Everybody wants to be the first, the one to overcome, the one to break the barrier. In this world, we are told to do, try, perform. But, sometimes, we feel like we’ve hit a wall. What if true living was an unlearning? What if real life was not found in performance, but a person? It’s a new year, a new opportunity, maybe even a new life. Let’s find a way through the threshold.
Well, good morning to everybody, and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We’re starting a new series this weekend. It’s called “Through the Threshold.” For those of you all who are regular attenders and may have been here at Grace for a few years, you know that at the beginning of every year I like to sort of revisit why we’re here and what we’re doing, and sort of just re-up all of that stuff. But, as we were preparing for 2018, we have to sort of prepare a little bit in advance when we do any series because we’ve got artwork to do, bumper videos and all of those things. The word that just kept coming to me over and over again was the word “threshold.”
It made sense, at one level, just personally for me as the pastor here. I knew that 2018 would be a big year for us. I knew we were probably either going to have to go to more services, maybe we’d find something in terms of being able to move or start the move to another location. I knew there was just a lot of things going on. I knew in my own personal life there was a lot of things that were happening. And then, as I started talking to people and realizing, “Wow, 2018 is a big year for a lot of people.” And you look at the world and all the things that are going on. The word just kept sort of dancing in my mind. So, I remember I flipped on my computer and went to a dictionary. I pulled up the word “threshold.” One of the definitions that came up was “the magnitude or intensity that must be exceeded for a certain reaction, phenomenon, result or condition to occur and be manifested.”
And that made sense. I mean, we talk about thresholds. If you were to enter into a house, we talk about entering through the threshold there of the door. So, if you go into the house, you’ve got to go through that threshold. Obviously, the result at that point would be that you’re inside the house. If you’ve ever gone to school, there’s usually some sort of precondition to get into the school. You’ve got to have the right ACT or SAT scores, the right GPA or maybe a combination of both of those. So, what do you have to exceed or what do you have to do to get in? That’s a threshold.
So, as I’m sitting there thinking about that, I like visual stuff. I’m a visual person. So, I clicked “images” on my computer, and a number of images came up. But, the one that I immediately went towards was this one, because it’s just so simple. It’s like, “Ah, this makes total sense.”
Here’s the line. Threshold. Here’s all the stuff below the line. Here’s the stuff above the line. And it makes sense. I mean, if you showed this to any group of people, as a general rule, whether you were talking about business, whether you were talking about sales, whether you were talking about marriages, whether you were talking about finances or health or whatever you’d be talking about, everybody understands, “Hey, to get to where you want to go, you’ve got to get above this line to do it.”
The way we learn in life to do that is you try harder, do a little bit more, read another book, engage a little bit more, make more phone calls. Whatever it may be. And we learn that. So, as we walk through life and we just live life, we pick up things along the way. We’re inculcated, we’re barraged with just life. You know? If you want to get through that threshold, you’ve got to go bust through, you’ve got to exceed, you’ve got to do these types of things. And then, somewhere along the way, we’re confronted with Christianity. Sometimes we’re confronted with Christianity and people are like, “I don’t want to have anything to do with that.”
You may be here today, and you may not really think you’re a Christian. You may know you’re not a Christian. You may be thinking, “Yeah, sometimes that stuff just seems to be a little strange.”
But, for those of us that decided, “Hey, you know what? I do want to follow Jesus,” what we find is that the normal ways that we live life, just the normal ways of living, many times, when we go to Scripture, it’s different. It doesn’t seem to be the same. I mean, we work really hard so that we can earn a paycheck. Many of us would say, “Well, to get a better paycheck, I work harder.”
Okay. Well then, we come to the Scripture and we’re told that there’s nothing that we can do, at all, to merit our salvation. And that seems a little strange to us because we’ve gone through life trying to get past the thresholds, and it’s more performance, more doing, more of those things to get to where we want to be. And then we read Scripture and it’s like, “Okay. Well, that doesn’t work with my salvation.”
And then, the more we read Scripture, the more we see things, the more we realize, “Man, this is a totally different world than the world I’ve been living in. This idea of turning the other cheek? I mean, come on. You saw the Rambo movies. That’s not what we do. Loving enemies? That’s crazy. Or forgiving seventy times seven?”
