Thursday, April 17, 2014

Rediscovering Joy in the Grip of Conviction in the Hands of Our Sovereign God

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.”
Hebrews 12:6

We live in a day and age where the thought of conviction, let alone chastisement for wrong doing is frowned upon. Sneered at even. If you dare mention that it is good and proper for someone to feel remorse or guilt over something that they have done wrong, you will very likely be labeled harsh or critical.And if you so much as sniff at the idea that an individual's conduct may be indicative of an unconverted heart, despite their profession of faith, you may find yourself run out of whatever fellowship you were part of.

Yet I wonder if these things are indicative of a deeper problem.What I am curious about is whether or not this problem stems from a failure to understand how joyous something like conviction truly is.What we are used to dealing with in our time is comforting the man who is wallowing in the depths of his sin. A true believer is broken over their sin and when this brokenness sets upon them we should leave them to it.
I do not mean to imply that the vast majority of people who are entrenched in sin and begin to show the affects of their brokenness are coddled by the true believers they encounter. What I mean to say is that we often mistake the brokenness for repentance and seek to lift these people up out of the depths of their despair. And all-too-often what is needed is for these grieving souls to be left to their despair.

Bear with me for a moment with this thought. Let us consider King David and his sins. He looks out and sees Bathsheba bathing conspicuously on the roof of her husbands home. He allows temptation to turn to the sin of lust and that lust leads to adultery. That adultery builds into even greater deception as Bathsheba bears the child of her sin with David and he plots to mask his duplicity by sending for his faithful friend and loyal commander mistakenly thinking that Uriah will be as possessed with desire for Bathsheba as he was. Uriah proves the better man and his loyalty to his king at a time of war outweighs his rightful desire for the woman he was rightly married too.

David cannot bear being made a fool of, even if no one else is aware of his sin. In his anger and fear of being
exposed as a philandering cheat and betrayer of friends he plots to have his faithful warrior friend, who has slept outside the door of his palace awaiting word from his king, murdered by being placed in the thick of the worst combat. Uriah dies and David rushes to marry Bathsheba to cover his sin.God's anger is kindled against David, a man after God's own heart. 

In 2 Samuel 12 God sends the Prophet Nathan to David (by no coincidence Nathan means gift of God). Nathan relates a story to David of a man who takes severe advantage of his neighbor and when David reacts in indignation Nathan points at the king and says:

"7You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul.And I gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more.Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.10 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 out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun.12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’”13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.14 Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord,the child who is born to you shall die.”15 Then Nathan went to his house."
After this David retreats in despair and brokenness. His servants attempt without success to coax him from his depression. David remains inconsolable and eventually his child dies as a result of his sin. David immediately gets up and begins to conduct himself normally. His household is bewildered. And David eventually pens Psalm 51:
 Have mercy on me,O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
    and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
    and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have broken rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
    O God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
    you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
    build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
    in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar."

In the midst of his conviction David speaks in terms foreign to us today. He cries out to hear joy and gladness while experiencing the worst thing a parent could experience, the lost of a child. And worse than that this pain at the death of his son is a result of his own sin against God. And while he is still in the midst of this despair he cries out to be upheld and to have the joy of his salvation restored. He never asks for his sorrow and brokenness to be lifted. He does not asks to be made happy, how could he? Because in verse 17 he reveals the depth of understanding that he had and why he was called a man after God's own heart.David new that God wanted broken and contrite hearts when His people sin against Him. And more than that, the fact that we can feel this kind of pain in the midst of committing treason against our Lord should compel us to find our joy in our sorrow.

Look I am not talking about being giddy and gleeful in the midst of brokenness. That is really exactly what I am pushing against here. The last thing the Church needs today is a bunch of Tigger Christians running around. You know the types I am talking about. They are the ones that no matter what is happening around them they cannot be dissuaded from plastering a fake smile on their faces and acting as if nothing phases them. Yet they don't stop there, they won't rest until everyone around them is doing the same. This isn't realistic, nor is it biblical. These are the people that when they come across another believer in the midst of despairing over their sin they do everything they can to cheer this person up. They remind them that God does not want sad followers. They remind them that the world does not need to see our frowns but our smiles. They come up with cliche after cliche and just can't seem to grasp that sometimes, brokenness and despair and contrite hearts are more in tune with God then the person who plasters on the fake smile with the "fake it til you make it mentality".

They seem to forget that it is in Matthew 5 that we are taught by Christ that those who mourn are blessed and they will be comforted. This isn't mourning over the loss of a loved one. This isn't sadness over a rough spot in the road that is simply a product of living in a sin cursed world. This is mourning and agonizing over sin. This is being grieved deep in our souls over the myriad acts of treason that any of us may be prone to on any given day. Christ is relating to us that while we are feeling that sorrow, that conviction, we are in a good place. A place that offers us comfort and should bring joy in the midst of our sorrow.

But where does that joy come from and why? It comes from knowing that He is before the throne of His Father making constant intercession for us according to Hebrews 7:25. There is joy in our brokenness over sin because we know our hearts have not been so completely hardened so as to leave us without hope. This is more than a mere concept. It is apparent throughout scripture. Sin, in the believer, leads to conviction. Failure to respond to the Spirit's leading in this leads to a slow and gradual hardening. The harder the heart becomes the more turmoil and pain in the believer. This constant pressure has a cumulative affect on the believer and eventually they will break.They belong to Christ so they must break, but the longer this goes on in them the worse the fall.

This isn't easy for me to talk about. I am one of those often fraught with feelings of despair over my security with Christ. There are moments where I am convinced that there is no way I can truly belong to Him. However it is in those moments that I often find myself experiencing reassurance from God as He reminds me that He holds me safely in the grip of His hands.It is not that I hear personally or audibly from Him, but I do know that the promises of Holy Writ are such that I will never be cast out. That if I confess my sins He is faithful and just to forgive my sins and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. He will not lose me because I have been given to Him, promised to Him from before the foundation of the earth.

These words and thoughts of comfort are our joy...
They bring us godly joy in the midst of godly sorrow that leads to godly repentance...

And the solution for us in the midst of this joyful conviction is the same as the solution for the unbeliever in the midst of sin. It is the cross of Christ. He hung there for our sin. It was nailed there with Him because it was placed on Him on our behalves. So if He could endure the cross for the joy that was set before Him, then we can find our joy in the pain of conviction that comes from being rescued by Him when He hung there for us...

Soli Deo Gloria!


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