Unlikely Hero: Week Five - "When We Confess Our Sin"
This week I'll be preaching the fifth installment of the sermon series, "Unlikely Hero," stories from the life of David.
It's also National Back To Church Sunday, which is fairly awesome. Tens of thousands of churches across America and around the world have participated in this annual event--an event that provides an opportunity for people who have left church, given up on church or otherwise become "unchurched" to find their way back to a community of faith.
Let's hope we don't disappoint them.
My sermon this week is drawn from 2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12, and focuses on the story of how David broke three of the ten commandments (at least), including adultery and murder, and what happened when he was confronted with his sin.
First, let me ask you a question. Have you ever made a mistake. The answer is yes, in case you were wondering. You aren't in exclusive company, my friend. We all make mistakes, and some of us make them more regularly than others.
But let's be clear about what we're talking about when we speak of "mistakes." First of all, a mistake can be erased. If you make a mistake, you can correct it. That's kind of the essence of mistakes, isn't it? Most word processing programs catch your spelling and even grammatical mistakes. Some of them auto-correct them before you even have a chance to fix it yourself.
A mistake happens because of lack of information. Maybe you didn't hear the instructions---or read them. Maybe you didn't hear what someone told you clearly, or you weren't listening. When you are missing information, it's easy to make a mistake.
But what do we call a mistake that can't be erased, that can't be fixed with a simple rewind, or auto-correct. Or maybe it wasn't a mistake---maybe it was something that was done on purpose, or with at least some kind of intent. What if it's a mistake done on purpose---over and over again? What do you call that?
There's a name for this kind of thing, actually. We call it sin---or at least we used to call it sin. People don't like to talk about the word sin all that much any more. But this is exactly what it is. Sin is the stuff that we do, or keep doing that isn't a mistake, that isn't done because of a lack of information... it's done on purpose, no matter how much we may not want to admit to it.
Sometimes we carry the things we can't erase around with us for a very long time. For some of us, there are things that we have done, or are doing that we have been toting around for most of our lives. These burdens keep us from being the people that we could be if only we would be free from carrying them.
What if you could be free from these burdens? What if you could finally let all of that stuff that you've been carrying around fall to the floor, never to be picked up again? How would you even do that?
We're going to be reading the story of a king who had everything but in the end it wasn't enough for him. He had to have more. He gave in to temptation, committed unspeakable sins and then tried to cover it up and live as if nothing had happened. But when all was said and done this king---David---had to confront the fact that he needed to confess what he had done and seek redemption.
Here's what I think: Freedom From Sin Begins With Confession of Sin.
The passages we'll be referencing are from 2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12. I won't be reading these in their entirety because it would take way too long. But I will point out a few key verses along the way.
In fact, the chapters begin with this line: "In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent..." This little snippet tells us that this story isn't going to begin well. David was not where he was supposed to be. At the time when kings went off to war, David was at home hanging out on his roof, girl watching.
How many times have you encountered temptations when you least expected them? When you were comfortable? When you were chilling on a Tuesday thinking that the world was your oyster?
So David sees Bathsheba taking a bath on the roof of her house. Since he's the king, his house is higher than everyone else's house, so he has a really good view. And as he gazes on the beautiful Bathsheba, he hears the sounds of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On," playing in the background and everything went all slow motion, and he was in loooove, baby.
Not really. That's how Hollywood has basically treated this story. But what really happened was that David asked about Bathsheba, found out that she was married to one of his trusted military officers, and then went ahead and sent for anyway. When the text says that David sent for Bathsheba, it is a very watered down way of saying that she was forcibly brought to him, and then essentially forced to have sex with him.
It gets worse. Bathsheba later informs David that she is pregnant, which is not good for anyone at this point. It's likely that a ton of people knew what David had done because he had involved so many of his servants in the process of "sending for her." It will be clear who the father of her child is, and it won't be her husband, Uriah, who is at the front---where David should have been. David is in deep because not only will it be revealed that he has committed adultery, but that he is a commander in chief that can't be trusted to stay away from the wives of his trusted men.
