May 28, 2016

May 15, 2016 - Pentecost Sunday

Theme: God’s Holy Spirit gives us our spirit
1. Our spirit that is Broken but Steadfast
2. Our spirit that rejoices and proclaims God’s glory

Psalm 51:10-17 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. 13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You. 14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, The God of my salvation, And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips, And my mouth shall show forth Your praise. 16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart-- These, O God, You will not despise.

You may have noticed in the news this week a story about a prominent professional athlete who committed an offensive act. Perhaps that’s not much of a surprise to you since we’re used to headlines about public figures getting into trouble, but the indiscretion this athlete committed was somewhat unique. The contest that this event concerned was a professional basketball game between an American team and a Canadian team. When two different nationalities play against one another, it’s common to open the game with both national anthems.

Everyone knows that it’s a sign of disrespect if you don’t stop what you’re doing and show respect during the national anthem. However, this athlete, an American, continued to warm up and shoot during the Canadian anthem. It was blatant and created quite a media buzz during and after the game. It was natural for the athlete to be questioned about his lack of respect for the Canadian people after the contest. The public was looking for an apology and, really, the entire situation could have been diffused with one. However, no apology was given. The athlete’s response was, “I'm not a disrespectful person. So if anybody thinks I'm being disrespectful towards a country, then they have no idea of who I am.”

Not hard to see that that’s not an apology and it’s not a surprise that this comment created and even bigger problem. When public perception did not let up, the same athlete came back a few days later and tried again. This time he said, "No disrespect at all from me, I apologize for Canada thinking I would disrespect them as a country.” A little better, but not quite there is it. Apologizing for how country reacted to your actions is not the same as admitting fault and asking forgiveness. In fact, it’s more an insult than anything.

I’m sure you’ve seen apologies like this before, it’s not just celebrities that make them. The apology is really not an apology at all, it’s an excuse. It’s an apology that says, “I’m sorry you took things the wrong way. Not that I actually did anything wrong.” In the end, it shifts the blame to others.

Part 1

What a stunning contrast from this example to the words of David in our text. In this psalm David pours out his heart when it came to his most public sins. David had committed lust in his heart for another man’s wife. That lust led him to commit adultery with her. That adultery led to a pregnancy. That pregnancy led to David lying and trying to deceive one of his most loyal allies. And ultimately, that deception led to murder.

David tried the excuse game and it didn’t work. Like this athlete, it only spiraled down further into a bigger problem. All excuses are offered for the same reasons, because of fear and insecurity about losing something. David was worried about losing respect as King and leader of the army. He was worried about losing credibility with the people. And so he tried to cover things up one his own. That never works. Sometimes, people get away with the cover-up, David didn’t. But it never works, because God always knows.

When the prophet came and confronted David with his sin, he was truly convicted for the right reasons for the first time. Convicted by the Holy Spirit through the law of God. David wasn’t concerned about his own self-image anymore. He writes, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” This now, with the guidance of the Scripture and the Holy Spirit, was David’s biggest concern. He did not want God to leave him.

When David pleaded with God not to cast His presence away from him, he was talking about the gift of faith. Faith in God attaches us to God. It puts us in His presence so that He looks favorably upon us. Think of the blessing that God first gave to His people through the High Priest, Aaron. “The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you, the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.” We repeat that same blessing at the close of our services each Sunday. It’s a reminder and a promise that God will not depart from us. He will not stop looking down upon us in love because His own Son was forsaken in our place. Yes, when Jesu was on the cross, He was cast out from His Father’s presence. He lost the very blessing that David pleads to God about tin our text. And Jesus didn’t deserve any of it. He did that so that our prayers of the same, that God would not forsake us, would hold true. 

David realized that his sins had much greater consequences than public image and support from others. The most important danger threatened his faith in God. David had risked this gift because of these senseless acts. He knew that without God he was nothing, yet the attachment to his sinful nature caused him to forsake this blessing. And at the very prospect of losing God, David was crushed. He says in verse 17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart, these O God, You will not despise.”

It was God Himself who brought this weight upon David’s heart, as He does with all sinners. The testimony of the law of God crushes any hope we have in deliverance from ourselves. It breaks us under a weight that we cannot bear. But the Spirit doesn’t leave us crushed. David spoke of one another thing that the Holy Spirit generated in his own spirit, a steadfast hope in God’s mercy. This comes in verse 10. His prayer that God would cleanse his heart was spoken for the purpose of making his own weak spirit strong.

