Sometimes stories have a tremendous power. People give us stories and movies and if you’re a child, sometimes a parent will, at nighttime, read a story. And rather than me tell you what a story says, I would like to do something a little different.
I would like to tell an accurate, historical story of a fellow who was the most powerful man in the world. He had very, very humble beginnings; he was of a tribe that was of the lower class; and he was the youngest. And he went from being a shepherd boy to being the most powerful king in the world.
He had everything any man’s heart could ever desire.
I would like to tell you a story of how a very good man, who was passionate and loved God and who never planned to make a mistake, in a weak moment, destroyed major portions of his life.
It says in II Samuel chapter 11, “It happened in the spring of year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab, the servant and all of Israel, and they destroyed the people of Ammon and they besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.” Every other year, he went out to battle. Things are going great. “I probably don’t need to go this year.”
“And then it happened,” notice it’s not planned, “and then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed, walked out on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing. And the woman was very beautiful to behold. And so David sent and he inquired about the woman. And someone said, ‘Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?’
“And then David sent messengers and he took her. And she came to him, and he lay with her. (For she was cleansed from her impurity.) And she returned to her house. And the woman conceived, so she sent and told David and said, ‘I am with child.’” God’s man in a weak moment.
“Then David sent to Joab saying: ‘Send me Uriah the Hittite.’ And Joab sent Uriah to David from the battlefield. And when Uriah had come to him, David asked him how it was going and how were the people doing and how has the war prospered. And David said to Uriah, ‘Well, go down to your house and wash your feet.’ And so Uriah departed from the king’s house and he got a gift of food from the king that followed him. But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord. And he did not go down to his house.
“So they told David saying, ‘Uriah didn’t go down to his house,’ David said to Uriah, ‘Did you not come home from a journey and why didn’t you go down to your house?’” And he confronts a man with great integrity and loyalty.
“And Uriah said to David, ‘The ark and Israel and Judah are dwelling in tents, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are encamped in the open fields. Shall I go down to my house and eat and drink and lie with my wife? As you live and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing!’” The contrast. Commitment. Loyalty. Integrity. What is fair. What is right.
As I read this passage, I notice the phrases: “Then it happened,” “He saw,” “He inquired,” “He sent,” “He lay,” “She conceived.”
And then begins the cover-up. And Uriah said to David, “I can’t do it.” So David tries plan B. In verse 12 he gets him drunk, sends him down, even in a drunken stupor, his loyalty is intact. And then cover-up plan B emerges in verse 14.
“In the morning it happened that David wrote a letter to Joab,” that was the head of his army. “And he sent it by the hand of Uriah.” What irony. “And he wrote in the letter saying, ‘Uriah, put him in the forefront of the hottest battle and retreat from him that he may be struck down and die.’
“And so it was that Joab besieged the city, and he assigned Uriah to a place where he knew valiant men were. And the men of the city came out and they fought and some of the servants of David fell; and Uriah the Hittite died also.” Cover-up complete.
Skip down to the very bottom, verse 26. “When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. And when her mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son.” Commentary: “But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.”
A great portion of this book that I hold in my hands is called: The Psalms or the psalter. It was the hymnal of the Jewish people. And the great majority of these words from God to believers then and now, were written by this man. He is a man that is passionate for God, loved God, humble, God exalted him.
He was the deliverer of the people from the Philistines and later and greater and greater and greater battles. And the trajectory of his entire life changes because one night he can’t sleep. He’s not where he’s supposed to be, but it’s not planned. It’s not malicious. He just can’t sleep.
And he is made to do something but he’s not doing what he is called to do in this window [of time]. And as he can’t sleep and he walks out and he looks over and he is a man, like any man, on a business trip or away from home in a different environment, and something catches his eye, and there is something very normal and natural about the magnetic attraction to a very, very beautiful woman.
And then he takes the next step, he probably didn’t plan on doing anything. He inquired. I wonder who that is. I mean, not that I’d do anything, I just wonder who it is. And then he gets the feedback. And during that time, the seeds begin to grow and then he calls for her. And, still, maybe, You know…
And then he lies with her. And then there are consequences. And then instead of owning his stuff and realizing, This is a grievous sin. By the way, we read this in our twenty-first century eyes, the penalty for adultery was to be stoned. This is serious.
