I hope anyone reading this has been blessed since I was last on. I have been busy teaching now that we are back in Canada and last time I preached was in August but I have felt inspired lately. I have been reading the journals of John Wesley and have been looking at the concepts of free grace, and true freedom as a Christian. I honestly believe I came to Christ all those many years ago but I do not think I fully regenerated as a Christian until a few years ago and I do not think I really came to appreciate what it means to be truly free from your past until recently. So what does it mean to have freedom in the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor 3:17)? In this sermon I call all who read this to salvation in Jesus Christ. I call all those who are so ashamed of who they are, what they have done, and who they have hurt to call on the Lord and you will be saved. It is life long processes of getting rid of the old and putting on the new which I did not fully understand until recently but I would like to reference 4 Biblical prophets and patriarchs who made horrible mistakes, and yet were called into eternal rest of God. They span the thousands of years the Bible comprises and they lie in both the Old and New Testaments. These men are murderers, adulterers, sinners, idolterers, wimps, scam artists, liars, and cheats; yet God loved them and us so much that HE gave HIS only begotten Son that whosoever believes in HIM will NEVER parish but have everlasting life. The first person I would like to look at is the only Biblical figure named “a man after God’s own heart;” King David.
David was the golden boy; a young shepherd, favoured by both God and man. Celebrated in all Israel as the one who slayed Goliath and was praised by King Saul! David was blessed, pursued, eventually attacked by Saul, but eventually would become King of the Israel and Judah. He had everything; riches, wives, power, and the blessing of the King of Kings! But soon dissension began to stir in his heart. You know the old saying, money and power do not bring happiness well King David was the prime example of this. And soon his eye turned to a woman; the wife of one of his military captains. Her name was Bathsheba. He saw her on the roof top bathing and lusted after her. He with full knowledge arranged to have her brought to him and he slept with her. But to cover up what he had done and make it legal in the law he intentionally put her husband on the front lines that he would be killed but not directly by his hands hoping it would not break Judaic law. He committed adultery and manslaughter; clearly he had backslidden from God. There was a man I read about in a Christian magazine from Europe. He was an avid church member, worked in many ministries, and by all accounts was a living and active Christian. Yet a little by little sin started to creep in. He would dismiss it because it did not seem so big and he figured that he could keep a lid on it. Soon it turned to sexual sin (as it seems it does for most men); and eventually his sexual immorality turned from his personal demons to something he was in search for else where; eventually he fell into adultery. When interviewed the man said that he never realized what that sin would bring upon him; guilt, disconnect from his wife, anxiety, fear for his health, and a losing of innocence he once possessed. King Solomon (the son of Bathsheba and David) said that adultery destroys the soul. When we have sex it gives a piece of our soul which we can only reclaim once we have been whole in Christ Jesus. But maybe you might be thinking, “Well I am not that bad.” Jesus said even when you look at someone with lust you commit adultery with them in your heart. And breaking one law is just as bad as breaking them all God does not differentiate. But how was a man like King David able to come back from that? How was he able to be blessed after that? He repented. He wrote the 51st Psalm. When the Lord confronted him, he begged for forgiveness and got a fresh start. This world is filled with the sexually immoral. But each new day we can wake up and have a fresh start, we can have the freedom to know that we are not the people we once were. The world often remembers David as the adulterer but the important thing is how God remembers him. How does God remember us?
The second person I would like to look at, and this is not Biblical or chronological order but what is laid on my heart; is the first priest, Aaron. Aaron was a priest, prophet, and brother of Moses. He was to Moses what Moses was to God. He was a good brother, he was a good Hebrew, and he was a good priest. Except for the part where he bowed to public pressure. When Moses had been called by the Lord to deliver Israel out of Egypt, he was given his brother Aaron to speak for him and act as his mouthpiece and in some ways the vessel with which God would work miracles. Aaron had grown up without Moses but still knew because of God’s command he was meant to be the deliverer. He spoke in Pharaoh’s court and as a member of the tribe of Levi was set apart to be a priest. He was actually involved with the work of God long before Moses was and he basically set the entire religious culture of the Jewish and eventually Christian people for all time. But Aaron had some pretty big flaws. And because of those flaws he never got to see the Promised Land; there were consequences to his actions. When the Children of Israel were waiting at Mt. Sinai for the 10 Commandments; they started to become impatient. They worried that something had happened (it was over a month after all)! They wanted a more tangible god, one that reflected what was important to them. They pressured Aaron since he was a minister and a craftsman to create a golden calf for them to worship; this is called the sin of the calf. Aaron had committed idolatry. The Lord told Moses what happened and we know that the nation was punished and none of them saw the land flowing with milk and honey. Now you would think that well “Aaron was under threat of death, what was he to do, he probably hated it and did not commit idolatry in his heart.” I would say these actions speak to the condition of our hearts. It was even worse because the tribe of Levi was the priests, they were the perfect example of what a Godly Jew should be and their leader (Aaron was the oldest Levite) was a coward and committed idolatry. This would have taken time, planning, material collection; it wasn’t a one time quick thing, he methodically and intentionally planned it out over days. The people we are examining in this message committed sins not just off the cuff, lesser sins. They planned, probed, and executed their sins. I read a story once of this famous pastor. He had got his start traveling and preaching (not me haha!) He became quite popular and eventually became a pastor of a mega-church. By all outward glances, he lived, dressed, and acted like a businessman. Money had become his idol (a very common theme in the Bible). Then one day someone asked him to pray for them, they were hurting, suffering, they needed healing. The pastor was taken aback but thought he would, it was part of the show. The woman had a miraculous healing right in front of thousands. The pastor was shaken to the core; he had been separated from God for so long did God just show up? The preacher started hearing more and more from God, actual audible voices. At first he thought he was insane, his wife/agent/manager thought he was too. But as more and more miracles started occurring and as he heard from the Lord more and more, he found it harder and harder to live this life of idolatry. One day he left it all, the money, cars, and the wife. I have heard that he is now a pastor of a church that ministers to homeless in a burned out building in Detroit proper’s crack central. Thou shalt have no other gods except me, the first commandment and Aaron broke it and he did it because he was too afraid of reprisal, to eager to accommodate that he compromised his principles. In this day and age we do not see obvious signs of idolatry but we do see obvious signs of comprising our principles and as such sin, including idolatry sneaks up on us. Pretty soon like Aaron you cannot tell the difference between us and the world. We cannot compromise who we are, if you are reading this and you have made too many compromises I say stand up and say no more!
