Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Deep down, everyone knows they fall short of moral perfection.
Sin has both immediate and long-term consequences, and only being fully forgiven removes the sense of condemnation that wrongdoers feel. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, today you're taking us into Psalm 32, where God powerfully shows himself to us when we are forgiven. You know, Dave, this is a remarkable Psalm. It's one that I have read many times.
As a matter of fact, I know it by memory. It's a Psalm of forgiveness, a Psalm of cleansing. It's a reminder to David that even though he sinned greatly, he was forgiven greatly. It's a message that people need to hear. As a matter of fact, here on the ministry of Running to Win, it is our desire to always edify, inspire, always to exalt Jesus Christ in the forgiveness that God has given to us. If you're blessed as a result of this ministry, it is because people just like you have invested. Now, the month of August is soon coming to a close, and during this month, we have some friends who have said that they are willing to double every gift that is given. Here's what you can do to find out more info.
Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. I'm going to be giving you that contact info again at the end of this message, but I need to tell you that it's because of people like you, Running to Win goes around the world. The voice of conscience has brought many people to an early grave. Whether you are brought up in a strict home or whether you are brought up in a rather lenient home, we all have a conscience.
Something like those metal detectors at O'Hare Field, sometimes they are set more sensitively than others, but whether it is set sensitively or perhaps more leniently, the metal detector still works, and so does your conscience. And there's nothing that you can do about the stain of sin that is upon your conscience. Time doesn't take it away. Have you men ever spilled some ketchup on your tie? And you say, well, yeah, I did, but that was a long time ago, and it's been in the closet now for three years.
The ketchup is still there. Time will never obliterate your sin. Time will deaden your conscience, but it will never cleanse it.
And so what we need is God to do that for us. The story of David is well known because he was, of course, a very famous king, but David also committed adultery with Bathsheba. And after that relationship and she became pregnant, he tried to cover his sin by bringing Uriah, who was Bathsheba's husband, back from the battlefield hoping that he would go home, make love to his wife, and therefore cover the identity of the child.
In fact, he even got Uriah drunk, and the scheme didn't work. So David went to plan B. Plan B was to have Uriah killed, and so that's exactly what happened. You all know the story, and David thought for a while that his sin was covered, that he had done what he needed to do to get out of this mess and to salvage his reputation. Finally, when Nathan the prophet came to him, David was ready to repent.
By the way, how well did his cover-up work? Well, even after he married Bathsheba, certainly she knew the truth. David knew the truth. The people knew the truth when the baby was born. Nathan knew the truth, and above all, God knew the truth.
The cover-up didn't work very well, and it never does. Psalm 51 is David's prayer of confession before God as he spills out his heart, and Psalm 32 is the psalm that David also prayed, most probably in this connection, as he thanked God for his forgiveness and made a wonderful contrast between the burden of guilt and the blessing of forgiveness. So would you turn with me today to Psalm 32. Psalm 32. We're going to study David's experience in three stages. Three stages. The first stage is we're going to consider the burden of unforgiven sin, the burden under which David lived when he tried to cover his sin, refused to acknowledge it, and never even confessed it before God.
What was that like? Some scholars think that David was in this state of cover-up for nearly a year until he came clean with God. You'll notice that the psalm begins by saying, blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity and in whose spirit there is no deceit. And now comes the description of life with unforgiven sin. For when I kept silent my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long, for day and night your hand was heavy upon me, my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. David said as long as I was not honest, as long as I was part of the cover-up, it affected my body.
Because the text says his bones wasted away and there was inward groaning. Many doctors believe that they could dismiss their patients if they could simply look them in the eye and say with authority, you're forgiven. Eighty percent of our psychic energy is usually spent trying to cope with self-condemnation and that dull sense of guilt that many of us have experienced. As a matter of fact, guilt tends to break down the immune system so you're more susceptible to disease, you're more susceptible to physical challenges because of guilt. David said it affected my body. He also says in Psalm 51, it affected my mind. Day and night my sin was before me. Every time someone made an appointment to see me in the palace, I thought in the back of my mind, I wonder if he knows.
In contemporary terms, every time the phone rings, I wonder if it's someone who's going to blow my cover and somebody who knows the truth. It affected my body, it affected my mind, David says. It also affects behavior. Unresolved guilt affects behavior. Chaplain said to a young man in the hospital who was there because of heroin, why do you take heroin?
The young man said, well, Chaplain, you ought to know the answer to that question. He says, I feel so bad because of some things that I've done and I don't have enough nerve to blow my brains out so I simply do it the slow way with drugs. If you don't overcome guilt, you're going to have a tendency to addictions.