And so he, kind of like the many cover-ups we have seen in the last twenty years, so, I’ll cover it up. I’ll just get the husband to come home and he’ll sleep with his wife, he’ll think the baby is his. But he chose the wrong guy. The guy has got too much integrity.
And then in the way sin creeps in, that seed of sin, it was just seeing, then inquiring, then taking a step, then there’s an action, there’s a consequence, then there’s a cover-up. And all I want to do is get this under the…I just want to put this under the rug and it’s a mistake, God, I’m really, really sorry. I’ll never do anything like that again. And he’ll think it’s his baby and it’ll be over. And it doesn’t work.
And so this is how sin works. It’s like a cancer that multiplies rapidly and the cells multiply, multiply, multiply. And he starts thinking things that he would never do and then pretty soon he comes up with a plan, and that doesn’t work, to kill her husband.
And he actually allows other people to go to the front where it’s too dangerous and this man dies and they play the game and she mourns. He marries her. And thinks, Wow, whew.
And then that famous, famous passage in the New Testament, “Do not be deceived; your sin will find you out.”
And I want to make a couple observations. I don’t know how you have heard this taught before. But my first observation is: He is a good man. A very good man. Sometimes we hear about people who make a big mistake and they commit adultery or embezzlement or they do something really horrendous that is so counter to everything we know about them.
And we are so quick to say, “Well, everything they ever taught was wrong. And must have had this super dark heart.” The fact of the matter, David was a very, very good man in a weak moment. And according to Scripture, there is not a person in this room, given the right circumstances, at a window of time when you are vulnerable, that you couldn’t do the same or worse.
And, by the way, until you come to that conviction that that could actually happen, you are even more vulnerable.
Second, he is described as a mighty warrior, a righteous king, and a man after God’s own heart. And, by the way, that is after this event. That’s a New Testament quotation. The book of Acts.
The Spirit of God describing king David: king, righteous warrior, man after God’s own heart. We get that after this event.
Third, the words murderer and adulterer are added to the biography of this amazing, godly man who is used by God in ways beyond anything probably we can imagine.
And here is the point I would like to make. We all make big mistakes sometime in our life. Some of them get found out, some of them don’t, but we know them. The question is: How do we recover?
We have talked about a number of things, in your faces and a few conversations have told me, some of you, when we talked about teaching them to suffer well or “Work unto the Lord,” some of you, when it’s “Teach them to make wise decisions,” some of you have extremely deep regrets of that picture of water that has gone over the falls and this feeling that, There are certain things I didn’t do or there are certain things I did do that I so deeply regret, when confronted with that truth.
And the temptation and the enemy’s desire is to cover you with condemnation. It’s too late, you blew it, you’ve ruined their life, there is no hope. And the transferrable concept you want to teach those you disciple, the transferrable concept we must pass on to our kids and to our grandkids and to people that are in our local bodies of fellowship is this: Teach them to live grace filled lives.
I want to go over a theology of grace. And it’s from the beginning to the end of Scripture, so I want to give you the high marks very briefly and quickly. And then explain, maybe, grace that we really get our arms around what’s it mean to receive grace? What is grace?
Grace is the unmerited and unconditional love of God toward us. Underline the word unmerited; unconditional. We don’t understand either and you’ll never get it anywhere else, from anyone else at all, like this.
Unmerited means you can’t earn it. Unconditional means you have it when you’re bad, you have it when you’re good, you have it when you’re up, you have it when you’re down. Grace is the disposition in the eternal God of wanting to give you what you do not deserve, on the basis of His character alone, not on your performance or your activity.
Second, grace is free to us, but it’s costly to God. It’s absolutely free. Completely removed from our performance. But it’s very costly to God.
Third, the cross is God’s greatest act of grace. We’ll develop that. But the greatest act of grace is the cross where He allowed His Son – fully God, fully man – to die in your place and my place to pay for, to atone, to be the substitute for all the things that you have ever done or ever thought or ever said that violated a holy God.
You are responsible for every one of those, I am responsible for every one of mine, and God said, “Since you could never live up to that, I will allow My Son, who is absolutely perfect, to hang between heaven and earth on a wooden cross. And I will take My just wrath and My judgment for sin, and I will pour it on My Son, who is an absolutely perfect sacrifice because He is God, and He is able to die because He is man, and in this moment of time, I will cover or atone for the sins of all men, of all times.” And whoever would choose to, with the empty hands of faith, ask for this gift of substitution and grace, I will give it to them on the basis of them believing.”
