Old Testament Reading- Psalm 51:1-17
New Testament Reading- Ephesians 4:17-32
By Henry J. Rafferty CLP -July 25, 2021
After King David had sinned by being with another man’s wife and having her husband put in the forefront of a battle until he was dead to cover his sin, God was not pleased. David, who was loved so much by God, had committed terrible sins, even when David knew God would know. Maybe it was the power of being a king, maybe David had momentarily forgotten that he was not the end-all-be-all of all that is in this world. Maybe David thought that the laws of God didn’t apply to him as king, or maybe the power of sin is so great in this world that even the best of us can sometimes fail. Regardless of why, David’s sins were not hidden from God and God was not about to let David off easy. Now David had a choice, he could have said, “I am the mighty King of Israel, and I don’t have to listen to anyone, including God. I will do and use who I please without regard to anyone but myself.”
This is not the choice that David made though, his prayer to God is recorded in Psalm 51:1-17:
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Surely, I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 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. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”
"We may be able to fool people, but we cannot fool God." ~Pastor Henry Rafferty
David chose to sin, but he also chose to humble himself to God and to plead for forgiveness. He knows that He is weak and that only God has the power to cleanse the sin of David. Please God, do not look at my sins because I am ashamed of them. Please God, create in me a pure heart and renew my spirit. Please God, do not leave me or take your spirit from me. Then, David tells God that he will teach others not to do what he has done and that he will not make any sacrifices to God, knowing that God does not care for the sacrifice, He cares about what is in our hearts. Well, David was true to his word, he just taught us all, thousands of years later and still teaching. Can you imagine writing your worst sins in the Bible for all to see? David did, and God never stopped loving him, He may not have liked what David did, and David would still suffer the consequences for his actions, but David’s heartfelt plea for forgiveness ultimately saved him from losing God’s favor for good.
God looks at our hearts more than you may think. We may be able to fool people, but we cannot fool God. He knows everything about us, every word, every deed, and every thought that we have ever had. Have you ever watched people that you know, or maybe ones who you love, do something wrong and you know before they do it, that they will make amends? You know them that well and you can predict their actions, how much more for God who knows your heart even better than you do yourself? God is constantly working with those who ask Him to help make ourselves more like Him. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he tells these new Christians that they must no longer live like they did before. They must learn to listen to God and to live a life that Jesus requires of them. Ephesians 4:25-32 tells us,
“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.”
These new Christians could not live for themselves any longer, but must live lives that were based on love, kindness, and mercy towards each other, and not only other Christians, but all people for we are all God’s children, and He does not want anyone to be lost.
As we mature in Christ, through reading of Scripture and prayer, our own prayers and those offered by others, we begin to feel our hearts and minds begin to change. As we let go of our own will, we begin to accept God’s will more often and that is when the change happens. We find that we are happier, more content, less judgmental, slow to anger, and quick to forgive. We realize that our whole life begins to change in every aspect in our words and our actions. We become an example to others without even trying.
One day a pastor was returning home when he saw a little girl sitting on the ground by the
side of the road next to an overturned bicycle. She had been to the grocery store and a small rabbit had run out in front of her bike which caused her to swerve and lose her balance. The bike had a bent rim, the grocery bag broke and the contents were all over the ground, and the little girl had two skinned up knees and was crying into her hands. The pastor backed up his car and cared for the girl, picking up the groceries and comforting her while tending her wounds with items he had in a first aid kit in his car. The pastor loaded the banged-up bicycle into his trunk and took the little girl home. Arriving at her home, he explained to her mother what had happened, and she couldn’t thank him enough for all that he had done for her daughter. She tried to offer him money, but he kindly objected, and he told her he would like to offer them prayers. The woman gave him a side-long look and asked if he were a pastor, to which he replied, “Yes.” Suddenly, she became quite nervous and told him that he would have to leave immediately. Confused, the pastor asked if he had offended her in any way. “No,” she replied, “But, my husband will be home soon, and he cannot stand pastors or anything else that has to do with the church.”
It was then that the pastor noticed all the awards and ribbons on the wall with the man’s name on them that he was awarded for boxing. It was then that the pastor thought that maybe leaving now would be a good idea, but before he got to the front door in walked the man himself. The woman introduced them and the minute she got the word pastor out of her mouth, “Out,” came the command from her husband. “No pastor, or any other thing associated with a church is going to come in my house. Get out right now and don’t come back. Whatever you’re selling, we don’t want.”
The woman showed the pastor to the door and with head hung low and in a quiet voice said, “I am very sorry, he had some bad things happen to him in the past that involved the church, again thank you for your help with my daughter.”
The pastor left not knowing how he felt, relieved because he didn’t have a black eye, or saddened by someone that the church had hurt so badly. A week went by and on Sunday during worship the pastor saw the man he had met walk into the back of the church and sit down in the back pew. The pastor thought, “Oh boy, what’s this all about.” After the last hymn, the man stood up and walked out of the church without saying a word. Another week went by and on the next Sunday the same thing happened again. The pastor is becoming more perplexed each week, but the man leaves right before the end of the service and so he can never ask him anything. The third Sunday, the man comes in on time and quietly sings the hymns and bows his head during the prayers. At the end of the service, he does not leave and after everyone else leaves the pastor approaches him and asks how he is doing. The man tells him that he is doing fine and that he has enjoyed the last three services and that he was sorry for how he acted when they met. The pastor asked, “Which of the three sermons changed how you felt about me and the church?” “None of them,” said the man, “It was not what you said that changed my heart, but what you did for my daughter that healed me.”
Kindness and the change of heart and mind that true faith in God can bring is what the difference is between someone who says they are a Christian, and someone who lives the life of a Christian. To be like Christ, that is the goal of all Christians. Just as God forgave David when he pleaded for forgiveness, God will forgive us if we only ask with a humble heart.
"Kindness and the change of heart and mind that true faith in God can bring is what the difference is between someone who says they are a Christian, and someone who lives the life of a Christian," says Pastor Henry Rafferty.
Practice forgiveness, be kind, be considerate, be patient, be humble, think of others before yourself, do unto others what you would have them do to you, and love all people, not just family friends and other Christians, but Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindu’s, Atheists, all races, creeds, faiths, or any other thing that differs from yourself. When you can do this, then you are on your way to letting go of your old self and to carrying your cross.
Be the example that wins over the heart for Christ of someone that may have been hurt by the church. Stop and help someone when they are down. Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes and you begin to understand the wonderous ways of the Almighty. Thanks be to God. Amen.