Apr 072015

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Psalm 51:10-12 (ESV)

Spring has sprung! I love spring (except for allergies). The long, cold winter seems to wreak havoc on the house, inside and out. Outside, there are sticks and leaves all over the yard and flower beds, mold and dirt on the vinyl siding and decks – especially where the sun does not hit the house – and inside, there are many undone projects. Cluttered closets, walls that need a fresh coat of paint, floors that need to be waxed and buffed. Where do we find the time?

Right now is also a great time to pray with David, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” As a matter of fact, this is the most important cleaning that needs to be done.

The psalms were poems that were sung, and Psalm 51 is no different. Although it was written out of David’s experience, it would be sung by all in worship.[1] All of us have been conceived in iniquity (v. 5), we have all sinned against God ultimately (v. 4), and we all need mercy and cleansing (v.1-2, 7, 9). We all need spring cleaning. You see, God delights in truth in the inward being (v. 6). By nature, I like to try to cover up my sin, but God sees it. I have blind spots, He does not. We should pray that He teaches us wisdom in the secret heart, that He might reveal hidden sins. “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

This conviction of sin is like the breaking of bones (v. 8). It is painful indeed to be confronted with the evil in our heart, yet because of God’s mercy and cleansing, it leads to rejoicing. God does not treat us as our sins deserve and He forgives us through Christ, according to His steadfast love.

Don’t do your spring cleaning half-way! That is something I am prone to do. Let us pray with David, “Wash me thoroughly!” And, don’t procrastinate! We know from Scripture that Nathan confronted David around nine months after David sinned with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah, for the child of their adultery was stricken to death by the Lord, seven days after his birth (2 Samuel 12). May God give us grace to deal quickly with our sins, keep short accounts with Him, and to walk in the joy of our salvation. I am so thankful today that He has not cast out this smoldering wick and that He is willing to uphold me!

God, please cleanse us and wash us whiter than snow. Please do not hide Your face from us. For Christ’s sake and because of the righteous blood He shed for us, restore to us Your everlasting joy, this spring and forever! Amen.

Pastor Bill

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[1] Just a side note here: the superscripts in the Psalms are a part of the inspired Scripture. Not the publisher’s title to the chapter, but the superscripts. David penned this Psalm sometime after Nathan the prophet confronted him with his sin (2 Samuel 11-12).

Jul 182012

Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God in his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.

Psalm 36:1-2 (ESV

All of us have blind spots respecting our sin. In a car, a blind spot in your mirror can be the cause of an accident. In your Christian life, blind spots can cause all kinds of problems, especially in our relationships. So very often, we blame our problems on everyone else first rather than dealing with the sin in our own hearts. Physical blindness is at least recognizable. Spiritual blindness is not. The spiritually blind person is convinced that they have excellent vision and that they see the situation rightly. But, do we always see everything rightly? Absolutely not. Spiritual blindness is deceptive because, as Paul David Tripp says, “It masquerades as other things.” What are those “other things”?

In Tripp’s book, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands [1], he lists ten masks that the spiritually blind put on. First is the mask of an accurate sense of self. We often do not have an accurate view of ourselves because, as John Calvin would say in his Institutes, we do not have an accurate view of God. We cannot know who we really are apart from seeing God in all His holiness, majesty and perfection. When trouble is in our life, we point the blame at others and we are offended when it is suggested that we might bear responsibility for what is going on. When the Word of God is preached, it sounds like it applies to others, but we do not care to apply it first to ourselves. The Psalmist writes, “He flatters himself in his own eyes.” We all have the tendency to imagine ourselves better than we really are.

The second mask is the mask of being sinned against. We give vivid details of hurtful situations, seeing the speck in our brother’s eye, when really there is a plank in our own eye. The spiritually blind person is the one who is gripped by a sense of being sinned against, not of being a sinner. So, to this person, the change that is needed is a change outside himself.

Third is the mask of trials and testing. If we do not have an accurate view of ourselves, we tend to call the natural consequences of our own sin “trials”. “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7). We need to obtain a harvest mentality. The spiritually blind tend to see the harvest not as a result of their own planting, but as painful trials they do not deserve.