All life is precious in God’s eyes so when a man kills another man, even if it is to protect one of your people, it is still viewed as wrong. I remember watching Charlton Heston in “The Ten Commandments” and the way he saved Joshua from Baka the slave master and accepted responsibility for killing him was almost honourable. The real Moses was not that honourable. Do not get me wrong, he was chosen to be the deliverer. He was saved from infanticide, he was guided past dangerous currents of water, animals, and drowning to be brought to the best place for him; pharaoh’s palace. But when he killed the Egyptian, he quickly shot around looking to see if anyone was watching then buried the body in the sand. He did not take responsibility for his actions, he hid them and feared retribution. I understand he was going through a difficult time, but nothing constitutes murder and vengeance. Moses was born a slave and retaliating against overseers would at times seem almost appropriate; but I am reminded of another group that were enslaved for roughly the same length of time; Africans. In university I attended a lecture on the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. We were looking at the history, culture, economics, all of that. And we were told of an account that Booker T Washington recounted at a symposium a century before. It was a reflection on the right slaves had to rebel against their masters, particularly the cruel ones. The consensus was that an eye for an eye was appropriate for what had been forced upon these poor people. But there was one man who spoke out; by the look of him he was a field worker. He look and spoke like one without a formal education, which was not uncommon at that time. It was later revealed that this man had been a slave under one particularly harsh maser named Jensen. Jensen had died in a fire but not before this field worker tried to pull him out. It was rumoured that when asked why, he said if I didn’t; I would be no better than him. When we react, even if it is for the right reasons we forget that the people we hurt are still people. Moses killed a man, granted he was a brutal man, but that man still had a family and the fact that Moses covered that up made it all the worse. What have you done that you have covered up? I have done heaps in my time, and it is stuff that still haunts me to this day. You need to know that when we accept the gift of Jesus that no longer becomes an issue. Our sins will not be brought to light that day only the good things. But for those who hide in the darkness and never step into the light of Christ, one day all will be revealed! I wake up every morning and it is a new day! A pastor in Australia once said that “if you are hiding some deep dark sin from you and God bring it out to the open, bring it out into the light and deal with it! Move on, and let it glorify God.” Just accept the gift, be free!
The last person I would like to look at is a New Testament individual; probably the worse of the worse, the bad of the bad, Paul Saul. Saul was a Roman citizen, a Jew, born in Tarsus. He had a sister, he was second to none in knowledge of the law and many modern scholars believe he was a member of the more extreme religious sects, not just the Philistines and Sadducees. But Paul was also, a torturer, a murderer, and a liar. He grew up in Jerusalem by his own writings; and pursued the new believers in Israel and across Palestine. He would arrest them, beat them, burn churches, and commit all the acts that many Christians now experience in places like Lebanon, Pakistan, and North Korea. Paul’s past was something he was always saddened by and because he was so notorious he was often distrusted by the other believers and rightly so. But Paul never hid from his past but for every chance used it to glorify God. He said see this is what I was; now I am this because of Jesus Christ. Saint Paul is the New Testament poster child for conversion. In this world we are faced every day with our past wrongs and we constantly are looking for ways to forget them and to gain forgiveness. The most popular character archetype in writing and media is the anti-hero or the conflicted character. The altruistic bad boy who longs to find redemption for his past sins is a character we always enjoy. But Paul is saying in his life that there is a better way, accept Jesus Christ acknowledge your sin and move on; dwell no more, the book of Isaiah says past is past and God’s plans for our future are not limited by our past. I love reading history, I love reading theology, but what I love most of all is reading biographies, particularly historic ones that can be corroborated. I was reading one of a recent martyr by the name of Ghorban Tourani. This man was an Iranian muslim who converted to Christianity while working in Turkmenistan. When he returned to Iran, at that time in the mid 90’s was purging Christians, leaders, and house churches left right and center began a Christian ministry that stands to this day. Brother minister Tourani had many death threats against him and his family but he knew his past, he knew how badly his people needed Christ and he kept on, and like Paul inherited his eternal reward. Ghorban was murdered on November 22nd 2005. His murder was the first of many persecutions that would continue on but like Paul Ghorban could not ignore God’s call. Do you ever feel it, when you are sitting by yourself, or perhaps driving? You feel a pull, and that is the call of the Holy Spirit. We all have a hole in our hearts; do not fill it with booze, gambling, sex, fill it with Christ.
So what can we learn from these 4 conflicted characters from the Bible? We learn that there is no sin that God cannot forgive and that there is no past mistake that cannot be undone and there is no sinner that cannot still do great things. Accept the gift of Christ and let the Holy Spirit do the rest, let’s pray!