by Phil Enlow

(The following was transcribed and edited from a message preached by Bro. Phil Enlow in October, 2011 in Southern Pines, NC.)

You know, part of spiritual maturity, part of growing up in the Lord is knowing what we are, and reckoning honestly with that and dealing with it, and sometimes dealing with falling in the mud real bad. And, I thought of a familiar passage this morning in Psalm 51, because we find here a man after God’s own heart. I know that we have used this passage a number of times, but I believe there’s some…I believe there’s always things that the Lord would bring that are relevant to where we’re at, at any given time.

And, I believe He can make Truth fresh and apply it right where we are. I certainly need it. I think we all do, because the more we go on with the Lord, the more we realize what we are, I trust. I mean, there’s no such thing as spiritual maturity and not reckoning on what you are. If you’ve got some illusion that because you’re here and you’re doing good in your life and you don’t go out and rob banks and that sort of thing, that you’re good, you don’t get it—you don’t understand.

Fail Forward
And, so here, we find a man of God who has lived with the Lord, who has known the Lord, had a lot of experience with the Lord, who really messes up bad—I mean, he really messes up. You know, I like what Susan Downing said in our gathering the other night, about the fact that we do fail and we come short. But, we don’t just lay there, we get up and we go on. And, it brought back to my mind something that I’ve said in the past that yes, we fail, but let’s fail forward. Let’s learn, pick up, and instead of going back, let’s go this way, and learn and grow.

You know, I sort of had the picture in my mind…some of you have seen the movie of Pilgrim’s Progress, or maybe you’ve read it, but you remember at the beginning there was a fellow named Pliable, who came out along with Obstinate to try to stop Christian from the madness of undertaking this journey. And Pliable was for a time persuaded to go along with Christian, until they got to the Slough of Despond. As it turns out, they didn’t have to get in there, but they did. Through carelessness, they missed the steps that could have taken them safely through it, and so they wound up in there.

Well, what happened? They, each of them, got out, didn’t they? But one of them got out and went back. The other one fought his way through, and cried out to the Lord for help and a man named Help came along and helped him get out, and pointed him in the right direction. And that’s where…that’s what we need to do. God can actually take the things that we would avoid…and thank God, we ought to learn to avoid in time. But, the fact is, every one of us falls in the mud, and the Lord can take those things and use them as stepping stones to help us to actually grow and to become more than we were.

And it’s necessary if we’re gonna serve God to never lose sight of what we are, naturally. ‘Cause just because you’ve learned to behave yourself doesn’t mean you’re any different. It doesn’t mean the Adamic part of you, the part that you were born with, is any different than it ever was. The only way we can really serve God is to yield and learn to draw from Him and His strength. I have no strength whatever to please God. The moment I give in and just kind of go with the flow, the flow of being my nature, sin is gonna happen. There’s just no way around it, because as long as our toes haven’t turned up permanently, we’re in a place where we’re gonna have to trust God. We’re gonna have to serve Him.

But here’s David and you know what happened, he got careless—man after God’s own heart got really careless, and his armies were out in the field, and he decided he was gonna sit this one out. So he was wandering around his castle wall one day and saw a woman taking a bath within sight of the castle wall, and one thing led to another. It was first adultery, and then it was murder to cover the adultery. And, the condition that he was in at that time was such that he didn’t even realize what he’d done.

You ever been there? You got caught in something, and so the Lord got your attention. You didn’t even realize. My God, what manner of people we are! How much we need a Savior!

Oh, how desperately we need what we’ve been singing about this morning. You don’t just look out at somebody in the gutter and say, oh, he needs a Savior. You need the same Savior!

You’re just… there’s no difference, except for the circumstances. We’ve got the same nature that we need to be delivered from. But anyway, David has now become conscious of what happened, and so he begins his prayer of repentance. And, there’s a lot of lessons that have to do with spiritual maturity in this. David begins by saying, “Have mercy on me, O God.” (NIV).

A Foundation for Mercy
And I can just see the devil sitting on his shoulder and saying, yeah right. Why in the world would God have mercy on you? Look at you, you’re the king, you’ve served God, you’ve worshipped God, you fought battles for Him, you’ve served Him all these years and look at what you did! Why in the world would God have mercy on you? Anybody been there?

Yeah. Well, David was wise enough to know that he couldn’t point to anything in himself. He couldn’t say, Lord, I’ve been a good boy. I just had a boo-boo here. But because I’ve basically been…served You and I’ve been good, on that ground, I just appeal to You to have mercy on me, Lord. Just kind of overlook this boo-boo and clean it up. There wasn’t a bit of that, was there?