It’s almost like we’ve engaged in a different world when we start to live out our Christianity. So, going through the threshold in terms of Christianity, in many ways we have to sort of rethink some things. If you read Scripture, you’ll see that. Scripture is really clear that as we engage God, it’s a reprogramming for us. You know, it talks about renewing your mind. It’s almost as if we were running a PC operating system, a Windows platform, and what God did is He downloaded a Mac platform into our lives. So, it’s not a matter of doing the Mac platform. It’s a matter of understanding what’s been downloaded into you and me.
So, what I’d like to submit to you — and it’s the big idea for this series, and the big idea for the next several weeks as we go through this — is that we need to learn to really live life by unlearning the life we’ve been living. I want you to think about that for a minute. There’s a reprogramming when it comes to walking out this thing with God. And going back here to the chart, to get past the threshold in life, it’s performance. It’s all the things that we do. In passing the threshold with Jesus, it’s not the same exact way.
In fact, this is the way I’d like to submit it to you: The threshold for real life, the life that God has for you and me, isn’t more works or more performance, but a better understanding of who God is. Which means this is much more of a truth encounter for you and me than it is a doing encounter for you and me. And I’m not opposed to doing things. I’m not opposed to working harder and all that stuff. That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is when we come to a relationship with God, the first and foremost thing that we need to understand is that it’s more about learning the wisdom that God has shared with you and me than it is doing the works that we naturally think.
So, let me sort of sum this up: In life, we learn certain things and we develop certain habits and characteristics. Much like there’s breeds of dogs. I’m not saying humans are like dogs by any stretch of the imagination, but we all know that there’s breeds of dogs. And those dogs are, by nature, sort of who they are. We bought a dog a couple of years ago. You may have heard of the breed. It’s called “Satan.”
This dog was an Australian Shepherd dog. So, by nature, he liked to herd. Well, we have six kids. So, this dude would go around the house biting at the feet of my kids, and they would all be running around and he’s just herding them. He’s just trying to get them in the room. And they’re crying, weeping and all this stuff. Weeping and gnashing of teeth. You know? My wife, Mindy, says, “We’ve got to train him.”
And I’m like, “Oh, this should be brilliant.”
So, she brings this nice lady over that has this thing. It’s a clicker. I’m thinking, “You really think you’re going to sit on the floor and click this thing a couple of times and this dog is going to do what you want it to do?”
I’m like, “Impress me. This is going to be great.”
Well, it didn’t work. I mean, he’s chasing everybody and doing all this stuff. Well, I came home one day from work, and when I walked into the house, I see my son Jack. He was a lot smaller back then than he is now. I see Jack running through my house. He’s literally running as fast as he can. This dog has its paws on his shoulders, okay? It’s biting the back of his neck, and it’s running along with its legs as Jack’s running through the house screaming and crying.
I’m like, “In the name of Jesus, you’re going to another house.”
So, we gave him to a wonderful family. The dog is great. He can go be a shepherd. He’s just not going to be the shepherd of my house. So, there you go. But, I say that to say that these dogs, by nature, sort of know who they are. As we go through life, each of us sort of acquires a sort of nature that we have. One of the damaging things that we do is we take that nature — our worldviews, our nationalism, or whether it may be; the way that we see life — and then we come to faith and we say, “I’m going to follow Jesus.”
What we try to do is we try to put those two things together, and it just becomes a disaster because the understanding that we have of God is fused with the natures of things that we’ve learned in this world. And God doesn’t work that way. His program is not our way. I mean, you can see that when Jesus is before Pontius Pilate in John 19. Pilate has his way of the way the world runs. He has his idea of how a nation runs. He has his idea of power and his idea of truth. And it couldn’t be any more opposite of Jesus’ view.
In fact, Pilate’s a great post-modern deconstructionist. I mean, he looks at Jesus and he says, “What is truth?”
To Pilate, everybody’s got their own truth. And that’s just not biblically right. I mean, there is a truth. Jesus lives differently. And power. Jesus is like, “No. My kingdom doesn’t work the way your kingdom works. We don’t fight the way you all fight. We don’t do that.”
