FROM THE HEART - THE CURE FOR WHAT REALLY AILS
Dear Christian friends,
Over the years I have heard widows say they were mad at their husbands who died. They do so because their husbands knew they had symptoms of something wrong but didn’t go to the doctor to get it checked out. I probably fall into that category. For the first time in my life I have a doctor who is a woman. She is very nurturing and cautious. She asks me, “Pastor, how do you feel? Do you have any complaints?
The first time she asked how I felt, I wanted to make her happy. I told her that my knee was bothering me. Immediately she made arrangements to get it X-rayed. Then she wanted me to get some rehabilitation. I said, “Hey Doc, I am 63 years old. I have been using that knee since I was learned to walk. I abused it in sports.” She smiles and says, “You men are all alike!” Don’t get me wrong, I like her. She is a compassionate and caring doctor. She thinks that I am in denial. Okay, I am just being a man!
I use this example (I hope you understand a little humor in it) to segue the topic for today. Denial can indeed be horrible condition when we are dealing with our health, but there are even greater consequences when denial enters our spiritual well-being. Psalm 130 speaks to that issue today. The psalmist speaks about “The Cure for What Really Ails.” He teaches us to 1) Face the Problem; 2) Seek the Cure; 3) Rely on the Cure.
Psalm 130 was one of Martin Luther’s favorite psalms. We sang a hymn he wrote based on the psalm, “From Depths of Woe.” Some have also said that this is Paul’s psalm. While he didn’t write it (it was written many centuries before Paul lived), it could have been written by him. The content is the same as that which is found in so many of his letters to people and congregations. This psalm is all about the Law and the Gospel, man’s sin and God’s grace.
Psalm 130 is one of the seven penitential psalms along with 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, and 143. All express grief over sin. It is interesting that King David wrote all of them except Psalm 130. Each psalm faces the same messy problem – our sin! “Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.”
Frankly that burden ought to be felt by everyone but isn’t. Martin Luther said, “This (burden) cannot be understood except by those who have experienced it.” Luther had a great appreciation because he did experience sin’s burden.
But that burden is not always felt by people even by Christians. While private confession before a clergyman is not mandatory in the Bible like some churches demand, it is a good practice. The Bible says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so you can be healed.” It is good to unload the burden of sin before someone else. Why? So you can hear the words that God forgives.
There are people who do call their pastor and confess their sin. A pastor I know served a very pious man who confessed his sin on a regular basis by phone. As Luther recommends before God we need to confess all our sins, but before one another “we should confess those sins which we know and feel in our hearts.” Yet the pastor once shared that when he heard this man’s list of sins he confessed, he would always think they weren’t all that bad. The pastor said, “If I confessed my secret sins, I think I would give him a heart attack.”
Far too many, and that includes Christians, don’t see the serious nature of sin. In fact, many ridicule Christians for trying to make people feel guilty. Many line up to take shots at the story of Adam and Eve. “What,” they say, “why would God get so upset about someone taking a bite out of a piece of fruit?” Do you expect me to believe that? Do you really think that God has time to be concerned about someone snitching a cookie from a cookie jar or when someone tells a little gossip or if someone ogles at someone of the opposite sex? C’mon!
Let’s go back to Eden. Let’s take a look at that bite out of the piece of fruit more closely. First, when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, it was a direct violation of a command of God. He had told them that they could eat from every tree but that one.
I have seen children do that to parents. A command is given to pick up toys or get off the phone or do their chores but nothing happens. Is that okay? Is that no big deal? I hope it is a big deal. It is opening the door for more.
Often the kids wear the parents down and pretty soon parents are picking up the toys or cleaning up the mess. Is that okay? What kind of precedent is that for the future? That’s not taking parents seriously. Adam and Eve didn’t take God seriously. It was rebellion.
2) Eating the piece of fruit was a failure to love God. Disobedience is a lack of love and respect for the one who is in authority – whether it is Mom and Dad or whether it is the Lord. When someone disobeys, can’t you wonder if that person really loves you? Jesus said, I you love me then do what I command.” If you don’t do, isn’t that showing a lack of love?