David was honest enough to be able to look down into his own heart and realize…there’s nothing in here. There’s not one thing in me. It doesn’t matter what I’ve done or not done, there’s nothing in me that I can point to and say, because of that, God, You ought to help me here. You ought to overlook this problem. You ought to do what’s needed.

There’s no reason—there’s no earthly reason why God should have mercy on any of us. I don’t care if you think you’ve been just walking the straight and narrow and everything’s great and grand. There is no reason God should have mercy on you and me, and let us live to see another day. Man, there’s nothing good about us. That’s the problem. Until we realize that, there’s a lack of maturity in every one of us, and I just pray that God will help us to see as never before. Because God doesn’t show us that reality and cause us to live with that, so that we will live with this ‘oh-poor-me-I’m-nobody’ kind of spirit. It’s so that we will continually know where our help comes from, know how it is that we stand. I don’t stand because I’m anything, I stand because God is a God like he describes here.

It says, “…According to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion…” David had learned enough about God, to point to God’s own character as the only source of his hope in this circumstance! God, I cannot look at me. When I look in the mirror, I see nothing but a reason for you to cast me into Hell! But oh God, I need mercy! On what ground shall I find it?

He says, I’ll find it because of You, because of the kind of a God You are. Oh God, You’ve revealed yourself as a God of unfailing love, as a God who has compassion! Lord, I’ve experienced it before! I know that I can’t appeal to me, but I can appeal to You on that ground. Oh God, have mercy on me.

A Desire to be Clean
“…Blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” You know, I see something in this, and the language continues in this vein. David is not just wanting to kind of wipe the slate clean in any superficial way. Man, he wants to be clean. He doesn’t want to become just clean from the guilt of what he’s done, but from the sin itself. He doesn’t want there to be any of this clinging to him so that he’s continuing to walk in it. Folks, if we are godly people, if we are what God intends for us to be, we’re gonna have an attitude saying, God, I don’t want to just get forgiven for what I did and go on. I want change to happen!

I don’t want to go back and do that, I want to be completely clean in my spirit. I’ll tell you, what a glorious thing it is that God can clean us to the point where it’s like it never happened. That’s clean, folks. That’s the kind of clean that God can do. And that’s what he’s saying here. “According to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.” Wash me—wash me! You know, your mind goes to 1st John. If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just, to do what?

Forgive us, and…

Cleanse—forgive and cleanse. You see the two different things going on there? It’s wonderful that he can wipe the record clean, but to take it out of me so that I’m not even laboring under the guilt of what I did.

Now if you’re somebody that’s looking for a license to go ahead and be able to just sin without any conscience about it, this is not about you. This is not what this is about. This is about somebody who is very conscious of that which is wrong. But yet, the blood of Jesus Christ is able to cleanse completely from even the guilt! We don’t have to go around feeling like…‘I’m a sorry dog and He’s about to kick me.’ We can go around with a freedom to be His children.

This is what David is looking for. He says, oh God, I remember what it’s like to be free. I want to be free from the awfulness of this thing that I did. I see it now, Lord. I understand. He says, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” (NIV).

Taking Full Responsibility
Now, you get this picture as he unfolds his prayer to God! This is not a man who is sugar-coating the situation. He’s not making any excuses. He’s not saying, Lord, You know what happened. That woman was so foolish to get up on the flat roof of her house within sight of the castle wall and take a bath! God, it’s her fault! This is not all my fault! This is…no. You don’t see that in here anywhere. There’s no sense of anybody else.

All Sin is Against God
God this is You and me…‘cause he goes on and he says, “Against you, you only, have I sinned.” He didn’t say, oh God, I sinned against the man, I sinned against the woman, I sinned against…he’s seeing what the real deal is. He’s saying oh God, everything I’ve done, I’ve done to You! “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.”

You know, if we see it as God sees it, everything, regardless of the circumstances, is against God. Now let’s suppose that I get mad at Carl. He wore a purple shirt this morning and he’s supposed to be wearing…whatever this color is. He didn’t get the right memo, so…I’m gonna clock him one. Now, you could say, that was a sin against Carl. And that would be true. But you know something? Carl was created in the image of God. He’s a human being created in the image of God. If I did that to him, I did that to his Creator. Do you know we need to live with that sense of connectedness? Everything you do to anybody else, to any other human, I don’t care if they’re the most despicable person in the world…you do it them, you’re doing it to their Creator.

