Our family loves to play games. We play all sorts of games. Uno, Ticket to Ride, Catan, Phase 10, Risk, Pictionary... we have quite a collection, and we are always looking for the next game to add to that collection.
One game we occasionally play is Monopoly. My youngest child has never been great at this game because he just can't quite grasp the value of things in the game. He is known for selling a green property for $200 or trading Marvin Gardens so he could get Connecticut Avenue. He just can't comprehend why no one wants to buy the "Get Out of Jail Free" card for $75. My oldest loves to take advantage of this lack of understanding. He will make a ridiculously low offer for something, and I usually intercede. When I advise the youngest boy on a fair trade, the oldest goes nuts. He misses out on a good deal. Yes, I must admit just the other day we played, and I bought a property from the youngest for much less than it was worth. At the urging of my husband and the weight of my own conscience, I gave my son a hefty tip to go with the purchase. My husband still says it was not enough.
But let me talk about a deal much greater than a Monopoly game.
It was an unfair trade. I took the deal. It was a steal of a deal. It was the trade of a lifetime. Actually, it was the deal of all eternity. I got everything and He got the short end of the stick.
I got peace with God. He became my Father and I became His child. I got a home in Heaven for eternity. I got help for each day and the Comforter residing in me. I got promises and guarantees that I will never be alone. I will never be forsaken. I got hope for today and for tomorrow. I got forgiveness. What did He get?
I look down at my hands... my hands are empty. I have nothing to give Him. Nothing! And what did this trade cost Him?
As I read Psalm 22 I am reminded of the price He paid. I am reminded of the unfair deal. I know the trade He made.
Psalm 22:1 "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?..."
He got loneliness and separation from His Father.
Psalm 22:13 "They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion."
He got mockery and disdain. He got humiliation.
Psalm 22:14 "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels."
He got pain and agony.
Psalm 22:15 "My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death."
He got thirst and dryness.
Psalm 22:16 "For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet."
He got a cruel death.
I look down at my hands again. They are still empty, yet I realize they are covered in blood. I have nothing of value to trade and I am guilty! Yet He pressed forward with the deal. He interceded with His blood for me. He knew the true value and yet made the trade anyway. My sins upon Him...
To some it was nothing more than a game. They tossed the dice at the foot of His cross.
Psalm 22:18 "They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture."
I look down at my hands and see the dice. The dice smeared in blood from my guilty hands, I toss them from me. It's no game. I don't want to play that game.
So, I bowed my knees and took the deal. His life for mine.
There is a nasty habit that creeps in to ministry circles.
Sometimes we miss "the point."
I have done it. Sometimes I have done it inwardly. Sometimes it is blatant and open for all to see. Sometimes it even looks and sounds spiritual. But there is nothing spiritual about missing "the point."
What exactly is "the point"?
David nailed "the point." Here it is...
Psalm 21:1 "The king shall joy in thy strength, O LORD; and in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice!"
Do you see "the point"? David was proclaiming salvation, victory over enemies, blessings, and majesty, but look where he pointed to give glory and credit. He didn't point to self. He pointed to the true Victor... His God! David's joy wasn't in his great accomplishments. He rejoiced because he knew that God did it and that without God David was nothing! Look at where David points:
Psalm 21:2 "Thou hast given..."
Psalm 21:3 "For thou preventest... thou settest..."
Psalm 21:4 "... thou gavest..."
Psalm 21:5 "... thy salvation..."
Psalm 21:6 "... thou hast made..."
Psalm 21:7 "... through the mercy of the most High..."
Psalm 21:8 "Thine hand..."
When we point to self, we are exalted in pride. We are also deluded in thinking that we can do anything apart from God's grace, strength, and power.
What does missing "the point" look like?
"I led him to the Lord."
"I taught a great Sunday school class last week."
"I passed out 300 tracts."
"I... I... I..."
