Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Life gets disoriented when we go astray from God. The key principle? Get back on track where you got off.
There's no way to short circuit the process. We must deal with the issues that took us into darkness before we can again run freely in the light. Stay with us. 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 finish your series on putting your past behind you. What's your hope and prayer for all who are listening today? You know, Dave, as I think about this series of messages and the book that I have written, the intention, of course, is to give people hope. Today we're talking to people who have made moral decisions, decisions regarding their vocation, more importantly, regarding their marriage, and they think to themselves, there is no way for me to be back in fellowship with God.
There is no clear path forward. I want them to know today that God does have a path for them, a path forward. And at the end of this broadcast, I'm going to be telling you a story about what I learned when we were caught in the snow way back in 1974.
But before we go there, let me tell you that for a gift of any amount, you can receive the book entitled Putting Your Past Behind You. And by the way, this is the last day we are making this resource available. Here's what you do. You call 1-888-218-9337. Or you can go to rtwoffer.com.
rtwoffer.com. I'll be giving you this contact info again at the end of this message. But meanwhile, I want you to know that there is hope, no matter where you find yourself today. So what David is saying is, treat me, O God, with loving kindness, with gentleness. O 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, O 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. I want you to notice that David understood theology. He said in verse 4, against thee and thee only have I sinned and done this evil.
We want to correct him. We want to write a Bible with a footnote and say David was wrong here. Because after all, he sinned against Bathsheba. He sinned against Uriah. What does he mean by saying against thee and thee only have I sinned? Ah, listen, David is a good theologian.
He understands something. He understands that all sin is really sin against God. It violates the character of God. And in the process of violating the character of God, we happen to hurt people. But all sin is first and foremost against God and people just get hurt in the process when we sin against God.
He understood that. You know why I need to say that? Because that gives some of you hope, doesn't it? You see, what David is saying is I cannot bring Uriah back to life. Do you know that there are some circumstances in life where it is impossible to straighten out the mess? The Bible is very clear that we should seek restoration wherever we can find restoration.
As long as people are living, our goal ought to be to restoration. But what do you do when you murder someone and you can never be restored to them? You can never say I'm sorry. You can never say goodbye. Some of you have lost loved ones. Never say you're sorry.
You didn't have a chance to do that. You know what David is saying? Even though there are circumstances that I cannot straighten out in relationship to people, there is still one thing that gives me hope and that is that the supreme lawgiver of the universe before whom I stand is able to wipe my slate clean. And so David cries to God and says, against thee and thee only have I sinned. And because it is primarily against thee, there is still hope because you can forgive me. David understood the mercy of God. He understood the forgiveness of God. I don't have time even to list all of the different ways in which David spoke of God's forgiveness, but just look at the text.
Take a marker and go through some time and underline all the different ways that David characterizes God's forgiveness. Verse one he says, blot out my transgressions. Verse two, wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity. Cleanse me from my sin. Later on he says in verse seven, purify me. Wash me and I shall be clean and I shall be made whiter than snow, he says. Hide thy face from my sins. All of these are graphic references to David coming before God and saying, God, take my ugly sordid past and blot it all out so that I may no longer be subject to its memories and to its spiritual debilitation. That's what he's praying for. So he understood the forgiveness of God. He understood also the transformation of God, God's ability to transform God's creative power. He says in verse 10, create in me a clean heart.
Oh God, God, give me what I don't have. I need a clean heart and renew, he says, a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from thy presence. Do not take thy Holy Spirit from me. David prayed this in the Old Testament. We don't have to pray that today because we have the sealing of the spirit, but in the Old Testament the Holy Spirit sometimes came and then he left and so it was a very legitimate prayer. But he says, restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me, sustain me with a willing spirit.
That's what he's praying for. And then he says in verse 14, open my mouth and my tongue will joyfully sing of thy righteousness because David says, I can't sing joyful songs with all this guilt. In the Old Testament it was very clear that singing was always related to the mood. If you were in a bad mood, you sang mournful songs. It was when you were in a joyful mood, you sang songs of rejoicing because there is something about singing that says it is not right for you to have a heart that feels one way and then to sing something that is really a different kind of a message. And so the heart and the words that were sung were so closely united. David says, oh God, only you can open my mouth so that I can sing your praises again. Transformation of God.
Listen carefully. David was praying that God would do this even though the circumstances would not be changed. The little boy that was conceived out of wedlock with David and Bathsheba would die. Uriah was dead on the battlefield. Bathsheba went through undoubtedly a time of resentment and anger knowing full well what had happened both sexually and as far as the murder was concerned. And all that was not going to change. David's wives were talking behind his back. How do you think they felt when a new first lady moved into the palace? Anger, resentment.