I’ll tell you what, do you remember what the Lord told Noah? And I’m trying to remember the exact words, but it was something to the effect that, if a man’s blood is spilled…if a man spills another man’s blood, by man his blood will be spilled. Because why? In the image of God, he was created. You just did that to somebody God made…doesn’t matter the circumstances, the reason. Now I’m not talking about warfare, but I’m talking about you going out and you kill somebody.

But that applies to everything! Didn’t Jesus say, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren.…” (KJV). There’s that sense of what we do to one another is what we’re really doing to God. Man, that puts a whole different complexion on how we live, and what we do, and how we think. God wants us to grow up so that we really get the real deal. We don’t want to see it as ‘we see it.’

How do we see ourselves, typically? Well, I’m comparing myself to everybody else. And, of course, I’m much better. I don’t do the things that they do, so I must be okay. You know, we look at our scale, we sort of rate one another, we put one another down, we look down our noses at them, but for what purpose? To lift ourselves up, and have a good self-image and all that stuff. It’s a bunch of junk.

You know, we know it here [pointing to head]. But emotionally, too much, that’s the way we think and God is wanting to lift us out of that to where we see that everything that we do that’s wrong is really against Him. We’re taking the gift of life and we’re using it in ways that He never designed. Sin is a violation of God’s heart and God’s purpose, God’s nature, God’s character. Boy, you look at it like that, we have no hope in this. That’s why we need a Savior.

No Mitigating Factors
But oh, I’ll tell you what, the people that have been the closest to God have lived with the reality of that, so that they never, ever get to the point where they trust in self. But David is looking at the Lord and he is…there’s a lot of things he’s not doing. He’s certainly not making excuses, is he? There’s no way he’s looking and saying oh God, I did this…but! There are no mitigating factors.

You know, you go in a courtroom…sometimes they’ll come to decision time. Somebody’s done something, but then they’ll look…are there any mitigating factors? Well he wasn’t right in the head, or this, that, or the other. He had a disadvantaged childhood or 1001 things. There are no mitigating factors here. If we give vent to our nature and do something that’s contrary to God, that’s what it is. Don’t sugar-coat it. Look yourself in the mirror and just call it what it is.

No Self Pity
But you know, I see something else in here. This is not the wallowing in self-pity kind of deal, is it? He’s not just sitting there…‘oh poor me.’ It’s not all about that kind of thing. It’s an honesty, but it’s not an honesty that degenerates into this…‘I’m so bad.’ God, deliver us from that. Of course you’re bad. Get over it. If you act in yourself, you’re just like every other sinner on the planet.

There’s almost an implicit pride in that as though you think you shouldn’t be like that! If you act out of your own resources, sin is going to happen. That’s just part of being what we are. The glorious truth is that God doesn’t judge by that! He judges by His purpose. That why David appealed not to anything here, not to anything he’d ever done, not to any…he didn’t look back and say, God, I’ve served You for these many years, You ought to have mercy on me. He just said, Lord, I appeal to You.

I’m just gonna be flat-out honest. God, it’s what it is. I don’t want to be this way. I did it. It’s against You. I’m gonna call sin, sin. I’m gonna deal with it straight up! It’s what it is! No excuses, Lord! No self pity! No, ‘oh God, I can’t believe I did that’! Well, do you think you’re different than the rest of us? If you act out of self, it’ll be a mess. What do you think you are? That’s part of spiritual maturity. It’s like I’ve been saying, knowing what we are and being honest about it, and still understanding that God loves us anyway.

And He’s made provision for sinners like us. Praise God! That’s an awesome thing!

No Pretense
That ought to give everyone here hope! But I pray that it’ll give us an honesty in heart where we quit pretending, quit trying to be something, and imagining we’re something that we’re not. So David is dealing straight up with the Lord. Now he’s going back to some certain things here. ‘Surely’…he begins two verses in a row, ‘surely.’ Now he puts that in there for a reason! He says, this is bedrock truth here! This is something I need to reckon with in my life. This is something you and I need to reckon with in our lives!

“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (NIV). He’s looking back and he’s recognizing that when sin happens, it flows from a fountain that I was born with! It’s there! I can’t pretend that it’s not! I can’t pretend I’m different than I am, or I’m better than I really am! God, that’s where it came from! It came from the very depths of my being! I was born this way! And all I did was just kind of let down and yield to that, and it just led me down the wrong path.

