Sermon delivered at Grace Presbyterian Church, December 3, 2000
The Fruit of Restoration - Psalm 51, Part 7
No body likes to get in trouble.
Similarly we are sometimes crushed by debts we owe, or humbled by calamities. Its wonderful to be told that the problem is finally behind us and that things will be ok; that our debt has been cleared, that we are cured of a disease, that a surgery went well, that some bad experience or threat is over.
That kind of news makes us want to thank the one responsible. Often we're glad to be able to help others going through our same suffering. And certainly we find it hard not to let our joy show.
Luke tells of a situation in the life of Jesus Christ that illustrates this principle. In Luke 7, verses 36-50, Simon the Pharisee had invited Jesus to his home.
A woman with a sinful reputation came to honor Jesus. She came thankfully because she knew that she was forgiven for her sins. She brought an costly alabaster jar of very expensive perfume. Moved with gratitude and great emotion she walked up behind Jesus and began to weep. Her tears dropped down onto Jesus feet. She loosened her hair and began wiping his feet with it, and began kissing them. Then she broke open the jar and anointed his feet with the perfume. With no thought for social customs, she was overcome with gratitude and love.
Ignoring the rules of the Pharisees, Jesus didn't rebuke her. He permitted her to continue! Simon didn't say anything out loud. But he thought to himself (Luke 7:39)
But not only did Jesus know who this woman was, he knew her heart, and he knew Simon's inner thought too!
So Jesus answered the unspoken concerns of Simon's heart with a parable. :40-42
Two men were in debt to the same lender. One owed 500 denarii, another owed 50 denarii. Neither was able to pay his debt. But to their relief, the lender canceled both debts.
Then Jesus asked Simon, which of the two will love him most? Simon answered very carefully, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more." Jesus told Simon that he was right. That's what the parable was about!
Then Jesus explained the lesson. He not only interprets it for us, he applies it. (:44-50) First he pointed out Simon's own lack of hospitality. Simon offered him no water to wash his feet, no towel, no kiss of welcome, no anointing oil. He had shown no concern to honor his guest.
But this woman washed his feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, had not stopped kissing his feet, and brought expensive perfume to anoint him.
Then Jesus came to his main point, he confirmed that the woman's sins had been forgiven.
Jesus could say that she had been forgiven, because she had shown her love by her service. The whole point of this parable is to show the source of love and devotion. The woman's sins had been, and continued to be, forgiven. We know this because of the love she showed to the one who was her Savior.
Simon showed no love, no sense of service, no evidence of forgiveness at all. The one forgiven much will love much.
Nathan also used a parable when he came to expose King David's sin.
David felt the weight of his sin after his secret adultery with Bathsheba, after his attempts to cover it up, and his conspiracy with a military commander to have Bathsheba's husband killed.
But the prophet Nathan hadn't come to David alone, the Holy Spirit was there too. David was humbled repentantly before God and wrote this wonderful Psalm we know as Psalm 51. We have already studied the first 12 verses where he admits his guilt and offense against God, and he expresses his confidence in God's promises of grace.
Psalm 51 For the choir director. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
Assured of restoration David continued ... He hoped that others would be helped by his restoration.
David's concern wasn't limited to his own benefits.
He wanted to teach them God's ways to convert them to God.
So David wanted God to make him an example of what's right and of the grace that restores.
How is it that David's example would help teach sinners so they would be converted? Being converted isn't changing religions, the way the word is used so much today. Its the change produced in someone's life by God's grace.
God delivers his word through teachers, and by showing the result in the lives of his people. This is how David hoped to help others who were sinners as he was.
Often those who have overcome a problem can be used in a special way to help those struggling. There are support groups made up of those who have recovered from diseases, or who have gone through serious tragedies. As the great Pastor Charles Spurgeon said, "Reclaimed poachers make the best gamekeepers." In our modern age we can say, reformed hackers make great computer security engineers.
And those delivered from serious sins can have a special ministry of encouragement. Of course no one should ever glamorize sin or suffering, nor should anyone make it seem good to fall so that we can specially help others. But it encourages those saved from problems, to know they may have a special ability to help.
The Bible gives many examples where God used penitent sinners as his means of ministry:
The redeemed become an example of God's deliverance to others who also need that salvation. Don't ever let your sin become a deterrent to keep you from being a witness of the gospel. Instead, your deliverance should motivate you all the more to tell the good news. Bishop William Cowper wrote,
Those delivered from sin are the ones God uses in helping others find redemption. The only testimony admitted in a court trial is what comes from first-hand witnesses. Those who have merely heard someone else say something are not allowed to testify.
