Jerry Falwell And Rachael Denhollander: A Tale of Two Gospels

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is quite popular. For years I’ve heard progressives proclaim that virtually any form of sexual activity is okay because, well, Jesus did say somewhere in the Bible about judge not lest ye be judged. But it’s not just folks on the left who use Jesus’ words for their own personal gain. People on the right do it too. Some of them even lead Christian colleges.

Earlier this week, Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, was interviewed on CNN about his continued support of Donald Trump. As we have grown accustomed to, Falwell defended the president’s character by pointing out that the sexual immorality was years ago and that President Trump said that he was sorry for some of it. Falwell then gave us this gem of theological malpractice.

“Jesus said that if you lust after a woman in your heart, it’s the same as committing adultery.”

Except for Jesus never said that. Here’s what he did say.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28 (ESV)

We mishandle these verses when we view them, as Falwell does on behalf of President Trump, as a get out of hell free passage. “Well,” some say, “all sin is bad so who are we to judge?” But this is not at all what Jesus had in mind when he spoke these words. Rather, he was dismantling the idea that it was good enough to look religious on the outside and remain sinful on the inside. He was addressing the root of human sin – the heart.

Falwell went on to throw in America’s favorite Bible verse, Matthew 7:1. The Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged Verse. And, like those on the opposite side of the culture war who mishandle this verse, Falwell failed to use it in its proper context. In the verses that follow, Jesus tells his audience that they should judge others but only after they take a good look at themselves.

In the interview, Falwell reminded us that he’s no pastor. He was a lawyer and a real estate man before becoming the president of Liberty University. As if we shouldn’t really expect non-pastors to know how to handle the word of God.

Except that we should.

I give you Exhibit A – Rachael Denhollander.

She too gave a speech earlier this week on TV but hers was much different. Hers came from a place of indescribable pain. Hers required great courage. And hers was rooted in the gospel – the true gospel of Jesus Christ, not the gospel of American politics where the ends justify the means.

Rachael was sexually abused by Dr. Larry Nassar over several years. She was the first woman to publicly accuse the doctor but she wasn’t the only victim. There were over a hundred other girls who were preyed on by Nassar.

In the courtroom, just feet away from her abuser, Rachael bravely shared her story. She told how Nassar tricked her and concealed the abuse from her mother. She went into detail about how powerful American institutions did nothing to stop the abuse once they became aware of it. She shared how she was the victim of verbal abuse for speaking up. And she shared the gospel. Maybe shared isn’t the best word. She did more than just share the gospel. She demonstrated it.

 

“In our early hearings. you brought your Bible into the courtroom and you have spoken of praying for forgiveness. And so it is on that basis that I appeal to you. If you have read the Bible you carry, you know the definition of sacrificial love portrayed is of God himself loving so sacrificially that he gave up everything to pay a penalty for the sin he did not commit. By his grace, I, too, choose to love this way.
You spoke of praying for forgiveness. But Larry, if you have read the Bible you carry, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done. It comes from repentance which requires facing and acknowledging the truth about what you have done in all of its utter depravity and horror without mitigation, without excuse, without acting as if good deeds can erase what you have seen this courtroom today.
If the Bible you carry says it is better for a stone to be thrown around your neck and you throw into a lake than for you to make even one child stumble. And you have damaged hundreds.
The Bible you speak carries a final judgment where all of God’s wrath and eternal terror is poured out on men like you. Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.”

 

And then Rachael Denhollander forgave Larry Nassar.

Sin, regardless of what Jerry Falwell Jr. would have us to believe, is not absolved over time. People are always saying, “Well, that was ten years ago,” as if time heals all transgressions. It doesn’t. If it did, Jesus wouldn’t have to had to come to die. Let’s not forget, some of Larry Nassar’s gross sins were several years ago. Should we give him a free pass? Certainly not!

My concern is not with who you voted for in this last presidential election. But I am gravely concerned at what many Evangelical leaders are willing to do in order to excuse the sins of a Republican president. We are supposed to speak truth to power, like Rachael did and like the prophets Jeremiah and Amos did long before her, not prostitute ourselves out for it, like so many Evangelical leaders are doing.