I’ll tell you, as you get up in the morning, are you reckoning on what you really are? Is there an honesty? I don’t hear too many loud amens on that, but that’s a sober thought. But I’ll tell you, it’s a thought that isn’t meant to cause us to be down and negative and defeated! It’s one to cause us to say, wait a minute, I cannot trust in me! But I can sure trust in Him. Lord, I need You today. I need You! The only way I can possibly live for You is with strength that You give me. It says, You work in me.

Truth on the Inside
That’s where he’s going, and David is reckoning on the truthfulness of what he is naturally, but he’s also reckoning on something else. He says, “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in…” Where? “…In the inmost place.” So he’s recognizing the work that God needs to do is not simply to dump a bunch of rules on him, and say, okay, you conform to the rules and it’ll be cool.

He’s saying, You’ve got to do something down here [pointing to heart]. You want me to have a knowledge of You and a knowledge of the real deal down in here, or my life’s gonna be a mess. I don’t want to serve you like just a bunch of external rules, and then think I’m good because I keep the rules. God, You need to do a work in my heart. You desire Truth to be all the way down in here.

You teach me wisdom. Now what wisdom is he talking about? Obviously it’s not the wisdom of the world, is it? You get that in the movies and everywhere else. You get the devil’s message! But we need a wisdom that comes from the other side—we need a wisdom that comes from above! It’s “…Pure…peaceable…easy to be entreated,” as James says. (KJV). Praise God!

So he says, “Cleanse me with hyssop…” I didn’t dig too deep into that, but anyway hyssop, I guess, was an herb or a plant of some kind that they used in cleansing rituals. It was meaningful to somebody in that culture. It was a symbol of a cleansing that God performs. “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me…” (NIV). Now this is a glorious thing! If God does the washing, what’s the result?

Clean! That’s what I need. I need to so come to Him with such an honesty and a repentance of heart, and just cast my care upon Him. And what’s the result? Clean! Do you want to be clean this morning? Are you clean this morning? Are you walking around with a load of guilt, and failure, and all that stuff? God wants you to be clean! Praise God!

Not “Trying Harder”
You know, there’s something else I see in this and you go through this whole thing, you will see some end results of what God does. But you will not see David saying anything like…oh God, I am so sorry. I messed up. I promise I’ll do better next time! Have you ever done that?

Yeah, have you ever not done that? But isn’t that how we react. Well what are we really saying? I did a bad thing, but I’m really good. I’m really…I’m not like that Lord. You’ve got to understand, that’s not me. Oh yes it is you. Everybody needs to be able to look in the mirror and say, God, that’s somebody that’s full of evil in Your sight that I’m seeing. If I have any goodness, if I have any strength, if I have any righteous standing before You, it’s gonna be Your doing.

I can’t look in the mirror and stick my chest out and say, look what I am and look and what I’ve done. Oh God, I come to You as a broken, needy sinner, casting my case in Your hands, based upon Your provision, Your promise. Everything David is asking God is not a promise…’God, You let me off the hook on this one, and I’ll do better, I’ll try harder!’ It’s ‘God, I need You to do something for me I cannot do for myself!’

Oh God, clean me, but don’t just clean me. He goes on, “Let me hear joy and gladness…” He certainly wants to do that, but “…Let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.”

A Pure Heart
But look where he goes from there. He says, “Create in me a pure heart.…” See, this is where the “failing forward” comes in. David is not just wanting to get rid of the thing so he can feel better and just go back to living. He is wanting to learn from God. He’s wanting God to do a deep work that’s down in here, so that he can go forward and be a different person.

And yes, there’ll probably be other instances where he’s gonna have to go back to God and say, oh God. But every time there is a falling forward, there’s a pressing on, as we spoke last week. There’s a reaching out to God…oh God, I need You to do something in here, because the problem I’m dealing with comes from in here.

Only You have the power. God, I need a miracle in my life. I need You to come in and do something. I don’t present myself and say, oh God, I’ll try harder. I want to say, oh God, I need a Savior. I need Someone to teach me. I need Someone to empower me, change the way I look at life, change the way I look at myself. God create in me a clean heart! Not just clean hands and clean deeds…clean heart!

A Steadfast Spirit
“Renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Boy, that’s a mouthful, isn’t it? Now, what’s a steadfast spirit? See, there’s a sense there, God, I need more constancy in my life. I need a spirit that’s gonna continue to go in the right direction. I need one that’s not gonna wander here and wander there, but I know I can’t manufacture that, Lord! It’s not in me to be that way! Oh God, create that in me, Lord.

