Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. People who've lost some time in life due to the grip of the past need to find their way back.
Often they're burdened with guilt, realizing they've made choices that took them into darkness. Today, how to deal with the sin in our lives and regain our focus on the race ahead. 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, Psalm 51 is bursting with hope for anyone far from God and wanting to find their way back to Him. You know, Dave, I like the description that you have just given that there are so many people who made choices that have led them into darkness.
What a vivid way to put it. And to all those who are in darkness today, I want you to know that there is hope. Today, you can make a wise decision.
We want to help you in the race of life. That's why we are making available to you a book entitled Putting Your Past Behind You, Finding Hope for Life's Deepest Hurts. This is the second to last day that we are offering this as a resource to help you in your struggles regarding your past and hope for the future. Now, for a gift of any amount, it can be yours.
Simply go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Now, at the end of this broadcast, I'm going to be giving you this contact info again. Hope that you have a pencil handy because I believe that this book can have a huge impact in your life and the life of others. This is the eighth and last in a series of messages entitled Putting Your Past Behind You.
Today, what we hope to do is to draw together a number of different themes and end of this series. You know, when you take a wrong turn on the road of life, sometimes the results are disastrous. This can even happen when you are involved in just driving a car, as my wife and I discovered way back in 1974. We were invited to the home of some friends in northern Wisconsin. We were invited there in the dead of winter, and these friends of ours wanted to take us to a restaurant. They had not lived there very long and they thought they knew the area, but they began to drive along in the car with us, of course, with them, and they discovered several miles along the road that they were not headed in the right direction. This little country road is difficult to describe, but I think you can visualize it. Narrow, snow-packed, we discovered that we were making some new tracks in the snow. The car made deep, fresh ruts as we went along, mile after mile, hoping that we'd be able to find a place to turn around. Eventually, we did come to a cross-road that was big enough and strong enough and high enough, I should say, that it looked as if we would be able to get the car onto that road and back it up and get it back so that we could return home. We tried it.
We were stuck for about an hour and a half in sub-zero temperatures, but eventually, we were able to get that big Buick turned around and headed for home. I want to use this story today as an analogy regarding our spiritual lives, and specifically, I would like us to think of the life of David, whose story is recorded for us in 2 Samuel, the details of which I will be giving you in a moment. But all of us know that David committed adultery with Bathsheba, and then to cover his sin, he did something far worse.
He murdered the woman's husband, Uriah, to cover the deed. As I think back over to that experience that my wife and I had so many years ago, there are several lessons that come immediately to mind about making wrong turns. The first is that time is lost that cannot be regained. Time is lost. In our case there in Wisconsin, we never did get to that restaurant. As a matter of fact, I have never been to that restaurant because we lost several hours.
By the time we got home, it was too late to go and we were content to sit there in a warm house and to eat a bowl of soup. But you think of David. Years went by, and those years were lost, and they could never possibly be regained. You can take a calendar and you can burn it, you can take a clock and you can throw it into the garbage, but time moves on relentlessly without stopping, and you can never recapture it. There's a second lesson that comes to mind about some of these wrong turns that people make in life, and that is that others can be misled because of the trail you leave. Others can be misled.
We have no hard evidence that this ever happened, but I could imagine it could have happened. After we had taken that wrong turn and driven so many miles, perhaps ten miles to where we were able to turn around and another ten miles back, someone else coming along might have seen our trail and said, well, this track surely leads somewhere. They might have decided to go along that same road, thinking for sure it would also lead to a small town somewhere. Much to their disappointment, they'd have discovered that it led nowhere. I'll tell you, upper Wisconsin is not the end of the earth, but you can see it from there.
And do you know something? We were able to turn around and come back. Perhaps they would not have been able to do that.
Maybe they would have gone beyond the spot where we turned around, and mile after mile they would have gone into the wasteland, following that trail to its destructive end. David discovered that. David committed those sins of immorality and murder, and he repented, and he bounced back in fellowship with God. His children committed those sins, and they never did turn around and get back into fellowship with God. David had a son by the name of Amnon. Amnon committed incest with his half-sister, Tamar. Absalom committed immorality on a rooftop in the site of the entire city of Jerusalem, and he committed that immorality with some of David's mistresses, simply to prove to everyone the depth of his rebellion against his father as he was leading a revolt to capture his father's kingdom.
Now you think about this for a moment. God said to David, because you killed Uriah, the sword will never depart from your land and from your family. And Absalom was killed by Joab, and another of David's sons by the name of Adonijah had to be killed as well because he desired the kingship.
Never forget it. David went down a wrong path and repented and turned back. His kids followed the tracks he made, and they never did come back. They died in the rebellion and in that destructive end to which the trail led.
I see it all the time. A father leaves his wife, commits immorality, marries another woman, but because he is a believer in Jesus Christ, years later as the Spirit of God begins to work upon his heart, his heart becomes softened before God, and he begins to repent of his sins. But his children follow his footsteps. They do the same thing that he does, but they never repent. They live that way to the bitter end. They follow into dead's footsteps. They don't have to do that, of course. Not all children do, but some do. And other people who watch this man, they begin to live their lives accordingly too, and they may never get turned around, even if in the goodness of God, he should get turned around.
