Welcome to Christ Lutheran Church and thanks for joining us if you’re listening on the radio.
Today is the first Sunday in the season of Lent. Lent is that time leading up to Easter when we consider exactly what Jesus Christ did for us as he went to the cross to suffer and die for you and me. Lent is crucial to our faith because we can’t possibly understand the full joy of Easter until we start to understand what came before Jesus’ resurrection. We can’t possibly understand the full joy of Easter until we start to understand the depth of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. So during Lent we encourage each other to take additional time to pray, to read the Bible, to worship the Lord.
I hope you’ll join us here on Wednesday nights in Lent. We begin with a short worship time which will include singing, readings of the psalms and a brief video of a different Biblical person each week describing how Jesus and the events leading up to Good Friday and Easter changed their lives. After the worship time, we’ll be asking some of the big questions in life with Ravi Zacharias and studying the book of Romans. There’s details in today’s bulletin about it.
And during the Sundays of Lent we are studying some of the Psalms called the “Penitential Psalms” which focus on the miracle of forgiveness. Today we look at Psalm 32.
It was written by King David---probably after he had destroyed lives and marriages in his debacle with Bathsheba. After hiding it for a while, David was confronted by the prophet Nathan. And David’s eyes were opened to the sin he had committed and he penitentially turned to God, meaning he turned to God in his sorrow, and asked for forgiveness. He was forced to see, that what he had hidden---he had to reveal to God.
How often do we try to hide things and pretend everything is fine? Early in my life I had to learn a hard lesson about hidden things and cars.
The first car Stephanie and I owned was a 1966 Chevrolet Corvair—not Corvette—Corvair.
We had just gotten married and went to a local used car lot and bought a beauty. Unfortunately there was a lot more than met the eye.
It turns out the car dealer had done an excellent job of hiding the truth about the car. It had a leak in the gas line. A leaky windshield. It used a quart of oil every time we got gas. It ate fan belts, so along with carrying a case of oil in the trunk, we carried a spare fan belt because it took a strange size that garages didn’t stock. But we still loved that car--- until I found the hidden truth.
One rainy day I noticed that the floor in the back seat was wet. I couldn’t figure out why until I got in there and lifted out the floor mats and pulled up the carpet. Under the carpet was an old stop sign which was just the right shape to cover the gaping hole in the rusted out floor!
The whole underside of the car was rusting through and no stop sign was going to fix that hidden malignancy. I was going to be driving it like Fred Flintstone if we kept it much longer---which we didn’t.
But I learned something valuable. With cars and anything else, hiding the problem doesn’t make it go away. In fact, just like rust, hidden sin just keeps eating away at us.
David starts Psalm 32 with an expression of just how good it is to know the Lord’s forgiveness for his formerly hidden sin.
Psalm 32:1-2 “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.”
The Hebrew words David uses for sin here don’t minimize the problem like we try to do. We talk about our weakness, our mistakes, our slip-ups. David calls them what they are---rebellion and revolt against God.
David writes---Blessed is he whose sins are covered---not covered as in hidden by the sinner, but covered by God’s grace in the blood of Christ. Blessed are those---not who have no sin---because there are none of those---not who have fixed their sin themselves---that’s impossible---blessed are those who know Christ’s forgiveness.
And blessed is the person in whose spirit is no deceit. This is someone who is not hiding from the truth. They are completely convinced of their sin and totally sincere in knowing they need to bring it to God.
David writes this after he experienced the Lord’s forgiveness and knows how blessed he feels. But then he looks back---
Psalm 32:3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.”
David describes the agony of trying to rationalize his sin, make excuses, ignore it. But whenever we try to do that it takes a terrible toll, emotionally, spiritually, even physically. We feel pain because our sins shut us off from God, the source of life. And we become slaves to sin in the process.
Steven Cole tells the story of a little boy who was shooting rocks with a slingshot. He could never hit his target. One day as he went in to Grandma’s backyard, he spied her pet duck.