“God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son. That whosoever would believe might receive eternal life.”
Four, salvation is a free gift from God. It’s not of works. Five, grace must be received by faith. You might jot, Ephesians 2:8 and 9, “For by grace we are saved through faith.” And that’s not of yourselves. The idea is not of your religious or moral attempts of good works. “It is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.”
And I would like, if you would, just to stop for a second, because something that I think has, at least I grew up this way and I have rarely talked without people going, Oh, and it is so deeply embedded in your psyche. We theologically get to the point where we understand it, we invite Christ to come into our lives, His Spirit enters us, we begin this new life, but what is so deeply embedded in our minds is a concept that goes something like this: God has a big chalk board in the sky. And there is a line down the middle. And on one side it says: “Good deeds,” and there is a line and on the other side it says, “Bad deeds.”
And for many of us, all of our lives, implied or actually taught to us, if your good deeds, every good deed you get a little mark and every bad deed you get a little mark. And the way I grew up thinking was, When you get to the end of the game called “Life,” if your bad deeds are more than your good deeds, you go to the bad place. And if your good deeds are better than your bad deeds, you go to the good place.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. If you had nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand and ninety-nine good deeds, and one bad deed, you would violate the holy, perfect perfection of God, who can live with absolutely no sin.
If you put it in a score card, it would be something like this: In order to have a relationship with God the Father, you need your test score in every aspect of life to be a perfect hundred. You either have a hundred, or you fail.
Now, maybe the Billy Grahams of the world, although I’m sure he wouldn’t say this; or the Mother Teresas or some famous missionaries, maybe they get a ninety-two or ninety-four and maybe axe murderers get threes and fours and serial killers are a minus five. And most of us see ourselves as maybe seventy-five or eighties.
But unless you’re a hundred, you can’t have a relationship with God. So being a good guy, being moral, intellectually believing in God is not what it means to be “saved,” or have a relationship or be prepared or allowed to go into heaven. It’s by grace you are saved through faith.
Grace, number six, produces gratitude toward God and love toward others. When you experience grace, it activates something. Philippians chapter 2 says, “For it’s the grace of God; it’s God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
Grace does something where, when you turn, in the empty hands of faith and ask Christ to come in to your life, the Spirit of God enters your physical body. You are literally taken out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of light. You are placed into this supernatural community called, “The body of Christ,” or, “The Church.” You are deposited with a spiritual gift to fulfill your Ephesians 2:10 purpose.
Your mind begins to be renewed. You are sealed with the Spirit so that no one can take you out of His hands. You have, now, power. The penalty of sin has been broken, the power of sin has been broken, the Spirit of God lives in you to manifest the presence and the power of the very life of Christ and the Christian life, far from trying to be a good person is about abiding in Christ so that this new life can be lived out through your personality as you depend and walk by faith in Him.
And He transforms you from grace to grace. It is Titus, you might jot this down, Titus chapter 2:11 and 12. When people think of grace, one of the fallacies is, they think the opposite of grace is effort. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Ephesians 4:2 says, “We are to make every effort to become the kind of followers Christ wants us to become.” It takes effort, it takes energy. Paul said, “I beat my body, I focus, I discipline myself.” It takes great effort to be a follower of Christ to allow the grace of God to manifest itself in every area of your thought, your speech, and your relationships.
The opposite of grace is not effort; the opposite of grace is merit. Merit has to do with earning something.
Put it this way, a better way. The opposite of grace is a performance mentality. The opposite of grace is: When I read my Bible and pray, God loves me. When I don’t read my Bible and pray, He doesn’t love me.
The opposite of grace is: When I give financially, off the top, and when I’m doing good and I don’t have any moral slips, God really loves me. And, boy, I blew it, I watched something last night or I had a bad thought or I lusted after that or my money is a mess and now I’m in debt. Well, God doesn’t love me anymore.
And when you think that way, then I can’t really talk to God right now. I can’t be close to God right now but I am going to get my financials in order and I am going to try and work my way back to being a good boy or a good girl and then God will accept me again.
And that is bad, bad theology but many of you and me think that way and don’t live by faith through grace, even though we are saved that way. And we live this performance orientation, where we live with condemnation and guilt and are not tapping into the power of God.
The theme of the book of Galatians is very simple. However you get in relationship with God, or saved, is exactly the same way you grow or are sanctified. Does that make sense? You are saved by faith through grace. The way you grow is by faith through grace.