3) Eating the piece of fruit was a failure to worship God. Martin Luther made a good point when he called the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil God’s altar. Adam and Eve had an opportunity to worship the Lord by doing what God had said. Worship isn’t done only between 10:30 and 11:30 on Sunday morning or 5:30 and 6:30 on Saturday night. Paul said in the letter to the Romans that “offering your body as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God is your spiritual act of worship.” Paul also said that “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Disobedience is a failure to worship.
4) Eating the fruit was a totally selfish act. Adam and Eve were doing what they wanted to do. They put their will over God’s. When we put ourselves over the Lord we all that idolatry.
There is a whole lot more that could be said about what happened in Eden, but the point is sin is a big deal. Look at your own sins and look at them honestly and deeply. Sin isn’t just about robbing banks or shooting up school cafeterias or beheading someone. Do an autopsy on your sins and cry out as the psalmist, “Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.”
Let me add one more point. It is not just about the details of the sins, it is also about the numbers of sins we do. I remember when that really registered with me. I was in my Seminary years. No, it wasn’t in a class. I heard a sermon on a Sunday morning from a local pastor where I went to church. I have used this illustration to show our deep need for a Savior. Remember here that the psalmist says, “If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?” The pastor made the point about numbering all the thoughts we have in a day. If every thought we had were recorded, if those thoughts were somehow played back to you, how long would it take for you to cry out, “Where is that off button?” I have seen enough. I am ashamed.” “Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.” Face the fact about your sins, don’t make excuses.
Now seek the cure. What does the psalmist do? “I cry to you, Lord!” A couple of weeks ago when Judy and I went to see our widowed sisters in law, we got up one morning at the home of one of them and my sister in law said that a twenty one year old son of her neighbor committed suicide over night. Their home was just around the corner. How sad!
How do we deal with the depths of life? I am afraid that is how some do with the depths. Others rely on pills or some to another kind of bottle. Some go only to a psychiatrist’s couch. Some go to a different crowd where there are no limits or boundaries. Some just want to form calluses over the heart so there is numbness.
The psalmist went to where everyone needs to go; he calls on the Lord. I am not saying that psychologists and psychiatrists can’t help, but the Lord also and always needs to be in the solution.
Please follow me on this. According to their own stats, they say that 80% of psychological problems people have deal with unresolved guilt. Sometimes counselors try to blame others – a childhood bully or an unloving parent. Blame is pushed onto someone else or something else but it never goes away.
Here’s is where God must enter into the solution. He takes the guilt away. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. That’s what Calvary was all about, wasn’t it? “The Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Please understand that I am not saying that no one should go and seek counseling with a professional, just don’t leave out the Lord. After all, the Lord has removes our sin from us as far as the east is from the west. .
Rely on him as the cure. The psalmist says, “But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.” No ifs, ands or buts, there is forgiveness. No maybe’s, no could be’s, no might be’s, there is forgiveness with the Lord.
That forgiveness is not on your back. You can’t produce anything to make you worthy. Nothing you do will ever be satisfactory. Forgiveness comes only through the efforts of God the Son. The Lord took care of it all.
The psalmist says. “Put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself Israel will redeem Israel from all their sins.” Twice the psalmist uses the concept of redemption. He uses the noun and the verb.
Actually the word redemption is more related to ransom. When we use the word “ransom” we probably think in terms of a kidnapping. Probably one of the most famous kidnappings in history was when the twenty month old son of well-known aviator Charles Lindbergh and wife Anne Morrow Lindbergh was kidnapped. Bruno Hauptman was tried and eventually put to death as the perpetrator.
In Bible times slaves were most often the object of ransoms. They could be set free by paying a price. We were the object of a ransom too that Jesus paid. The ransom price on our heads was tied to a time in history, a place in history and a person in history. The ransom was not gold or silver but was the precious blood of Jesus. That’s not just a bunch of talk and promises to make us feel better. It is true. God entered history and took care of it himself in real time and in a real place. He did real deeds at great expense to himself.
He brings out of the depths of our woe and gives us joy. The psalmist says, “Wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.” The joy the psalmist experienced is like the joy of a watchman in a city. In those days there were no street lights to cut the darkness to spot people who meant evil. The watchman was always happy and eager for it to be morning and to see the light of daylight.
Because of the redemption or ransom of Jesus, we don’t have to fear the day when we meet the Lord. We know we stand in God’s grace, forgiven by the Lord, bought and paid for by the Lord to be destined to go and be with the Lord.