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Monday, July 12, 2010

You Da Man (2 Samuel 12.1-10)

July 4, 2010
Sermon by: Mike Slade

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Lord, let me be diminished so that You might be magnified in the words I say. And let the words I say only be those that You would have me speak. Otherwise, let them fall silent to the ground. Now, give us ears to hear and hearts to respond to Your Word. Amen.

In today’s society, and particularly being a man in today’s society, it has become reassuring and uplifting and provides a sense of accomplishment and achievement when a colleague or friend says to me “You are the man.” Or, as it has become more popular to say: “You ‘da man!” I apologize to the females in the congregation, but this is not entirely exclusive to men. It’s somewhat analogous to saying “You go girl!” It carries the message that you have done something extremely well, that you have achieved some outstanding level of capability or competence. It can even mean that someone is idolized within a community, a nation or possibly the world.

You are the man. The person saying it is giving a compliment of the highest order and the person receiving it is only meant to feel esteemed and highly regarded. What a contrast with how Nathan confronted and rebuked David in Second Samuel.

First, I want to look this morning at this scene from Second Samuel and how God intervened to bring together David and Nathan at this particular point in time. Second, I want to talk a little about how so many times I am convicted of being “the man” in God’s eyes and according to His Word. And third, I want to look at how God has provided through Jesus the forgiveness and ultimate sacrifice for our human-ness and for our sin.

Let’s start with a little background on David: David was the son of Jesse. He was the slayer of Goliath the mighty warrior. The father of Solomon. Was King of Israel for 40 years. And he committed adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. David was in a position to control the fate and the very life of Uriah and he took advantage of that, sending word that Uriah should be sent to the front lines of the battle and even abandoned so it would be certain that he would be killed. David would then cover his tracks and make sure that no one knew what he had done and he would be in the clear. After all, he was the King. Who would challenge him?

Then along comes Nathan. Now Nathan was a prophet who served both David and Solomon. He was an Israelite and he was the one who first spoke to David regarding the building of the original temple. Later, Nathan was the one who revealed Adonijah’s plot to take over the throne from David. He was, in a way, part of the family.

So we come to this point in time in which David has committed adultery and murder to get what he wanted and the Lord sends Nathan, a trusted servant and a prophet, to David with the sole purpose of pointing out his sin and exposing him by way of this story about two men. One of the men in the story told by Nathan is wealthy the other is not. One has many sheep and cattle; the other has only a ewe lamb, a female lamb. And the lamb is like a daughter to the poor man. It even eats and sleeps with his family. And when a traveler comes to town to visit the rich man, the rich man does not take from his own cattle or sheep to prepare a meal, but he takes the lamb from the poor man, it is killed and it is prepared as a meal for the traveler. And David hears this story that Nathan tells him and he is incensed, he is greatly angered. The Word states that “David's anger was greatly kindled against the rich man,” even saying that he should die. It was that heinous a crime. Even worse, David says, the man showed no pity. The rich man’s heart was hard toward the poor man and he simply took what he wanted because he was in a position to do so.

And in this moment of David’s anger and self-righteousness, Nathan twists the story. He turns it around and says, “That rich man is not made up. That man is you. You are the man. You did this and God knows you did it and He has sent me to expose the truth.”

As humans, we like to order things. And as humans, we tend to think in degrees of sin. So we do things like take the Ten Commandments and rank them in order from what we believe are the least offensive to the most offensive. That allows us to look at other people and situations and say “at least I’m not as bad as him or her because I haven’t done that.” I believe that on our self-created but flawed scale of sin, David’s would rank as especially bad. But sin is sin in God’s eyes, lest we comment on the speck in someone else’s eye and we ignore the log in our own.

“You are the man.” God convicts me of that so often through His Word and – even more often – through others He puts in my path, just as He put Nathan in David’s path. He convicts me when I read of Adam and Eve in the Garden and of Eve eating the fruit from the forbidden tree and of Adam watching Eve, not saying a word, later blaming her and hiding in his own shame. I am convicted when God reminds me of the woman caught in adultery and of the men angrily holding stones until they are reminded of their own sin. What stones am I still holding? What stones are you still holding? I am convicted by Peter’s denial of Jesus. I am convicted by Thomas’s doubt. I am convicted by those who called for Jesus to be crucified, the same people who hailed his arrival just a week before. By Jonah not listening to God’s calling. You get the point. I have fallen far short of the glory of God. So did David. Yet God chose to use David in a powerful way.

God is doing the same with me and He is doing the same with each of you. I’ll give you the Reader’s Digest version of my testimony - This will cover about 40 years in half a dozen or so phrases: went to church as a child, stopped going as a teenager, returned ever so briefly as a college student, drifted exceedingly far from anything remotely related to church after that, prayed a prayer one evening to a God I did not yet know, wandered a bit more, then finally I rushed headlong to Him, singing His praises and really being filled with His presence and with the Holy Spirit. But I can turn away from that and I can turn away from God and I can turn away from music and I can turn away from family and from you. I know I can because I’ve seen me do it.

