Offending God

In his book Charity and Its Fruits, Jonathan Edwards makes the observation that love causes Christians to see sins committed against themselves as chiefly being against God. He writes, “Love to God is opposite to a disposition in men to be angry at others’ faults chiefly as they themselves are offended and injured by them: it rather disposes them to look at them chiefly as committed against God.”

In David’s famous lament of his own sin, Psalm 51, he pens one line which is actually quite difficult to swallow. “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight…” This is so troubling because he committed adultery with Bathsheba, tried to deceive and cover it up, then when that didn’t work he had her husband killed. How can he say that God is the only one he sinned against when he obviously sinned against plenty of others?

The first thing to consider is that Psalm 51 is a poem and in poems drastic imagery is commonplace. David is not saying, in the line quoted above, that he did not sin against anybody else. What he is saying, which we must grasp, is that the party most offended by human sin is always God.

The good news, for us, is that God is also the most gracious in response to human sin.

He is patient.
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

He forgives.
“For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31:34b).

He cleanses.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn. 1:7).

Now back to Edwards’ point. How should knowing this affect our relationships with one another? Paul makes it plain in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Our forgiveness of others should be swift, kind, and often. If it’s not, trying harder won’t help. Behold God’s forgiveness of you. Be amazed by God’s forgiveness of you. Grow in forgiving others as God has forgiven you.

Meal of Tears – A Lamentation for the Tragedy in Newtown, CT

Psalm 42:3

My tears have been my food day and night.

A meal of tears tonight they eat
No joy, no song in Newtown heard
But wailing mothers, their chest’s beat
A chorus of grief we are assured

Around the table none will sit
Lying in bed, none will sleep
Tonight the fires of candle lit
For children who will no more peep

Of senseless acts what sense is there?
Of darkened deeds an end in sight?
Of sorrow any way to bear?
For mankind is there any light?

But wait, Someone an answer brings
A Father whose own Son was killed
To His ears our cries do spring
In His arms, pained hearts are stilled

We do not grieve without a hope
For every age we will not cry
Those who sleep shall be awoke
The day comes soon: no more shall die

The feast prepared while now we ache
The wine is poured our thirst to slake
Sorrow and sighs flee ever away
On the horizon look! Endless day

_______________________________

May Divine comfort come swiftly to the brokenhearted of Newtown. Our prayers are with you. But more importantly, our God is with you.

Moves Like Jagger

Being a wedding photographer affords me the opportunity to hear an array of popular dance music, most of which I detest. However, there are a few gems in the mountain of rubbish which pop music comprises. For one reason or another, I’ve found myself oddly addicted to the two-chord song Moves Like Jagger by Maroon 5 with it’s catchy whistle melody and driving bass drum beat.

After listening and dancing to the song a number of times, I was struck by the lines I’ve put in parentheses below.

Baby it’s hard
When you feel like you’re broken and scarred
Nothing feels right
But when you’re with me
I’ll make you believe
That I’ve got the key

These lyrics hint at a problem that all human hearts encounter: the deep feeling of inadequacy. Notice how our lyricist perceptively detects the insecurity that, in this case, a young lady feels. She is “broken and scarred”, used by many men but loved by none. The cure to this disease offered by the song is the hope of fulfillment in this young man’s affections.

Inadequacy is alien to none of us. We have all come up woefully, embarrassingly short at one time or another. Whether it’s the moment that you missed the game winning shot, were turned down by the guy you had harbored a crush on for a year, or found yourself still jobless even after tons of applications and interviews, inadequate feelings are something we all share in.

The salves that we apply to these uncomfortable feelings are diverse but similar. Diverse in the sense that there are an endless amount of things we do to feel better, but similar in the sense that we are trying to satisfy an eternal soul with a temporal experience. Perhaps, if you’re the woman pictured in Moves Like Jagger, you will look for adequacy by becoming the object of a man’s sexual attention. But that is a flimsy patch for a gaping hole. It’s like trying to use FlatFix on a tire that has been completely shredded. At that point you aren’t even addressing the problem. No, our struggles with inadequacy can’t be fixed by mere carnal experience. We need something much more satisfying.

In the Bible, God addresses our struggle for lasting contentment. Psalm 4:7 reads: “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” This verse pictures two different people: the man who contents himself in God and the man contents himself in temporal experience (feasting and drinking). What’s striking here is that the man who seeks pleasure in the eternal God is more temporally satisfied than the one who seeks it in food and drink! The psalmist is not hoping for joy in the future, he has it right now even in the midst of shameful circumstances (Ps. 4:2).

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be content. In fact, the feelings of discontentment presently burdening us are whispers of the greater pleasures for which we’ve been made. The trouble is that our sinful hearts have distorted this desire by looking for relief in created things rather than the Creator. The invitation, then, is not just to flee from sexual experiences, drinking, eating, and so forth, but to flee toward God who satisfies.

And do you want to know the greatest thing? God’s pleasure in you is much greater than your pleasure in Him will ever be. You are the satisfying reward of Christ’s suffering (Isa. 53:11) and in your restoration God finds so much joy that He rejoices and sings (Zeph. 3:17)!

