Advent: Joy Psalm 51:10-13
12/23/2018 3:28:23 PM
December 16, 2018
Rev. David Williams
Scripture: Psalm 51:10-13
Imagine Jesus came back this week! Would you be sad that we missed Christmas? I was talking with a Christian friend a few weeks ago. She was telling me about her small group. At one point in her group they got talking about Jesus returning to earth and what would that be like? Several people actually said they hoped Jesus wouldn’t come back too soon! One hoped to have children first. Another hoped her child would graduate from high school before Jesus came back.
My friend was shocked at the time and I were shocked when she told me about it! We were both truly dismayed. Why? Because Jesus returning is going to be so amazing it will wipe out any earthly joys! It will be so much better than anything we can experience in this life! It will be better than having children, as great as that is! It will be better than getting married, as great as that is. It will be better than seeing our children succeed or pass milestones, as great as that is!
Jesus’ return is going to be amazing. When Jesus returns he is going to set right everything that is wrong with this world. Remember Rev 7:17? He will wipe away every tear!
How do we get so mixed up in our thinking, though, that we hope Jesus doesn’t come back too soon? We have lost the joy of our salvation. Life is good. We are enjoying this life so much we don’t want it to end. In our prosperity, we have lost sight of God’s goodness and his salvation.
Think about the song “Joy to the World” (Not sure why it’s a Christmas song….) “Joy to the world- the Lord is come, let Earth receive her king! Let every heart prepare him room and heaven and nature sing.” This has come true in part. But in the future it will be fully true, Jesus will be fully present, his rule will be complete. That should be joy for the world! We Christians who have experienced a taste of this truth- of Jesus’ rule, kingship and salvation, should be filled with joy!
Let’s consider a passage that one wouldn’t think of for Christmas, for Advent. Psalm 51 is David’s response to being challenged by Nathan over his adultery with Bathsheba and scheming to have her husband die in battle when Bathsheba got pregnant! David, confronted by his sin, repented- he turned back to God, he fixed the trajectory of his life, his mind and heart to head back to God.
What It Says
David opens with a request- that God create in him a clean heart Creation is something only God can do. David recognizes that only God can give him a clean heart. Remember, the heart in Scripture is not just the place of emotions, but of our thoughts, feelings, desires, preferences and imagination! So David is asking God to clean all of this up by creating a clean heart in him.
Renew a steadfast spirit within me- spirit and heart are the “springs of life” within a person (Pr 4:23). This is a prayer for holiness. – Rather than a prayer of conversion- David was already a Godly man, but he had fallen away and fallen into sin.
Now David pleads that God not take his Holy Spirit from David. In this context, David is not talking about “perseverance of the saints” not about losing salvation! David’s predecessor as king, Saul, disobeyed God repeatedly and was unrepentant. Eventually God removed his Spirit from Saul, the Spirit of kingship. David is begging God not to take away his kingship and the anointing of the Spirit that made David king in the first place. Yet, lest we get too comfortable, there are other passages that warn of complacency and unrepentance- Paul strove so not to be disqualified (1 Cor 9:27) Jesus warned that those who do not abide or remain in him will be cast into the fire. (Jn 15:6)
In repentance, David asks God to restore to him the joy of salvation. I think this is key! There is and should be a joy that comes with our salvation! But when we turn from God, when we slide into sin, whether quickly or slowly, we lose the joy of our salvation. That is what happened to David which lead him to adultery in the first place!
Hebrew poetry often uses one line to expand upon or explain another line. Here we see this at work- restoring the joy of salvation involves giving a willing spirit! Willing to do what? Willing to obey! God’s own antidote to temptation is that positive delight in his will. (Ps 40:8) [Derek Kidner, Psalms, p. 192] When God creates a willing spirit within us, we willingly obey God and we find again the joy of salvation!
Interesting to note, too, David speaks of the joy of salvation before Jesus! This is OT- the resurrection is nowhere on anybody’s mind! We know now that salvation is so much more, so much greater than what David had in mind and the joy is greater too!
Notice the effect of that joy and obedience in v. 13. Out of joy in salvation, David promises to teach others God’s ways. There is a close connection between joyous faith and infectious faith! When we experience restoration ourselves, when our relationship with God is restored, there is a bubbling desire within us to share that knowledge with others! Jesus in Lk 22:32 warns Peter that Peter will deny Jesus, but then says that when he has turned back, he is to encourage his brothers! [Kidner, p. 192]
This Psalm itself is an answer to the prayer for others to turn back to God. “Throughout the centuries, this Psalm has shown the way home for sinners long after they thought of themselves as beyond recall.” [Kidner, p. 192] If David, an adulterer and murderer is able to turn back to God in repentance and be reconciled to God again, there is hope for us all!
What It Means
What does it all mean? There are many sources of joy in the world, but when we speak of Advent, when we speak of Joy at Christmas, or in the Christian life, we are speaking about a specific source or reason for that joy- the joy of our salvation!
There are worldly joys and there are spiritual joys. Worldly joys are good, but spiritual joy, Christian joys are far better! Why? First, worldly joys get old. Too much sugar makes you sick and gives you cavities! Second, worldly joys and worldly pleasures lead to pride and luxury. Worldly joys lead to pride and luxury, which is what lead David astray!
