Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Gospel in a Nutshell (Sermon)

I’d like to tell you about one of my favorite verses from the scripture. It’s from the Old Testament, from the court of King David. I like this verse because it is packed full of hope. Hope for something that is better because in today’s world, we are a pretty messed up people. What we are going to see in the context of this verse of hope is that people were just as messed up and perhaps, even more so, than we can imagine today.

Now to understand this fully, we are going to go back five years from before this verse was spoken. Back to the beginning of chapter 13. Now, at the end of chapter 13, Joab, the general of David’s army, or the commander of David’s army, noticed that the king was longing for his son’s presence. In fact here is how the end of the chapter reads, 13.39 says “Then King David longed to go to Absalom, for David had finished grieving over Amnon’s death. Joab son of Zeruiah observed that the king’s mind was on Absalom.”

So Joab takes action into his own hands. Absalom wasn’t there because he was in exile. Absalom was in exile because he took matters into his own hands. Amnon desired Absalom’s sister, claimed to love her, and then once he had her, he disgraced her, cast her away, hated her according to Scripture. And she lived out the rest of her life a desolate woman in Absalom’s house.

So here we have a situation, the king is aware of it, he’s furious at Amnon would mistreat his daughter as such. We have a brother who furious at his other brother for mistreating his sister as such. So what was Absalom to do?

He wanted to be a good son so he waited. And he waited.  And unfortunately, he thought that perhaps the king would step in and serve justice. For two years he waited, and for two years nothing happened.

Perhaps David thought that this was one of those situations where the kids need to work it out on their own. But Dad, moms even, sometimes, when your kids are doing wrong you just have to step in, you just have to tell them what’s right and what’s wrong, even if they are grown and flown from your house. It doesn’t matter, doing right is always important. But because David didn’t do what is right, Absalom conspired. After waiting for two years for the justice that was denied,  he killed his brother.

Because he killed his brother, any of his other brothers would be after him, could be after him. Any one of his relatives would have the right to say that he needs to stand for murder. It’s an ugly family situation, but he flees for the kingdom of Geshur for three years where he waits for his dad to finish mourning.

I don’t know if he ever hoped to come back. I don’t know if perhaps he was in contact with Joab, the commander. That would be reading between the lines and perhaps he was because Joab did take matters into his own hands in verse 2. Anyway, Absalom is finally restored, brought back to Jerusalem, but not fully restored, he is still somewhat banished. The king didn’t call on him. The king wanted to see him, but the king didn’t see him. The king was full of pride, Absalom was full of pride. You see how messy life gets when we do things without consulting the Lord?

Yet, Absalom wasn’t content. He figures he would be better off in the kingdom of Geshur, because at least he wouldn’t be all alone in isolation in his own house. He’d be able to see people, he’d be able to attend the king’s court. So he pleads to Joab, to make petition for the king to see the king. And yet, twice Joab declines. I guess Joab wasn’t quite the friend he thought. But Joab was following the king’s example. By ignoring the problem, maybe it will go away. But when you have a problem in your house, ignoring it will just make it worse as we’ll see. Absalom was desperate to grab Joab’s attention so Absalom set fire to Joab’s field.

You see, not too different from today, there wasn’t a whole lot of money in being a military man. And even less if you are a commander. Usually the soldiers would get spoils of war, if you will, and the commander would often take less so that each of the soldiers would remain loyal to him. To make ends meet, Joab, when he wasn’t busy commanding the soldiers, was busy tending to the crops in his field. And then, Absalom robbed that of him.

So Joab finally gives him his attention. The king finally sees Absalom. I wonder if what happened next at the end of chapter 14 isn’t too different from what we see Judas doing for Jesus, giving him a kiss, a kiss of farewell, a kiss of the betrayer. Or perhaps David was saying, “Now you have seen me, now no more. This is it, you are dead to me.”