So, we live in this tension. Of trying to figure out all the things that God has for us, but oftentimes it’s fused with these things that we’ve brought through life. And the damaging thing is when we start trying to fuse these things together and they don’t work. What they do is they lead us to faulty understandings of God.
And here’s the reality: A faulty understanding or faulty understandings of God, what they ultimately do is they lead us to fear and misery. You see it oftentimes in people’s lives. They’ve grown up and maybe had a bad relationship with their dad. Then they come to faith and they see God as their father, and they don’t understand how to do that because their understanding of God as their father is so tied to their understanding of their earthly father. So, they struggle through all of those things. And that faulty understanding leads them to fear. They fear God. When you fear God long enough or you fear enough things long enough, what happens is you end up in sort of a depressive funk. We see this in the Church. It’s sad. But, you see so many Christians are fearful, and so many Christians are just desperate and miserable.
What it does is it keeps us from a threshold of abundant life that God has for you and me. So, what I want to do over the next several weeks is I want to give us an opportunity to embrace some of these things that are a little counter-cultural to us. Little things that are counter-intuitive to us, but might be the very things, if we were to embrace them by faith, that lead to incredible freedom in our lives.
So, what I want to do this weekend with the church is I want to talk to you about living what I call a “confessional life.” A confessional life is a life that is vulnerable before God and before others, which is way different than what we normally think here in the west. You’re told as a young kid, “Don’t ever let them see you sweat.”
Your dad will grab you out on the ball field and say, “Man, you’ve got to suck it up. Don’t do that. Hold that in. Don’t let anybody know what’s really going on on the inside. Bottle that up. Project strength.”
You know? The last thing you want to do is project weakness, because people will take advantage of you. So, project strength. I mean, we’re just invaded with these types of thoughts in our minds as we grow up. So, this idea of living a vulnerable life, this idea of being open and honest, this idea of living a confessional life of truly saying what’s going on in our lives is really difficult for you and me.
In fact, I talked to a med student just after the last service who had been here, and he was saying to me, “It’s interesting. I worked with addiction this last couple of weeks. It’s so amazing. It’s only when those people are able to fully say, ‘Okay, this is what’s going on,’ that they really start seeing help.”
But, for some reason, we like to hold that in. And 70-80% of everybody that you know has something they’re holding on the inside that nobody else knows, and they don’t really want to talk about it, and they don’t want to share it. And the reason we live that way is because fundamentally, this is what we think: We think if anybody knew everything that we had done, every bad decision we had made, every person that we had hurt, every attempt at something that we had failed, some of the stuff that we had done that was really bad, some of the things that we had thought that were terrible things — we think if anybody truly knew the true me or the true you, there is no way they would love us. And that’s why we hold it in.
Scripture teaches us a completely different way to live. So, what we’re going to do is we’re going to go through Psalm 32 this weekend. As we go through Psalm 32 — it’s 11 verses — we’re going to see that this is a confessional psalm. This is a psalm that was done in the liturgy of Israel. They did it corporately. This was probably a psalm that was recited or chanted. What it did is it taught the children of Israel about this confessional life. And it’s going to be a little counter-intuitive, all of us, and sometimes it might poke a little bit, because many of us have things that we don’t want anybody to know at all. So, this is going to be a little exposing, but what I’d like to tell you is that by unlearning some of the things that we hold to be true, and grasping God’s truth, will set us free.
So, let’s look at Psalm 32. It starts off with what’s called a superscription. That’s a heading. They are not divinely inspired, but they are in the text. It says it’s “A Maskil of David.” I’m not a Hebrew scholar. I know enough Hebrew to be dangerous, but the idea of Maskil here, if you get two good scholars together, usually there’s two camps on what that means. One will say it’s a musical type of instrument, so this was a song that was put together in a harmonious way. Others will say, “Well, ‘maskil’ comes from a root word that means to teach or to instruct, so this is an instructional song on a confessional life.”