Interesting that in 2 different contexts in preparing for today I read about prosperity leading us away from God! With respect to David, it was in his prosperity that he lost his delight in God’s will, his willing spirit and the joy of his salvation. [Kidner, p. 192] It was in a time of luxury and success, a time of prosperity that David decided he didn’t need to go out to war, so he stayed home and that is when he saw Bathsheba and fell in lust with her! In a different context, about joy, it was pointed out that Jer 22:21 speaks of God speaking to the people of Israel in their prosperity and they refused to listen to him! [Thomas Watson, Body of Divinity, p. 269]
In our prosperity, we don’t listen for God and are more likely to lose the joy of our salvation! [Watson, p. 269] Think about it: when times are tough we cry out to God, we ask, “Where is God?” We start to examine ourselves to see if we’ve sinned, or offended God. When times are good, we get comfortable, we get spiritually lazy, pride comes in and we let slip the things that keep us close to God.
When times are good we lose sight of our sin. When we lose sight of our sin, we lose the joy of our salvation. We lose that sense of awe, the sense of excitement, frankly the sense of gratitude for God reconciling us to himself, rescuing us from sin and adopting us into his family!
Joy is the product of justification, adoption and sanctification. 3 big words! What do they mean? Justification is when we are justified in God’s eyes. That is, when we are made righteous in God’s eyes. When God decides (not us) that we are in a right relationship with him. This means our sins are blotted out, wiped away, cleaned up.
Adoption is when God not only forgives us our rebellion, not only sets us free from sin and its eternal consequences, but goes further and adopts us to be his Royal sons and daughters!
Sanctification is being set apart by God to become holy, to be transformed in such a way that we live up to the status of being justified/righteous and adopted. What that looks like in practice is that sanctification is when we are transformed to be more like Jesus. Our character (our heart!) is changed so what we love like Jesus does, so we forgive like Jesus does, we are patient like Jesus, faithful like Jesus, etc.
If we forget we are justified, if we forget we are adopted sons and daughters of God, when we forget or lapse in our sanctification, we lose our joy of salvation!
Let me ask you- do you have joy? If you have joy, what is your joy in? Worldly things or heavenly/spiritual things? Another way to ask this, as a Christian are you so filled with joy that nothing else
shakes you? Is your joy so complete that you can even rejoice in suffering? Because that’s what the joy of our salvation should bring! That’s what it should be like!
That why Jesus, in Heb 12:2, is described as the author and perfector of our faith who, for the JOY set before him, endured the cross! We have that same joy set before us! Joy in our salvation is what allows us to rejoice even in suffering! Do you have that kind of joy? I know I don’t! And I don’t know many Christians who do!
Joy in our salvation begins with sight of our sin. Sight of our sin, even as Christians, is necessary. We need to be reminded that we are not yet perfect people! We need sight of our sin to have Godly sorrow for our sin which leads us to repentance.
We live in a prosperous country. We are prosperous people! We live in luxury compared to most people in the world and most people throughout history. In our prosperity, as a nation and as individuals, we have lost sight of our sin and our need for God. Rich man through the eye of a needle and we’re all rich!
Sight of our sin leads to godly sorrow for our sin which leads to repentance. When we have no heavenly joy, the problem is that we have lost the joy of our salvation. How does that happen? We lose sight of our sin! One common cause of losing sight of our sin is prosperity. Why do we need to be saved? Life is good! It’s no coincidence that the early church was filled with women and poor people! Their lives were NOT good and they saw the effects of sin in this world. They desperately wanted salvation!
By contrast, we have such comfortable lives we lose sight of the brokenness of our world and our own hearts. I lose sight of my rebellion against God, the things in my thoughts and desires that are at odds with being God’s son.
So what are we to do? If you don’t have the joy you’d like to have, what are you to do? If you have joy, but realize it’s in worldly things, not eternal things, what are you to do? If the thought of Jesus returning this week doesn’t fill you with joy, what can you do?
Thankfully, God understands our human nature. He have given us tools to use in cooperation with the Holy Spirit! 1)Prayer – pray that God would restore the joy of your salvation- that includes praying for sight of your sin, godly sorrow for your sin, and repentance. 2) Scripture- spend time in scripture regularly. Read about joy. Read about sin. Read about redemption. Read about God’s blessings 3) Guard your conscience. That is, set up appropriate boundaries against sin, reconcile with people quickly, “keep short accounts” 4) Spend time with other believers! Joy can be infectious. Satan wants to divide and conquer. Don’t be isolated in your faith and walk with Jesus.
Learn more about God’s promises- especially promises about fixing your relationship with him, adopting you and making you more like Jesus Satan really doesn’t want joyful Christians. He wants to cloud our vision of God’s love and provision for us. So he clouds our sight of sin. He distracts us from God’s word. He distracts us from time in prayer and fellowship with other Christians who might encourage, challenge or strengthen us!
But while Satan can cloud our vision, he cannot change God’s promises! Justification, adoption, sanctification, joy are all things God has given that Satan cannot remove! Pray! “God, create in us clean hearts. AS we approach Christmas, as we immerse ourselves in lots of sources of worldly joy, restore to us the joy of your salvation. Give us willing hearts to obey you and fill us with infectious joy so we can tell others and lead them closer to you. Amen.”
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