However, the fallout is just beginning. Life gets messier here.  From here, Absalom starts putting into work a coup. He starts grabbing malcontents to form his army. And then at an appointed time, when he thought the opportunity was right, he decided to have the horns of Hebron blown and the people of Israel declare now Absalom is king instead of David.

David, not wanting it to be too bloody, quickly flees the palace. He leaves just a few concubines to take care of the palace while he and his warriors retreat.

Now this coup is long, perhaps a year. And in that time, Absalom makes himself a stench in not only the eyes of the people, but in the eyes of his father, in the eyes of his God. He does things to defile David as much as he can from a distance. And then at the end of the coup, David’s men triumph and Joab exacts revenge. (Remember Joab no longer has a field. Perhaps he assumed that by killing Absalom, he could take Absalom’s field that was right next to his.)

And then what we see in chapter 19 is David wailing. Here the army of Judah had such a great victory. The coup was over but the king was in mourning. Here’s what happens next, Joab gets into the kings personal space and says, “How dare you! How dare you turn your men’s victory into a time of sorrow and weeping! You are carrying on as if to say, ‘I would rather my loyal men be dead in the field instead of my enemy.’ But no, your enemy is dead! Now you go and you cheer your men. You go, and you encourage them because if you do not by the time this day is over you will not have a loyal man left to you!”

Of course, what we know from reading further into 19, Joab’s words, and of course his actions to destroy the king’s son, cost him dearly. At that point, Joab ceased to be David’s commander. David made his nephew his commander.

But David nevertheless listened to the advice. He went out and he told his men what a good job they did. He encouraged them. He did what a king as supposed to do on the eve, the night of victory. So that is the context of the verse that we have.

Now let me tell you the verse itself. It’s verse 14 of chapter 14 of 2 Samuel. 2 Samuel 14.14, the address is easy to remember. Let me go ahead and read this gospel in a nutshell to you. “We will certainly die and be like water poured out on the ground, which can’t be recovered. But God would not take away a life; He would devise a plan so that the one banished from Him does not remain banished.” (HCSB) Did you catch that?

Now David was quick at this point, he realized that this was Joab’s doing. That this woman probably didn’t have a son who was needing protection from killing his brother but David did. And what she said ended up being very prophetic. God is not satisfied with taking a life, instead He seeks a way to restore the person. Now do you see a beginning of the hope? In the midst of this mess there’s a story of redemption. In the midst of the mess of our life, we have had our story of redemption if we’re following Christ.

This story of redemption goes back to understanding why we were created. We were created for God’s pleasure. We were created for fellowship with our heavenly Father.  Look back at the creation account. You’ll see that God spoke nearly everything into being. Nothing was made that He didn’t speak except for man. See, we weren’t spoken into existence. No, the Bible says that God took the dust of the earth and He fashioned it. Some versions would say mud. And He fashioned man out of that mud. And then He breathed his breath into man, giving man his life. And then from man, He would cause him to fall into a deep sleep and remove from him, a rib. And from that rib, God again used His hands and fashioned woman. Of creation He said it is good. It is good, every day, it is good. The sixth day, He said the animals and critters were good but of you and I, of Adam and Eve, of mankind He says this is very good. We are the crowning point of His creation. We were created with purpose. We were created for fellowship. Not just with one another, but also with our heavenly father.

Consider Genesis chapter 3 verse 8, in the cool of the day, the scripture says, God came looking for Adam and Eve. This I get the sense that this wasn’t just a one-time event, that God instantly knew that He had to confront these sinners. But that this was a regular event. That regularly, they met God at the cool of the day to enjoy being with Him. But when He sees them in Chapter 3, He realizes that they did indeed eat from the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil.

And because they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, what happened? He drove them from the Garden and He put an angel a flaming sword to guard the path back to the tree of life. So that man might not live eternally in sin. From that moment God started laying the works of a redeemer.