I would like to submit to you that I don’t think you have to go to one or the other. I think this is a song, this is a musical piece that was put together to instruct and to help the children of Israel to understand how to live a harmonious life between God and between others. I think that it really will speak to you and me because we’ve gathered here in a corporate way, we’re going to read this together in a corporate sense, and I think we’re going to feel the magnitude of the psalm. And I think by the end we’re going to see some freedom that this psalm brings to our lives. So, let’s get into the psalm.
He starts off, “Blessed is the one...”
Now, I stopped it there. He says some other things, but I just stopped there because if you’re really intuitive of you’ve read Scripture and it’s in your bones, it’s in your fabric, you’ve really spent time in Scripture, when you hear the word “blessed,” especially in the psalms, it takes you back to Psalm 1. I mean, this is the way the Psalter starts in Psalm 1. And David wrote that psalm.
It says, “Blessed is the one who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
So, when we start off here, the Psalter starts off, this collection of 150 psalms starts off with living a life of holiness, pursuing God, not doing this and not doing that, and all of these great things. But, this psalm starts off differently. And it should echo. “Blessed is the one.” You should be thinking,” Maybe Psalm 1?”
But, he says, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven.”
There’s just an absolutely surety that everybody has done wrong at some point in their life, but he’s telling us what the blessed life is. And, let me tell you, when you read “the blessed life,” the blessed life is not “do these things and you will be blessed.” It is “you are blessed because this is already who you are.”
So, when you read the Sermon on the Mount and it says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those that seek God and are hungry and thirsty for God’s righteousness,” it’s not saying, “Go get hungry and thirsty for God’s righteousness so that you can be blessed.”
He says, “You’re the blessed ones that are this way.”
So, “Blessed are the ones whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”
And I’m going to show you this here in a second. He uses different Hebrew words to exhaust the whole vocabulary of “sin” in Hebrew, and then he uses “remedy” for each one. So, you have three different words for sin and three different remedies here. This is the blessed life. The one whose transgression is forgiven. They’re done. They’re forgiven. Whose sin is covered. It’s covered.
“Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”
Let me try to make this make sense for everybody here. David is saying — and we’d be saying this corporately — that the blessed life is the one who’s laid it all down in front of God and in front of the community. There’s nothing on the inside that they’re holding on the inside. There’s nothing that they’re smiling, even though it’s on the inside. There is no deceit whatsoever in their spirit, because they’re living fully and completely forgiven before their God. That is the blessed life David tells us about.
And he tells us what this means by the words that he uses for sin. The first word he uses here for transgression is to rebel, revolt or break with. And everybody’s done that. There’s nobody in here that hasn’t, at some point in their life, rebelled against God, revolted against God or revolted against somebody or rebelled against somebody. And he says, “Blessed is the one whose transgression, this, is forgiven.”
Not that you’re going to get forgiven, but the one who walks that way — I mean, everything is open. It’s vulnerable. There’s nothing, nothing, to hide at all. There’s no deceit whatsoever in their spirit.
Secondly, to miss the mark. He says, “The sin is covered.”
This idea of you tried to do something, but you missed the mark and it didn’t happen. Or this idea of to twist or distort. In other words, it’s really easy to take the Scripture and sort of twist it. “Ah, that’s not really what it meant. Culturally, it meant this. But I’m doing to redefine this and make it that way.”
He says, “Blessed is the one who the Lord doesn’t count even this against them.”
So, David has set up, as we’re saying this publicly, the blessed life is the life where we have nothing at all to hide, because we have truly confessed it all — not only to God, but in the corporate group that we’ve assembled with. That’s way counter-intuitive to the way that we would live, because we go, “Yeah, but. Yeah, but. Yeah, but. Yeah, but.”
Once again, we’ve learned how to live a certain way. We may have to unlearn to live. Maybe some of the reason why we’re not experiencing the full victory of God in our lives is maybe because we’re not doing it the way God said. And it’s not a matter of performance here, it’s a matter of simply accepting what God has said about you and me. So, he says, “This is the blessed life. This is the blessed life.”
And then, here comes the moment. This is the hinge moment of the psalm. He says this:
“For when I kept silent,”
“When I held it in. When I didn’t tell anybody. Maybe I was afraid God wouldn’t love me. Maybe I was afraid my wife wouldn’t stay with me. Maybe I was afraid if my friends knew this.”