I grew up in a context where man people looked up to Jerry Falwell Sr. It was as if he was God’s man, sent with his Moral Majority, to protect the church from those on the outside wishing to do us harm. . Now that I’ve grown older and am a pastor myself, I can see that the greatest threat that the church faces is not from the wolves on the outside but rather the wolves in sheep clothing on the inside.

Jerry Falwell Jr., was right about one thing in his interview when he spoke of Jesus’ opposition to “establishment elites.”

“Those were the ones he said were a generation of vipers, hypocrites and they were the ones he came down hardest on. The religious elite of his day.” 

And our day too.

 

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Grace And The Disaster On The Front Pew

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I’m usually not good at predictions.

But I nailed this one.

My wife was helping out somewhere else in the sanctuary. I was preaching. And my kids were by themselves on the front row for the whole service. That’s usually not a problem. It’s happened before. But this particular Sunday morning was unique. Our church was taking the Lord’s Supper and, for my kids, there would be no parents around helping them to handle the elements.

I quietly predicted disaster.

Like I said, I nailed it.

The bread came by without incident. My two sons sat just one row in front of me as I led the service. I could see their tiny, probably not very clean fingers, navigating their way through the plate. My sincerest apologies to all of the folks who came after them. The boys both grabbed their bread and waited patiently. There was no throwing or choking. Just reverence. I was proud. But we were only halfway there.

When the juice came around there was a problem with the exchange between one kid and the other. I was sitting right there. I saw it happen as if it were in slow motion. But, just like when you realize a half a second too late that you’re about to get in a wreck, there was nothing I could do. The whole plate of little juice glasses did not spill but there were enough that did.

Two thoughts immediately came to mind.

First, after nearly 40 years spent in church, I finally realized why every Baptist church has dark red carpet. I always thought it was because of some hidden Bible code. It’s not. It’s for moments like this one. The dark red juice blended in quite nicely with the dark red carpet.

My second thought was that I was glad that we’re not Catholic. Catholics believe that the elements of the Lord’s Supper actually turn into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. I don’t know much about pastors in Catholic churches but I’m sure that they get in a lot of trouble when their kids spill something that serious on the carpet. Wait. See, I told you that I don’t know a lot about Catholic pastors. Never mind.

While I was sitting there contemplating Baptist carpet and Catholic tradition, things were still falling apart on the front row. My kids were scrambling for tissues they could use to clean up their mess. When they found none, they took their search outside of the sanctuary. Both boys. And then one of them came back in. And then he left again. And then they returned to the scene of the crime.

By this time I had quit thinking about carpet and Catholics and started asking God to forgive me for my impure thoughts. And boy were they impure.

I was angry. But I wasn’t angry because my sons were rebelling. They weren’t. I was angry because I was afraid of what people might think about me. I wanted to correct my sons loudly and publicly so that everyone could say something like, “See, that preacher knows how to handle business!”

We don’t take the Lord’s Supper because of tradition. We take it because Jesus told us to do it in remembrance of him and the work he did on our behalf by dying on the cross and rising from the grave (Luke 22:19).

Thankfully, by God’s grace, I remembered all of that before I created an even bigger disaster.

Things finally settled down with the preacher’s kids on the front row and the service closed out without the roof falling in. On the way out to our car, my son was solemn. He told me that he was sorry for what had happened during the quiet of the Lord’s Supper.

By this time, the grace of God had already taken over the law that was in my heart.

I told my son that it was okay. There was an accident and he and his brother did the best they could to make it right. I told him that next time they needed to remember that there are other worshipers around and we need to do all we can not to distract them.

He understood.

Life moved on.

Our kids need our discipline. What they don’t need is our wrath. And they don’t need parents who care more about impressing a crowd than shaping their own children. Yes, our kids need to be corrected. And sometimes that correction needs to be firm. But there always needs to be grace.

We take the Lord’s Supper the first Sunday of every month at our church. The next time we take it I will remember. I’ll remember the cross where my Father gave his Son to rescue me from my sins. But I’ll also remember the pew where I was reminded that demonstrating grace to others didn’t stop at the cross. Recipients of grace should be the greatest distributors of it.

If you ever come to visit our church and you look hard enough around the front row, you’ll see a spot in the dark red carpet. The pastor’s kids put it there. Like their father, they’re not perfect. But, like their father, they carry with them a different spot.

That’s the spot of the blood of Jesus that has washed away our sins.

And it’s a spot that gives us all the grace we need for each new day.