So David summons Uriah from the front, welcomes him to dinner, asks him how things are going with the war, and then tells him to go home and have a go at his wife. He doesn't say it like that, but it's implied. What David was hoping was that Uriah would go home, have sex with Bathsheba and then the child she was carrying would appear to be Uriah's. Uriah refuses. He is so loyal and so noble that he refuses to go home and be with his wife when his men and comrades can't be with theirs. David even tries again the next night, getting Uriah hammered drunk. It doesn't work.
Finally David sends a message to Joab, his general that Uriah is to be killed in battle. Joab arranges it so that it doesn't look completely like it's on purpose, and Uriah, along with some other key warriors, are killed by the Ammonites. When David receives word that the deed was done, he is not even perturbed that more than one man was killed along with Uriah.
In a few months, he marries Bathsheba and intends on living happily ever after. The only problem is that God was watching. Verse 27 of chapter 11 reads thusly: "But the Lord was displeased with him..."
Then the Lord spoke to the prophet Nathan to go and speak to David. The court prophet was not exactly the best gig to have, to be honest. But Nathan was true to his calling and came to deliver a message to David from the Lord. Like I said, pretty much everyone in David's court knew what he'd done. But no one was saying anything. Except Nathan. He tells David a story, which I'll repeat here:
1“There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. 4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.” (2 Samuel 12:1-5)After hearing this, David rises up and begins to shout:
5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” (2 Samuel 12:6-7)At that point Nathan cries out to him: atah ha'ish! You are the man!
In that one moment all of David's charade comes crashing down. The guilt that he almost assuredly was carrying around with him welled up inside of him, and he has to admit: "I have sinned against the Lord." To be sure, he sinned against a lot of people---but he begins with God, which was a good step.
There is a Psalm that David is credited with writing immediately following this confrontation with Nathan. Here are some of the words from Psalm 51:
1 Have mercy on me, O God,Let's go back to that question we asked earlier: What if you could be free from those things that you're carrying around---that sin that you're carrying around? How would you eve do that?
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
I believe there are three steps to freedom.
Step One: Admit that you have a (sin) problem. Like David we need to own our part in it, to see ourselves clearly at last. David's condemnation, was largely a self-condemnation when he was confronted with the reality of who he had become. Listen mistakes are not sin. They are mistakes. Sin is sin. And every single one of us has committed one or two or five hundred.
Step Two: Realize that you can't fix it on your own. David realized that what he had done was too damaging to be ignored any longer, but had no idea what to do next. Psalm 51 is the testament to what he did when he had no where else to turn for redemption. There are some things that we just can't undo without help. And there is no shame in asking God for help. Some people have this idea of God as this Being who can't wait for you to screw up so He can teach you a lesson. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Step #3 Turn the problem over to (the) One who can fix it. David's plea is a huge example for us. I heard a pastor tell the story of how his daughter pulled on a shelf in the kitchen and basically sent every dish and glass they owned crashing to the floor. When he came around the corner to inspect what was happening, he found her standing in a sea of glass, cut and bleeding, afraid to move and repeating, "I'm sorry!" over and over again. He said he could have just told her, "Good luck getting out of that mess. You made it, now you figure it out." What he actually did was clear a path, wade into the mess, carry her out, bandage her wounds and then help her clean it all up. You would expect this from a father---even a father who wasn't especially loving.
So why don't you expect it of your Heavenly Father?
Did you know that later on His story that God does something dramatic to prove just how serious he is about fixing our messes, restoring us and redeeming us? In John 3:16-17 we have this unbelievable message: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that so that through him the world might be saved."
This video went viral earlier this month. It's the video of a young man who confesses to the world that he drove drunk, got into an accident and was responsible for the death of another man. He fled the scene of the accident, but then later was overwhelmed by his guilt:
Matthew, the young man in the video, turned himself in this week and was indicted for vehicular manslaughter. He will undoubtedly go to prison for his crime. Why did this video attract so much attention? I think it's because this young man did something that hardly anyone ever does any more---he owned his sin. He admitted what he had done. And even though he won't be set free from the consequences of his actions...
He has the potential to be set free from the guilt of his sin.
You are not condemned. There is nothing you could do that would separate you from the love of God. Nothing. But you will never be free from your burdens until you let them go.
Freedom from sin, my friend, begins with confession of sin. And when we confess our sin, according to the promises of God, the One (Jesus) who is able to fix it---will forgive, and will make what was wrong, right.