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Fall 2018, 40 Days of Prayer, Day 37

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“Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” Psalm 51:1-2

The Psalms of David
David’s sin with Bathsheba occurred after over two decades of David’s reign as the King of Israel. From the time of his youth, he had composed music for a variety of purposes, even singing before the prior king of Israel. Prior to writing Psalm 51, David had written many other psalms over his life as a shepherd and during the time of his public life as king. In fact, about half of all of the psalms in the Book of Psalms were composed by David. That means David wrote over 80 songs with a wide variety of themes. He wrote the praise songs of the nation, including songs of liberation and songs of thanksgiving. He wrote songs that described the creative power of God. He wrote about the lovingkindness of God in daily life. He crafted several psalms that reflected on God’s rescuing power in times of trouble for Israel. David even wrote intensely personal songs that described God’s faithfulness when enemies surrounded him. All of these psalms identified aspects of the character of God as the underpinnings of praise and worship.

Just for the sake of comparison, consider some of the introductions to David’s psalms.

Psalm 4, “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Be gracious to me and hear my prayer.”

Psalm 8, “Oh Lord our Lord how majestic is Your name in all the earth Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!”

Psalm 16, “I will bless the LORD who has counseled me; Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night. I have set the LORD continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”

Psalm 29, “Ascribe to the Lord, O sons of the mighty, Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.”

Psalm 34, “I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul will make its boast in the LORD;

Psalm 59, “Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; Set me securely on high away from those who rise up against me.”

Psalm 101, “I will sing of lovingkindness and justice, To You, O Lord, I will sing praises.”

Psalm 103, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name.”

Psalm 139, “O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar...and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it.”

Psalm 144, “Blessed be the LORD, my rock, Who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle; My lovingkindness and my fortress, My stronghold and my deliverer, My shield and He in whom I take refuge, Who subdues my people under me.”

Some of these psalms are so hopeful in their message. Some of them are so worshipful in their expressions. Many of them are directed toward God, a cry of the heart of the psalmist. In Psalm 51, David cried out to God, which David had done in many of his psalms as we just read. Only in this psalm he doesn’t cry out a blessing to God. He doesn’t bless God for the creation. He doesn’t shout thanks to God for His past provisions for Israel. He doesn’t ask God to rescue Israel from her enemies. David doesn’t even seek God’s rescue from his own personal enemies. The Book of Psalms is filled with all of these types of expressions to God by David. There is a striking contrast in Psalm 51 when compared to David’s other writings. In Psalm 51, David asked God to save him. Only this time, David asked God to save him from God. God and His holy character became the enemy to David. David and his adulterous and murderous acts stoked the anger of His Divine Adversary. Later in this psalm he declares, “Against You and You only have I sinned so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge.” David prayed to God in order to be rescued from God, from His just judgment and wrath. Often times we will say, “Jesus died to save us from our sins.” This is true. But the reason we need to be saved from our sins is God’s holy character, God’s justice and righteousness. Outside of the grace of God in Christ, we would bear the full weight of God’s just punishment for sin. In Christ, God has saved us from His own wrath. The beauty in this stark realization is that God longs to extend His mercy. Isaiah 30:18 says it this way, “Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him.” In Christ God saves us from His own just wrath. In Christ God saves us from Himself, which is something He loves to do. We deserve wrath. He moved heaven and earth so that we could receive mercy. For those who have faith in Christ, the love of God has conquered.