God is not content with leaving one banished but He devises a plan to restore that lost person. And that plan is Jesus Christ. And because Jesus came and He was our perfect sacrifice, our perfect Passover lamb having no sin, He was able to perfectly remove your sins and my sins. He was able to remove the sins of all of us sinners. And He did this all when we were messy and full of muck and mire.

We look at ourselves and we see our sinful natures. We know exactly how sinful we are. And we’re not fooling anyone. Oh we might be fooling our neighbors but we are not really fooling ourselves and we certainly not fooling God. But you know what? Because of what Jesus did? No God’s not fooled but God chose to do something. Romans 5.1 says if we are in Christ we are declared righteous. We are not made righteous, we are declared righteous. I like that the Christian Standard Bible uses that verbiage because it’s a world of difference. While you and I see the muck and mire on ourselves, God sees us through the filter of the blood of His son Jesus. We are declared righteous. God sees us pure. God doesn’t see us full of sin.

The second half of that hope that we have is because we are in Christ Jesus. This is coming from Romans 8 chapter 1, It says if we are in Christ Jesus, we have no condemnation. It’s like our sins never happened. Isn’t that wonderful news! Because of that we can confidently approach God’s throne. Paul tells us that we can call our heavenly father, the creator of the universe, Abba Father.

Now our tradition says that this is some holy title. But let me tell you a little secret here, this is a Mediterranean title. My boys call me papa, my little daughter calls me Papa. That’s what abba is. It’s the Mediterranean term for papa. Now most of the parents here, or most of the dads here are called dad, or daddy. But have you ever considered that you can call your heavenly father papa? Our heavenly papa? All because of the 1700 years of tradition that we are used to, that seems foreign to our ears, it almost seems blasphemous, but that is exactly what God has done. He has removed that banishment from us.

Now Christian, I realize that this is a new teaching, perhaps not new. One I’ve not heard enough about approaching our heavenly father so casually. Just as my little daughter loves to crawl into my lap and cuddle with me, just as Jesus says, unless you become like one of these little children, you can’t see the kingdom of God. So is there anything in your life that prevents you from going and approaching God as if He were your daddy, your papa, your abba? If so, I want to encourage you to lay that down at the cross. Leave that burden to Jesus. That’s what Jesus asks for; “give me your burdens take up my burden for it is light.” Let him worry about your stresses and your storms.

Yes life is messy, but we have a daddy who cares for us. David was too prideful to let Absalom come back into his presence. But God is different. Nothing in our past will keep us from coming to Him. It doesn’t matter what your sin is, God wants you. And Christian, leave that burden at His feet.

Now some of you might be able to do that and have no problem calling heavenly father Papa. So I want to encourage you with this challenge instead. You know how messy life is. Perhaps there is someone there in your life, in your sphere of influence, whose life is even a bigger mess. You can look at them and you know they’re struggling, you know that they are without hope, longing for something better, longing for the good news that we have, that God wants them. Even in a world where rejection is the norm. God won’t, I want to encourage you to go to that person who is hurting in your world. Encourage them let them know what Jesus has done for you. Let them know what God wants to do for them.

Now, finally, let me talk to you, the person who may not know Christ. I don’t know everyone who is going to be looking at this video, but someone surely is looking at this video who doesn’t know Christ. You have heard the entire Gospel message, that you were created with purpose, but sin (and you know what sin is, the wrongs in your life) have separated you from God. And while we were still enemies with God, God sent Jesus to die for us. You’ve heard that, that is the Good News. Now what are you going to do about it?

I encourage you at this point look at the bottom of your screen, you’ll see my email address. If you are ready to take that next step to get your life right with God, email me., and I’ll talk with you. I’ll encourage you and I’ll connect you with someone in your area, in your city, in your community that will help you get your life right with Christ. Now is the time to do so. So friend, I invite you to take that step of faith.

So this is why 2 Samuel 14.14 is one of my favorite verses in all of the Scriptures. The Father’s blessing be to you.

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