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Stopping The Cycle Of Self-Righteousness

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It’s called passing the blame. We all do it. We do it because it makes us feel better about ourselves. It gives us a sense of righteousness. But it’s a false sense of righteousness and Jesus doesn’t care for it.

Person A does something terrible and he gets caught. Red handed. There’s no getting out of it. He could repent but that would require a measure of humility, a lacking quality in the character of Person A. So Person A does what seems most logical. He takes a look at Person B and finds that Person B has done the exact same thing. Or, even better for Person A, something much worse. Problem solved. At the very least, Person A is no worse than anyone else on the planet. But most likely, as he sees it and in spite of his wrong doing, he’s actually much better than everyone else.

The problem here is that we are not called to meet the standard of Person B. We are called to meet the standard of a holy God. And we all fail miserably. So when we carry on about how much better we are than the other fellow we sound an awful lot like the out of shape man in his 30s who can’t quit talking about how good his high school football team was. No one cares. It doesn’t matter.

Jesus told a story to get across just how much he hates this type of self-righteousness (Luke 18:9-14).

A well-respected religious man went to the temple to pray. He would have been better off staying at home. Rather that pleading with and worshiping God, this man used his time of prayer to show God what a great guy he is.

“God, thank you for making me so awesome. I am so much better than all of the sinners out there, especially that heathen on the other side of the room. Oh, and I also wanted to remind you that I make the effort to tithe even more than I’m supposed to. I’ll bet you don’t come across very many people like me. You’re welcome.”

On the other side of the room, another prayer was being spoken. But this one was different. It was much more simple. And much more humble.

“God, I deserve death but I ask for your mercy. I am a sinner.”

The man who prayed the first prayer was a member of the religious establishment. He was well-respected and well-taught. The crowd listening to Jesus’ story was most likely expecting Jesus to commend this man, simply because he belonged to the right group.

But instead of commending him, Jesus condemned him.

It was the second man, a hated tax-collector, who Jesus said went home justified. His humble cry for mercy was heard and the transition was made from sinner to justified.

Pay attention the next time a politician or one of the toddlers living in your home does something foolish. You won’t have to wait long and, chances are, you’ll have a hard time telling the difference between the toddler and the politician. Notice the response when they get caught. More than likely, the response is something closer to self-righteousness than genuine humility.

“But he did it too!”

Now pay attention to your own tendency to respond in the same way when you are convicted or exposed in some particular sin. Remember, that you are not called to measure your sin against the sins of another. No matter how much better than the other guy you convince yourself that you are, you still fall short of God’s standard.

And that leaves you with only one logical prayer.

“God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

Sin will always be your master until you come to grips with your need for the Master’s mercy.

“I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:14 (ESV)

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The Link Between Us And Them

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I don’t believe in air conditioners in automobiles. I’ve always been a window man. So when my sons spent their first few weeks of summer driving around with me, we did so with the windows down. You can’t really experience summer through air conditioning. It’s best experienced with the windows down. Otherwise, you miss out on the joy of the wind blowing in your face. And you miss out on the smells that come with summertime in Georgia.

From the backseat, my sons gave me their commentary on those Georgia summertime smells. When they noticed an appealing aroma, they let me know. I think that was their way of telling me to pull over and buy them some food. And when something smelled rancid, they let me know that too. That was their way of telling me to roll up the windows and turn the air conditioner on. I never gave in.

On one short stretch of road, we got both extremes of odor. When the smell of deep fried chicken worked its way into my automobile, my boys voiced their approval. Just a few minutes later, they let me know that the dead animal we had just driven by did not smell good. Should I be concerned that the roadkill was so close to the restaurant? Don’t answer that.

Although the smells could not have been more different, there was one thing that they had in common.

Both smells came from dead animals.

One dead animal was socially acceptable. Its odor was pleasing to the nose. Its flavor is pleasing to our sense of taste. But the other animal died of natural causes. And, judging from the odor, that death took place several days ago. No one in his right mind eats that animal.

We are a lot like those animals. Some of us are socially acceptable. Others of us are not. Some are appealing. Others are sickening. But, in our natural state, we are all dead. Only through Christ do we find life.

Our nation is divided. People who have spent seven decades on this planet tell me that we are more divided than we ever have been. We’re divided by race. We’re divided by political ideologies. And pretty much everyone is angry about it.