You'll have a tendency to repeated compulsive destructive behavior because within you're trying to somehow resolve the tension of who you know you should be and who you know you are. So David is in this state. And when you think of hell, by the way, hell is is the raw emotion of guilt in the presence of a holy and just God without alcoholism, without the possibility of pleasure, without any possibility of deadening the pain.
Have you been there? When my wife and I were in England this past summer, we went to Bunyan's grave. You remember John Bunyan, his tomb is just across the street from the Wesley Chapel. In fact, you can see it from Wesley's window. And Bunyan was the man who wrote the Pilgrim's Progress and talked about Pilgrim walking with this heavy weight on his back.
And on his tombstone, there is a carving of a man walking with a weight on his back that was too heavy for him to carry on. David says, That's the way it was when I was in the mode of cover up, minimizing my sin and refusing to ask God's intervention and forgiveness. That's stage one.
Stage two. I've entitled it the agony of confession. Confession is not easy, he says in verses four and five. Well, let's pick it up in verse five. I acknowledged my sin to you and I did not cover my iniquity. And I said, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord and you forgave me the iniquity of my sin. David says, I acknowledged my sin.
First part of verse five. I stopped lying. I stopped living a lie. I also stopped hiding. You'll notice I did not cover my iniquity.
I took the tarp and I opened it. I took the covers off and I exposed my soul with its sin to God. And David says here that now he has come clean. It took Nathan the prophet, by the way, because and that's a very interesting insight into human nature. When Nathan told him the story about the man who had a stolen sheep, David became angry.
He was more angry over a stolen sheep than he was over a stolen wife that he had taken from another man. It's another indication of the blindness, the blindness of sin. The Bible says, Whoso covereth his sin shall not prosper, but whoso confesseth and forsaketh it shall find mercy. It is impossible to even imagine the consequences of unconfessed, hidden sin. Now, what, why is it that confession is so difficult?
It's because there are alternatives to confession. Years ago, I heard the title of a book. I've never seen it. Don't know who the author is.
Don't know who published it. But I have a pretty good idea of what its contents must be because it's entitled how to dodge repentance. How to dodge repentance? Well, we do it through rationalization.
Everybody does it. We tell ourselves we minimize our sin. We magnify the sins of others and we say, well, I'm not as bad as so and so. Or what we do is we think that we are going to pay for our sins, self-inflicted problems, self-inflicted addictions. And we continue because we say this is the payment because it's not fair that God should simply speak me clean and I must pay for my sin. That becomes an endless nightmare, a cycle that we don't ever get out of.
So there are all these alternatives. But the one thing that is most difficult, most difficult is to simply be honest with God and say, OK, God, all the closets of my life are now open to you. Everything is exposed. Nothing is hidden from your sight. You know it's there.
And now I'm acknowledging it's there too. The agony of confession. Think of the shame when David finally had to admit what he did. Yeah, it was one thing to take another man's life. It's another thing even to take his wife and all that is connected along with that. And the death of the baby that God gave to Bathsheba, all of that. David says, OK, the time has come. I've acknowledged my iniquity to you.
The cover up is over. So the first stage of his experience is the burden of guilt and unforgiven sin. The second is the agony of confession.
And the third is the blessing of forgiveness. It's that burden that John Bunyan had on his back, rolled away and finally being able to get up and to walk in freedom. How did John Wesley put it?
Excuse me, Charles Wesley. My chains fell off. My heart was free. I rose, went forth and followed thee.
Notice how David describes it. Well, now we're back to verses one and two, aren't we? He says, blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
God took the ugly mess and he sent a snowfall to cover the ugly trails and all of the ruts in the road of my life. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven. His sin is covered. God no longer imputes it. He no longer holds us guilty as a result of it. Oh yes, consequences may continue as David experienced, but that sense of guilt is gone. There is now freedom. You'll notice in verse one, he says, God, you forgave me.
Isn't that blessed? Notice verse seven, you are my hiding place. Now that my sin is forgiven, we're back in fellowship.
You forgave me. You hide me. Indeed, you preserve me from trouble and you surround me with shouts of deliverance.
You forgive me, you hide me. Verse eight, you guide me. This now may be God speaking. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go. I will counsel you with my eye upon you. The whole idea is this, that when I was at a fellowship, I had no sense of God's guidance. Have you ever prayed for God's will? You say, I want God's will. God show me your will. And even when you are praying, you are walking in disobedience out of fellowship with God, with sin in your life that you're not willing to expose to the all seeing eye of God. Just try that. Well, don't try it, but if you do, you'll find there's no sense of God's guidance because you know what God is saying is God is saying, look, you know, you're asking for guidance over here, but look at what's over here.
If you deal with this, then we can talk guidance. God you forgive me, you hide me, you guide me, you inspire me. Notice it says in verse 11, be glad in the Lord and rejoice so righteous and shout for joy all you who are upright in heart. Finally, you qualify to sing in the choir because now it is not merely words that you are singing, but from the heart you are giving praise to God because of the freedom and because of the conscience that has been cleansed and that's done by God.
