Every Sunday is special, it is a privilege to come together in corporate worship to our loving God. Yet we would all agree that some Sunday’s do seem more special than others.
You know, those Sundays when we feel more of God’s presence than at other times.
Well we recently enjoyed one of those Sundays.
I woke up early, anxious and concerned about the message I had prepared and the nerves followed me into the pulpit. I repeatedly lost my place in my notes and regularly got my “mords wuddled”.
Yet to my surprise, after the service many people came to me encouraged, they felt that the word given was just for them. In my weakness the Lord had clearly intervened.
I know relatively little of the lives of those I am preaching to (only what they want me to know), and admit to knowing even less of their thoughts at the time of preaching, I am not a mind reader. Yet the word the Lord gave me spoke to them in their own individual situations. Praise Him.
We have all experienced such a time as Christians.
Whether in church, through our private meditations on God’s Word or in Prayer. Times when God speaks directly to us and to our situation. We receive words of joy and encouragement as well as loving discipline.
Psalm 130 (below) speaks of such a time when the Word of God slices straight through to our hearts and we feel such deep conviction of our failures before Him .
Times when our consciences begin to work in overdrive as we are reminded of historic wrong doing, our past failures. They may have occurred long before we gave our lives to Jesus, but the Lord brings them back to us for repentance. Or there maybe incidences of backsliding during our walk with God that we felt were quite acceptable at a time of naivety. But as we have grown in Christ, through the sanctification of God the Holy Spirit, we look back under greater conviction and we can’t believe how wrong we once were. Or we could be under the realisation that we are currently living in sin and that we must stop and seek God’s forgiveness in Christ.
As the preacher continues to speak, we feel as if we are the only one in the church, his words cut deeper and deeper and we sink lower and lower into the pew as the ever growing realisation of our sin attacks us. We begin to anxiously list our failures before God.
We pray with the Psalmist, “O Lord, if you should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?”
“If those around me only knew what I have done, what I have thought, what I have said, what I am capable of. If my sins were made public, O the shame of it, I could not stand, I could never come to church again.”
I feel the same as I approach the Pulpit each week, the weight of the message I have carried speaks as much to me as to the congregation. I am constantly reminded in my walk with God of my failures, my weaknesses and how undeserving I am of the privilege to serve God and His people.
Being in ministry is such a battle, one I was never prepared for, it is not like any other job, it is an emotional roller-coaster of fear, anxiety and unworthiness.
I often think if only the flock knew of my failures, if my past was written on the walls of the chapel for everyone to see, I could not stand. The church would be empty and I would be the first to leave under a cloak of my own shame.
Such conviction from God is hard to deal with, it is exhausting, it burns us like a refiners fire (Malachi 3:3).
Under the weight of our own consciences we judge ourselves condemned and we fear the greater condemnation to come by the eternal and perfect Judge when we meet Him on the last day.
The emotion becomes overwhelming as if we are drowning, sinking in guilt and fear. We cry out of the depths of our sin. We see no hope, no way out, we just want to run and hide, we want to cover ourselves as Adam and Eve did in the garden.
But then we read Verse 4 of this most amazing and precious Psalm! One of the amazing “but’s” in scripture!
Verse 4: ‘But’ with you there is forgiveness,
The Holy Spirit brings us to a point of despair so we can do nothing but rely on God. He drags us to the depths of grief so we can strike an abundant well of His Love and Grace.
These emotional trials we face and are going through are an act of the greatest love, because with God there is forgiveness.
To truly understand how amazing and all-encompassing God’s Grace is to us sinners, we need to understand the depth of our own wretchedness.
This can takes time as we grow and wait on the Lord, the Psalmist emphasises the ‘waiting’ by repeating this statement in the poetry of the text (verse 5-6) my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning.
The Lord uses this time of waiting to challenge us, to refine us into silver, to become a Holy people, prepared and ready for Heaven.
As we grow, so does the realisation of the sins that we took so lightly in the past, and we see that by our partaking of them also took our Saviour lightly. Our Saviour who left Heaven to suffer so.
The closer we come to God, the more we walk into the light of His Glorious perfection and the more we then see of our imperfections.
The more we mature as Christians, the greater our knowledge of God grows, the deeper His Word then cuts into our souls and the greater our need of Him becomes.
As Christians we battle with grief and fear, but this not a servile fear, it is a filial fear, a good fear, a fear that leads to willing obedience, a loving fear that a Son has for His Father, a fear that brings us to the Lord in faith, a fear that gives us blessed assurance of sins forgiven.
Forgiveness found only in Christ Jesus, the Hope of Israel, who took our sins on the Cross and took God’s just wrath that we deserve. The Psalmist tells us in verse 8 that He has redeemed us from all iniquities. I repeat from all iniquities! Not just the small sins, but the big ones to!
If we repent and have faith in Christ there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.
What amazing Grace! Even the chief of sinners can be saved! If we call on Jesus we receive plentiful redemption! Hallelujah! What better news is there?
In Christ our God says to His faithful;
” I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” Hebrews 8:12
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1
The next time you feel that the preacher is talking just to you, at these times of great conviction, remember that God’s Son left the perfection of heaven to die in the most unimaginable pain, remember that He hung on a cursed tree, naked, beaten and left to die as a criminal, rejected by His people and His Father. Then ask yourself what possible sin could you have committed that falls below the depths of what Christ went through on that day, to raise you up from it?
Rejoice that it is by His Love, His Grace and His works that your salvation is secured!
When Satan reminds you of your past, remind Him of His future, remind Him that Christ was victorious on the cross and lives today sat at the right hand of the Father, you have been washed clean, Jesus has redeem you from all your iniquities.
This is the Grace of God, the light in the darkness of our hearts, the good news of the Gospel!
Wait on the Lord because in Him there is Forgiveness and he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
A Song of Ascents
- Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
- O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
- If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
- But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.
- I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope
- my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning
- O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.
- And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.