Fourth is the mask of needs. The spiritually blind think their problems are due to some lack somewhere. Our neediness is really a result of the fall in Genesis 3, which transformed us from worshipers of God into gratifiers of our flesh. Neediness reveals more about who we are than what we are missing. Our sense of need reveals more about the lusts of our heart than it does the betrayal of others. If you want to know what is important to person, find out the focus of their neediness. Ultimately, what we need is God. No one or nothing else can satisfy like God.

Fifth is the mask of wise counsel. When trouble comes, we often go to others and get their take on it. The spiritually blind will usually go to those who will sympathize with them and tell them what they want to hear. They will always quote those who agree with the decisions they have made. If one says something different from what they believe, they shove it off, even if it is true. Many say they are on a quest for wise counsel, when what they are really after is someone to agree with them.

The sixth mask is the mask of personal insight. We all seek to make sense of our life and situations. We tend to use our own wisdom and intellect to sort out exactly what is going on. True wisdom begins with humility, the recognition that only God is wise and His Word shows the truth of who I am. Real insight does not come from analyzing the situation, but from being biblical.

Number seven is the mask of a sense of values. The spiritually blind will miss what is important. Most of what we treasure is in connection with human relationships. We want love, acceptance, respect, etc., so we do all we can to avoid rejection, loneliness and low self-worth. We put our identity in the hands of people rather than God. People are big and God is small, as Ed Welch would say. When we don’t get what we value we say, “It’s not right,” and simply put, we want people to tell us that we are justified in desiring this or that, when we should look to the eternally valuable things that God wants to do in us.

The eighth mask is that of theological knowledge. This can be dangerous for four reasons: 1) It can produce a high level of confidence in your interpretation of what is going on. 2) It can create the mistaken notion of spiritual maturity. 3) It can create an “I already knew that and did that” attitude. 4) It can build in us a sense that our problems really are not our fault. This kind of person is not teachable. True spiritual maturity results from practicing truth in every day life, not from only knowing abstract truth in the mind.

The ninth mask is that of personal holiness. We are quick to believe that we want the right things and do the right things. We want behavioral standards that make no demand on the heart. Spiritually blind people see the gospel only as a matter of heaven and hell, rather than the very truth that is daily necessary for our sanctification and growth in grace. We can fake out a lot of people here, because we can do those external things and receive applause. This very well might be the epicenter of spiritual blindness. To be spiritually blind is to think that we are righteous when we are not. If I am righteous, then I don’t need Christ and I don’t need to change. We can be clean on the outside, like the Pharisees, yet be full of dead men’s bones.

Last is the mask of repentance. Very often we are sorry for getting caught and not genuinely sorry for offending God. Sometimes, even going to counseling is like penance rather than repentance. We may view confession as penance. Penance is doing some unrelated deed to make up for doing something else. Repentance is not only saying you are sorry. It is a turning from sin and putting on Christ. When we continue to remain defensive, we have not truly repented. True repentance, however, is a radical change of heart. And when the heart changes, so does the life. True repentance cries, “Search me O God and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).

The spiritually blind do not want to look deep within, see their sin, hate it, and mortify it. Therefore, they will not adjust the mirror so that the blind spots are removed. It’s painful to see the depravity of our heart. That’s why we would rather flatter ourselves! We would rather convince ourselves that we are better than what we really are. We would rather hide the sin then deal with it. In essence then, according to Psalm 36, sin is not naturally hated, but loved.

O God, we bow in the name of Your Son, Jesus, pleading that You would grant the grace for the blinders to be removed, that we might see You in Your glory and that we might see who we truly are in Your Light. Let us walk in the hope that You have designed all things for our growth in grace. Help us take responsibility for our sin. The wicked do not fear You. But we fear You and desire Your sweet communion. Bless Your people for the sake of Your beloved Son, Amen.

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[1] I am so thankful for Paul David Tripp’s book, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands. All of the masks come directly from the first appendix of his book. It is a powerful, heart-exposing, truth-telling, Gospel-saturated book. Be prepared! It is a book that will “rain on your self-centered parade.” But Tripp will direct you to the Gospel and will help you find in Christ forgiveness, freedom, and joy.