This is why God's word calls the redeemed his witnesses. They have seen his work first hand and can know the shame of guilt, and appreciate the triumphant message of grace.
David had confidence that he would be used to help others to be converted.
We need to overcome our fallen nature that suggests that the ungodly or fallen believers are beyond hope. Never forget that God promises to save sinners just like that! God is able. And his promises can never fail. He converts troubled hearts. He even redeems the disgusting and criminal heart in every sinner.
The elect are invisible until they believe. And they will not believe until God brings the gospel to them. And if we reject the opportunity to be God's witnesses, he will use others instead of us. But if we obey and bring the message of liberating truth to the struggling people around us, there will be wonderful rewards:
So David continues in Psalm 51 ...
David doesn't excuse his sin, or minimize what he had done.
It may seem like a strange qualification for a witness of God's righteousness, that he would admit to bloodguiltiness. But humble repentance is a more important characteristic for the believer, than an imagined sense of innocence or superiority.
We had a family doctor at one time, in the age before HMO's and PPO's. One time Dr. Hubbard had to send me to a surgeon to have a tumor removed. The surgeon was good in the operating room, but had a reputation for being short and cold toward his patients. Some months later I was in for a check up and Dr. Hubbard asked if I remembered how harsh the surgeon had been. I remembered very well. Then he said, He's not that way any more. He had since undergone surgery himself. Now he was noticeably more understanding and open with his patients.
Harsh times and our failures can be great teachers, even though the lessons are unwelcome. Oh, that we would learn quickly, when God humbles us by our sin and guilt, to be all the more driven to see others delivered too.
David expected that his restored soul wouldn't be able to contain his joy.
It would break forth with singing about God's righteousness. Songs about God's goodness to us fill thousands of different editions of hymnals. Its a very natural response of a redeemed heart.
The joyful song David expected his tongue to sing would be about God's righteousness. But wouldn't we rather expect his song to be about mercy and forgiveness? Why righteousness? There's a good reason! Considering what he had said in this Psalm, he was confessing deep guilt. He knew that his offense was against God, which deserved infinite condemnation.
David knew God is holy and just. So he didn't merely ask God to overlook his sin. He knew that every offense must be satisfied justly. So if he was promised forgiveness and restoration, that must mean the debt would be paid! Though he knew less of the Savior's work than we do, yet that promise given in the law and by the prophets was his hope too.
He didn't hope in a divine amnesia where somehow his sins were just overlooked. That kind of mercy and forgiveness is an unfounded myth. It would be righteousness disregarded and justice violated. But a righteous provision in his place was a more wonderful act of love and grace. So God's righteousness, imparted to him by the work of a loving Savior, was a wonderful theme for his songs of praise.
Musical talent isn't what makes the hymns of the church so wonderful. Its the hearts behind the voices that break forth in glorious praise that makes them such treasures to our Father in Heaven. He desires our humble repentance and trust more than our vocal chords and diaphragms.
David's maturity before God came as he humbled himself in childlike submission to grace. Isn't it amazing how we grow up, when we shrink down.
Our humble confession and praise is a good lesson to the world and to struggling believers.
How sad, that our tongues and lips often curse when calamity comes. Or they whimper in depression when guilt weighs down on us.
But lips, tongues and mouths were designed to sing praises to God. The next time you use your mouth, lips and tongues, remember why you have them. God displaces a world of wickedness when he looses our tongue to sing praises.
How wonderful to have those parts converted back to their original function. That's the good fruit our restoration brings.
Like the woman who was driven to anoint Jesus' feet with her tears, like the man who loved much because he was forgiven a great debt, like David whose sins of blood-guiltiness were paid for by a Savior who was yet to come, we need to own up to own debt, and appreciate its payment by grace at such a great price.
In the one who is forgiven much, there is much love -- and it can't contain itself inside. It will stir in us an uncontainable desire to tell others and help them discover God's grace too. And it will make our hearts break forth in humble praise and thanksgiving.
Where is our love? our daily and Sabbath praise? our testimony to others? Where is our passion to help others find the joy of salvation?
It ought to be the natural desire of the truly redeemed soul. May God stir our hearts to that kind of humble love and thankful service.