This is where the Church really needs to be different. We must resist the temptation to jump in on the divisiveness. We must be above it. We must remember that, apart from Christ, we are just as dead as everyone else. And we need not forget that grace is not a right. The only thing that God owes us is eternal wrath. Anything less than that is a gift.

You really aren’t that different from guy in the orange vest on the side of the road finishing out his community service hours.

You’re not as different as you think you are from the mother of four from four different men.

Really, the only difference is that you never got caught. Or you were too scared to act out on the evil intentions in your heart.

Whether it’s the promiscuous mother or the drunk working off his community service hours, there is a link between them and you.

That link is death.

You may doctor it up a little better and you may be more socially acceptable but, apart from the grace of God, you’re still dead.

Thankfully, Jesus came to save dead people. Not dead white people. Not dead religious people. Not dead Republicans or dead Democrats. Just dead people. His dead people.

So don’t be so quick to jump down on another person for the odor of their sin. Yes, confront them in love. Yes, address the sin. Yes, walk with them through it. But as you do, remember that to some degree, you carry the same odor.

And only grace can make it go away.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:4-5 (ESV)

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Dads, Be The Seatbelt

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Like any other six-year-old, Kayson Latham was a little anxious. The roller coaster was about to take off. You could see the fear in little Kayson’s eyes. As the ride began, Kayson’s body rocked back and forth in a mix of fear and bravery. Kayson had two things going for him. His dad was seated right next to him and he was strapped into the ride by a seatbelt.

But by the time the ride was over, one of those sources of security would let Kayson down in a frightening way.

As the coaster made its way down a steep hill, Kayson’s seatbelt came apart. That look of anxiety he had at the beginning of the ride was no match for the one on his face as his seatbelt released its grip and allowed the boy to slide down to the bottom of the car he was seated in.

Kayson’s dad, Delbert, did not come apart. He calmly grabbed his son and did the job that the seatbelt failed to do. For the remainder of the ride, Delbert was his son’s seatbelt. As he held him closely, he reassured his son.

“You’re fine.”

“I promise.”

“I got you.”

“There are no more big hills.”

When the ride was over, Delbert told the operators of the ride about the incident. Their response was something along the lines of, “Yeah, that’s happened before. Enjoy the rest of your day at the amusement park.”

Fathers, there are things that your kids depend on. They depend on their schools to give them knowledge. They depend on coaches to help them to develop character along with athletic ability. They depend on friends to be there for them.

But, like Kayson’s seatbelt, those things have a way of coming apart and letting them down. When that happens fathers, be the seatbelt. Be the one who was in their corner all along, holding them in your loving grip and giving them words of reassurance.

“You’re fine.”

“I promise.”

“I got you.”

“There are no more hills.”

Dads, we have a tough job. It’s hard to find the balance between the insanity of helicopter parenting and the negligence of what passes for fatherhood these days. We have to let our kids fall. But, at the right time and in the right way, we have to be there for them when they do. This requires special wisdom. Divine wisdom.

Dads, you will blow it. No matter how good of a father you are, there will be times when you come apart and fail to do the job you were designed to do. But don’t let this get you down. Use it for good. Apologize to your family when you fail them.

If you’re any kind of a dad, there’s a good chance that your kids think you’re the fourth member of the Trinity. Use your mistakes to remind them that you are not God. Use your mistakes as a reminder to them and to you that you need God just as much as they do.

Dads, even when we fail, we can teach our kids a valuable lesson. There will come a time when we will not be there for them. Our kids will one day become adults who will have to navigate their way through life with only the memory of us. What then? What will they do when they’re in their sixties and you are gone and their seatbelt fails them?

That depends on what you teach them when they’re six.

If you, “Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4), they will know that they are held by a Father who will never fail, come apart, grow weary or abandon them.

Dads, your kids will be let down. Coaches, teachers and friends will come apart on them. When that happens, be the seatbelt. As imperfect as you are, your example will help the to be more aware of the presence and loving, eternal grip of their heavenly Father.

And when the day comes that their ride is over, they will hear his voice.

“You’re fine.”

“I promise.”

“I’ve had you all along.”

“There are no more hills.”

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. John 10:28-29 (ESV)

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Broken Or Caught?

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There is a difference between a broken man and a caught man. A caught man will try to cover-up his sins. A broken man will ask Jesus to do that for him.

