1 Samuel 12:20 | Don’t Give Up

serve

I have a few flaws. Serious character defects that I have spent a lifetime working trying to prevent from making me a living disaster. Everyone, even perfect people, have their own defects and demons to wrestle with. Some flaws are very visible and others are more easily hidden. No one wants to list their sins and hang ups because we want the world to think we have it all together. I don’t have it all together. I have sins that interrupt my relationship with God. Anxiety is first. I replay my past stupid actions over and over in my mind each day. Failures especially where others were hurt or I embarrassed myself accuse me to no end. Anxiety wears me down and keeps me from interacting with others as I should. Another issue for me is Lust. Food and fun where I am all about making myself full searching to consume everything around me. I am always thinking about what I can purchase or pursue next. Lusts of the world overpower the contentment I should have in Christ. These are the broad strokes on my defects my sins. The problem with these defects is that I choose them over a relationship with God. I don’t pray or get still to listen to God like I should or to the depth that I want because these are always before me.

I share these to make a point that all people are sinners. If you dear reader are thinking “I am a good person” and there is nothing to worry about then I have a challenge for you. First know that all people are flawed and all people are sinners. There are no exceptions.

There’s nobody living right, not even one, nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God. They’ve all taken the wrong turn; they’ve all wandered down blind alleys. No one’s living right; I can’t find a single one. Romans 3:10-11 MSG

So here is the challenge. Take some time to get quiet. Go to a closet, a remote hiking trail, a car parked away from the crowd and ask God to show you the blind alley you have traveled down. Ask God to reveal the wrong turns taken. Ask God to reveal to you the flaws and defects that are sins against family and against Him. He will open you heart and eyes to the reality of your issues.

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalms 139:23-24 ESV

The people of Israel wanted a king other than God. God relented and set them up with a King but he made it clear that what they asked for was evil and wrong because by asking to be like every other nation they were rejecting God as king. They took a wrong turn and found themselves in a blind alley.

20 And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. 21 And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. 1 Samuel 12:20-21 ESV

I think about my lusts and all the stuff I want. Samuel is speaking to me “things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty”. Is Christ not enough? Is a relationship with God not enough? Can I not trust him to be all fulfilling? The thing about lust is that it is never satisfied. People chase all the things of this world but those things leave them empty. What I am doing is evil. Yet Samuel also speaks to me. Don’t be afraid. Don’t give up. Don’t turn away from God. You may be chasing something or hiding from something but continue to desire God. Continue to serve Him. Peter preached a similar word in a famous sermon at the dawn of the Christian church.

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:36 – 38 ESV

Whatever my personal sins, defects, and character flaws may be and no matter how grievous they have been to others, myself, and God they have all been forgiven. Jesus Christ died to give me forgiveness. Even though I have broken the laws he has given me a presidential pardon.

Do not turn aside. Do not give up. Repent every time. Serve God not yourself. Rest in the name of Jesus and listen to the Holy Spirit that is a gift from him. Submit and serve Jesus he makes you righteous even with your flaws.

for the righteous falls seven times and rises again Psalms 24:16a ESV

“goodness, kindness, faithfulness”

idly

What does it mean to idly desert God’s mercy? I like to casually read the NIV Bible and recently the words of Jonah, yes the same man swallowed by a sea creature, jumped off the page…

Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. Jonah 2:8 NIV

Turn away from God’s love by clinging to the things of this earthly world? Why yes, I can see that happening to myself and all those around me. What a truth. God the loving Creator calls and I am distracted by an obsession with a new car, or a new boat, or chasing women, or wanting to resist the oppressive government, or wanting social justice. I turn way from God because I want to use my talents for the good of the culture. Jonah is speaking to me. I wanted a more literal translation than the NIV so as usual I turned to the ESV and the clarity became muddied somewhat.

Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love Jonah 2:8 ESV

The clarity of turning away from God’s love becomes forsaking hope of steadfast love. It is an interesting change in the translation. I like the direction of the NIV creating the image of worldly focused peoples turning away from God’s love that is so clearly present. The literal ESV translation however presents the image of a worldly focused people giving up the hope that God will love them. The ESV is a more realistic translation of the nature of people. Sure giving up the hope of love not yet experience is understandable and God’s love is not so clear and present as the NIV might make it sound. It is a subtle but striking difference.

The word Jonah used in this sentence from Hebrew חֶסֶד and means “goodness, kindness, faithfulness”. The context of this verse is that Jonah is fleeing from God. God has asked Jonah to warn the Assyrians that they need to repent of their sinful ways. Jonah is worried God’s mercy will be given to this murderous people. Jonah as a prophet has lived a called life. A life with a deep spirit filled relationship with a most good, kind, and faithful God. Jonah has witnessed firsthand God’s character and it is not a hope for him it is real and it is present. The NIV and ESV leaving me unsatisfied I continued on in my research and then I found clarity in the Wycliffe translation. Wycliffe is one of the first translations of the bible into English predating even the King James version.