They don't. There's a third lesson, and that is that once you have chosen a wrong road, you cannot take care of your mistake by choosing other roads in the wrong area. That's what happened to us. You see, we began on a road that was wrong, and then we turned off taking another road, thinking that it would lead to the town. But you see, once you're on the wrong road, just to simply choose another road does not mean that you can never make it right. You must be able to go back to the point where you got off track, not in relation to time, because I've already said it's too late for that, but in relation to Spirit, in relationship to God, you must go back where you got off track, because all the decisions you make after you have made some wrong ones can never straighten that wrong one out. You see a fork in the road, you travel, take one way after that. There is no way to get back onto the right path.
All that you have before you is another fork in the road, and then another and another, and each successive decision gets you further from where you got off track. Think of David. Just think of him. He commits immorality with Bathsheba.
We know the story very well. Then what does he do? He brings Uriah home from battle. What David should have done was bring Uriah home from battle, look at him square in the eye and say, Uriah, I want you to know that your wife and I have had an immoral relationship, and she is pregnant with my child. I'm very sorry for what has happened.
I would ask you to forgive me, and we are going to work out whatever we can work out for the benefit of that baby. You say, well, Pastor Lutzer, how could a king do that? Let me ask you this question. What did David do? Having chosen a wrong trail, he went and he chose a worse one and a worse and worse until he ended up committing murder too. He brings Uriah home, says Uriah, take a few days off. He wants Uriah to go home to his wife to make love with Bathsheba so that Uriah will think that the pregnancy is his. Let's suppose the cover-up would have worked.
Would David be scot-free? No, Bathsheba knew the truth. He knew the truth, and more importantly, God knew the truth.
But it didn't work. Uriah wouldn't go home. Do you know what David did? David made Uriah drunk, hoping that Uriah would go home, and he still wouldn't go home. And David said, I've got a trump card to play. He gave Uriah a note, and it was a sealed note, but on it were these words, please put Uriah in the heat of the battle, then withdraw from him. Have him killed for me. Signed, David. He so trusted Uriah that he actually gave Uriah that note, and he knew that Uriah would never look at it.
Uriah takes that death warrant and he gives it to Joab, and Joab, being a good commander-in-chief, does exactly what the king wants to have done, and Uriah is dead in battle in accordance with David's instructions. What a mess. Is it ever right to commit sin, to try to cover sin? You make a wrong decision in life, and what you discover is that now that you have made a wrong decision, unless you come back to God, all the decisions you make from now on only take your problem and add to its dimension and to its hideousness. You never get out of wrong decisions that way. There's a fourth lesson we can learn, and that is that when you take a wrong road, it's easy to think that there is no convenient place to turn around. We went mile after mile looking for a crossroad that we thought would be able to be big enough and wide enough and high enough to hold that car.
We saw some, but we knew that if we took them, we would be stuck there for the rest of the night in sub-zero temperatures. But finally, we did come across one that we thought we could trust, and eventually it worked for us. But you know, there is something about taking a wrong road. We even were saying, let's just keep going farther and farther and farther. Surely somewhere there has to be civilization up here.
Well, there wasn't. It's the way some people are in life. They say, you know, now that I've made my bed, I'm going to lie in it. I am going to continue in my rebellion against God.
I'm not going to try to clean anything up. Having decided to go this way, I'm going to the bitter end. And I've heard people say, who were near death, dying of cancer, I've lived without God, I'm going to die without God, finding no place to turn around. You know, David lived for several months before he came clean before God. David, a man after God's own heart, decided that he was going to harden his heart toward God, try to cover his sin and not repent of it, because he knew that if he repented of it, he'd have to come clean in relationship to other people. So he said, I'm going to hide this thing and I'm going to do whatever I can to keep this sin covered.
Very interesting. He says in Psalm 32, during those difficult days of secrecy, he says, day and night your hand was heavy upon me. He says, my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. He said, oh Lord, my sin was ever before me. David is saying, I had all kinds of physical reactions because of the guilt that was flowing through my body. I had a fever and I couldn't sleep.
And whenever anybody interrupted me, I always thought, ha ha ha, they know. It was always there, said David. Why did David hold out on God? Well, one of the reasons was because he did not want to have his secret sin exposed.
That's certainly one of the reasons. Another reason probably is he said to himself, you know, even if God forgives me for what I have done, there are some things that I cannot repair. The consequences are so disastrous that nothing can ever make them right.
And he was correct. There were some consequences that were disastrous that could never be made right. It did not matter how often David cried himself to sleep. He could have wept buckets of tears and Bathsheba's purity could have never been restored. He could have wept in deep remorse and regret until the day he died and the dead man, Uriah, would have never come back to life.