This idea of being steadfast means to have a fixed or established position. The Christian’s prayer to God is that He would keep His Spirit with us to keep our spirit fixed on the truth. The contrast to being steadfast is what Paul described to the Ephesians, “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting (Ephesians 4:14).” That’s a lot to take in there but it all comes down to being positioned securely in the word of God. The Holy Spirit in the one who does that for us.

The weight of God’s law was indeed a strong motivator for David. But what was even stronger was the foundation of the gospel. The Holy Spirit creates a spirit in the believer’s heart through both the law and gospel. One crushes us, it breaks our sinful will. The other makes us strong and steadfast in the hope of God’s forgiveness. The key to both is that we need the Holy Spirit to lead us. He works through His Word to enact these things in our hearts. And it wasn’t until Nathan came to David with the Word of truth, that the Holy Spirit worked upon David’s own heart and he was led to express the beauty of these words before us today.        

Part 2

The beginning and the end of our text bookend the way the Holy Spirit motivates, both through law and gospel. In the middle, David describes what this proper spirit of faith in His Savior led him to do. David would teach sinners about God’s truth (v.13). David would sing aloud to God with praise (vv.14-15). And David would offer gifts of sacrifice back to God, not for atonement, but as a thank you to God (vv.16-17).

There are many more things we could say about a faithful response to God’s salvation. But these things which David lists all involve a common theme. We use what God has given us for His glory. Without the Holy Spirit’s conversion of David’s heart, he never would have responded in these ways. We must recognize the same in our lives. If we truly desire to serve God it must first happen by the change in our hearts. The Holy Spirit must lead us through the spirit of brokenness and steadfastness. And the accompanying gifts that we give back to God only come through His power.

When God rescues sinners, He doesn’t immediately separate them from the rest of the world. He has a plan for all believers that begins at conversion and continues on throughout the rest of their lives here on earth. That plan involves sharing the Word of God with others. And each step of the way the Holy Spirit is working behind the scenes. He works to break down. He works to build up. He works to produce fruits. Each part is important to the Christian life. 

So when David proceeded forward from wicked thoughts and actions that brought about these words, he didn’t just relapse to his former ways. Sometimes that does happen to Christians. There’s no doubt that David had plenty of other sins that followed the renewal of the Holy Spirit in the context. But they weren’t planned by David. His heart was changed. The days of making excuses for these sins were gone. The great cover up was exposed and was taken away by God’s mercy. The spirit of new life given to David by the Holy Spirit would not return to these things. 

That leads us back to where we began. If David’s apology was anything like so many of the vain apologies we see in the world, he truly would have completely lost God’s presence. But instead of shifting the blame, instead of hiding from what he did, instead of making excuses; David was completely honest about his sins. It broke him but it also created room for the Lord’s healing grace.

What are your apologies like? When you apologize to God for your sins, is it more like the professional athlete or more like King David. It’s tough to be completely honest. It’s hard to know that the Holy Spirit is breaking your sinful flesh down. No one likes how that feels. It’s easy to say the words but to mean differently in your heart. You confess your sins but tell yourself it’s really not that serious. It’s just something you do because you’re supposed to or because everyone else in church is. You say you’re sorry but you know you’re going to do the same thing again, and soon. It ends up sounding a lot like that athlete’s apology. “I’m sorry if You took it wrong God. Clearly you don’t know me because I wouldn’t do something like that. It’s just not me.”

How vain it becomes. It takes a greater spirit than our own to come back to reality. God doesn’t want your excuses. He doesn’t want your sacrifices for your sins. He simply wants you. The true you, not the deceptions you try to get away with. Therefore, He sends the Holy Spirit to you. To convict you of your sin and to restore you to a steadfast spirit. Without the Holy Spirit we wouldn’t get there.

But let’s also remember that the Holy Spirit doesn’t work as an independent contractor for God. He uses what Jesus has done for you. Your deliverance happens completely outside of who you are as a sinner. Jesus died for those sins on His own, without your help. He offers that to you on His own, without your will power. And the Holy Spirit uses that foundation to make you steadfast, to give you fixed point of security outside of yourself. Something that can hold you safe throughout life’s storms. Jesus, your Savior, outside of you. The Holy Spirit, your motivator, outside of you. He breaths into your heart the life of faith, completely in tune with Jesus Christ. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, Amen. 

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