to give him glory in all that we aspire to think, say and do.
How could we expect that our loving Heavenly Father will let us sin as parents, children, students, teachers, doctors, mechanics, musicians, businessmen, or fishermen ... yet he would not remind us of our need to keep him first in all we do.
So he may withdraw our skill for a time, let us fail, and get our attention. God calls us to every honorable job we have to do. And he also enables us with every skill we need to complete the jobs he gives us.
The original founders of Methodism were the Wesley brothers. Charles said, "If the Lord would give me wings, I'd fly." John added, "If God bids me fly, I will trust him for the wings."
If we forget that, and think we can do all we need without him, we need discipline.
David understood that very well. And he feared what would happen if God took away his ability to rule Israel well. Would he become an ineffective leader as happened to Saul? Would he be replaced?
So David begged that God would not abandon him and take away the Spirit's filling.
Should WE ever fear the loss of the Holy Spirit?
In one sense the answer is "No". There should be no fear that we would lose the Spirit's covenantal presence and ministry to us. We may not always be as aware of His presence and ministry, but its always there for God's covenant people. Yet that awareness, and our enablement to our task or calling may be withdrawn to discipline us.
The happened even to the Apostle Peter late in his ministry when he should have known better. In Galatians 2 Paul tells us this sad story. He uses Peter's Hebrew name, Cephas ...
Peter, out of fear of the Jews who were unsure of their new liberty in Christ, looked to his own wisdom instead of to the command of the Lord. He became an ineffective apostle and encouraged hypocrisy among the Jews. Paul humbly had to rebuke him. And when he did, Peter saw his foolishness.
Earlier, Peter had remembered to rest in God rather than in his own wisdom and skill: A man had been healed through him as God's agent:
God had permitted the lapse in Peter's life, and had it recorded here in Scripture, so that we might learn from his error. God does withdraw a believer's skills and success when he falls to temptation.
We need to remember to pray for and rest upon this enablement of the Holy Spirit in whatever the Lord has called us to do, and not rest in our own abilities.
David pleaded for God to restore the joy of his salvation.
He didn't ask for his salvation to be restored. That can't be taken away if its truly ours. But he confessed that his sin provoked God to remove the joy that salvation should bring. And he begged to have his spirit maintained as willing to honor the Lord in all things.
What can we do to PRESERVE the enablement of the Spirit in our lives?
The answer is obvious and simple:
It is entirely proper to pray as we begin our homework, cook a meal, teach a class, approach a customer, go to management meetings, discipline our children, work on our car, attend Sunday School class or sit waiting to worship. In all these duties, and in all others, we must learn to rely on God's enablement.
But what do we do when we have dishonored God, as we all do quite regularly? There are 4 basic duties which we see in David's example in Psalm 51: We must admit, repent, trust and reform.
The failure of King Saul shows how the unsaved deal with their sin and its horrible consequences: He rebelled against the ways God revealed as right and true. He persisted in his sin and refused to admit his corruption. He did not come to the Savior for cleansing.
He lost the Holy Spirit's enablement to his divinely appointed task. His last days were days of agony, defeat and horror. He died lost in the lonely darkness of the consequences of his sin.
What a contrast with King David's way of dealing with his sin: He too rebelled against what God said was right and good. But he confessed his corruption before God. He had his guilt cleansed away by the Savior. He paid the agonizing outward consequences of his sin. He sought the Lord in diligent prayer and confession.
And he was restored to the blessings of God's covenant forgiveness. He continued to serve as king. All his guilt was removed and his skill restored.
Our duty when we fear the removal of God's enablement in what he calls us to do each day is clear: We must admit, repent, trust and reform.
And it is all done not based on our own abilities, wisdom or determination. But with humble reliance upon God's power, redemption and his loving promises as our Heavenly Father who will not let us go.
As you begin each task, every day, remember how its success, and how well you do at it, relies upon the Spirit's enablement. Pray to be being filled with the skills that will enable you to do your best for Christ's Kingdom. And when all is done, remember to give thanks to the one from whom all blessings flow.