But David was wrong in holding out before God because eventually he began to realize that even though he was in a mess that would never be straightened out, God could still take that ugly past and forgive it and give David a new beginning. And you need to hear that message today, some of you. A man who gave his wife AIDS said I wouldn't accept God's forgiveness even if he gave it to me because I am not worthy to receive it. I deserve to die.
Yes, of course he deserves to die, as all of us do. But what he needed to hear is that there are some things in life, some circumstances that are so terrible they may never be straightened out, but forgiveness is possible. You can have a past that is put behind you. I'm speaking today to some women who have had an abortion. I've had women tell me I have killed my baby. Do you know that there are some women who when they have that experience actually begin to think of when the baby would have been born, maybe it was a November baby, maybe it would be an April baby.
And years later in the month of April they begin to think, you know, there should have been a little birthday party for a little boy or a little girl, that's not going to happen. It's amazing the memories and the hurt. Can it be straightened out? No, no, it can't be straightened out. No more than Uriah being brought back to life. Can it be forgiven? Can God give you a new start?
And the answer is yes, yes, yes. I'm going to ask that you turn to Psalm 51 where David finally came clean and poured out his heart before God and God gave him a new beginning. Psalm 51. And I want us to notice four attributes of God that helped David put his past behind him and get on with the business of singing again. What was it that David discovered about God that helped him? He was an Old Testament believer. He knew God personally, but he was walking away from God as quickly as he possibly could.
Just like some of you who know Christ as Savior, but if the truth were known, you are not walking in fellowship with God today, you are walking with your back toward him. What brought David back? First of all, he began to understand the mercy of God. Psalm 51, notice in the very first verse he uses three different words to illustrate, to define the mercy of God. He says, be gracious unto me, be gracious. The Hebrew word means, oh God, do me a favor.
Do something for me, oh God, that I do not deserve. According to thy second word, loving kindness. You know that the Hebrew word, its root is from the word stork. Have you ever wondered why when we speak about the birth of a baby we speak about the stork coming?
It is because the bird, the stork, takes such particular care over its young. So what David is saying is, treat me, oh God, with loving kindness, with gentleness, oh God, take care of me. Third word, according to the greatness of thy compassion. The Hebrew word comes from the same root as the word womb.
Why? Because once again, it is picturing the love that a woman has for a newborn baby. And what David is saying is, oh God, treat me with the same gentleness with which a mother treats her newborn baby because God, I hurt all over and I need some tender compassion and some love. There are some of you to whom I speak today who need that. You need God to hold you in his arms.
You need God to hold you with tenderness because you're aching and you need the forgiveness and the compassion and the loving tender care of God. Well, this is Pastor Lutzer. I can't help but think that there are many people today who have been especially blessed and given encouragement as a result of this message. And I want to thank the many of you who support the ministry of Running to Win. Now, we have a very special resource to offer to you.
It's entitled Putting Your Past Behind You. It deals with issues such as sexual healing, sexual bonds, obsessions, prayer. And the last chapter is entitled Finding Your Way Back. I need to tell you that this is the second to last day that we are making this resource available.
I hope that you have a pen or pencil in your hand because for a gift of any amount, this book can be yours, Putting Your Past Behind You. Here's what you can do. Go to RTWOffer.com. That's RTWOffer.com. Or if you prefer, you can call us at 1-888-218-7200. That's 1-888-218-9337. From my heart to yours, I want to thank the many of you who support this ministry. Our desire, as you've heard me say before, is to help us make it all the way to the finish line. You can pick up the phone right now and call 1-888-218-9337 or you can go to RTWOffer.com.
That's RTWOffer.com. It's time again for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Today's question comes from Frances, who lives in Wisconsin. She writes, I heard you say on the radio, if you're living with an evil person who is abusing you, get out. But what if the evil person is your husband? Are you advising divorce or separation without divorce? I know that living apart without divorce creates its own problems. Does God consider separation as sinful as divorce? Continuing an abusive situation without making any change can be disastrous for the whole family.
Well, Frances, the answer to your question is yes. When you live with an abusive person, it can be destructive for the whole family. And I would say to you with all of my heart that if you are in a situation where you, or particularly children, are being abused, you must get out of that situation. You have to go for help. And a separation is not equivalent to divorce.
There are many couples who separate for a period of time, hopefully so that they will be able to get to some counsel. But you can't be in a situation where you are being abused or your children are being abused. Could I simply suggest to you, Frances, would you talk to your pastor about this? Now you say, well, you can't do that because then you would expose what is happening in your family. But what would you rather have to expose to him or some other Christian leader what is happening in your family? Isn't that a lot better than to damage yourself and especially your children?
I think it is. And in today's world where there is so much abuse, what we must do is to be willing to step to the plate and do something about it. And by the way, before I end the answer to your question, let me say that if there is someone listening today who is abusive, I say from my heart to yours, stop it and get help today. Thank you, Dr. Lutzer, for a clear answer to what is truly an epidemic problem. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to RTWOffer.com. There you can 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, IL 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you understand God's roadmap for your race of life. Next time on Running to Win, we'll join King David as God forgives him and restores to him the joy of his salvation. Thanks for listening. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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