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More Like Jesus

More Like Jesus

Philippians 2:5-13

Psalm 51

When you & I become aware of the Good News of the Gospel... when we respond to Christ’s offer of redemption... and we learn that our transgressions are forgiven by Grace thru faith in Jesus... and that awareness becomes part of who we are, it empowers us to know Whose we are. We’re filled with assurance, and peace, and comfort, and contentment... knowing we’ve been delivered from death to life. We’ve been re-made, re-born, re-formed as the handiwork of God (as we talked about last week). Our shame removed, our sin forgiven, the burden and weight of our “falling short and missing the mark” is lifted.

Of course, we know we still have work to do... there’s always a lingering propensity to give in to the pull of the world, and to fall back into the ways of the world. We even sing about that tendency: “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” But we keep circling back to Jesus, because the relief and promise of forgiveness, offered in the Irresistible Grace of our Savior, is more powerful than the lusts and temptations of the world.

But, is that it? Is following Christ, and believing in him all there is to faith? What if Jesus offers more than just forgiveness and eternal life?

Sometimes we treat forgiveness, like an insurance policy. We’re covered for that moment when we need it most. Like it’s God’s big eraser for all of our wrongs... our mistakes. But God never intended to just “white-out” the page so we could start scribbling again. Christ intends to write a brand new story... by replacing what was broken, wicked, and dead with love, faithfulness, and life. Christ came to deliver us. To completely re-boot our lives.

Which means... belief in the Good News of the Gospel doesn’t just get us out of the consequences of hell and death; it also makes us new. Grace does way more than just help us shed the weight of our past; it empowers us to live, to act, to think... differently... today.

David says, “I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3). That’s the greatest understatement in the Bible! Boy did he know his transgressions! Let’s think about David’s transgressions for a moment: He had just watched a married woman bathing naked from his palace roof (2 Samuel 11:2), lusted over her, brought her into his home, committed adultery (11:4), and when she became pregnant (11:5), David then tried to cover his sin by having her husband come home from the front lines of war, in the hopes that her husband would be considered the father of the child (11:9–13). And when that didn’t work, he conspired to have her husband killed in battle (11:15). He murdered an honest man to protect his affair with that man’s wife.

Of course, the Prophet Nathan confronted David about it his transgressions (12:1–14). By the time David wrote this psalm, he knew all about his sin — the wickedness and rebellion of his heart.

But his sinfulness didn’t begin after he became king of Israel... “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). The adultery, the lying, and the murder were all just symptoms of a larger, deeper problem. David was evil at his core, and he’d been that way since birth, even before birth. Sin infects and cripples us more than we’ll admit, and far more than we ever know.

David knew that his sin was great, but he also knew something greater than all his sin. He cried out to God... “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions” (Psalm 51:1). David knew of God’s steadfast love... and God’s abundant mercy. He didn’t make excuses... he threw himself on the mercy of God!

This Psalm reveals something about God that can make even the worst of sinners feel safe and confident in his presence. It reveals God’s loving-kindness. David knew he’d fallen far from God’s grace... about as far as anyone could ever expect to fall. Yet he humbly made his way before God to appealing to God’s love & mercy.

Of course, David’s prayer wasn’t as much about forgiveness as it was newness. There’s no doubt David was asking for forgiveness... but he goes further than forgiveness and asks for more, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. . . . Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:7, 10).

“Renew” me! In other words, David was praying, “God, I want to change. I want to love what’s right and good. I want to live differently. I want to love like you love. By the same grace that you rescued me from my sinfulness, please make me new.”

It’s as if David realized that unless God made him new... remolded his intentions and re-created his heart... he’d never overcome his failings. His sinfulness would be the master of his thoughts, and actions, unless God intervened, and changed David from the inside out!

You know, Psalm 51 makes it clear... We cannot sacrifice enough... we can’t work (or earn) our way out of the consequences of our rebellion... because... only a heart that has turned toward God in repentance and supplication - only a broken and contrite heart - is an acceptable offering (verse 17). Only God, the Psalmist drives home, can deal with our sins.

The pattern of Psalm 51 — a forgiving and transforming grace from the hands of God alone — shows up again and again throughout the Bible.

In Philippians, we’re told Christ humbled himself to the point of death on a cross (Philippians 2:8). He died in our place. “Therefore,” Paul writes, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). How? How do we work out our salvation? By submitting our lives to God! Paul continues, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (2:13). In other words, the God who saves us, empowers us to live more and more like Christ.

One of my favorite Reformed Theologians is R. C. Sproul. He tells the story of Jonathan Edwards... surely you’ve heard of him. He was an 18th Century theologian. He also happened to be the 3rd president of a little backwoods institution called Princeton. Anyway, Jonathan Edwards is probably best known for his leadership in the American Enlightenment and the Great Awakening. He wrote a sermon that he called, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God!” It was required reading when I was in college. It helped spark revival here in America.

But he also wrote a lesser known sermon called “A Warning to Professors.” Of course, you may think he was addressing college professors since he’d been a College President... but he used the term professors not referring to people who were in an academic position, but to those who had made a profession of faith!

Edwards made it very clear that there is a difference between making a profession of faith and possessing the faith that you profess.

And the warning that Edwards gave was this. He said, we see people who make an outward profession of faith, who become involved in the life of the church, who are present in worship on Sunday morning, but whose lives remain unchanged, who still live lives that are godless. And Edwards says that, that person is in serious, serious trouble, because the unchanged person is basically committing blasphemy as he enters into the holy things of God, pretending to be a believer, when in fact he is not.

And so he adds to his guilt before God.

Are you and I professors of our faith? Do we possess the faith we profess?

Our prayer must be that of Psalm 51. As we march closer and closer to the Holiest of Weeks... as we approach the Cross of Calvary, and the Empty Tomb of Resurrection Sunday... are we praying for changed lives? Are we praying for renewed lives... for a clean heart, and a renewed spirit. Are we praying to be made more and more, like Jesus?

I hope so... no... I pray so...


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