A caught man will recognize his need to get out of trouble and he’ll do pretty much anything to get out of it. A broken man will realize that his sin has left him in a position where he has a need that only God can meet.

“Have mercy on me, O God.”

A caught man will rely on his qualifications. He’ll tell himself that he deserves grace, mercy and forgiveness. That’s another way of saying that he doesn’t understand grace, mercy and forgiveness. A broken man recognizes that he has no good to offer. He sees that there just isn’t enough good in him to make the bad go away. And so rather than lean on his own qualifications, he relies on God’s goodness.

“According to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy.”

A caught man plays the blame game. As he sees it, his sin isn’t really his sin. It’s his father’s fault for not sticking around. It’s his mother’s fault for being too overbearing. It’s society’s fault for not being fair enough. So his sin isn’t really his sin since he had no other choice but to sin. To put it bluntly, he may be the one who got caught but he’s nothing more than the victim. The blame belongs to someone else. Anyone else but him. The broken man takes ownership for his sin. He takes the blame. He says with Alexander Solzhenitsyn, “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts.”

“Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity; and cleanse me from my sin!” 

Every man has a sin problem. It’s one thing that we all have in common. But the question is this. What will we do with that problem? Will we act like we have been caught or will we be broken. True joy and freedom is found in the brokenness, never in the cover-up because it’s only in our brokenness that we really begin to know the love of Christ.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity; and cleanse me from my sin! Psalm 51:1-2 (ESV)

Sometimes Grace Comes In A Different Package

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Grace shows up in funny places. Sometimes it comes in one of those moments when you can’t help but tell other people how good God is. Like when you get a big raise at work. But sometimes grace comes in a different package.

Like when you have an affair and get some guy’s wife pregnant.

If you read the account of David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11, you can’t help but notice all of the corruption and heartache. But there’s grace there too.

And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.” 2 Samuel 11:5 (ESV)

A pregnancy was the last thing that David wanted. It meant that his fling with Bathsheba would eventually be exposed. It meant that he couldn’t carry on with life as if nothing of consequence had ever happened with the woman down the street. So, seeing as how Planned Parenthood wasn’t around back in those days, David did the next best thing. He tried to make it look like the woman’s husband got her pregnant and then killed him when he wouldn’t cooperate.

Now that’s a cover-up.

Only it didn’t work so well.

That’s where we see grace showing up again in an unexpected way.

And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD. 2 Samuel 11:27 (ESV)

God, in his grace, forgives us of our sins. But we are stubborn. Many times we do not think that we need forgiveness. Like David, we settle for a good cover-up scheme rather than genuine repentance. But God loves his people too much to ignore their sin. Just as his grace forgives us of our sins, his grace often exposes our sins, reminding us of the need for forgiveness in the first place.

In David’s life, this exposing grace came in a visit from a man named Nathan.

Nathan was a prophet. It was his job to say hard things but it probably didn’t get much harder than having to call out the king for a hidden sin. Such a thing could mean death for a man in Nathan’s position. Fear didn’t stop him from delivering his message. But he did do it in an unusual way.

He told a heart-breaking story about a rich man who stole, butchered and ate a poor man’s lamb (2 Samuel 12:1-4). David was furious. “Find this man and make him pay!”

Nathan’s response is unforgettable.

And it’s also saturated with grace.

“You are the man!”

I’m sure that David’s breath was taken away. Nathan went on to detail both the weight and the consequences of David’s sin. But there was grace as well.

David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. 2 Samuel 12:13 (ESV)

David would not get the punishment that he deserved. That is grace. But the highway on which that grace was delivered was David’s broken heart. And that broken heart would have never happened if God didn’t expose David’s sin through an unwanted pregnancy and an unafraid prophet.

You need a Nathan in your life. You need someone who loves you and God enough to lovingly call you out when you are wrong. Yes Men are not agents of grace. They are false prophets who will lead you to your doom. Grace isn’t always going to leave you feeling good. But, like any good medicine, it will make you better.

You need grace. You need it to keep you from hiding your sin. You need it to keep you from trying to justify your sin all on your own. You need it to point you to the goodness of the God you sin against.

