I must admit, I love stupid criminal stories. You know those stories... They are about criminals who are convinced they will never get caught, but they do really stupid things in their pride that end up getting them caught. I loved the story of the guy who broke into a house while a family was on vacation, but he got himself locked in the garage. He had to eat dog food for several days. When the family came home, there he was! Then there was the criminal who broke into a home. He used a folded up piece of mail to shimmy into the sliding glass door lock. He stole a ton of stuff. He was quickly apprehended because when he left, he left behind the piece of mail. It was his own mail complete with his name and address. Oh, and then there are the countless stupid criminals who steal stuff and then post about it on social media, bragging about all their new things. Some even post video! It's like a video confession just sitting there for the authorities. Stupid criminals crack me up!
But here's the truth:
We are all stupid criminals if we think we can get away with sin. It's only because God is good and merciful that we don't immediately pay the repercussions of our actions and choices.
Psalm 52:1 "Why boastest thou thyself in mischief, O mighty man? the goodness of God endureth continually."
Psalm 52 is about a stupid criminal. He loves his sin and mischief. He boasts in it. What he fails to see is that God has him on surveillance camera. God is seeing it all. The criminal will face judgment. But this criminal trusts in his own strength, wisdom, cunning, and riches.
Psalm 52:7 "Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness."
When a criminal gets caught and pays for his crimes, it sends a message to others to think twice about following his path.
Psalm 52:6 "The righteous also shall see, and fear, and shall laugh at him:"
The righteous see what happens to those who flaunt their sin. The righteous choose to fear instead of follow. They choose to learn the lesson from other people's mistakes instead of having to learn them from their own stupidity. Then the righteous laugh... they share "stupid criminal" stories. Why? Because they know that nothing escapes God's view and they think, "Wow! I am not going to do that! God sees everything!"
The moral of this story? Don't be a stupid criminal. God sees. It's like leaving our name and address at the scene of the crime, and we might as well post a video confession because God already knows!
Galatians 6:7 "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
I have learned more about myself and about my God through parenting than I ever imagined possible. I am more like my children than I realize. I remember when I was younger I did many of the same things my children do, too. My children are not any different than anyone else's children. They all have the same sin nature.
My youngest child loves aggravating. He finds irritating others a great sense of amusement. My oldest child is the boss, controller, manipulator, and drama queen. You can imagine the fireworks this created when he and the youngest child were growing up. Then the middle child is the sneaky one. She is good at flying under the parenting radar. She knows how to get to her two brothers without stirring up trouble for herself. She isn't controlled by emotions and she uses her head before acting. Parenting these three has been an adventure.
Needless to say, the two boys, oil and water that they are, created the most friction. One would stir up trouble and the other would turn up the volume. I would try to intervene. At some point I would tell them to apologize to each other. Sometimes the apology was slightly less than sincere. The guilty child would roll his eyes, sigh, and in a patronizing tone blurt out, "Sorry!" Oh, how that would drive me crazy! The child obeyed, but the heart was far from truly being repentant.
Psalm 51:16-17 "For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."
In the Old Testament, God had commanded the children of Israel to sacrifice animals as a covering for sin. It was a temporary plan until the promised Saviour, Jesus, was sent. David wasn't saying that sacrifices weren't necessary during that time period. He was saying that the sacrifice of animals wasn't the focus of what God wanted to teach. It wasn't the goal or God's desire and longing. God desired a humble, repentant heart.
When I was disciplining my children, I wasn't focused on getting them to say the words "I'm sorry" as if those words were some kind of magic sin eraser. "Quick! You sinned against your brother. Say the words!" My desire for them was that they would see their sin and see their broken fellowship. My desire was that they would be repentant. It was a heart issue and I was after the heart.
How many times have the words "forgive me of my sins" rolled off my tongue but my heart was not sincere nor repentant? How many times have I treated prayer like a magic Etch-a-Sketch board for my sins, with a few quick shakes the problem was erased? God is looking for a broken and contrite heart.