Prayer Focus
O God, You have saved me. You have saved me from my sin. You have saved me from the consequence of my sin. You have provided Jesus Christ as my substitute. I confess that outside of Christ I deserve a just condemnation. In Christ, You now see me as completely forgiven. Thank You for Your grace.
Sermon by John Wesley, The New Birth
“Ye must be born again.” John 3:7
It is not difficult for any who has considered these things, to see the necessity of the new birth, and to answer the Third question, to what end, is it necessary that we should be born again? It is very easily discerned, that this is necessary, First, in order to holiness. For what is holiness according to the oracles of God? Not a bare external religion, a round of outward duties, how many they be, and how exactly performed. No: Gospel holiness is no less than the image of God stamped upon the heart; it is no other than the whole mind which was in Christ Jesus; it consists of all heavenly affections and tempers mingled together in one. It implies such a continual, thankful love to Him who has not withheld from us his Son, his only son, as makes it natural, and in a manner necessary to us, to love every child of man; as fills us “with bowels of mercies, kindness, gentleness, long-suffering:” It is such a love of God as teaches us to be blameless in all manner of conversation; as enables us to present our souls and bodies, all we are and all we have, all our thoughts, words, and actions, a continual sacrifice to God, acceptable through Christ Jesus. Now, this holiness can have no existence till we are renewed in the image of our mind. It cannot commence in the soul till that change be wrought; till, by the power of the Highest overshadowing us, we are “brought from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God;” that is, till we are born again; which, therefore, is absolutely necessary in order to holiness. But “without holiness no man shall see the Lord,” shall see the face of God in glory. Of consequence, the new birth is absolutely necessary in order to eternal salvation. Men may indeed flatter themselves (so desperately wicked and so deceitful is the heart of man!) that they may live in their sins till they come to the last gasp, and yet afterwards live with God; and thousands do really believe, that they have found a broad way which leads not to destruction. “What danger,” say they, “can a woman be in that is so harmless and so virtuous? What fear is there that so honest a man, one of so strict morality, should miss of heaven; especially if, over and above all this, they constantly attend on church and sacrament?” One of these will ask with all assurance, “What! Shall not I do as well as my neighbors?” Yes, as well as your unholy neighbors; as well as your neighbors that die in their sins! For you will all drop into the pit together, into the nethermost hell! You will all lie together in the lake of fire; “the lake of fire burning with brimstone.” Then, at length, you will see (but God grant you may see it before!) the necessity of holiness in order to glory; and, consequently, of the new birth, since none can be holy, except he be born again.

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Fall 2018, 40 Days of Prayer, Day 36

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“Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” Psalm 51:1-2

The Prophetic Voice and the Plea for Mercy
“Be gracious to me…” with these words David began pouring out his heart to God. We don’t know how much time had elapsed between Nathan’s confrontational visit to David’s palace and the crafting of this psalm. The title of the psalm, which many believe dates back to the time of the original writing, says, “A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” This psalm may have been an immediate reaction to that encounter, written that very day by David. During the confrontation Nathan told David a story, the account of a wealthy man who had stolen the family pet of one of his neighbors. He stole the neighbor’s one and only pet lamb in order to serve lamb chops to an out of town guest. The wealthy man had plenty of lambs in his own herd from which to choose, but instead committed a theft that left his poor neighbor devastated. Nathan was a known prophetic voice in Israel at the time. David may have assumed that this “pet theft” account was what prompted Nathan’s visit to the palace. Nathan, as a voice of righteousness may have advised David on God’s standards of righteousness within the nation of Israel on several prior occasions. With the trap set, David took the bait. Incensed at such a callous disregard for another citizen of the kingdom of Israel, King David declared, “Surely this man must die.” Nathan, in one of the most dramatic moments in human history, pointed his finger at David. He revealed the true identity of the villain of the story with these words. “You are the man.”

With a flood of emotions, David’s heart must have nearly stopped. “I’ve been found out.” “What have I done?” “Who else knows?” “God knows!” “What was I thinking to get myself in this mess?” “What happens when my family finds out?” “What happens when nation finds out?” “I am guilty of adultery and murder.” David must have also realized the significance of the condemnation he pronounced at the end of Nathan’s story of the wealthy sheep stealer. “That man must die!” If the unconscionable violation of a neighbor’s human/pet relationship warranted a death sentence, how much more did the theft of a neighbor’s wife followed by the murder of the faithful husband warrant a death sentence? I can imagine that during those sleepless nights or maybe during one of those fretful days following Nathan’s visit that David sat down with a pen in hand to put into words the volume of emotion in his heart. Guilt, shame, embarrassment, fear, despair, helplessness, and a host of other emotions surely dominated David’s thoughts as he wrote this psalm.