God’s grace is seen in the forgiveness of sins. It’s seen in the freedom from sin. But it is also seen in his confrontation of your sin. You can experience the grace of God while singing at church or playing with your grandkids on the beach. And you can know it just as well when you are confronted with one of your sins that you thought was hidden. But you can never really know grace while you continue to cover your sins.

Maybe that’s why so many Christians like to sing Amazing Grace.

Only someone who has come to grips with his amazing sin can truly and honestly sing about God’s Amazing Grace.

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Sent

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He was a powerful leader. And, for the most part, he was loved by the people he led. After all, he was a national hero.

But there was a dark side.

If you’ve grown up in the church, you know about David and Bathsheba. David was the king of Israel who stayed at home when he should have been on a battlefield with most of the rest of his people. During his staycation, he noticed a beautiful woman nearby and he had sex with her and got her pregnant. They probably didn’t put it like that when you learned about David in Vacation Bible School.

From there, the political corruption in David’s life really gets thick. It might even make some of today’s presidential candidates blush. Or maybe not.

David pulled Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, off of the battlefield in hopes that a weekend pass of sorts might give him the opportunity to have sex with his wife and thus take the credit for the pregnancy off of him. But it didn’t work. You see, Uriah just didn’t feel right enjoying the privileges of home while his brothers were at battle. If only David had been so noble. So instead of going home, Uriah slept at David’s door.

What was David to do? Nothing, not even getting Uriah drunk, was working. So David decided to do what any rational, level-headed, God-fearing leader would do.

He had Uriah killed.

The plan was for Uriah to die as a hero on the battlefield. Instead, Uriah died with a few other soldiers as victims not only of the enemy’s weapons but of their own king’s corruption. Joab, the leader of David’s army, was devastated. He feared the consequences of the deaths.

But David wasn’t angry. He was delighted. Finally, his problem was gone.

David said to the messenger, “Thus shall you say to Joab, ‘Do not let this matter displease you, for the sword devours now one and now another. Strengthen your attack against the city and overthrow it.’ And encourage him.” 2 Samuel 11:25 (ESV)

“Don’t worry about the men who died. It’s a war. It happens. You’ll do better next time. Now pass the chips and turn the game on,” David essentially replied.

That wasn’t the end of the story. While David managed to hide his sin from everyone, to a certain degree even himself, there was one who knew all about it.

And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD. 2 Samuel 11:27 (ESV)

God knew. And he wasn’t happy. David would be forgiven (2 Samuel 12; Psalm 51) but the consequences of his affair were brutal and long-lasting.

Thankfully, the story doesn’t end there. If you read through 2 Samuel 11, you might notice one word that continually pops up.

Sent.

Each time it appears in the chapter, it highlights David’s abuse of power.

He sent his people to battle but he did not go (11:1).

He sent messengers to find out about the beautiful Bathsheba (11:3).

He sent messengers again to bring Bathsheba to him (11:4).

He sent word to have Uriah brought home (11:6).

He sent orders to have Uriah killed (11:14).

And finally, David sent to have Bathsheba brought to live in his house (11:27).

When you see the word sent in this chapter, you are seeing David being evil. He sent for his own personal gains, pleasures and well-being. Contrast that to another king.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:4-7 (ESV)

When David sent, people died. God sent his Son to die so that his people would have eternal life.

When David sent, he wrecked a family and harmed a nation. But God sent his only Son so that we could be in his family and enjoy life in his perfect kingdom.

Most of us like to identify with David. We think of ourselves as the boy with the slingshot, ready to slay whatever the proverbial giant is before us. This is not a good way to interpret the Bible. If you really want to see your connection to David, just read 2 Samuel 11. Given the time and resources, you would do something similar to what David did.

Or maybe you already have and you’ve somehow managed to keep it hidden for all of these years.

Someone knows and he is not pleased.

But the story doesn’t have to stop there.

Christians aren’t perfect. We all know that. But what does separate us is the covering over our sins. Rather than the veneer of our deceit, we rely on the blood of Jesus to cover our sins.

And it would not be possible if God had not sent his son.

The System Is Rigged

The system is rigged.

Usually a judge will recuse himself from a trial if he knows the defendant. Not this judge. And this judge doesn’t just know the defendant. He’s helping him.

The system is rigged.