I long…there’s a longing in my heart, oh God. There’s a longing for what I see. I’m so filled with a sense of what I did! But oh God…it turns me from trusting in myself and from being careless, to looking to You with all of my heart and saying, oh God, do something for me that I cannot do for myself. Oh God, work in my heart. “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Everything here is appealing to something that only God can do.

Man, don’t you wallow in self-pity. Don’t you sugar-coat your sin. And don’t you promise God you’ll do better, because you will not, unless God comes in and works. You lean on Him and things will be different. But you lean on you, it’s gonna be the same. Praise God!

Here was a man who had served God all his life and then he fell into this terrible thing! How could such a thing happen? Well, it happened because he leaned on his flesh. And it’ll happen the same way with us if we just get careless, and we do the same thing. But it doesn’t have to be that way, does it? Thank God.

Not Just You and God
But now there’s another sense. So far, this has just been a vertical ‘you and me, God.’ I’ve got to get this thing right. I need You to change me. But now all of a sudden it turns in a slightly different direction. Now he’s beginning to think about other people, ‘cause David was not just…well, it’s you and me, Lord. This is a private deal we’ve got going here. David had a relationship with other people, didn’t he? He had a very particularly prominent one, he was the king. He was the leader, not just politically, but spiritually, he was the leader of his people!

Do you think David was the only one that was gonna fail? No, but he saw…having come through this terrible thing, having reached out for God’s mercy, learning something in a deeper way about God, taking a more sober look at his own life and his own heart and his own need…all of this…if he would really reach out and have God do the work that was needed at that moment, he was actually going to be in a better place to help somebody else and encourage them and be able to say, I was in a ditch! “This poor man cried…” as he did in another Psalm, “…and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.” (KJV). “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.”

That’s what God is looking for from every one of us. It’s not just you and Jesus. You are connected, I’m connected. What happens to me affects everybody else. I want to be a positive force. I can’t be that without God taking control. I have no power to help you and you have no power to help me, except God live in us. Praise God!

That’s what being part of the Body of Christ is about. It’s Him living in us. It’s Him energizing, Him directing. But even things like what David went through can cause us…you know, we don’t jump in the mud to say, oh God, I’m gonna have a great spiritual experience here. But the best you and I do, we’re gonna find ourselves in that place sometimes! Let’s let God take that and use it for good! Let’s let Him work in us so that we can help one another.

“Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.” (NIV). And that’s a positive statement, isn’t it? He’s recognizing, God, if you do what I need done so desperately in my life, there’s gonna be good things, there’s gonna be good fruit come out of this. That’s what I long for, Lord. I’m just not looking to feel better. I want to get back on line. I want to get back into the center of Your purpose, oh God. Do something for me in my heart of hearts.

“Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.” Not mine…my tongue’s gonna sing about You, Lord, how great you are…a God who can deal with something like I just messed up and did. “My tongue will sing of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.”

Now here’s the…it almost sounds…you put two or three of these verses together about sacrifice, it almost sounds like a contradiction, but it really isn’t. He says, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.” Later on he says, yeah, we’re gonna offer burnt offerings and it’s gonna be great. You’re gonna accept it. What’s the deal there?

The deal is He’s talking about something superficial. He’s talking about some outward thing that you do that’s sort of, almost a religious ceremony—almost going through the motions of…well okay, I messed up, I will pray a little prayer…I’ll try harder, I’ll do better. There’s nothing superficial about this. David is saying, there’s nothing I can do outwardly. I’ve done all this…I can’t just go take a bull and slaughter it, and say, okay, that takes care of it. You get what he’s saying?

It’s not superficial. This has got to be a heart operation. That’s why he goes on to say, “The sacrifices of God…” The ones that He’s really, really looking for, “…are a broken spirit.…” Now they were under the economy of the Law and looking forward to the sacrifice of Christ, they did sacrifice animals. That was appropriate to do. But if the sacrifice of an animal does not come from a broken heart that has a godly attitude toward sin, then it’s just an empty form!

And I’ll tell you, the Israelites who even did these things over the centuries, so much of it was an empty form. And God said, I hate your sacrifice—I hate all this stuff! Take away all your noise, the noise of all your worship, it’s empty! Your heart’s not in it! You’re just doing it as an outward form of religion and I hate it!

That’s what David is getting at…saying, God, the sacrifice You really are looking for is not just an animal, it’s in here. Praise God! “…A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Are you in a place this morning where you think God despises you because of what you have done or what you are? You think He’s rejected you? Listen to what he says. “…A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” That’s the very thing God is looking for.