“When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.”
“I held that in and all it was was a battle.”
In fact, most addictions and most problems come from some of us who want to hold that in and not let anybody know that we did that. Or maybe what was done to us. He says, “When I held it in, when I didn’t use confession, when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.”
“For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;”
He’s using language here about God. God doesn’t really have a hand. What he was saying is that it just felt like I was being compressed with all this stuff going on inside.
“My strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.”
“It was all gone,” and then he says, “Selah.”
That’s like a pause or a rest. He’s like, “Take that in.”
Let’s take that in. “The blessed life is the one who’s laid it all down. But, guys and gals, when I held it in — and that’s what the world teaches you to do — I was rotting away. It was always there. It was always something that I needed to forget, and I couldn’t forget it. When I held it in, what happened was is my whole inside wasted away, and my strength was dried up. So, pause for a moment and think about that.”
Then he says, “I acknowledge my sin to you,”
“I laid it out here with everybody. I laid it out. And I didn’t cover my iniquity anymore.”
“I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’”
Again, all these three words for sin. He did all this stuff.
“And you forgave the iniquity of my sin.”
“I thought that if I shared it, maybe You would judge me. I thought that maybe You’d get me, or You’d punish me, so I’ve held it in. Or I thought that maybe people in the service would think a certain way about me, but as I gave it to You, what happen was You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Pause again, Church. Soak that in. Now, pick it back up.”
“Therefore let everyone who is godly...” — “godly” in this psalm is not living right. Ungodly doesn’t mean not living right. “Godly” simply means, in this psalm, those that are open, honest and vulnerable for God in the community.
It says, “Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer...”
Say it now. Don’t worry about the person next to you. Speak it out. Let it go. Pour it out there. Let God do His thing.
“...offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters,” — those waters that you feel that are drowning you, that are completely swallowing you up, the stuff you’re holding on the inside. He says, “Right now, pray. Speak it out. Let it go. Confess it. Just let it go. Those waters aren’t going to reach you. Why?”
“You are a hiding place...”
That’s who our God is. He’s a hiding place.
“You preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance.”
In the Old Testament, when the children of Israel would go to war, or one that you probably will remember very clearly is when the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea, the women came together and got the musical instruments and they started singing the song of deliverance. When you read the book of Revelation, there’s the song of deliverance again being performed. David says, “Listen: We hold it in and we hold it in, don’t confess, and aren’t vulnerable. We don’t want anybody to see our weakness.”
I mean, we say it all the time. “We need to project strength.”
Totally opposite of what Scripture says. Project vulnerability. Project weakness, because it’s in my weakness He’s made strong. It’s in my vulnerability that I’m healed. It’s in my confession that my bones don’t rot away anymore. It’s in my acceptance of the fact that I have done these things, and understanding who my God is that He’s ready to forgive me that things change.
He says, “You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance.”
When we confess those things, there are shouts of deliverance of the victory that has gone on in our lives. He says, “So, stop and think about it. Selah.”
Now God starts to speak in the psalm: “I will instruct you...”
That’s where the word “maskil” comes. It’s from this idea of instruction.
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go;”
“Trust me. Lay it down.”
“I will counsel you with my eye on you.”
“I love you. My eyes on you. Not to judge you, not to condemn you. My eyes on you because I love you. If you will come to me and not hold it in, those waters that you feel that are drowning you will be gone. I will instruct you. I will watch over you. I will counsel you with my eye on you.”
“Do not be like a horse or a mule,” — “Don’t do that. Don’t run away” — “without understanding, which has to be curbed with a bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.”
“It has to be pulled back and yanked back, or it will not stay near you. Don’t be like that. Don’t act like that. Understand who I am. Understand how much I want to be involved in your life and how much I want to take that sin and that iniquity and that transgression and cover it for you.”
“Many are the sorrows of the wicked,”
Who are the wicked in this psalm? It’s the ones that won’t confess. And, see, this really comes down to it. I’m standing here in bright lights right now. The difference between those that go to be with God and those who don’t go to be with God is simply who wants to stand in the light. See, the light exposes all of it. It exposes all that you are. The Bible talks about standing in the light. Are we willing to stand in the light and let ourselves be exposed for the fact that I’m not always the best husband? I’m not always the best dad? I’m not always the best pastor?