It's terrible. David said, God, you can do a miracle within my heart that even if nothing changes, I can still sing. I think that David also experienced the providence of God. I know that it's not in this passage, but I want to remind you that God did do some good things as a result of David's sin. That doesn't justify the sin. It only magnifies the grace and the mercy of God. How God can sometimes take a mess in life and have something come of it. David experienced the mercy of God, the forgiveness of God, the transformation of God, but also the providence of God.
What do I mean? After Uriah was dead, Bathsheba did move into the palace and she became David's wife and they had a child by the name of Solomon. And who was Solomon? He was a man undoubtedly with two hearts.
That's the way we best remember him, but he was a remarkable individual. He prayed that God would give him wisdom and he is responsible for most of the book of Proverbs. Not all the Proverbs, but most of them come from Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived. And not only did Solomon do that, but he ended up building the temple that David wanted so much to build. And in the lineage of Jesus Christ in Matthew chapter 1, Bathsheba and Solomon are both listed as being the lineage through which the redeemer is born. Now isn't that grace? Solomon may have said to himself, well strictly speaking I should never have been born because my father David should have never married Bathsheba.
That's true. Does that throw God off guard? In the Old Testament there was a man by the name of Jephthah, the son of a prostitute, undoubtedly illegitimately conceived. Does that mean God says, well I have no plan for such contingencies? Oh my friend, my God is much greater than that.
It says, and the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah and he became mighty in strength. God taking a mess and doing something with it. Remember the story of the man who had a beautiful cloth but on it there was that blotch of ink? And an artist took the cloth and said there's no way you can get that blotch of ink out, but the artist took it and painted a very beautiful picture including that blotch as part of the scenery. That's what God is doing all the time.
He is taking something that is ugly and growing something that is beautiful and David experienced that. You know in seminary we are sometimes told that what we should do is summarize our message in a single sentence. Sometimes I do it for you. I say this is the bottom line. You know that.
I don't want you to miss it. I think the bottom line today is a reminder that only God can put your past behind you. Only God can.
You can't. For you to go on and continue to make decisions you only take the messes of life and you create greater problems for yourself, but God is in the business of taking messes and doing something. Many years ago I wrote a book on failure. Interestingly enough though it was written fifteen years ago it still sells very well particularly at Moody Bible Institute during exam time.
I pointed out in that book the people who blew it the most were Adam and Eve. Nobody ever blew it like they did and yet God took their mess and made something beautiful out of it. A redeemer came to save people. Now you know as we were going along that road up there in Wisconsin what we were looking was for a place to turn around. We needed a cross road to turn around. The road we were on was too narrow.
The snow was too deep. Do you know that God has placed a place to turn around. It's the cross.
Because when Jesus Christ died on that cross his death as we understand it more clearly than David could have ever understood it was a sacrifice for sins and because sin was laid on him. God says I can give you a brand new beginning no matter what the past. You can go back to the fork in the road not in time but in spirit and it's never too late to begin again. When you die it is too late but as long as you are alive there is still always the possibility. Indeed I urge you let today be the day when you begin again with the forgiveness and the cleansing of God.
It's never too late to begin again. And may I say to those of you who are Christians that one of the signs one of the ways in which you should measure your spiritual maturity is to ask yourself when you are out of fellowship with God how long do you stay out of fellowship. How far do you go down the road before you turn around again. Because all of us sin, all of us fail and it would be very easy for us to become so discouraged and we say having begun this particular path in life I'm not turning around. I urge you to turn around as soon as you become conscious of having made a wrong turn.
Because from there on it will only get worse, it will never get better. There was a man who had a messy desk. The staff probably is smiling at this point but it's not the person they think it might be. All kinds of stuff stacked up, all kinds of papers that he'd never look at. Was on his desk, was on a file drawers all throughout the floor of his office. Secretary prevailed upon him please let me throw this stuff away.
He said no you can't but eventually she won him over and he said okay. He said you can throw it all away but he said remember photocopy everything first. Now let me tell you something. God says I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions and as a cloud thy sins. Why keep photocopies? Why fill your mind with memories that bind when God says I'm not remembering it anymore. Why should you remember something I have chosen to forget and no longer have regard for? God says put your past behind you. And you know that when you do that my dear friend you know what the good news is?
You can spend the rest of your life looking through the windshield rather than the rearview mirror. Because from this point on where you are going in life is much more important than where you have been. Because when God cleanses the past the circumstances may not change but you can sing again. You can be free again.