An Example for the Ages
Everything that David experiences and expresses here…I’ll tell you, I almost see the goodness and the mercy of God in allowing him to go through this terrible thing! Think of what it has done for the multitudes of God’s people who have been able to read the prayer that he poured out of his heart, and to learn what it is that God is looking for from us. Oh God, if you’re trying to be a good Christian in your own strength, you don’t have a clue what your real need is.

But here’s a man after God’s own heart. This is what repentance looks like. It’s an honesty of heart. It’s a looking entirely to Him, it’s recognizing that the issues are the things that flow from here and not from anywhere else. But now you come right back to what I said earlier that it’s not just about David and God, is it? He’s not just thinking about me…once I get my heart clear, I’m free from the guilt of this thing, everything is great and grand, we’ll just go on. He’s saying, oh God, my heart is not just about me. I have a responsibility here.

And so he says, “In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem.” He’s talking about the spiritual needs of the people over whom God had set him as a ruler. You see the heart that was not just concerned about him, but concerned about the people that God had placed in his care. Has God not placed one another in our care? What we do in our walk with God…I’ll tell you, it needs to be about the Body of Christ.

Yes, our place in it, our part, our responsibility, the measure of God that flows through our part…but oh God, there needs to be a heart that says, oh God, build up the walls of Jerusalem! Build up the whole Body of Christ. Man, when I get in a place like that, and I do, just like you, my tendency is just to think about me. But you know, part of growing up, part of being mature is saying, oh God, this isn’t just about me. And I’m not the only one. And I pray for my brothers and sisters who are in this place. I pray that You’ll reach out Your hand of mercy, the same mercy You’ve shown me…help them. Help me to be an instrument to help them and encourage them. Lord, I pray for them! Man, that’s a good way to get out of yourself.

I’ll tell you, there’s something that’s gonna flow into us when something like that flows out. I mean…not just a form. I’m talking about really giving our hearts…because a heart of God that’s flowing in us, there’s a real sense that God is concerned about others and they’re in the same weak place I am. They have the same needs. They’re made of the same stuff. Oh God, help them, right now, where they’re at.

I’ll tell you, God will just move in greater ways in our lives. This is part of growing up in Him. In all things, this honesty…but this heart for the whole of God’s purpose. Now this is where he comes back and he says, “Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar.”

That’s what sounds like such a contradiction. He’s just said You don’t want that! And he says now, then it’ll be something that’ll be great and You’ll love it. But you see what the difference is…the difference is it comes from the heart. There’s a real repentance that’s behind what they’re doing.

Man, that’s what Jesus reacted so strongly to with the Pharisees. They were just so full of their own self-righteousness, ‘cause they were just following a bunch…they changed the Law of God into a bunch of religious rules. And as long as they kept the rules, they thought, well, by that I’m righteous. Oh Lord!

What Paul Learned
You think about Paul. He was in that place when he was Saul, the Jew, the Pharisee. All he had to do was meet Jesus, didn’t he? And suddenly his entire world flip-flopped, and he suddenly realized. And yet, even there, you see experiences…I see a parallel between what he experienced, maybe it wasn’t one grand thing, or one large thing.

But Romans 7 and 8, you see Paul coming to that same place. Oh God, who’s gonna rescue me? He begins to understand where sin comes from. It’s not just these little superficial mistakes that I make. It’s what I am! Sin is what I was born…everything about me, the way I was born is contrary to what You’re after, Lord. But in spite of that, You loved me enough to send Your very Son.

Does not that magnify the grace of God? It sets it in its proper place. The more we see what we are, the greater our appreciation of what He has done for us, and how awesome it is that He would come and become sin for us so that we could become the very righteousness of God in Him. Praise God!

But I’ll tell you, you never ever, after that, will see in the life of Paul this self-righteousness. You never see him get to the place where, in his own mind…okay, now I was a sinner back there, but now I’m good. Never ever see that, do you?

You know, I remember years ago, somebody, not from here, kind of objected to the song, “Sinner Saved By Grace.” “I’m just a sinner, saved by grace.” That’s not right! You’re a Christian now. You’re righteous. You’ve been changed. You’re a different person. It’s wrong to call yourself a sinner!

Well, maybe there’s one aspect of truth there. But Paul didn’t get that memo! Look at what he said in, I think it’s 2nd Timothy, 1…one of the Timothy’s anyway…maybe it’s 1st Timothy, but I’ll find it when I get there. Yeah, it’s 1st Timothy, chapter 1, verse 15.