They that keep vanities, forsake their mercy idly. (Those who worship idols, idly desert thy mercy.) Jonah 2:8 WYC

Wycliffe communicates the image of people who idly throw away without concern what God is ready to be to them… “Goodness, kindness, faithfulness”. Deserting his mercy we keep our own selfish vanities or idols of this world. We turn to the physical offerings of the here and now and idly fail to pursue the mercy of God. It is more complicated than making a conscious decision to turn a back on God, although some do come to that point. We are distracted by idols of money, fame, power, sex, and whatever makes one supposedly happy. In self-seeking such vanities people have no regard for their Creator. Jonah with wisdom from his relationship with God knows that many people have deserted God through ignorance, laziness, and the consuming distraction of physical pursuits in this life. Jonah also knows that given the opportunity of a confrontation by God they can be overwhelmed by God’s love because these earthly pursuits ultimately are empty, worthless, and loveless.

Here Jonah uses the same word for חֶסֶד “goodness, kindness, faithfulness” in his complaint to God that he has been asked to preach to this people.

He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Jonah 4:2 NIV

There is an opportunity here even for the enlightened and educated person. An opportunity for the wise of this age. Paul preaching to the philosophers, and those that think much like the western world of today, told them how God is still calling for peoples to repent of their obsession with the material pleasures. Paul is telling us, the modern reader, to repent. God has placed each of us in our country and in our time that we might find Him because He is not far away. God as Christ is near and ready to be involved in the life He has given.

26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, … 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:26-27;30-31 ESV

Repent dear reader. God is near and he embodies what we need “goodness, kindness, faithfulness”.

Acts 2: Repent and be Baptized!

acts 2

When I think about Acts Chapter 2 I am immediately drawn to verse 38 where Peter responds to the crowd’s question and concludes his first Holy Spirit directed sermon.

38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38 ESV

The crowd was cut to their heart by his message, they realized the weight of their sin against their Creator, and they asked Peter what could be done. He responded with two actions that would result in a solution to the problem. Repent and be baptized. Repentance is first and it is a key to the heart being humbled and ready for God to work. Second is Baptism the first act of public obedience to celebrate what has happened in the heart already. Both work together and the model was established by John the Baptist when he was clearing the way for Jesus.

4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Mark 1:4 ESV

So what is repentance and how does one get to that state? Repent the word Peter used in the Greek simply means to “change one’s mind”. It is an attitude and a fundamental reversal or 180 degree direction change in what one believes is acceptable or permissible for that individual. Peter is saying repent of your sins. Flee from them, turn from them, renounce them, and confess them before the Creator. The concept of repentance is woven all through the Old Testament and God has always looked for this change of heart in his people.

30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? Ezekiel 18:30-31 ESV

Paul warns that there are two types of grief in regard to sin. There is the type of grief that the world creates and leads to ruined lives and then there is a grief that comes from God himself and leads to repentance. What the Israelites did not have that Peter and the Apostles gained in Acts chapter 2 is the power of the Holy Spirit creating in God’s children a new heart and a new spirit.

10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 2 Corinthians 7:10 ESV

Judas after betraying Jesus felt guilty about what he had done. However his grief was not based on godly grief as Paul describes but Judas took his grief in a direction that produced death namely that he committed suicide (Matthew 27:5). The grief that Paul talks about is a gift from God that leads to repentance. The crowd listening to Peter preach was “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37). The Holy Spirit was working on their hearts and they were ready to repent from their sins. Repentance then is possible because of God’s mercy and grace to us in this present time. Take advantage while you may.

4 Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? 5 But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. Romans 2:4-5 NLT

The second part of Peter’s answer to the question “what must we do” is to be baptized. Baptism is a mark of obedience that recognizes in public in the physical what has already occurred in the heart and in the spiritual.

21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 3:21 ESV

There are few elements that make up this act of obedience as it recognizes that repentance the old self the unrepentant self is dead going under the water. The new self the saved Holy Spirit directed self has come alive. Just as Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be “born again” (John 3:3) so baptism is symbolic of the new life gained through repentance and salvation through faith in Jesus.

3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. Romans 6:3-5 ESV

What had been done in the past prior to Acts Chapter 2 was all leading up to this moment when the promised Holy Spirit is unleashed creating this church age that we currently live in. This church age is directed by the Holy Spirit, is empowered by the Holy Spirit, and is possible because of the Holy Spirit living in God’s children. Have you repented? Have you been baptized? Now is the time to accept the Holy Spirit from Jesus and be baptized to proclaim what has happened in your heart.

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Matthew 3:11 ESV