You can love again. And God gives you a new beginning. I'm speaking to people who are Christians yes today. And those of you who do not know Jesus Christ as Savior listen to me very carefully. Your first step in making that new beginning with God. Your very first step is to respond to the free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ because his death on the cross satisfied a holy God then today God says to you I can give you eternal life free and that's the starting point. You're welcomed into the family of God.
And then God begins to put your ugly past behind you so that you too can be free. Way back in the year 1865 there was a woman in the choir just like we have women in our choir here today. She was sitting there in the choir loft listening to her pastor preach in Baltimore, Maryland. And during the closing prayer she did something that all of us have done. We thought about other things during prayer.
I know you think I never have but I have. But she was thinking of something very good. There were some words that were coming into her mind. And she decided to write these words down during the prayer and then she copied them out. Some of the stanzas of the words were Jesus paid it all. All to him I owe. Sin has left a crimson stain.
He washed it white as snow. A brand new clean beginning with a past behind you. Let's pray. Our Father, we have not been able to address in this message all of the various pasts that people who are listening have had. Earlier we have spoken about abuse and addictions. We've spoken about all of the hurts, the injustices. And yet today Father we believe with all of our hearts that you are able to take those circumstances that are painful and hurtful, those open wounds and you can turn them into scars that are healed. We pray today that each person who is struggling may cast himself or herself upon the mercy, forgiveness, the compassion and the providence of God that you might enable them to sing again. We pray in Jesus name. Amen. And my friend the prayer I just prayed is a prayer for you.
It is possible for you to sing again. My desire is to give you hope to help you to understand that God is more gracious than you may realize. You can turn to him today for mercy. I hope that you have a pen or pencil handy because in a moment I'm going to be giving you some information that I think will be very important. Today is the last day we're making available to you the resource entitled Putting Your Past Behind You, Healing for Life's Deepest Hurts. I wrote this book dealing with issues such as sexual addiction, other matters that oftentimes impede our ability to run the race of life.
And in the last chapter it is entitled Finding Your Way Back. I tell a story that happened nearly 50 years ago when Rebecca and I along with some friends we were lost in a snowstorm and the car got stuck. And what we learned was when you take the wrong road there is time that can never be regained. You can mislead others and there's no easy way to turn around.
But today God says to you and to me turn around. I believe that this resource will be of great help to you. I want you to write this down. Contact us right now. Go to rtwoffer.com. That's rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. For a gift of any amount this book can be yours. Thanks so much in advance for helping us and remember that contact info, rtwoffer.com.
As you may realize rtwoffer is all one word, rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Ask for the resource, Putting Your Past Behind You. Not only will you benefit but you can share it with others. Time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life.
Today's question comes to us from Kathleen who lives in Iowa. I am 71 years of age and all my life I've been so surprised what learned Christian men say about forgiveness. I have read several books and many articles on the subject.
So far it is beyond my grasp and I don't think I'm alone or there wouldn't be so many divorces. If forgiveness is the thing to do, why would it say in Titus 3.10, warn a divisive person once and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. Kathleen, I think that you are confusing some issues. I get the impression that you are equating forgiveness with reconciliation. When I say that we ought to forgive people, a wife ought to forgive her husband for divorcing her, for adultery, etc. I don't mean that they can just on that basis of forgiveness be reconciled. By forgiveness I'm talking about a one-sided kind of forgiveness where we lay down our bitterness and where we give our bitterness to God.
And when we do that, he releases us from the kind of bitterness that is really destructive to us that blocks the ministry of the Holy Spirit and corrodes our own soul. That's what I mean when I say we ought to forgive everyone. But when it comes to reconciliation, that's an entirely different matter. I always say that reconciliation involves forgiveness, but it also involves trust and respect.
If you don't have those three elements, you don't have real, true reconciliation. And you see, when the Apostle Paul said what he did about false teachers, rebuke them and then have nothing to do with them, what he's saying is, he would agree, I think, don't be bitter against them. In that sense, forgive them. But most assuredly, you can't be reconciled to them because you can't be reconciled on the basis of their lifestyle and their false teaching.
So that's, I think, what we mean about forgiveness. And I hope that this helps you clarify the issues. Thank you, Dr. Lutzer.
If you'd like to hear your question answered, 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, IL 60614. The more we're online, the greater the chance of becoming addicted to moral perversity and the occult. The danger is very real. Next time, a series called Guard Your Heart, a call to defend our minds from people who use the internet and the media to enslave us. Thanks for listening. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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