Now he prefaces what he’s gonna say by saying, “Here is a trustworthy saying…” You can bank on this one. Here is something you can absolutely bank on. “…That deserves full acceptance.” Don’t you hold back on this. You embrace this with every part of your being. This is Truth, guys. You can bank your life, your soul upon this Truth. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” That’s glorious. But you know, he doesn’t stop there, does he? “…Of whom I am the worst.”

Yeah. It’s a tense situation. He doesn’t say, ‘I was—I was the worst sinner, but He saved me.’ I am!

Paul understood that in me, that is, in my flesh, my natural man, dwells…

No good thing. You know, that’s a revelation you and I need. If you haven’t got it, we need that. Not so that we’ll give in to it. Not so that we’ll just say, oh well, it doesn’t matter, I can’t do any better. But so that we’ll turn to Him and embrace the salvation that He’s given.

If you’re one of those that says, oh, I can’t believe I did that again! Well, I guess I can understand that. I’ve been there. But again, where does that come from? It comes from a wrong understanding of what you are. It’s pride. You’re measuring against somebody else and you think, well, I’m better than that. I shouldn’t do that.

Well, if you go by your own strength, you will. Like the guy who drinks and says, I’ll never do that again, I promise. How does that work? It doesn’t. You don’t have the strength—you and I don’t have the strength to promise to be different than we are. If we could do that, we could save ourselves! We could change ourselves into what God wants! That’s the whole point! I can’t! I need a Savior!

Forgiving Others
Praise God! But you know, this gets into something else and I never did make this connection before, and I don’t know that the Scriptures are meant to be necessarily connected, but I think there’s a truth here that we need. Matthew chapter 18…‘cause one thing the Lord seemed to quicken to me as I was thinking about this, is, once again, this is not just about me and God. This is not just a private little deal between me and Him, where as long as I get that right, everything’s cool, everything’s grand, everything’s as it should be. There is a sense in which I don’t need to just deal with the vertical, I need to deal with the horizontal.

And there’s a situation here that Jesus is talking about—there’s an illustration that Jesus is talking about that absolutely bears on what we’re talking about today, that is an honest assessment of what we are. Now this goes back to…well, I’m gonna read this. Let me pick this up here in verse 21. “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” No doubt he thought he was being very righteous and generous in his offer to the Lord. I’ll forgive them seven times, Lord!

Now, you know, a lot of times we’ll lift this out of the context and forget where it’s placed. Let’s back up a few verses and see what the context is. Why would Peter come up with a question like that? This wasn’t just out of the blue, was it? Go back to verse 15. “If your brother sins against you.…” That’s what the context is. Jesus volunteered this Truth. “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.”

See, this is a private thing here. “If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along…” and so forth. He goes through the principle of trying to help somebody. But yet, sometimes you run into somebody who just will not be helped. They’re gonna have an adamant spirit. It doesn’t matter if the whole church recognizes the condition they’re in and bears witness to it, they’re gonna say, I’m right and you’re all wrong.

And Jesus said in that context, “…Tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” You just recognize this is somebody who has a different spirit. They’re not really a part. “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

It’s About the Body of Christ
See, you’re talking about the context of the Body of Christ here. This is the relationships with one another. This is part of the ‘one another’ thing. So now it’s in that context that Peter brings up this issue. Okay, Lord, so my brother sins against me, what’s my responsibility? How often do I have to forgive him? Now of course, you all snicker because you know the answer to this one. “Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Or seventy times seven…it’s a lot anyway. It’s high enough, you’re gonna lose count and you’re not gonna worry about it.

This is not an issue of how many times and then there’s a limit, and then you cut them off. This is a condition. Folks, if we’re part of the Body of Christ, there’s gonna be stuff that happens. There’s going to be offenses. There’s going to be things that people say and do that are wrong against one another. That’s part of being what we are. We don’t try to be that way. We want to grow, we want to learn. But in the process, we’re gonna mess up and there’s things that are gonna happen. You can’t put people together and not have stuff happen. But isn’t God wise to put us together so He can knock those rough edges off? Of course, that applies to everybody else, ‘cause all my rough edges are gone. If everybody else would just get right, I’ll be okay!

A Parable About Forgiveness
But Jesus, of course, told the story, a parable here. “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before him. Be patient with me, he begged, and I will pay back everything. The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. Pay back what you owe me! he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, Be patient with me, and I will pay you back. But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.

“When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. You wicked servant, he said, I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you? In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” That’s sobering. Now, who do you suppose the characters represented based on what Peter had asked? The king represented…God. Who did the first servant represent?