So he says, Lord, Lord, thank you for freeing me. In fact, David says, you know, during that time when I was part of the coverup, I was like a horse or a mule. Verse nine, do not be like a horse or a mule without understanding which must be curved with bit and bridle or it will not stay near you. I know something about horses, nothing about mules, but I can imagine how stubborn they are. Like that old story about a man who hit a mule with a two by four and the person said, why don't you just speak to him? He said, I have to get his attention first. David says, that's the way I was stubborn, unwilling to be led by God like a horse that is unbroken or a mule that is determined to go nowhere.
And David is saying, now don't be like I was. Don't hide your sin. Don't rationalize it. Don't tell yourself that you're not as bad as somebody else because of it. And don't ever think that somehow it'll go away if you simply ignore it. Because as I mentioned, time will deaden the conscience, but time never cleanses the conscience.
The stain is still there. So I have to ask you, what does it take in your life and mine for us to really genuinely confess our sins before God with all honesty and allow God to go into all the crevices of our life? I'd like to bring you some lessons that we learned from this that I hope will be transforming. I hope the Holy Spirit of God will use these lessons for as long as you live.
And for some of you, that could be an awful long time. Well, I certainly hope that you listen to Running to Win on Monday to find out what those lessons are. And you know, as we think about the month of August coming to a close, this is one of the last days that we are making a very special opportunity available to you. We have some friends who have said that they are willing to match dollar for dollar whatever is given to the ministry of running to win up to $90,000 during the month of August.
And by the way, August 31 is also the end of our fiscal year. Would you help us? What an opportunity for you to maximize your gift. Now I'm giving you time for you to get a pencil so that you can write this down. But I want to thank you in advance for your contribution and for your generosity.
Some of you have never connected with us. This may be a marvelous opportunity for you to do just that. Here's what you do. Go to rtwoffer.com. That's rtwoffer.com.
Of course, rtwoffer is all one word, rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. As we come to the end of this week, I hope that you go to church this weekend. I hope that you become involved in ministry. And I want to thank you in advance for being a part of our ministry, for listening today, for praying for us. Many of you will be led to give.
At the end of the day, remember, it's all about Jesus. It's time again for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question you may have about the Bible or the Christian life. Pastor Lutzer, when loved ones pass away, can angels help us?
Carol has written to us from Powell, Tennessee, and this is her story. I have a question concerning angels. Are there guardian angels that watch over us and help us out sometimes? Are they someone that we once knew here on earth? My mother went to heaven in 1999, and six months later, so did my brother. Two years after that, my dad went to be with the Lord, not to mention the other friends and family that have gone on in the years since. I dream about my parents and my brother a lot.
They're always happy dreams, but I can't remember what they're saying to me. And on days when I feel I need a little more guidance and I'm impatient because Jesus hasn't dropped an answer in my lap, does he send angels who are going to help? Well, Carol, I find your question very interesting, and it has several different facets.
Let me begin by answering the most easy part. Does God send angels to help us? And the answer is yes. Hebrews chapter 1 verse 14 says that they are ministering angels sent forth to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation. I take it that you are an heir of salvation. You have received Jesus Christ as your savior, so the angels are there to minister to you. I've always believed that we do not see angels of course, and maybe in heaven we'll learn about all the different ways that the angels protected us when we were unaware of it. So the answer to that question is yes. Now in response to your other question, are these people who have gone on, people whom you have known? You're talking about the death of your mother, you're talking about the death of your brother, and so forth. Is there any connection between them and the angels?
And the answer is no. When an angel helps you, it is not your mother, it is not your brother. Angels are a distinct creation by God, and they were created without uncles and sisters and brothers and parents. They have that kind of individual existence, and it is not true, as some people believe, that when our loved ones die, they go to heaven and they become angels.
No, they continue to be people. Your mother is still a person, your brother, and the other relatives that you referred to. Now you say that you have dreams about your family, and they're always very positive dreams.
I'm glad about that. I think that what that signifies is you probably had a very good relationship with them. My father died nearly two years ago, and sometimes I dream about him, and my dreams are very positive. But I don't expect my father to somehow connect with me, because he's become an angel. So thanks so much for your question. I will tell you this, Carol, that your mother in heaven remembers you.
I believe that she loves you. The same can be said about your brother who has passed on, and the good news is that someday we shall all be together. Thank you, Carol, and thank you, Dr. Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, you can. Just go to our website at rtwoffer.com and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer, or call us at 1-888-218-9337.
That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you understand God's roadmap for your race of life. On our next Running to Win, you'll hear more from Psalm 32 on the blessing of being fully forgiven by the God who sees everything we do. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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