When we boast of self and point to our accomplishments or our victories, we miss the opportunity to give credit where it is truly due. We miss pointing to Him, our Strength, our Hope, our Guide, our Sustainer. He works in and through us. Without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). (Oh, how guilty I am of this!)
When we learn to point in the right direction, we will have joy. We will also learn how to truly praise Him.
Psalm 21:13 "Be thou exalted, LORD, in thine own strength: so will we sing and praise thy power."
I love a good sale. Sales are rare here, and I miss them. Good sales are so rare that when I actually find one, I post about it on social media! Last week there was a buy one get one free sale on facial tissues. I couldn't believe it! Usually the idea of a sale here is 6 cents off the regular price. 6 cents... really.
One of my favorite types of sales in the States is after-holiday sales. Everything before the holiday is pricey, but the day after the holiday is a smorgasbord of discounted items. It makes me squeal with delight to see 70% off or more. I simply save the items for the next year. What a difference it makes after the holiday is over!
Unfortunately, we have taken this discount mentality into spiritual realms as well.
After salvation, we have created this day-after-salvation discount Christianity. We get a true bargain with salvation and we celebrate it, but after salvation Christianity has been marked down 70%, 80%, 90% off. What a bargain! No sacrifice! Cheap and easy!
But there's a problem with this thinking.
Psalm 19:14 "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer."
When a person is truly saved, there is a change. One of those changes is a new desire to please God and a hatred for sin.
David wanted his words (the things that people can observe) and the meditations of his heart (things only God can observe) to please his redeemer. David wasn't perfect, but that desire and pursuit to please his God was present.
If a person who professes salvation can still live, act, think, and do things just as he or she did before salvation without thought of pleasing God and without conviction for sin, there is a problem.
2 Corinthians 5:17 "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
The old creature loved and embraced sin. The old creature lived for self. But the new creature has changed. When the new creature sins, there is conviction. The new creature has the Spirit of God dwelling inside producing fruit.
Galatians 5:22 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law."
As one of my favorite preachers has said, "When you get something as big as God living inside you, He's got to stick out somewhere!"
I have heard the statement, "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven." That is true, but there is a difference in a true born-again believer. They have a desire to please God and sin doesn't hold the beauty it once did in their eyes.
Salvation is more than just a "get out of jail free" card. It produces a new creature. True salvation puts the person on a new path.
I must admit it.
I have been guilty.
A crisis comes along, and out comes Mrs. Fix-it. You know her. You have been Mrs. Fix-it, too. Mrs. Fix-it is ready, willing, and able to solve all the problems of the world. She rides in with her horse and chariot with all the solutions and answers.
Sickness? She whips out medicines.
Financial struggles? She starts planning and devising yard sales and money-making schemes.
Marital problems? She is ready to counsel.
When her children or husband or neighbors have problems? She can ride her horse and chariot to the rescue, ready for the battle.
She wants to solve everyone's problems... including her own. Psalm 20 is a strong and beautiful reminder that trusting in Mrs. Fix-it and her horses and chariots is dangerous.
Psalm 20:7 "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God."
Chariots and horses seem like a great idea for a battle. They are strong and powerful. They can plow down infantry in minutes. But David warns us not to trust in those things. He was writing to the chief musician who apparently was in a battle. David was reminding the chief musician where real hope and strength comes for battles. It comes from the Lord!
Psalm 20:1-4 "To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The LORD hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee; Send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion; Remember all thy offerings, and accept thy burnt sacrifice; Selah. Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel."
He reminds the musician that:
Then David reminds the chief musician where his trust should be. Instead of jumping on the horse and chariot, get on your knees! God sees your heart, knows your needs, and hears your prayers. David's prayer was for his friend's prayers to be heard and answered. He was letting the musician know he was also with him in the battle through prayer. (Grant thee... and fulfil...) David was saying, "I am praying that the Lord will give you your heart's desire and answer your prayers."
Then David shows his faith in his God.
Psalm 20:5 "We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners: the LORD fulfil all thy petitions."
He says, "When God answers your prayer and saves you from this battle, we are going to celebrate! It will be a big party in God's name with flags and everything!"