Who Was Jesus Talking About?
He’s talking to…of course, He’s talking to Peter. He’s answering Peter’s question. Who was that servant? Well, it was Peter. And of course, by extension, it’s every one of us. What the Lord is doing here is showing a comparison between the things that we do to one another as compared to the things that we do against God! Let’s see this from God’s point of view. We see it from ours! We say, I was doing good and they sinned against me! But how does God see it? He says, your sins against me—your shortcomings against me are like the national debt…growing.

They are so mountainous they will never be repaid! There’s nothing you can do! And yet, I have forgiven you! Look at this mountain of debt! Now here’s somebody, again, that’s done something to you. What’s that like compared to this mountain?

It’s like fast food lunch money.

Who are we to not forgive one another when God has forgiven us? But you see what’s going on here with somebody who struggles with this, and really just can’t let it go, and has got to…‘but you don’t know what they did.’ They don’t get it. They’re not really seeing themselves through God’s eyes. They’re not seeing that from God’s point of view, He has forgiven them trillions and trillions of dollars that it was hopeless for them to repay. They’re not seeing themselves as sinners.

The Pharisee in All of Us
Think about that. If you’re one that really struggles in this area, there is not a small bit of Pharisee in you. If you’re looking at yourself, comparing yourself to other people and imagining that you’re better than they are, you’re like the Pharisee who went in and said, I thank You that I’m not like other men. Yes you are—yes you are. I don’t care if you go out in the gutter. I don’t care if you walk up to Adolph Hitler. Now you can sputter and spout and say whatever you want, but you look into the heart of his heart and the heart of your heart, there is no difference! Yes, the circumstance is varied. Yes, he yielded himself to a master spirit and did awful things. But the same sin that drove him is in you.

And God has had mercy on you! This has everything to do with the life of the Body of Christ! And you can pray Psalm 51 ‘til you’re blue in the face, but if you’re not willing to have a spirit of humility in recognizing what’s wrong in you and seeing by contrast how tiny, insignificant are the things that people do to you, and forgive them, you’re gonna carry that burden of guilt right away from all that praying…not gonna do you a bit of good.

God give us an honest heart that recognizes what we’re made out of and how desperately we need a Savior, so that we can forgive one another and see things in their proper context. Man, it’s one thing to look from a human point of view. It’s another thing to step back and say, well God, how do You see it? He says, I see you with sins like the national debt and I’ve forgiven you because you came to Me and put your trust in Jesus Christ. And this little thing that has happened to you…yes, I know it seems big to you, but can you not forgive them of this little thing?

Our Attitude Toward Sinners
God give us grace to see things in the light of His Word. You know, I see another area where this comes into play. You know, God saves sinners! And we would like the Lord to clean them up before they come here so they don’t mess up our cute little playhouse. But I’ll tell you, God just might want to save some prostitutes, some drug addicts, some people, who by the standards of this world are just the down-and-out despicable. They’re not like us. We don’t want to dirty our skirts.

How did Jesus react to people like that? He loved them. There was a compassion. He looked beyond their fault and saw their need. And God help us to so understand what we are that we not only have compassion upon one another, but we’re able to have compassion on people that He would reach out to here. I’ll tell you, we need to be instruments of His…stop trying to be little goody-goody little Christians in our own minds and start saying, oh God, just fill me with Yourself, Lord. Help me to be like You. Change my whole way of thinking and doing. I’ll tell you, there’s a lot in this, isn’t there?

But, that’s part of spiritual maturity, as I said in the beginning. It’s having an honest appreciation of what we are and who we are. And if we do, we’re gonna have a genuine repentance that never looks at self, never wallows, but just comes and says, oh God, my only hope is in Your mercy. But I don’t just want You to do a superficial, wipe-it-off-the-books kind of thing here, Lord. I need a deeper work in here.

And I’m not gonna hide and pretend that it isn’t like it is. It’s exactly what it is, Lord. But You’re able, and I come because of Your character and Your purpose that You would work in me. And help me to have a right spirit toward other people. Help me to live in the light of all of this, so that I can properly relate to my brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, and so that I can have a heart of compassion toward people that are down and out and need a Savior.

They’re caught by the power of sin. And you’ve redeemed me, Lord. That doesn’t make me better than them. But it gives me a message of hope where I can say, look, I’m a sinner, too, but Jesus saved me. There’s hope for you if you’ll call upon the name of the Son of God and surrender your heart to Him! You turn your case over to Him and He’ll save you. Praise God! Don’t we have a wonderful Savior this morning?

Praise the Lord! Praise God!

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