On impulse he took aim and let it fly. He never thought it would hit, but the stone hit, and the duck was dead. The boy panicked and hid the bird in the woodpile, only to look up and see his sister watching.
After lunch that day, Grandma told his sister to help with the dishes. Sally responded, “Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen today. Didn’t you Johnny?” And she whispered to him, “Remember the duck!” So, Johnny did the dishes.
What choice did he have? For the next several weeks he was at the sink often. Sometimes for his turn, sometimes for his sin. “Remember the duck,” Sally would whisper when he objected.
Finally he decided that any punishment would be better than washing more dishes, so he confessed to killing the duck. “I know, Johnny,” his grandma said, giving him a hug. “I was standing at the window and saw the whole thing. Because I love you, I forgave you. But I wondered how long you would let Sally make a slave out of you.”
We become slaves to our sin when try to hide it from God.
Gordon MacDonald wrote: "We cannot expect to live healthily in the future when the baggage of the past keeps banging away at the trap door of our minds demanding attention."
David felt tremendous relief when he stopped trying to hide and instead opened himself to the Lord.
Psalm 32:5 “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”— and you forgave the guilt of my sin.”
Max Lucado says---Show a man his failures without Jesus, and the result will be found in the roadside gutter---in utter despair. Give a man religion without reminding him of his filth, and the result will be arrogance.---But get the two in the same heart—get sin to meet Savior and Savior to meet sin—and the result is changed lives and transformed hearts.
When we don’t hide the truth about ourselves from God, Christ covers it for us and gets rid of it.
Psalm 32:6-7 “Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”
You can tell that David has experienced the Lord’s power in times of trouble---The Lord is his protection, his deliverer, his hiding place. And he knows that the Lord is always there to show him the way.
Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.”
It’s not enough to bring our sin to God. We also need to realize that he has a better way.
The Lord says--- I will instruct you, teach you, counsel you and watch over you. David found that the Lord had a better way and so he walked away from the path he had chosen---to return to the Lord’s way.
I remember an old Calvin and Hobbes cartoon. You see them at the top of a snow covered hill on a sled. Calvin says---“Well here we are at the top of Pallbearer Peak on a flimsy unsteerable sled….A thousand foot vertical drop onto a boulder field lined with pricker bushes.“ He turns to Hobbes---“Are you ready to go?”
Hobbes says “Ready”. And in the next scene you see them walking away---back down the hill.
Often the best choice we can make is to walk away from the path we chose and to turn back to follow God’s way, God’s guiding. David did that.
But David knew that it’s not a once and done decision---
Psalm 32:9 “Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.”
We can be stubborn like a mule, turning back to the ways we know haven’t worked in the past. We go back to our own impulses and feelings. Which is why we have to grow in our trust for the Lord and his leading.
Psalm 32:10 “Many are the woes of the wicked, but the LORD’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him.”
As we grow in our trust for the Lord---and it is a process of growth---through prayer, worship and God’s Word---we more clearly experience the guiding hand and unfailing love of the Lord. And as we do that, like David we can rejoice---
Psalm 32:11 “ Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!”
When we are upright in heart, we are experiencing true change and becoming more like Christ, the one who has made it all possible. What a relief, what a joy it is to know God’s love and grace in Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit! There is no need to hide the truth, because the truth of Christ, the love of Christ sets us free!
And it all begins with simply bringing our sin to the Lord---unburdening our hearts to him and receiving his forgiveness.
LOVE---On this Valentine’s Day we hear a lot about love. There are some great and sincere expressions of love. There is also some empty drivel.
There is also some pain from previous failed human love that we thought we could count on. Sometimes we transfer that pain from human failings to God. But his love is so different.
Video----LOVE ANTHEM---Skit Guys
Perfect love----the miracle of forgiveness---total forgiveness---God’s love in Christ. For King David, for me, for you.
And we can dare to love like that in our own imperfect way---because Christ first loved us----because Jesus loves you.