I was sitting in Missions class in Bible college. The professor was explaining the term repentance in Scripture. As he continued teaching God's Word, the Spirit was doing a work in my heart. I realized I was not saved. I had never repented of my sin. And I felt the weight of conviction bearing down on my shoulders and gripping my heart.
A few years ago, a friend pulled me to the side privately after church and did something I didn't really like. It was uncomfortable. It was embarrassing. It was, however, necessary. She pointed out something I was doing that wasn't wise. Correction... followed by conviction from the Holy Spirit.
Just a few months ago, another friend messaged me on Facebook. Again, correction. Reproof. My flesh didn't like it. It wanted to defend and get angry. But I kept reminding myself she is a friend. She isn't being mean. She cares about me. As I took time over the following days to reflect on her words, the Lord pointed out some things in my heart and actions that didn't please Him. Conviction.
Last month I went on a bicycle ride. I popped my earbuds in my ears and turned on a sermon to stream on my phone as I rode. As I listened to the sermon... conviction. The Holy Spirit took the Word of God and aimed it at my heart.
Psalm 19:11 "Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward."
Moreover by God's Word (law, statutes, testimony, commandment, fear, judgments) we are warned. God's Word confronts our sin. The Holy Spirit takes that Word and convicts.
John 16:7-8 "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:"
Our flesh hates it. When we are confronted, we want to find fault in the messenger. Names like pharisee and legalist start popping up in our minds. Phrases like "You are so judgmental" roll off of our lips. It seems that our measuring stick to decide if something is true is if we agree with it or if we like it. But if it offends us then the messenger must therefore be a pharisee judging me.
Conviction is the third page of the Psalm 19 Gospel tract. Without conviction of the Holy Spirit, a person cannot even be saved. Without being confronted about sin and seeing ourselves as sinners, we would be destined to die in those sins. We would never know that we even needed a Saviour!
Should the measuring stick of truth be how we feel? Should our measuring stick be whether or not we are offended? If that were the case, we would be in trouble, because the Gospel itself is offensive!
The measuring stick of truth is God's Word. When we are confronted, if we will take the time to check God's Word and inspect our hearts in light of God's Word, it is quite possible that what we are dealing with isn't being offended, but it just may be conviction from the Holy Spirit.
The next time you are confronted by something or someone, don't react immediately. Take time to search the Bible to see if what the messenger is saying is true. If you are offended by what the messenger said, do not allow that offence to dictate whether their message was true or not. Allow God's Word to be the measuring stick of truth. Then respond to how the Spirit works in your heart based on God's Word. You just may find that the messenger is a faithful friend who simply cares enough about you to confront you.
Proverbs 27:6 "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful."
I do not like cliffhangers. I don't like reading books and getting to the end, only to realize that the book ends with a cliffhanger. I don't like watching shows that end each episode with a cliffhanger.
The ending of an episode of a series drama that leaves the audience in suspense.
Why do I hate cliffhangers? I like resolution. I like to know how things turn out. I don't want to wait until next week to find out if Marco took the bribe or if Bubba healed from his gator bite or if the missionary escaped the angry mob. I want to know now. Today.
As a writer, I love writing cliffhangers. They keep people hooked! I just don't like being on the receiving end of a suspenseful ending.
Psalm 19 is like a five page Gospel tract. There is no cliffhanger there. God through David gives the story from beginning to end.
The first page of the tract is an introduction to the marvelous Creator. His story is declared through His creation.
Psalm 19:2 "Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge."
Every day and every night, we can look around us and see that there is a God who created all the beauty, wonder, and magnificence that we see around us. Creation is the first page of that Gospel tract. But what if you stopped there? Is seeing creation and acknowledging there is a Creator enough for salvation? No, it isn't. Unfortunately that's where many people fall short.
"I believe in God," they declare. That's good, but it isn't enough. Even the devils believe.
James 2:19 "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble."
