If I remember correctly, I got the call on Sunday morning. Someone in our church attempted suicide. This was the first time for me to face something like this even indirectly. The pastor asked that I preach the sermon as he went to be with the person. I believe it is posted on the church site, but because of the sensitive nature of the topic I didn’t want to open old wounds by re-circulating the message. However, it came up again today, and I am aware of another situation where someone I know has attempted suicide. I’m sharing this now in the hope that rough as it is, the heart and the truth of it will come through and bring restoration. Your life is precious! Please don’t throw it away!
Our society teaches us to tolerate just about anything. Not only are we to tolerate it, but we are to embrace it. This attitude has crept into our churches. In the genuine desire to show love and acceptance to all, we look the other way in the presence of sinful behavior.
Is that what Jesus meant by not judging? What do we think of parents who do that with their children? What kind of children do they usually turn out to be? We are supposed to love the sinner. We were all sinners saved by His blood and we still fight the battles. Church should be a place where the sinner is welcome, but it should never be a place where sin is condoned. That is going to make sinners uncomfortable at times. They may respond by repenting or they may run away. We must not be afraid to speak the truth.
When we look the other way in the presence of sin, we are not acting in love. It’s possible for our hearts to be in the right place, but our actions are out of step with our motivation. If you saw a child about to go into traffic, would you turn away because you don’t want to judge him for his choices? Sometimes our motives are not so pure. We don’t want to get involved. We don’t want to make trouble or put ourselves at risk. We’d never admit it, but our actions suggest we’d rather the child get run over than risk getting run over ourselves. We can’t claim to be loving unless we’re willing to do the tough things that love sometimes requires.
11 Deliver those who are being taken away to death,
And those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back.
12 If you say, “See, we did not know this,”
Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts?
And does He not know it who keeps your soul?
And will He not render to man according to his work? (Prov 24:11-12 NASB)
11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:11-12 NASB)
We’ve all heard the famous movie phrase, “You can’t handle the truth!” Oh how Satan wants you to believe just that! And he will make sure that the truth you think you can’t handle is one big Hellish lie! We’re going to examine some of the lies you may have been told and counter them with the truth of God’s Word. Jesus said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32) I hope you’ll join us next week and find your freedom in His truth.
On Monday morning of the same week, I read Psalm 34. It inspired the sermon I would preach the next Sunday with these events in mind. We are told in the introduction that this psalm was written during a time when the future king David had fled his own country to avoid being killed by the jealous King Saul, whom he had faithfully served. He was hiding out with Israel’s mortal enemies, the philistines. He was afraid of that king too so he pretended to be crazy. That way the king would not consider him a threat.
You might think at this point that David would be angry and discouraged. We know from other psalms that sometimes he did feel that way, but that isn’t what he expresses here. This psalm is an expression of praise to Yahweh from beginning to end. David could have looked at his circumstances, but instead he chose to focus on the Lord.
There is a lesson here for us. David acknowledged that troubles abounded, but he knew the One who was able to deliver him. He says in verse 19, “Many are the distresses of the righteous, but Yahweh delivers him out of them all.” (LEB) Let’s look at this wonderful psalm together and see what we can learn.
One thing we should remember when we read our Bible is that the chapters and verses were added for convenience long after the original text was written. The chapter and verse breaks don’t always fall in the best places to help us understand what the text is saying. Matthew 18 is not one of those cases. I think it’s just right. I’m also not a big fan of the subheadings many translations add, especially when they stray into the realm of commentary. However I’m going to provide my own for this chapter, “To Protect and to Save.”
Jesus is telling us many things in this chapter, but we will focus on some main themes. Protect the weak and the innocent. Address sin with love. Strive always for redemption. Forgiveness is essential. I hope this will help us to understand why it is so important that we deal with sin in our lives and in our church body as well as the redemptive purpose that is ever present throughout God’s word.
When I set out to prepare this sermon, I planned a rather straightforward exhortation about how we need to renew our minds by focusing our thoughts on the things of God instead of the things of this world. I began with Romans 12:2, and it remains the key verse from which the topic was launched, but I began to see that I was going to take it completely out of its context. It’s important for us to realize when we read the Bible that it is not a collection of disjointed snippets that we can cut and paste together to fit our fancy. It’s a collection of historical accounts, poetry, prophecies, and letters; divinely assembled to give us the instructions we need to live as God intended. The book of Romans is one of my favorite books to pull from, but it is a single letter and really should be read from beginning to end. However, that can’t be accomplished in 30 minutes, so I tried to extract the sense of the part without violating the meaning of the whole. Let’s look at chapter 12 and maybe just a bit of 11 so we can see what the therefore is there for and see what Paul meant when he said that we should be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
When we speak of ourselves or someone else deserving something, we’re relying on our concept of justice to make that determination. Whether the desert is good or bad, we did something for which it is a just consequence. We may use the concept more generally regarding someone’s overall character, but character is revealed in action.
I cannot at this moment recall any time I have heard the phrase “I/You deserve it” spoken truthfully. The speaker may have believed it, but that didn’t make it true. We usually have an inflated view of ourselves and what we deserve. God tells us what we deserve through the Bible (Rom 6:23) and there’s nothing good about it. We deserve death. Every breath we take is an act of His mercy. Every good thing we have comes from Him (James 1:17.) When we start thinking this way our whole attitude changes. Demands are replaced with expressions of gratitude. Pride is overcome by humility. There is no room for jealousy. We will find ourselves glorifying Yahweh, creator and Lord of all that is and the only one who truly does deserve it.
We can be thankful that we don’t get what we deserve. Instead a merciful and loving God made a way for us to get the exact opposite of what we deserve. It is His gift to us that we never could earn. What happens if we let that reality shape the way we live? Let’s find out!