As serious as David’s violation of God’s standard for righteousness was, in some ways, David speaks for the needs of all of us. All of us need the grace of God. All of us must come to realize that God is absolutely holy and we are not.

The Character of God and the Confidence of the Sinner
David opened this psalm by begging for grace. “Be gracious to me, O God…” The first line was the request, but in the next line David appealed to the character of God, “according to Your lovingkindness.” The very God whose holiness and righteousness established the law, is also the same God whose character of love and grace gave David a glimmer of hope. David had violated the law of God in several ways throughout his life. However, this moment of sin, the committing of adultery and murder, gave clarity to the seriousness of David’s rebellion against God. God is a God of relationships. God’s holy character is now on a collision course with God’s grace. This collision comes to infinite horror and beauty in the cross of Jesus Christ. In the cross of Christ, the justice of God for David’s rebellion comes into a head on collision with the grace of God. Christ bore David’s sin on the cross, preserving the justice of God. God in Christ offered the forgiveness of sins, preserving the grace of God. Though Christ had not yet come when David committed adultery and murder, according to Romans 3, God looked ahead to the cross of Christ for the sins committed by individuals like Abraham, Moses and David. For us, God looks back to the cross of Christ for our sins. In Christ our sins are forgiven by our righteous and gracious God. In Christ, just as David, we too appeal to the character of God. He is holy and thus we are accountable for our sins. He is also gracious and offers freely to us the forgiveness of sins.

It was the character of God that drove David to the feet of God. Grace and mercy were surely undeserved for David but he flung Himself on the love and kindness of God. He clung to the compassion of God. The seriousness of David’s sin in his adultery and murder provided clarity for David. The egregious nature of his sin clarified for David his desperate need for the compassion of God. However, in reality, all of us have this same need. Since God is holy and just, He must hold us accountable for our sin, even the sins that we perceive to be “less serious sins.” This truth applies to the King of Israel caught in adultery. This truth applies to the church going, Bible reading, teenage caught with a bad attitude toward their parent. This truth applies to the one caught in the conspiracy to commit murder. This truth applies to the grandmother who regularly attends Sunday School but struggles with jealousy or pride. Sin separates us from God. Sin separates us from Him because He is holy. But just as David, we throw ourselves on the grace of God. God is a God of relationships and He longs to forgive the contrite hearted person.

Prayer Focus
God, I confess that you are absolutely holy. You are justified when You hold me to a standard of righteousness. Oh God, I read in the Bible that You are also a God of great mercy, grace, compassion and kindness. I confess that I am in need of Your mercy. There are sins I have committed against You that come to my mind. But I also know that many of my sins against You I have committed without even stopping long enough to see my actions as sin. I throw myself on Your mercy. Thank you for taking my sin away through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sermon by John Wesley, The New Birth
“Ye must be born again.” John 3:7
From here it appears, what is the nature of the new birth. It is that great change which God works in the soul when he brings it to life; when he raises it from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. It is the change wrought in the whole soul by the almighty Spirit of God when it is “created anew in Christ Jesus;” when it is “renewed after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness;” when the love of the world is changed into the love of God; pride into humility; passion into meekness; hatred, envy, malice, into a sincere, tender, disinterested love for all mankind. In a word, it is that change whereby the earthly, sensual, devilish mind is turned into the “mind which was made in Christ Jesus.” This is the nature of the new birth: “So is every one that is born of the again….every who is born of the Spirit.”