If a person stops at "I believe in God" or even "I believe in Jesus," it's like they read a chapter in a book and didn't finish the rest of the story. They ended on a cliffhanger and there is no resolution of the dilemma.
So, now we are on page number two of the Gospel tract. David suddenly switches from speaking of creation and how it declares the wonderful Creator (19:1-6) to talking about God's Word (19:7-10). Why? He does this because it is impossible to be saved apart from God's Word. It is impossible to know the Creator apart from God's Word.
Romans 10:17 "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
Psalm 19:7 "The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul..."
His Word is perfect. His Word is sure. His Word is right. His Word is pure. It is clean and true and righteous.
It changes us. It makes us wise. It gives joy. It opens our eyes. And it is eternal.
God's Word is more precious than any substance this world has to offer.
Psalm 19:10 "More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb."
And it is absolutely critical for salvation.
So, what if a person believes in God and believes God's Word is true? Is that enough for salvation? Those things certainly are vital, but is that enough?
As much as a dislike cliffhangers...
(Well, at least I will give you a hint: This Psalm 19 Gospel tract is five pages long and we have only talked about page one and two.)
Sometimes at night I sit on the front porch and gaze up at the stars. They glisten and flicker. They are a mesmerizing part of creation. They loudly declare the power and glory of my God, the Creator.
Psalm 19:1 "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork."
It's amazing to me to think that as I look up at the stars, it will not be long until my family on the other side of the world will be able to look up at the sky and see the same display of beauty and wonder. I picture in my mind my oldest son, my mom, and my grandmother looking up at the night sky just as I do.
I also picture something else. That same night sky can be seen all over the world. It can be seen in the jungles of Africa. It can be seen in North Korea. It can be seen in the Arctic and in the Pacific Islands. They may have a slightly different view of stars than me, but the stars are there. The moon is there. Everyone has the same opportunity to see the creative work of God on display.
"What about the people in the jungles of Africa who have never heard of the name Jesus? How can they be judged?"
They look up at the night sky and they have a choice. They can respond to that display and say, "Someone created that. I want to know who." Or they can create their own truth and reject the light God has given them. They can worship creation or create their own version of a god, or they can acknowledge what their eyes see... that Someone bigger and greater than them created all things with beauty and perfect order. These things didn't happen by accident!
When we respond to the light God gives us, He gives more light. For the tribal people in the jungles who reject making creation their god and they reject the notion that they can create their own gods, He sends a missionary. He pricks the heart of someone to go to a strange place. God is not willing that any should perish. He wants everyone to be saved, even people in remote places. But we all have the same responsibility: to respond to the light that God gives us. When we see creation and the Spirit whispers in our hearts, "You didn't make this. I did. This didn't happen by chance," are we going to respond in faith?
The heavens are like the first page of a Gospel tract. If we read it and hunger for the second page, God will send the second page. If we read it and reject the truth it declares, then we have rejected God.
I am not one to just go digging in dirt. When working in flowerbeds, I like to use gloves. I don't like to get mud and dirt all over my hands. When my hands get dirty, I can literally feel the soil drying on my hands. I can feel dust and flour and anything sticky. It drives me crazy. I have to wash my hands several times a day. But my boys? Boys are dirt magnets. My youngest son can get dirty from head to toe in a matter of minutes. Though I can feel dirt drying on my hands, my youngest can have a mound of dirt on him and never feel a thing. He sits down at the dinner table and Daddy always asks, "Did you wash your hands?"
As my son holds up his hands for inspection, the grime glares. I am left wondering, did you really have to look at your hands to know that they had enough dirt on them to bury a full-sized car? Of course, he is told to get up and go wash his hands before sitting down to eat.
Psalm 18:20 "The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me."
David hated dirty hands, too. He loved righteousness. This isn't talking about him having his own righteousness for salvation. None of us have that!
Romans 3:10 "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:"
That kind of righteousness is imputed to us at salvation. We receive the righteousness of Christ.
