Last week we asked the questions, “What if we don’t participate in the process of becoming like Jesus? What if we don’t yield our will and spirit to the Spirit of Christ? What if we don’t want… or choose… to be transformed into the image of Christ? What if we deliberately fail to follow Jesus?
We then sought to explore how God’s Word answers those questions, and the first answer coming out of His Word was difficult to hear. The bible is clear that, if we have a heart that is cold toward God and the things of God, it may be that we have never been saved at all. Paul, Peter, and Jesus all tell us to examine ourselves to make sure that we are truly called…truly redeemed and part of God’s family. We are told to make sure that the transforming work of the Spirit of God is evident in our lives. We are told to examine our hearts and see if the fruit of the Spirit are “ours and increasing”. This is the purpose of the parable of the wheat and tares in Matt 13. In the early life of these plants, they are indistinguishable from one another. It is only as they grow that they show their true identity; the true plant…the wheat… bears fruit. Again, it illustrates, not the external “fruit” of Pharisaical works, but the internal fruit of the indwelling Spirit of God.
This evening we are going to look at the lives of 2 different men…men caught up in grievous sin with grievous consequences. In the interest of full disclosure, I intended to give 3 examples but I found myself constrained by time. So I will merely encourage you to study the story of Peter’s denial of Christ, its effect on him, and his subsequent restoration in John 21.
Our first example this evening serves to illustrate what we have been talking about thus far…sin in the life of the unregenerate, yet self professing, false believer. We need only to look at Judas to see how counterfeit faith can take root among the truly faithful. Judas was a member of an exclusive group…those 12 men chosen by Jesus Himself to accompany Him throughout His earthly ministry and carry on His work. He was privileged to spend time in the presence and under the teaching of the Living God. He was given a position of responsibility and trust…he was the treasurer entrusted with the financial resources of the group. There is every indication that he said and did “the right things”…When Jesus, in Matt 26:21 says to the disciples that one of them will betray him, they don’t all look at Judas and say, “I always knew that there was something wrong with that guy!”. There was no obvious “falseness” that made him stand out. Yet his heart was wholly false. John tells us in John 12:6 that Judas abused his position of trust and would steal money from the common purse and use it for himself. It is all too likely that Judas’ motivation for joining the disciples was centered on his desire for money and power. To be at Jesus side when He threw off the yoke of Rome and took power…what an opportunity to gain power, prestige, and wealth. When it became apparent that that was not Jesus plan, it may well be that Judas looked for a way to turn a profit and salvage something from situation. So he made a deal to betray Jesus to the chief priests for 30 pieces of silver. It is noteworthy that Judas’ time spent with Jesus was not without effect…in Matt 27 Judas experiences remorse for his actions, acknowledging that he has betrayed an innocent man. But it was not a sorrow that led to repentance and surrender… It was the same sorrow experienced by the rich young ruler in Matt 19 who, unwilling to relinquish a hold on his wealth, walked away unsaved, unfulfilled, and in despair.
Our second example is found in a poignant and familiar story in 2 Sam 11. It is of a king who, instead of being being on the battlefield in command of his armies, remained in Jerusalem at ease in his bed. Upon rising in the late afternoon, the king sees a beautiful woman bathing on a rooftop overlooked by the palace. This king, already in the wrong place at the wrong time, does not avert his eyes nor go back inside, but allows his gaze to linger, inflaming his lust and desire. Things now go from bad to worse. After inquiring as to her identity, he sends messengers to bring her to the palace, where he engages in adultery. The fact that he is married is no deterrent, nor is her marriage to another. As the drama continues to unfold, the woman ends up pregnant with the king’s child. The adulterous affair is in danger of being discovered, as the woman’s husband has been away at the battlefront and could not possibly be the father. The king, hoping to avoid discovery, then shrewdly calls the husband back home to Jerusalem in hopes that he will have sexual relations with his wife and will think he is the father of the child. When this plan falls through, the king is forced to devise another, more ruthless, plan. He sends word to the commander of the army to deliberately place the husband in the thick of battle and then withdraw the troops around him so that he might be killed. And this plan worked. We pick up the story in verse 26, “Now when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. 27 When the time of mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house and she became his wife; then she bore him a son. But the thing that David had done was evil in the sight of the LORD.”