This experience of God’s affection is precisely what your soul needs to be satisfied. When it is, the offers of our dissipating world become repulsive and God becomes your true delight. Who would run into the arms of a guy who has “moves like Jagger” when the arms of the eternally-loving and all-satisfying God are open to them?

Being a “Man After God’s Own Heart”

Most of us, at one point or another, have pointed to 1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22 zealously declaring we should be men after God’s own heart just like David! This is a mistake. When we say that, we mean that David is a man who seeks after God’s heart. But do you see the word “seek” in either of those passages? It’s not there and here’s why. King David being designated by God as a man after His heart is about God choosing David, not David’s character.

The phrase “after my own heart” was commonly employed by other ancient near easterners.* It simply means, “this is the person I’ve chosen.” When a god or king chose someone to rule, he would describe the successor as a man after his heart. When God utilized this phrase to describe David, He was not commenting on David’s stellar character (which was anything but stellar), He was alerting the audience that David was the chosen ruler of His people. This is contrasted with Saul who was appointed king as a judgment on Israel for their rejection of God’s kingship and their sinful request for a king like all of the other nations (see 1 Samuel 8:1-9).

A Lesson from This Phrase

King DavidDavid’s installment and perseverance as Israel’s king was a result of divine election and promise-keeping (cf. Psalm 78:70, 1 Kings 8:16), not the result of any particular merit he possessed. God is the one with the wisdom and authority to designate this son of Jesse as the “man after his own heart.” When David commits his egregious sins, he is kept in office because God picked him. This points us to one of the most notable features of the Old Testament narrative: the major figures are incredible sinners. And yet, they remain God’s instruments in advancing the redemptive story because He ordained their part in it.

In like manner, we who are chosen by God have confidence in His promise to keep us as His own. God has “predestined us for adoption” (Eph. 1:5) and we have complete assurance that no sin can take God’s favor from us. All former, present, and future transgressions have been paid for by Christ and we can confidently enjoy God’s abounding love. The point is that our character does not determine whether or not we are men and women “after God’s own heart.” God has already picked us. Rather, knowing that God chooses to save us despite our glaring deficiencies is precisely what shapes our character.

The Anticipated “Man After God’s Own Heart”

The selection of David as a king “after God’s own heart” is not an end in and of itself, but rather serves as a foreshadow. When God promises in Jeremiah 33:17 that David’s throne “shall never lack a man” He is pointing us to a much greater figure than King David. Isaiah 9:7 describes the Messiah as one who would assume the “throne of David.” Then, in Luke 1:32, the angel Gabriel explicitly tells a trembling, frightened Mary that “the Lord God will give to [Jesus] the throne of his father David.” Christ is the eternal King from David’s line. He will be called King of Kings and His kingdom shall know no end. He is the King that God has chosen to rule and reign forever. Jesus is the longed for “man after God’s own heart”, the royal Son of the Almighty, who gave His life to transform rebellious subjects into sons and heirs.

We all want to be people after God’s heart. The beautiful thing is that – because of Christ – we already are.

———-

*For example, see this excerpt from Henri Frankfort’s book Kingship and the Gods – a study of Ancient Near Eastern Religion as the Integration of Society and Nature. Scroll half way down the page, look for the heading THE CHOICE OF THE GODS and examine the end of the last paragraph. You will see Cyrus the Persian describing the god, Marduk, as searching for “a king after his own heart.”

Poem for a Dark Day (Re-visit)

I wrote this poem for Good Friday last year. I read it again today and my affections and gratitude for Christ were reignited. I can only hope and pray that if you read or listen, the same will happen for you.

They breached the laws of men
Took Him to trial by night
They told Him to defend
He gave to them no fight

A poem for a dark day

Took the flesh off of His back
Whips and glass and bones and nails
Healed our wounds in the attack
Filled He the air with wails

Some poetry on this dark day

The cross He bore of wood
It’s weight crushed He to bear
Yet something greater stood
At the Father’s wrath He stared

A verse for this dark day

Raised upon that cursed hill
Heaves He a heavy sigh
The Almighty’s perfect will
This begotten Son must die

A bit of lyric on a dark day

Crushed Him for our trespasses
He enduring matchless pain
God’s just judgment passes
The Lamb for sinners slain

A poem for this darkest day

And yet soon, the dawn shall rise

Love for the World

I was humbled and grateful to get to share a message with my church, Sovereign Grace Church of Orange County, this past Sunday! The subject was “Love for the World” and I chose 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 as my text. If you’d like to have a listen, you can hear or download from our webpage by clicking here.

Also, The Gospel for OC has just posted the first of a two-part series I’ve written on being saved from God by God. You can read the first installment here and be looking for the second to show up soon!

For His glory and fame,
Dustin

Preaching at Fountain of Life

Back on January 29th, I had the privilege and joy of preaching at Fountain of Life Fellowship in Fountain Valley. The message is an exposition of the ever-popular Parable of the Good Samaritan and how God uses it to compel us to care for abused and neglected children. I’ve embedded the sermon below but you can also download it on their website by clicking here.

I pray that your heart is encouraged and strengthened by the gospel and drawn to care for those who suffer innocently!

https://dustinsmetona.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/fv-2012-01-291.mp3

For His glory and fame,
Dustin