Here’s something you can count on. There will be a day of judgment for you. You may trick yourself into believing that it won’t happen but it will. This isn’t the stuff of crazy street preachers standing on corners holding signs that remind us that the end is near. Jesus himself warned of a day of judgment (Matthew 11:20-24). Whether you spend your days in Sunday School, strung out on meth or some combination of the two, you will one day stand before Jesus (Romans 14:12).

The thing that sets us apart is how we will be treated on that day. For non-believers, the day of judgement will be terrible. Jesus said that entire cities that have been wiped off the map because of their sin will have it better than those who stand before him with unrepentant hearts. Hell is the final and eternal destination of every person who refuses to repent.

But for Christians, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1). The day of judgment will be more like a reward ceremony for them.

That’s because the system is rigged.

The Judge who every human being who ever lived will one day stand before holds his people in his hand, guaranteeing their heavenly arrival.

[28] I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. John 10:28 (ESV)

The Judge, before whom all people will one day give an account, is at this very moment, praying for his people.

[33] Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. [34] Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Romans 8:33-34 (ESV)

And the One who will judge every human being in his prefect righteousness has given his people his perfect righteousness.

[21] For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)

When I was a kid I heard a preacher say that on the day of judgment there would be a giant movie screen and the whole world would get to see every sin that I ever committed. You can imagine my excitement at that thought. Like many believers, I’ve spent most of my life fearing the day of judgement.

But for believers, there is no need to fear.

Because the system is rigged.

All in your favor.

And all for the Judge’s glory.

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How Jennifer Garner’s Baby Bump Can Remind Us Of God’s Love

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I don’t know much about Jennifer Garner. I have no idea what she believes about Jesus. I don’t know what teams she cheers for. I don’t know how or if she votes. What I do know about her is that she’s an actress who was married to Ben Affleck.

Oh, and one other thing. She has a baby bump.

And she always will.

Why people allow themselves to get so worked up over the private lives of celebrities is beyond me. A few years ago, everyone was excited over rumors that Jennifer Garner was pregnant so Garner went on The Ellen Show to discuss the rumors.

“So I asked around and apparently I have a baby bump and I am here to tell you that I do.”

That’s the part where the studio audience erupted like they just found out that Oprah had put keys to a new BMW under each one of their seats. But Garner quieted them down.

“I am not pregnant. But I have had three kids and there is a bump. From now on ladies, I will have a bump and it will be my baby bump.”

This is refreshing in a world where the emphasis on appearance can cause many people, especially women, to struggle to live under the unrealistic expectations set before them by starving, airbrushed models on the cover of some magazine.

Garner’s honesty gives a much needed gospel reminder.

Do not let your adoring be the external – the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear – but let your adoring be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 1 Peter 3:3-4 (ESV)

This passage is not a call for women to burn their jewelry and start wearing plain clothes and bland hairstyles. Rather, it is a reminder that there is something that matters more than a person’s outward appearance – the hidden person of the heart.

Teenage boys and older boys who are in their 40s like to get themselves all worked up over a woman’s physical beauty as if that is all that matters. But God is more concerned with that heart of the woman he has created. When that heart beats in time with his, he finds it precious. Ladies, don’t trade in the temporary pleasures of the approval of boys for the eternal satisfaction of being found precious in God’s eyes. No amount of make-up or even Bible reading can give this to you. Through repentance of sins and faith in Christ, when God looks at you, he sees the righteousness of his perfect Son. And to him, that is precious.

Your identity isn’t found in the weight you can’t lose, the teeth you can’t fix or the clothes you can’t fit into. If you are a Christian, your identity is found in Christ.

Ladies, are you okay with just being found precious in God’s eyes, even if it means that the world sees you as just another face in the crowd?

Husbands, are you helping your wife and encouraging her in both her physical and spiritual beauty or, are you more like the teenage boys gawking at magazines because you can’t move beyond the wrapping paper around the heart that God finds so precious?

We all have our imperfections. Some of those imperfections are easier to cover up than others. Physical imperfections, for example, can be concealed by make up, creative fashion or photoshop. Imperfections of the heart are much harder to conceal from others and they are impossible to keep hidden from God.

Whether you’re Jennifer Garner with a baby bump or just some guy trying to bulk up for the summer, one thing is true for you. God is looking at you. And as he does, he sees beyond the six pack abs and the baby bump. He sees your heart.

And that leads to a very important question.

When God looks at your heart, does he see something precious?

If you belong to Jesus, the answer is always yes.

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