Of course, as you likely knew all along, this is the story of David and Bathsheba. Contained in a single chapter of 2 Sam, we see David overlooking his kingly responsibilities, giving reign to his lusts, committing adultery, plotting to deceive the wronged husband, Uriah and, when that does not work, successfully plot his murder. Now, we return to the story in chapter 12, “Then the LORD sent Nathan (the prophet) to David. And he came to him and said, “There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor. 2 “The rich man had a great many flocks and herds. 3 “But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb which he bought and nourished; And it grew up together with him and his children. It would eat of his bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom, And was like a daughter to him.4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man,And he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him; Rather he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” 5 Then David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die. 6 He must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion.” 7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are that man!”
Surely David proves his faith to be false by his ungodly and murderous behavior and finds himself rejected by God! Judas could look good by comparison! But that is not the case. As we skip down to verse 13 we read this, “Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” We see his heart even more clearly and completely in Ps 51:1ff… “A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity And cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me. 4 Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge… Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which You have broken rejoice. 9 Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. 10 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 sustain me with a willing spirit.”
You see, in the midst of his sin, David still had a heart that was inclined toward God…a heart desirous of restoration and righteousness. He has a righteous anger toward the man that Nathan describes…the one who treated the poor man shamefully…the man that was himself. Can you imagine how devastated and ashamed he was when he heard the words from God’s spokesman, “You are that man!” He was already in a state of misery over his sin…his sin was “ever before him”…inescapable… according to verse 3. He compares his condition, in verse 8, to “broken bones” Beloved, we can judge the reality of our faith by the misery God blesses us with when we are in sin and rebellion. In Heb 12:5,6 we read that God promises to discipline those whom He loves. It says, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” We serve a Lord who is anxious to forgive… after David acknowledges his sin in vs 13, Nathan then assures him that God forgives him. And God is anxious to forgive and restore us when we come to Him repentant of our rebellion and sin. After these sins, David is still called a servant of God in Acts 13:36. He is still found in the “roll call” of faith found in Heb 11. He is still the predominate name in the lineage of Jesus. He remained a man “after God’s own heart”
But before we leave the story of David, we do have to look at one last thing. Though David was forgiven and restored, he was not relieved of the consequences of his sin. Let’s return to 2 Sam 12:7 where we read, “ Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘It is I who anointed you king over Israel and it is I who delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I also gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your care, and I gave you the house of Israel and Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added to you many more things like these! 9 Why have you despised the word of the LORD by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon. Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes and give them to your companion, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. 12 Indeed you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and under the sun…However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die.” ’”
We could spend weeks unpacking these verses, but suffice to say, David did lose the child growing in the womb of Bathsheba. And his reign and household was characterized by violence and uprising. His son, Amnon, was guilty of the incestuous rape of his sister. In retaliation, David’s son Absalom murdered his brother to avenge his sister and later, while trying to overthrow David and usurp his kingdom, publicly had sexual intercourse with David’s concubines in order to show scorn and disrespect for his father. What a tragic series of events!
Beloved, the life of David serves as both a source of hope and restoration as well as a dire warning of the unintended consequences of our sin. While he had to live with the consequences of his sin, please understand that he was not defined by that sin. He remained “a man after God’s own heart”. Just as found forgiveness and restoration from a loving God, so, too, can we.
So, what is our answer to that question posed earlier, “What happens if I fail to follow Jesus?” At worst, we find ourselves alienated from the life of God as He proclaims our faith to be false and banishes us from His presence. At best, we find ourselves in a state of misery, suffering from the consequences of our sin and rebellion…and causing those around us, and God Himself, to suffer as well. The good news…the news that Christ brings through His blood and atoning work…is that we can repent of either state and come to abundant and eternal life in Christ as we seek His will and work.