You say, “Well, Chip, you shouldn’t say all of those things.”
No, because, listen, if I project strength, then I’m going against God. It’s when I share my weaknesses and my vulnerabilities that I allow God to work. That’s the way it is. And we all want that. Every single person wants to believe that there’s a place that they could come, that there’s a God that they could serve that would say, “I love you with an everlasting love, and I know everything that you’ve done and everything that you’re going to do. The verdict is I sent my Son, Jesus, to die on the cross not for past sins, not just for present sins, but for future sins so that you can stand in the light. And even though you’re exposed, you can know that I have provision for your exposure, and I have your back.”
Don’t let those sorrows eat you away because you won’t stand in the light. Have you ever gone in the kitchen at 3 o’clock in the morning, flipped on the light, looked down and there’s a bug? And He’s off underneath the cabinet. You know what I’m saying? He don’t like that light. Well, many people don’t like to stand in the light, because pride and ego get in the way. We hold it in and we rot.
It says, “Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but the steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord. Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!”
See, this is what happens: You find people that come to faith. Maybe they came to an altar, maybe they had a moment at a chair in a church or maybe it was in their car. When those floodgates open up, when confession starts happening, when we realize that God is really there for us and we can share the things that we’ve done, there is such a freedom that takes place. I’ll tell you, one of the greatest freedom expressions I’ve ever seen was many, many years ago. I was pastoring a church. I had an elder’s meeting. We started off the meeting and one of the elders, you could just tell his lip was quivering, said, “I’ve just got to share this.”
He shared a sin that had been going on in his life for 10 or 15 years that had been hidden. Finally, as it was just bubbling up, he couldn’t deal with it anymore and dumped it right there on the table. We rallied around him. We prayed for him. He wasn’t expecting that. He was expecting to be removed. The freedom that that man had that night was unbelievable. He knew what it was to be glad in the Lord and rejoice and shout for joy. He understood that his righteousness didn’t come from him, it came from somewhere else. He understood that.
That’s the blessed life. The blessed life is being able to be vulnerable, and being open and being honest. So, now that we’ve read that psalm and we’ve seen how powerful that is, let’s do what I call the take-homes. For this serious, we’re going to call it “Unlearned Life I’ve Been Living Take-Homes.”
What can we unlearn here so that we can learn again so that we can become more like what God wants us to be and live that threshold living not by how much of a performance that we’re doing, but how much we’re understanding about God. That’s why in the New Testament you see all the time — the prayers in the New Testament, you should read them. The prayers in the New Testament are not about a job, or somebody had a cold, pray for them. They’re not about getting a car or a marriage. Not that we should be praying for those things, but that’s not what the New Testament people pray for. Ever. They pray that we would have a spirit of wisdom and revelation of understanding God’s love for us. That Christ would be perfected in us. That we would truly understand the things that God has done for us. See, it’s an understanding. It’s a re-learning. It’s a reprogramming. It’s not a doing. It’s a truly embracing what God has done in our life.
So, what are some things that we can unlearn here? Well, the first one is this one: God’s more ready to forgive us than we’re ready to disobey Him. See, we’d like to all act like none of us have a heart that would like to run the other way. That’s not true. Most of us, if we were honest, when we are confronted with biblical stuff, we run the other way. I’m not picking on anybody. I’m not giving anybody a hard time. But, let’s talk about where it hurts. If you were just to say, “How many people in the church are regular givers and trust God with their finances,” it’s usually not that many. So, even right there, we’re disobeying.
How many of us really love our spouses the way Christ loved the Church? We don’t. We get mad at them on a regular basis, and frustrated. How many of us really are always perfectly there for our kids, and they never frustrate us? Not me. I can tell you that right now. So, maybe you’re holier than me and you’ve been more sanctified in that area, but the reality is, as a general rule, when it comes down to it, if somebody does us wrong, usually we’re not the people that go, “Oh, let me pray for you and let me forgive you seventy times seven.”
We go, “Oh, did you hear what this person did?”
