Friday, June 08, 2007

Psalm 51: Building the Walls

It's always the fruit of true repentance and it's captured in these words, "In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem." When my heart turns from sin, it turns to concern for what God wants and what others need. In repentance, my heart turns from the love-of-self driven purposes of my kingdom of one, to the transcendent purposes of God. And what is God's purpose? He calls me to love him above all else and to love my neighbor as myself. What does this have to do with praying that God would "build the walls of Jerusalem?" Everything!

David's sin wasn't just a sin of the eyes and the body. No, all the wrong that David did was rooted in the sinful thoughts and desires of his heart. David allowed himself to think things about Bathsheba that he should have never thought and he allowed himself to crave what didn't belong to him. Then he permitted himself to plan what he should never have planned. With a heart now captured, David committed adultery and murder.

The war of sin is not first a war of the body. The battle ground on which the war of sin rages is the heart. There's a war of thought and desire that rages in every situation and relationship of daily life. It's a war between the desires of God and the desires of the sinful nature. So, is true repentance just about letting go of wrong behavior? No, true repentance begins with the heart. In true repentance, I confess to my selfishness. I confess that my problem isn't just that I do bad things, but that I do bad things because I'd rather have what I want than what God has willed for me. What does this have to do with building the walls of Jerusalem? Everything!

So, not only is the battle of sin a matter of the heart, but because it's a battle of the heart, all sin is against God. Sin is rooted in worshipping the creation more than I worship the Creator. Sin is about loving myself more than I love God. Sin is about desiring to be sovereign and constructing my own kingdom rather than finding joy in the greater purposes of the Kingdom of God. Sin is about forgetting God and living as if I were at the center of the universe. In my sin I exchange God's holy will for my selfish desire.

But, because I've replaced God's will for what I want, in my sin I not only don't love God, I don't love my neighbor either. David didn't love Bathsheba, he wanted to possess her. His lack of love is powerfully portrayed in the fact that he murdered her husband! The very fact that sin is about self-focus and self-love, guarantees the fact that I'll not love you the way that I should. Here's the principle: If you and I are ever going to keep the Second Great Command, we must first keep the First Great Command. It's only when I love God above all else that I'm free then to love my neighbor as myself. Now, what does this have to do with building the walls of Jerusalem? Everything! Let me explain.

Having confessed his sin and having rested in God's forgiveness, David's heart now turns toward the Lord and toward his neighbor. Jerusalem was the epicenter of the national and spiritual life of the people of God. It was the City of God, the place where the great temple of Solomon would be built. For Zion (Jerusalem) to prosper meant that God's blessings of grace were on his people. You see, in this prayer, David is no longer thinking of himself. No, he's praying that the riches of God's grace would be on the lives of all of those around him.

But there's more. When he asks for the walls to be built, it's very clear that David is praying for the building of the temple in Jerusalem. You know that because he says (in v.19) "Then there will be righteous delight you." Rather than his mind being dominated by his own purposes, his heart now goes to the purposes of God's kingdom. He's praying that God would receive the worship he deserves and the glory that's due his name. No longer is David's vision dominated by a woman he wants. No, now he finds joy in envisioning hundreds and thousands of people making their pilgrimage to Zion to worship the One who alone is worthy of the adoration of their hearts.

Here's real personal transformation, the man once captured by dark and evil lust is now filled with love for others and a deep excitement with the glory of God. Only grace can create such a fundamental transformation.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Psalm 51: Unfailing Love

I wish I would live with You in view;
Eyes to Your glory
Ears for Your wisdom
Heart for Your grace.
But I live with me in view.
Eyes to my kingdom
Ears for my opinion
Heart captured by my will.
I know I was made for You,
I know that Hope
My agenda for everyday,
Is to be found in You.
But I want my own kingdom
I love my own glory
I define my own meaning
I delight in my control.
There's a war that never ends;
The battleground is my heart.
It's a moral skirmish
Between what you have ordained
And what I want.
So I don't find pleasure in Your glory,
I don't delight in Your law.
But my heart doesn't rest,
I know there's a better way.
I know you are God
And I am not.
My sin is more than
Bad behavior
A bad choice
Wrong words.
My sin is a violation of the relationship
That I was meant to have with You.
My sin is an act
Where I replace You
With something I love more.
Every wrong thing I do
A lack of love for You,
A love of self.
Help me
To see
To acknowledge
To weep
And say,
"Against You, You only have I sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight."
And then help me to rest
In Your mercy
In Your great compassion
In Your unfailing love,
Even as the war goes on.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Psalm 51: The Lord's Prayer

I don't think you could say more dangerous words than these. I don't think you could pray a more radical prayer. I don't think you could wish for something that will turn your life more upside down than this. I think that most of the people who say these words would probably hesitate if they really understood what they were saying. I think we would all pause before we repeated this prayer if we clearly understood that we were actually praying upheaval into our lives. This is simply a prayer that can't be answered without the tearing down and rebuilding of many things in our lives. Had David prayed and lived this prayer, Psalm 51 wouldn't be in the Bible.

Here are the radical words I have been alluding to, "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." I must admit that I don't always greet God's kingdom with delight. There are things that I want in my life and I not only want them, but I know how, when, and where I want them! I want my life to be comfortable. I want my schedule to be unobstructed and predictable. I want the people around me to esteem and appreciate me. I want control over the situations and relationships in my life. I want people to affirm my opinions and follow my lead. I want the pleasures that I find entertaining to be available to me. I want the ministry initiatives I direct to be well received and successful. I want my children to appreciate that they have been blessed with me as their father. I want my wife to be a joyful and committed supporter my dreams. I don't want to suffer. I don't want to live without. I don't want to have to deal with personal defeat or ministry failure. What I am saying is that I want my kingdom to come and my will to be done.

In this way, I stand with David. In David's kingdom, Bathsheba would be his wife. In David's kingdom, Bathsheba would have had no husband. In David's kingdom he could have Bathsheba and the blessing of the Lord on his reign at the same time. So, David acted out of zeal for his own kingdom, forgetting that he was sent as the ambassador of a Greater King. Sadly, I do the very same thing. I get mad at one of my children, not because they broke God's law, but because they broke mine. I get impatient with my wife because she is delaying the realization of the purposes of my kingdom of one. Or I get discouraged with God because he brings the very uncomfortable things into my life that I work so hard to avoid.

"Thy kingdom come," is a dangerous prayer for it means the death of your own sovereignty. It means your life will be shaped by the will of another. It means that you will experience the messiness, discomfort, and difficulty of God's refining grace. It means surrendering the center of your universe to the One who alone deserves to be there. It means loving God above all else and your neighbor as yourself. It means experiencing the freedom that can only be found when God breaks your bondage to you! It means finally living for the one glory that is truly glorious, the glory of God.

You see, the prayer that Christ taught us to pray is the antidote to sin. Since sin starts with the heart, it's only when my heart desires God's will more than it desires my will, that I'll live within the moral boundaries that God has set for me. And it is only God's grace that can produce this kind of heart.

"Thy kingdom come," words of surrender, words of protection, and words of grace that can only be prayed by those who've been delivered by the Redeemer from the one kingdom that always leads to destruction and death, the kingdom of self.