 

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Fall 2018, 40 Days of Prayer, Day 35

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“For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. By Your favor do good to Zion; Build the walls of Jerusalem. Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices, in burnt offering and whole burnt offering; Then young bulls will be offered on Your altar.” Psalm 51:16-19

The Joy of Religious Expression
God takes no delight in heartless sacrifice. He does not delight in religious expression when the heart is far from Him. When sin dominates, religious rites offend God. However, God loves our tangible acts of worship. He loves our worship when our hearts are engaged. In verse 16, David stated God’s displeasure with sacrifices. However, just two sentences later in verse 18, he states that God delights in sacrifices. What a difference verse 17 makes! When we have contrite and broken hearts before God, He receives our worship. The heart of the worshiper is the difference in God’s attitude toward our worship. David distinguished between the sacrifice offered in verse 18 from the rejected sacrifice described in 16 with the word “righteous.” God loves “righteous sacrifices.” God distains religious expression offered without a right relationship with Him. God is a God of relationships. If our relationship with Him isn’t right, no amount of religious actions can bridge the relationship. But God loves it when we use tangible expressions to worship Him when our relationship with Him is right. When we approach Him in humility and contrition for sin, He welcomes our worship because He is a God of relationships. As we approach this coming Sunday, now is the time to prepare our hearts, minds and bodies for a time of worship. There is great joy in bringing to God tangible expression of our love for Him.

Prayer Focus
God, prepare my heart for worship. Use the gathering of the church and our offering of song, prayer, service, fellowship and giving as a means to please You and to fill our hearts with joy. Reveal to us any areas that are causing a barrier to our relationship with You. Refine us and restore us. Maximize our worship of You and Maximize our joy in our relationship with You. Amen.

Sermon by John Wesley, The New Birth
“Ye must be born again.” John 3:7
Before a child is born into the world he has eyes, but sees not; he has ears, but does not hear. He has a very imperfect use of any other sense. He has no knowledge of any of the things of the world, or any natural understanding. To that manner of existence which he then has, we do not even give the name of life. It is then only when a man is born, that we say he begins to live. For as soon as he is born, be begins to see the light, and the various objects with which he is encompassed. His ears are then opened, and he hears the sounds which successively strike upon them. At the same time, all the other organs of sense begin to be exercised upon their proper objects. He likewise breathes, and lives in a manner wholly different from what he did before. While a man is in a mere natural state, before he is born of God, he has, in a spiritual sense, eyes and sees not; a thick impenetrable veil lies upon them; he has ears, but hears not; he is utterly deaf to what he is most of all concerned to hear. His other spiritual senses are all locked up: He is in the same condition as if he did not have them. Hence he has no knowledge of God; he is not at all acquainted with him. He has no true knowledge of the things of God, either of spiritual or eternal things; therefore, though he is a living man, he is a dead. But as soon as he is born of God, there is a total change in all these particulars. The “eyes of his understanding are opened;” (such is the language of the great Apostle;) and, He who of old “commanded light to shine out of darkness shining on his heart, he sees the light of the glory of God,” his glorious love, “in the face of Jesus Christ.” His ears being opened, he is now capable of hearing the inward voice of God, saying, “Be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you;” “go and sin no more.” This is the purpose of what God speaks to his heart; although perhaps not in these very words. He is now ready to hear whatsoever “He that teaches us knowledge” is pleased, from time to time, to reveal to him. He “feels in his heart,” to use the language of our Church, “the mighty working of the Spirit of God;” not in a gross, carnal sense as the men of the world stupidly and willfully misunderstand the expression; though they have been told again and again, we mean thereby neither more nor less than this: He feels, is inwardly sensible of, the graces which the Spirit of god works in his heart. He feels, he is conscious of, a “peace which passes all understanding.” He many times feels such a joy in God as is “unspeakable, and full of glory.” He feels “the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost which is given unto him;” and all his spiritual senses are then exercised to discern spiritual good and evil. By the use of these, he is daily increasing in the knowledge of God, of Jesus Christ whom he hath sent and to all the things pertaining to his inward kingdom. And now he may be properly said to live: God having quickened him by his Spirit, he is alive to God through Jesus Christ. He lives a life which the world knows not, a “life which is hid with Christ in God.” God is continually breathing, as it were, upon the soul; and his soul is breathing unto God. Grace is descending into his heart; and prayer and praise ascending to heaven: And by this intercourse between God and man, this fellowship with the Father and the Son, as by a kind of spiritual respiration, the life of God in the soul is sustained; and the child of God grows up, till he comes to the “full measure of the stature of Christ.”

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