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Fall 2018, 40 Days of Prayer, Day 38

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Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Psalm 51:10-11

Create in me a Clean Heart
One of my favorite writers is Charles Spurgeon. He has an incredible way of explaining the scriptures. Spurgeon spent several years writing a commentary for the Book of Psalms. It is an incredible, seven volume set. His comments on Psalm 51:10 are a terrific sample of the types of pictures he paints with words. Take a moment to read Spurgeon on Psalm 51:10…

“Create. What! Has sin so destroyed us that the Creator must be called in again? What ruin has evil worked among mankind! Create in me. I, in my outward fabric, still exist; but I am empty, void. Come, then, and let Your power be seen in a new creation within my old fallen self. You made us in the world at first; Lord, make a new person in me! A clean heart, in the seventh verse he asked to be clean; now he seeks a heart suitable to that cleanliness; but he does not say, "Make my old heart clean;" he is too experienced in the hopelessness of the old nature. He would have the old man buried as a dead thing, and a new creation brought in to fill its place. None but God can create either a new heart or a new earth. Salvation is a marvelous display of supreme power; the work in us as much as that for us is wholly of Omnipotence. The affections must be rectified first, or all our nature will go amiss. The heart is the rudder of the soul, and till the Lord take it in hand we steer in a false and foul way. O Lord, You who once made me, be pleased to make me anew, and in my most secret parts renew me. Renew a right spirit within me. It was there once, Lord, put it there again. The law on my heart has become like an inscription hard to read: write it anew, gracious Maker. Remove the evil as I have entreated You; but, O replace it with good. The two sentences make a complete prayer. Create what is not there at all; renew that which is there, but is in a sadly feeble state.”

Prayer Focus
Thank You God for Your creative power. You have made the heavens and the earth. As David asked, so I ask, create in me a clean heart. Clean my thoughts and my attitudes. Create in me a clean heart so that I might be used by You to bring honor to Your name.

Sermon by John Wesley, The New Birth
“Ye must be born again.” John 3:7
For the same reason, except he be born again, none can be happy even in this world. For it is not possible, in the nature of things, that a man should be happy who is not holy. Even the poor, ungodly poet could tell us, Nemo malus felix: “no wicked man is happy.” The reason is plain: All unholy tempers are uneasy tempers: Not only malice, hatred, envy jealousy, revenge, create a present hell in the breast; but even the softer passions, if not kept within due bounds, give a thousand times more pain than pleasure. Even “hope,” when “deferred,” (and how often must this be the case!) “makes the heart sick;” and every desire which is not according to the will of God is liable to “pierce” us “through with many sorrows:” And all those general sources of sin — pride, self-will, and idolatry — are, in the same proportion as they prevail, general sources of misery. Therefore, as long as these reign in any soul, happiness has no place there. But they must reign till the bent of our nature is changed, that is, till we are born again; consequently, the new birth is absolutely necessary in order to happiness in this world, as well as in the world to come.

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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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