Saturday, April 07, 2007

Psalm 51: Aren't You Glad You're Not Like David?

Aren't you glad you're not like David,
Such blazoned sin, how could he?
Aren't you glad you're not like Saul,
Making up his own rules, what was he thinking?
Aren't you glad you're not like Cain,
Violence against his own brother?
Aren't you glad you're not like Rebekah,
Such planned deceit?
Aren't you glad you're not like the Israelites,
So easily seduced by idols?
Aren't you glad you're not like Absalom,
How could he be so jealous?
Aren't you glad you're not like Elijah,
How could he forget God, be so depressed?
Aren't you glad you're not like Nebuchadnezzar,
How could he be so obsessed with power?
Aren't you glad you're not like Samson,
How could he be so easily deceived?
Aren't you glad you're not like Jonah,
How could he run from the Father's call?
Aren't you glad you're not like the Pharisees,
So religiously right, yet spiritually wrong?
Aren't you glad you're not like Judas,
Selling the Messiah for a little bit of silver?
Aren't you glad you're not like the Corinthians,
So much better at division than at serving the Lord?
But wait.
You are like them, and so am I.
There is simply no denying it.
Their stories are a mirror into which we see ourselves.
We too are jealous and easily deceived.
We too are proud and obsessed with power.
We are better at division while we run from God.
We too get angry and get seduced by idols.
In sorrow we must say,
We stand with David,
And Saul,
And Rebekah,
And Jonah,
And Elijah,
And the rest.
These stories are for us to look into and see us,
so that we are not able,
to buy into,
the lie of our own righteousness.
But instead,
Run to His mercy,
Hold onto His unfailing love,
and finally rest,
In His great compassion.
Aren't you glad you can step out of the darkness of self-deceit,
and admit who you are?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Psalm 51: Sinners and Unafraid

The older you get the more you move from being an astronaut to an archaeologist. When you're young you're excitedly launching to worlds unknown. You have all of the major decisions of life before you and spending your time assessing your potential and considering opportunities. It's a time of exploration and discovery. It's a time to go where you've never been before and to do what you've never done. It's a time to begin to use your training and gain experience.

But as you get older, you begin to look back at least as much as you look forward. As you look back, you tend to dig through the mound of the civilization that was your past life, looking for pottery shards of thoughts, desires, choices, actions, words, decision, relationships, and situations. And as you do this, you can't help but assess how you have done with what you have been given.

Now let's think about this for a moment. Who would be so arrogant and bold as to look back on their life and say, "In every possible way I was as good as I could have been?" Wouldn't we all hold some of those pottery shards in our hands and experience at least a bit of regret? Wouldn't all of us wish that we could take back words that we have said, decisions that we have made, or actions we have taken?

Here's what all of this means: If you and I are at all willing to humbly and honestly look at our lives, we will be forced to conclude that we are flawed human beings. And yet we don't have to beat ourselves up. We don't have to work to minimize or deny our failures. We don't have to be defensive when our weaknesses are revealed. We don't have to rewrite our own histories to make ourselves look better than we actually were. We don't have to be paralyzed by remorse and regret. We don't have to distract ourselves with busyness or drug ourselves with substances. Isn't it wonderful that we can stare our deepest, darkest failures in the face and be unafraid? Isn't it comforting that we can honestly face our most regretful moments and not be devastated? Isn't it amazing that we can confess that we really are sinners and be neither fearful nor depressed?

Isn't it wonderful that we can do all of these things because we have learned that our hope in life is not in the purity of our character or the perfection of our performance. We can face that we are sinners and rest because we know that God really does exist and He is a God of:
Unfailing love
Great compassion
Because He is, there is hope, hope of forgiveness and new beginnings!
Yes we really can fully acknowledge our sin and failure and yet be unafraid.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Psalm 51: No More If Only

It's so easy to slip into an "if only" lifestyle. I find myself slipping into it often. The "if only" possibilities are endless.
If only I'd been from a more stable family.
If only I'd had better friends as I was growing up.
If only my parents had sent me to better schools.
If only I'd been given better intellectual gifts.
If only that accident hadn't happen.
If only I'd had better physical health.
If only that degree program had been as good as advertised.
If only I'd been able to find a better job.
If only I didn't have to fight the traffic every day.
If only I'd been able to get married.
If only I hadn't gotten married so young.
If only I'd understood marriage more before I got married.
If only I had a more understanding spouse.
If only I'd come to know Christ earlier.
If only I'd found a good church when I was young.
If only I didn't have to struggle with my finances.
If only it was easier and more comfortable for me to communicate with others.
If only I could find a small group that I could be comfortable with.
If only I could have had children.
If only my children were more obedient.
If only I knew the Bible better.
If only that boss hadn't fired me.
If only I had a better place to live.
If only I could find some place where I feel like I really belong.
If only God seemed closer to me.
If only I didn't have to work so hard to make ends meet.
If only...

The seductive thing about our "if onlys" is that there is a bit of plausibility in all of them. We do live in a fallen world. We all face hardships of various kinds. We all have been sinned against in a variety of ways. None of us ever lived in ideal circumstances or in perfect relationships. The world is a broken place and we have all been touched in many ways by its brokenness. Yet, the "if only" lifestyle tends to say, "My biggest problem in life exist outside of me and not inside of me."

In Psalm 51 David says something very radical. It is counter-intuitive to a culture that tends to say that we all are the result of what our experience has made us. David says, "Surely I have been a sinner from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." David is saying that his greatest problem in all of life is not the result of what he has suffered in the situations and relationships of his life. Rather, David is saying that his biggest problem is internal and was there before he had any of these experiences! And David gives this deep and internal problem a name, sin. How humbling!

Think about it this way. It is the evil that is inside of you that either magnetizes you to the evil outside of you or causes you to deal with the evil outside of you in a way that is wrong. It is only when you begin to accept that your greatest problem in all of life is not what has happened or been done to you, that you begin to get excited about the rescuing grace of Jesus Christ. It is only when you begin to accept that your greatest need is something you came into the world with, that you will begin to hunger for the help that only God can give you. It is only then that you begin to hunger for more than changes of situation and relationship. It is only then that you begin to accept the most radical and personally liberating truth that you could ever conceive. What is that truth? It is that what you and I really need to be rescued from is us! We are the biggest danger to us. That is why God offers us the gorgeous promise of his grace which has the power to change us from the inside out.

Are you embracing that promise or are you still saying, "If only..."