Pastor’s Corner, 10-22-10

What do you do when you’ve been confronted with and convicted by your sin, either by reading the Bible or by a loving friend like Nathan was to David? I Samuel 12 is a wonderful picture and exhortation about how to respond to the sin you find in your heart. God has given Israel Saul as a king, but Samuel has rebuked the people of God for asking for a king “like all the other nations” and for rejecting God as their king (I Sam. 8:5-7). God has given them a sign of His displeasure, sending thunder and rain during the wheat harvest (May-June, the beginning of the dry season in Israel). When they heard Samuel’s words, and saw the improbable rain, they cried out, “Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, so that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil by asking for ourselves a king.” Samuel’s response is thrilling to the soul: “Samuel said to the people, ‘Do not fear. You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. You must not turn aside, for then you would go after futile things which can not profit or deliver, because they are futile. For the LORD will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the LORD has been pleased to make you a people for Himself. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way. Only fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, both you and your king will be swept away.”

What do we learn from this passage about how to respond to the sin we discover in our lives? 1) Confess your sin, recognizing that it deserves death – “Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, so that we may not die…” Repentance means having a true sense of one’s sin, seeing the heinousness of sin: it’s worthy of death because it is against the holiness and grace of God.

2) See that there is hope for sinners – “Do not fear. You have committed all this evil, yet…” God is gracious – He grants space and time for repentance. When we fall into sin, all is not over; do not despair. You can turn to the Lord and away from sin. Which brings us to…

3) Trust in the goodness of God – “The LORD will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the LORD has been pleased to make you a people for Himself…consider what great things He has done for you.” God has freely and graciously made you His own; He has made a covenant with you and will not break His promises; He has done (and will do!) great things for you. As new covenant believers, we have so much more to believe and trust in, for He has sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world to die for our sins. We must believe the good news, that Jesus’ death has propitiated the Father’s wrath – it has appeased God’s anger, so that we stand forgiven and clean in His sight. Jesus’ death on the cross has made us to be a people for His own possession (Titus 2:14) – what greater thing is there that God has done for us than giving us His self-giving Son? Coupled with this faith must be…

4) Turn from sin and recommit yourself to godliness – “Do not fear. You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. You must not turn aside, for then you would go after futile things which can not profit or deliver, because they are futile… Only fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart…” Without faith, repentance is just moralistic “I’ll do better this time, God, I promise, just give me one more chance, I promise I won’t let You down.” Repentance unto life is always coupled with saving faith; notice the two “fors” in this passage: “For the LORD will not abandon His people…for consider what great things He has done for you.” We repent because we believe the gospel, or as the Westminster Shorter Catechism#87 puts it, we repent “out of apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ.” We must turn from sin unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavors after, new obedience; we must put sin to death; flee temptation; resolve to obey from this point forward – but only after and while relying upon the grace of God in Christ.

5) Realize the consequences of failing to repent and trust in God’s grace – “But if you still do wickedly, both you and your king will be swept away.” If the sight of our sin leads to a hardened heart, or despair to the point of unrepentance, rather than to humility, confession, brokenness, contrition, and new obedience, then we ought to examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith at all.

6) Find someone who will pray for you and instruct you – “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way.” Put yourself humbly under a brother or sister who knows the Lord better than you do, and ask them to pray for you and teach you and hold you accountable.

We all sin every day, and our sin hurts others. When you are convicted by the Holy Spirit, or by another believer, remember the things Samuel and the Israelites teach us, and never forget the great promise and exhortation in Hosea 3:1-3, “Come, let us return to the LORD. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, That we may live before Him. So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth.”

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