David then reminds his friend what happens to those who trust in horses and chariots, and, in contrast, the condition of those who trust in the Lord.
Psalm 20:8 "They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright."
It's not that "horses and chariots" are bad. What is bad is that Mrs. Fix-it trusts in horses and chariots rather than in calling out to God. Mrs. Fix-it grabs the horse and chariot before even checking to see what God wants her to do in the situation. Mrs. Fix-it trusts her own plans and her own solutions rather than trusting in the Lord's plan.
Pro 3:5-6 "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."
Her name was Dilmaya.
I met her in the streets. As she passed by I gave her the standard cultural greeting for non-Christians, and she replied back with the Christian greeting. I was surprised and asked her, "Oh, you are a believer?"
She smiled a huge grin, and the elderly woman affirmed that she was a Christian. She invited me to her home. I went to visit with her one day with a friend of mine to aid me in translation. As we began talking with Dilmaya, we asked her to tell us her salvation story. She said that she needed healing, and her gods were not able to heal so she went to a Christian church one day. The leader of the church led her in a prayer that she repeated after him, and then he declared her to be a Christian. That was two years prior to this. As my friend and I continued talking with her, it became clear Dilmaya had never heard the Gospel. As we talked about Jesus dying for her sin, confusion swept across her face. She had never heard these things before.
We see things like this all the time here. The people visit a charismatic church in hopes of healing, financial blessing, or getting a problem solved. The charismatic pastor has them repeat some prayer and then declares them Christians. All the while, the Gospel is neglected and the people are still trapped in their greatest problem... the problem of sin.
Our Gospel Tract in 5 Pages from Psalm 19
Page 1- An acknowledging of the Creator, God (vs. 1-6)
Page 2- God's Word which confronts us about God's holiness and our sin (vs. 7-10)
Page 3- Conviction of the Holy Spirit, where the Spirit takes the Word of God and shows us as sinners needing a Saviour (vs. 11)
Page 4- Repentance (vs. 12)
Understanding and calling out in faith.
Psalm 19:12 "Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me..."
The step of understanding and calling out in faith has been distorted in modern Christian evangelism. In our pursuit of numbers we want "calling out." We pursue it even to the neglect of understanding of the Gospel and the necessity of faith. (A person cannot have faith in something they do not understand.) How is this great neglect carried out? It is often seen in the "repeat this prayer" practice. A person who does not understand the Gospel can still repeat a prayer with no problem! (Trust me! I did it!) Then they spend the rest of their lives trusting in a prayer instead of trusting in Christ's finished work on the cross. Their salvation is based on their work of a prayer instead of the grace of God.
It is vital that when we present the Gospel, we don't rush too quickly to the calling out part. We don't want simply calling out. We want calling out in faith!
Ephesians 2:8-9 "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."
Romans 10:13-15, 17 "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
What must they understand?
God is holy and righteous, and they are not.
Romans 3:10-11 "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God."
They are sinners who have transgressed against God's law.
Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;"
They deserve God's judgment for sin, which is death.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death...
But Jesus, the holy Son of God, took their place of death and died on the cross.
Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
They must repent and turn to God.
Acts 17:30 "... but now commandeth all men every where to repent:"
They must call out in faith, believing that Jesus died for them, was buried, and rose again because He is God.
Romans 10:9 "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved."
They must trust that calling out in faith is their only means of forgiveness of sin.
Romans 10:13 "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
If they understand these things, they will not need a repeat-a-prayer moment. They will know to call out to God from their heart to seek His forgiveness for sin, trusting that Jesus is their only means of salvation. If the Spirit is convincing them of sin and convicting them of sin, they will not need us to twist their arm, coerce them, manipulate them, or beg them. We don't want big numbers of professing Christians. We want people truly calling out to God for salvation in faith.
Be patient in presenting the Gospel. Wait for the Spirit to open their eyes of understanding, to convince them of their sinful state, and to draw them to God.