This week has been a tough week. Our beloved German Shepherd, Chief, had to be put down. At a young five years of age, he was in poor health. He was unable to stand or walk. He had lost all control of his bladder. We had fought so hard to save him for months, but it was a losing battle. There was nothing else that could be done. Tears were shed and we said goodbye. Our hearts were broken. Chief was just a dog, not like a human who is made in the image of God, but he was such a treasured part of our family. He will be missed.
However, this week inevitably somewhere a parent died, a child was lost, a spouse was taken, a baby was miscarried. This week people somewhere cried and said goodbyes to family members or friends. This week somewhere people received a phone call they never imagined they would receive. This week the truth was inescapable. All people, young and old, rich or poor, educated or simple... we will all face death.
Psalm 49:10 "For he seeth that wise men die, likewise the fool and the brutish person perish, and leave their wealth to others."
The fact is that we are all going to die. It is inescapable. There is no way around it. No one can buy their way out of death. They cannot buy the way of loved ones out of death.
Psalm 49:7 "None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him:"
We cannot ransom ourselves or anyone else with money or good works or religious deeds. Why? We are all in the same boat heading toward death, and we are all worthy of death because of our sin.
Psalm 49:5 "Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about?"
We are all surrounded by our own iniquity. I cannot pay for anyone else's sin, nor can I free them from death's quicksand because I am facing the same fate. I am being dragged toward death just like you are. Why? We are sinners and the payment for sin is death.
Psalm 49:14 "Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling."
We cannot take anything with us either. All the pursuits of this world are vanity. When we are laid in the grave, those temporal pursuits will vanish.
Psalm 49:17 "For when he dieth he shall carry nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him."
This Psalm seems sad and depressing, but their is hope.
Psalm 49:15 "But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah."
There is but one hope. That hope is for God to receive us. That hope is for God to redeem us from the power of the grave. So how do we know if we are one of the ones who will be received? How do we know if we are one of the redeemed ones who will have victory over the grave?
We are one of the redeemed when we have turned from trusting our riches or our own righteousness, and instead trusted God's plan of salvation. God sent His Son to pay for our sins. Jesus died for us. We cannot give a ransom for ourselves or for each other because we are guilty, but Jesus, the sinless and perfect Son of God could ransom us with His own blood. If we have called out to God for forgiveness with a heart of repentance and when we have trusted in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus as a payment for our sin, we become one of those who will be received by God. We become one of those that are called the redeemed. Death no longer has a sting to it because we will have victory.
The fact is that we are all heading toward death. But the question is are you ready? Are you one of the redeemed?
Everyday, thousands of people pass by our church. I wonder what they say? Everyday, thousands of people pass in front of our home. They know the foreigners live here. I wonder what they say. I wonder what our neighbors say to each other when we are not around. I wonder what they say when we pass by their shops.
We carry His name on us, so what they think of us will also impact their thoughts of God.
Jerusalem. Mount Zion. The city where God chose to place His name.
Psalm 48:2 "Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King."
As people thought of Jerusalem, so were their thoughts of God. At the time this was written, people had a respect of God. They feared Him. As enemies or outsiders passed by, they would hasten their steps. They knew God was with the people of Jerusalem.
Psalm 48:4-6 "For, lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together. They saw it, and so they marvelled; they were troubled, and hasted away. Fear took hold upon them there, and pain, as of a woman in travail."
We are Christians. Jesus's name is attached to us. People know it. But what makes a difference is when they know we have been with Him and He is with us.
Acts 4:12-13 "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus."
When people pass by us, do they fear and have respect because of our God? Have we carried the name of Christ in such a manner that they have something to respect? Are we spending time with Jesus so that His holy scent permeates our lives and His power is clearly seen working and moving in and through us? Are we living in such a way that people see Jesus and not us?
As people passed by Jerusalem, they weren't afraid of the military might. They were petrified of the fact that God was there and He was with His people. What do they see when they pass by me?