We’re out in the hub, “Can you believe that?”
That’s where our heart’s at. And God’s more ready to forgive you and me than we’re ready to disobey Him, and we’re pretty ready to disobey on a regular basis. Let me let the Word of God speak over you. Listen to what the psalmist says.
“For You, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.”
Notice there that those who call upon God, what do they get? They get good, forgiving and abounding in covenantal love towards them. Listen to Micah. Micah says, “Who is like You? I mean, where did You come from? I don’t get it. Somebody who’s got power, when you offend them, they go after you with everything. You’re not even like that. We’ve offended You. We’ve revolted against You. We’ve done things that we shouldn’t have done. Who’s like You? You pardon iniquity and You pass over transgression for the remnant of Your inheritance. Who is like You, God? You don’t even retain Your anger forever. And You could because You’re holy, but You’re driven by something even more than that, because You delight in steadfast love.”
I mean, think about that. Think about if every single one of us got up every morning and realize that our Heavenly Father had a better understanding, that our Heavenly Father delights in steadfast love for you. He says, “He’s going to have compassion on us again.”
What does that mean? That means that we’ve done the same thing again that we shouldn’t have done, and we’ve done it again. You know, we talk about making mistakes. When you’ve made the same mistake 20, 30 or 40 times, I think we need to call t something other than a mistake. You know? We may not like the words that the Bible uses, but we’ve got to call it something. Okay? And it says, “You’re going to have compassion again.”
“Yes. Again. Again. Why? Because He’ll tread our iniquities under foot.”
Isn’t it crazy? You talk to so many people and they think God wants to tread them under foot. “I did all this stuff and God wants to get me.”
No, no. He wants to tread your iniquities. He’ll cast all of our sins into the depths of the sea. See, God is willing to meet you and me. He’s ready to forgive. Maybe you’ve heard that God isn’t. Maybe you’ve heard you’ve got to climb these ladders, jump through these oops, turn around and do all of this stuff. Let me just break through all of that religious stuff. Your Heavenly Father is ready to forgive you right now. You don’t have to hold that in and rot away. He’s ready for you to take it out and say, “God, this is the deal,” and He’s ready to be there for you.
The second thing. This is important here. Confession isn’t a work, it’s the wisdom key needed to unlock the flood of God’s compassion in our lives. This next thing that I want to say to you is so important. Let it sink into your spirit. If you don’t write anything else down today, I would write this next one down. This here: Confession doesn’t merit God’s forgiveness. It helps us to realize it was already there.
See, what God’s wanting from you and me is to say what we did, not so that we get Him to forgive us, but so that we can understand the love that was already there. See, when we don’t say what we’ve done, or we don’t say what’s been done to us, or we don’t say it and we go, “Well, you know, God, I had that thing that I did a couple weeks ago. I hope you can forgive me.”
That’s not confession. Confession is to speak the same thing. In other words, “God, when I went and did this thing with that person and did this, I want You to know I did and I want You to know that I am sorry that I did those things.”
What you’re going to find is that you say it and God’s there. I sang a song when I was a kid growing up in church. It was called “He Was There All the Time.” Waiting patiently in line, He was there all the time. He’s waiting for you and me, not because we do some work to merit the forgiveness. He wants us to realize the forgiveness that He has for you and me. He’s already forgiven. Jesus doesn’t have to come die again on the cross so we could be forgiven. He forgave all the sins, past, present and future. We have to embrace the fact that that is true. And when we hold it in or we don’t really say what it was, we’re missing out on this incredible freedom that we could have.
And not only that, but confession not only delivers compassion and forgiveness to us, but to others. In James 5:16, James says, “Confess your sins one to another, that you may be healed.”
The “you” in the original Greek New Testament is plural. It’s not you singular, it’s you plural. It’s the Church. Think through this for a minute. Think through if we had an environment where no matter what you had done, no matter where you had been, no matter who you had done wrong, no matter what act you had performed, you could come in here and you could lay it down in vulnerability and not only experience God’s forgiveness, but could find people to rally around you and to say, “Hey, you’re accepted and you’re loved. Because, man, we’ve done something, too. This is a healthy community where we can come together and share.”