Sep 272011

Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.

Ephesians 6:24 (ESV)

The inspiration for the Redeemer Baptist Church blog came from Hebrews 13:9: “For it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods.” Over the last couple months, I have sought to help us understand what it means to be strengthened by grace. The blog will continue to be called Strengthened by Grace, but I will wrap up this nine part series this week. After this, Lord willing, I will delve into other topics as the Lord leads.

So, I will conclude with the final sentence from Paul’s wonderful letter to the Ephesians. We find here a very interesting thought. We know God is sovereignly free to give His grace to whom He will. In Exodus 33, God proclaims to Moses his name, Yahweh, and he reveals to Moses what it means to be God: “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” God declares that grace is His to give and He gives it as He desires to give it. This means that God’s grace is totally undeserved and unmerited. God did not owe it to anyone, nor has anyone impressed Him such that He felt constrained to give it. God is neither bound nor constrained to dispense his grace. The words, “deserved grace” or “earned grace”, are oxymorons. They naturally contradict each other.

What is interesting here in Ephesians 6 is that God’s grace is understood as free and unmerited, but also as conditional. Paul prays that more grace be given to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible. All others are excluded from this prayer. This idea is not foreign to the teaching of the New Testament. We read in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” God works all things for the good, but only to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. These are His people only! Another example is 1 Peter 5:5, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” The only recipients of grace here are the humble. The proud are evidently in opposition to God and will not find grace. We could also read in Hebrews 4:16 that it is only believers that draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, and there find mercy and grace to help in time of need.

Free grace does not always mean unconditional grace. But remember this: conditional grace is never, never earned grace. It is always given freely and sovereignly by God. Let me give you an example of this from one of my old favorite TV shows, Sanford & Son. This must be good!! And it is! A girl in this particular episode, named Betty Jean, will receive $10,000 from a trust from her deceased father on the day she gets married. Of course, when Fred hears this, he wants his son, Lamont, to marry her, not for love, but for the money. Now, the $10,000 is still a gift. Betty Jean has not earned it, but she has not met the condition to receive it. But Betty Jean’s mother is doing all she can to help Betty Jean find the right man. (You would just have to see this episode. I am just about to laugh out loud. If you want an example of political incorrectness, Fred Sanford is it. That’s all I can say!) So, the freeness of grace is seen in a gift that is undeserved, and it is likewise seen in all the assistance given to meet the condition to receive the gift.

This is exactly what God does for us. He provides the gift, and He gives us all the help to meet the conditions necessary to receive the gift. We could never receive eternal life apart from His sovereign grace. Repentance and faith are absolutely necessary components, but we cannot produce them on our own. We need help. So He grants us the repentance and the faith necessary to lay hold of His promises. This unites us to Jesus Christ. He causes us to meet the conditions to receive his grace. Augustine said it so well, “God, command what you will, but give what you command.” God commands me to repent and believe in the Gospel; this cannot happen unless God grants, by His grace, the new birth – that which produces the fruit of repentance and faith.

Do you want more grace? If so, let me ask you this: Do you have an undying love for Jesus Christ? Do you love Him? And I mean, do you really love Him? Or do you give lip service to Him? Grace is given to those that love Christ with a love incorruptible. Do you want to be strengthened by more grace today? Confess your sins to Him and ask Him to grant you deep affections for Him.

I leave you with a song that was written and performed by the New Attitude Band, part of the ministry to young adults from Sovereign Grace Ministries. This song came to mind when I read today’s verse. I pray it will bless you.

Undying Love

Grace, grace to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ
With an undying love
Grace, grace to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ
With an undying love

Give me an undying love for You
Lord won’t You set my heart aflame
With passion for Your Name
Give me an undying love for You
Lord won’t You take me to the cross
I count it all as loss
Please burn away the dross
So that nothing else remains
But an undying love for You

Grace, grace to all who bring the weight of their sin
To the Lord Jesus Christ
Grace, grace to all who bring the weight of their sin
To the Lord Jesus Christ

© 1991 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)