Many of you know me as this person who seems relatively involved and engaged in what is going on here at Good Shepherd. And the misperception that potentially comes with that is that I have it all together and that I am somehow a better or stronger Christian; that I have moved past the mundane challenges of faith and belief and sin that each of you faces. I can assure you that leading the congregation in worship or singing in the choir or being an elder in the church – for me – is not an experience in which I am lifted up or exalted. It is – or it should be – an experience in which and by which I am truly humbled. And if I am lifting myself up and putting myself at the center, then I am way off-base.

I am certain that many of you set mental goals out there to do “this” and to be “that” and have “such and such” done by “so and so” date. I do the same thing. For me, though, it is so often the human part that takes over and leaves the spiritual part behind. Let me explain what I mean: several years ago, the Worship Team here at Good Shepherd really took off. A number of us attended a conference – sort of a lay renewal for Worship Teams – and we were pretty pumped up about what God was doing at Good Shepherd and how He wanted us to respond. Several folks here were part of that and I was thrilled to be a part of it as well. But doesn’t it seem like sometimes when God holds out His promise for us – his vision for us… that when we follow it faithfully and do all the things He seemingly wants us to do, we sometimes come to a point at which there is a crossroads of sorts in the road. And one path is God’s path and the other path, or potentially several other twisted and confusing and wide and even circular paths are of our own making and we sort of turn to God and say “Hey, thanks. I really appreciate you getting me this far but I’m good from here on out.” Ever done that? I’ve done that. And that’s what I did. Because of my deep involvement in church activities and because I was an Elder and because my family was doing really well, I felt as though I had spent my time in the faithfulness box and that I could move on. I had graduated with my Master’s degree in “God things.” I could move on to other things and I didn’t need to check with God to do that. So I was smarter than Him and I could do my own thing. I was in charge of what I needed and wanted and I was the focus. But the walls started to close in and I battled the unseen demons and I fought depression and I shut down to my family. Work became the thing to sustain me so I tried to give myself meaning through my profession. But even that became a battle and I began to detest the very thing that I thought would at least help fill me up.

I had fully turned from God. I was blind to what He would have me see and I was deaf to what He would have me hear. I am the man.

I believe there is 1 of 2 potential traps into which I can fall or into which we can fall when we think about sin and grace. The first trap is saying “I can do whatever I want right up until it’s my time to pass away from this earth and as long as I call out to God at that moment I will be saved.” You might refer to it as “just-in-time Christianity.”

Here’s a couple of thoughts on that: First, Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans that just as sin came through the actions of one, so did grace and life come to us through the actions of THE One. In a battle of sin versus grace, grace will always win. But Paul writes on and tells us “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” Further still, God’s Word tells us that we don’t know the day or time when our time might come. None of us is promised another day or hour or minute. So holding out for a “just in time” salvation is mighty risky.

The second trap into which we can fall is believing that God will come to the point at which he simply gives up on us. A belief that we have used up all of our chances. But He is the God of second chances. And of third chances. And of fourth chances.

So somewhere between the first trap of constantly sinning and believing we can save ourselves just in time, and the second trap of believing that we are beyond saving so what’s the use in running hard to God… between those two is faith.

God showed his eternal faithfulness through me. When I turned back to God, he wasn’t some mirage far off in the distance. I didn’t have to shout to Him so He could hear. He was right there on my heels. Let me tell you a little about the mercy and grace and love of the Father for me after I had turned away fully from him.

God gave me a love for music and he put me in a church home that has a love for music as well. He lovingly brought me back into the choir and into the worship team when he could have taken that from me forever. He gave me a loving family and a wonderful home. He put on my heart the idea to have people both within Good Shepherd and outside of this congregation write their own faith stories so those could be compiled into a book. He set people and events in motion when I was seeking a new opportunity at work that would keep me from having to do extensive travel so I could be close to my family and so I could be close to my Mom when she was sick. He afforded me the opportunity to spend time with them and with her as I was transitioning to my new job. When my Mom passed away, he put you people and this congregation, this church family, in the midst of all that to lift up my entire family – not because you just felt obliged to do it and not because you were looking for something in return, but because you were being Jesus for us. You were doing what Christ would do. Even though I was just like the lost sheep and the lost coin and the lost son, even though not that long ago I had fully turned away from God… He was the woman gathering all her friends to tell them that she had found the coin that had been lost. He was the shepherd celebrating the lost sheep that had been found. He was the father running to meet his son who was returning home after squandering his inheritance. He did all that and exceedingly more for me even though I am the man. Several months ago, he even put in my heart and on my mind the words to the song that you heard Maddie sing earlier, but he did not give me the music. At about the same time, he was putting in Maddie’s heart and on her mind the music to a song for which she could not find the words.

At my human core, I am selfish and ill-mannered and boastful and proud. I am the man. But at the center of what God has been doing for me and through me is grace and mercy and patience and love. At the center is Jesus. God put Jesus at the center so that sin and death would be overtaken and would be overcome. He put Jesus at the center so Paul would be saved. So Peter would be saved. So David would be saved. So you and I would be saved. God sent love down from heaven so that no matter the person or the situation or the brokenness or the shame or the sin, love and mercy and grace prevail through Jesus Christ our Lord. That is the Good News. Amen.

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