Imagine what would happen if we could live in that type of confession and that type of vulnerability. We would have people beating the doors down to get in here, because nobody believes fundamentally that anybody could know everything about what they did and still love them. We have an opportunity to expose them to the God who does, and we have an opportunity to be the people who reflect that love that He’s shown you and me.
When a church starts living like that, watch out. Because it doesn’t live like the world, it lives like the Kingdom of God. And, all of a sudden, the Lord’s Prayer, where we say, “God, let Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” heaven starts to come here, and the kingdoms of the world start to be destroyed and we start to see the Kingdom of God be pervasive and do things that nobody could even ever imagine. And we see people’s lives healed, wholeness brought, and all kinds of victory happen because we’re willing to live a life in faith that God wants you and me to live. You can clap. It’s okay. You’ll warm up.
And the last thing is God Himself — Himself; a person — is the place of refuge, and the entrance into that refuge is simply confession. David says, “You’re a hiding place for me. You preserve me. You surround me with shouts of deliverance.”
There’s no doubt in my mind that there are many in here that are desperate for that hiding place. There’s no doubt in my mind there are people in here that are desperate to hear shouts of deliverance spoken about you. But it really comes down to are we going to take the things that we’ve learned and be a certain way, and then even exonerate them — they’re Christian principles — or are we going to embrace God, embrace His Word and realize that His kingdom’s different? Maybe the difference in our lives is just, by faith, embracing that vulnerability before God and being honest before others is the place of freedom that we’re all looking for.
So, as we start out 2018, I would like to challenge you. If you aren’t a Christian, or if you haven’t really thought about where you’re at with God, this would be a great opportunity to make that decision today and settle eternity once and for all by just saying, “God, I’ve been living my way. I want to live Your way.”
Look, there’s no secret prayer or magical formula. It just simply is, “God, I want to come home, God. This is what I’ve done. I believe You’ve already forgiven me. I need to know that. I need to experience that.”
If that’s where you’re at, it’s as simple as saying, “God, I just want to follow You. I just want to come after You.”
Sign up for our Next Steps class. Get baptized. Find somebody with a name tag or a badge on and say, “Man, I want to go forward. I want some of this.”
But, for the vast majority of us in here who are Christians, we’ve learned to sort of meld Christ with our culture. We’re going to have to unlearn some of that if we really want to live what I call threshold living, because I can tell you this: There is a great freedom in not having anything to hide. There’s a great freedom in being vulnerable. God wants you to live that way. God wants you to live in freedom. When there’s nothing to hide, there’s nothing to lose. It’s when we feel like we’re going to lose something that the fear and the doubt and the despair happen. Let it go. Lay it here today in front of Him.
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You for the truth of Your Word. I thank You, Lord, that Your Word is what it is. And I thank You, Lord, that Your Word doesn’t go forth and return empty. It accomplishes that which You send it to do. So, this morning, Lord, as we pray, I pray if anybody in here does not know You as Lord and Savior, or if anybody’s been living their life for themselves and not living their life for You and wants to make that change, I pray, Lord, that they would realize it’s not a bunch of hoops to jump through and a bunch of prayers to pray. It really is just a matter of the heart saying, “God, I want to come home. I accept what You’ve done for me. I want to come home.”
And then, Lord, I pray if anybody is there that they would find somebody on staff, find somebody and say, “Help me. Point me in the right direction so I can continue to walk in this thing.”
But, for those of us, Lord, that call You our Savior and our Lord, I pray, Lord, that You would help us to unlearn these unhealthy lifestyles that we lead often, and to embrace Your Word and Your truth by faith.
So, Lord, I pray that as we leave here this morning, You would watch over us and protect us, that You would lead and guide us. I pray, Lord, that we would all realize that You are our hiding place and that You do surround us with shouts of deliverance and shouts of salvation. I pray, Lord, that You’d bring us back safely to when we meet again. And Lord, continue to help our church passionately live out what You’ve called us to do, and that’s to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ in a vulnerable and confessional way so that people can come home for Your glory.
It’s in Jesus’ name that we pray, and everybody said, “Amen.”
Give the Lord a big hand clap. See you soon. God bless everybody.