The righteousness David is talking about isn't salvation righteousness. This righteousness is daily right living. This righteousness is keeping his hands out of the muck of sin and following God's Word. This righteousness is the daily separation and pure walk. He did a hand inspection in the middle of his trial and found that his hands were clean. This trail he faced was not the results of sin.
When we face a trial, it is wise for us to do a hand inspection. Sometimes our trials are a result of sin and living contrary to God's Word. For example, imagine a couple facing a financial struggle. They call out to God for help, but it seems He isn't hearing. They sit down with their pastor for counsel. The pastor starts asking some tough questions to help them do a hand inspection. He asks them about how they spend their money, if they budget, if they tithe faithfully, and if they are wise stewards with their finances. As the inspection continues, they realize that the majority of the financial struggle was caused by unwise choices, including forsaking tithing and foolish purchases.
They were expecting God to be their rock, fortress, and deliverer while having dirty hands.
Psalm 18:24-26 "Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight. With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright; With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward."
God deals with His children according to the cleanness of their hands.
Here's some good news. If you do a hand inspection and find you have dirty hands in your trial, God shows us how to wash our hands. It is inevitable at times that we will find we have dirty hands. David also had times when he realized his hands were dirty. (Psalm 51) When we find we have our hands dirtied by sin, here is how we wash them:
1 John 1:9 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Proverbs 28:13 "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy."
Are you facing a trial? Take a moment to inspect your hands using the Word of God as your magnifying glass. If you find you have clean hands, then trust that God will deal with you accordingly. If you find your hands are dirty repent, confess, and forsake the sin. Wash your hands in His forgiveness.
When I was in Bible college, one of the professors taught us an invaluable skill. He taught us that when we share the Gospel, we should try to define words so that the person we are speaking to understands exactly what we mean. Sometimes people use the same words, but they have a different definition in their mind than the Bible definition. For example, the words sin and holiness are very distorted in this country. Sin to them is doing things that are extremely bad and malicious. It's things that go against the society or culture and would have you looked upon as a criminal. To them, sin would be things like murder and mutilation, killing a cow, or being a corrupt government official. Stealing when you have a need, lying, or cheating wouldn't be sins because they could help you. It would only be bad if you got caught and your neighbors were upset with you. They are deeply concerned with what their neighbors think of them! But that isn't the Bible definition of sin. The Bible definition of sin is anything that goes against God's Word. It's things that go against His laws. In order for me to share the Gospel, I have to make sure we both have the same definitions in mind.
I now have the habit if constantly looking up definitions. Here is a definition for you:
"to feel or experience concern or anxiety, fret"
In Psalm 18, David had every reason to be worried, but he wasn't. He was surrounded by the threat of death. Death itself was a snare around him. (vs 4-5) He was in distress. (vs 6) Things didn't look good! So why wasn't he consumed with worry?
Psalm 18:2 "The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower."
He had a proper view of his God.
David's enemies were stronger than him!
Psalm 18:17 "... for they were too strong for me."
He was outnumbered and he was afraid!
Psalm 18:4 "... the floods of ungodly men made me afraid."
So why wasn't he engulfed in worry?
He new the men were strong, but His God was stronger! He knew instead of wallowing in worry he should call to his Creator! He knew his God would hear him.
Psalm 18:6 "In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears."
And God heard! David then gives a beautiful word display of the might and fierceness of the Lord. The earth shaking and trembling because of God's wrath, the heavens being bowed, thundering and lightning, the blast of the breath of His nostrils...
God delivered! Our God is that big! He is that strong! When our problems seem to surround us and overtake us, we need to be reminded how big our God is. Our problems may be big, but our God is infinitely bigger.
I have heard the statement:
"Don't tell God how big your problems are. Tell your problems how big your God is."
I have a better idea. Do both! Call out to God. Tell Him how big your problems are. He wants us to call to Him like David did. But then tell Him you know He is bigger than your problems. Put your confidence in His strength. Yes, the problems are too big for you and me, but they are never to big for our Creator.
So maybe we should redefine the word worry.
Having too small of a view of your Heavenly Father.