Posts Tagged ‘being more good than bad’

2 Samuel 19:15-40 (Part 2 of 3)
David Returns to Jerusalem

No matter how good we have been, we are but filthy rags before the spotless, blameless, pure, righteous and holy God. That’s the plain truth of it all. Not only is God the Creator of all things. Not only is God all powerful, all knowing, ever-present, he is righteousness. He is holiness. He is almighty. Before Him, we are small and insignificant. Before Him, we are imperfect. Before Him, our best is like an ant on a skyscraper compared to Him.

That’s how I felt back in December 2001 when I was sitting in Abundant Life Church in the Berea suburb of Greenville, SC watching a play where the main character’s name was Mark, ironically. It was a play where we see a young man living the party lifestyle never having time for God. The character saw the whole spiritual thing as an impediment to the fun he was having in life. He thought he was a good enough guy. He thought that did more good than bad. He had situational ethics. He would been the moral laws of God that most of us know even when we don’t know God and rationalize away that it was OK. He didn’t really think that being part of the church or having an official relationship with God was for him. He was having too much fun. He wanted to be able to party it up. Have flirtations that might go a little too far. He wanted to party on the weekends. He didn’t really care for all this responsibility stuff that has been thrust upon him as he has grown older. So, the party lifestyle was his way of dealing with it. Then, right about a third of the way through the play, he is involved in a car accident. The scene where they were working on him was so realistic it was amazing (this was a church production but man the production values of this play were so professional). When the lights came up after the sounds of the accident, we see our main character standing above the body as the EMS folks attended to the person below. The central character, Mark, is watching the action and is bewildered and wondering what is going on and begging the medical personnel to bring that person back to life and slowly realizes that it is him they are working on.

As he is standing there watching, he gets weary and passes out and the scene goes black. When we wakes up as the lights come back up, he finds himself in the presence of Satan. Mark is bewildered and wondering how the hell he ended up in hell. He tells Satan there has been some kind of mistake. Mark pleads with Satan, dressed sharply in a black suit, sunglasses (even though it’s dark), a red power tie, etc. (no horns and stuff like that). Mark pleads that he has been a good person basically. And Satan laughs and gives Mark the lowdown on the holiness required to be a citizen of heaven. They then proceed to review Mark’s life through photos and video on the church’s two large video screens. Satan keeps reminding Mark how each of these photos and videos are daggers in his holiness and that each one of these scenes alone is enough to disqualify him from citizenship in heaven. With each photo and video, Mark begins to realize that he is sunk. With each successive one, his pride drops further and further. With each successive one, he realizes that his idea that he’s been good enough is far outweighed by the sins that he has committed in his life. All of it is overpowering and overwhelming to him. The false façade he had created for himself that he could deal with God later is crashing down on him realizing that he is in hell. It’s too late. He melts to the floor sobbing in wails of torment and regret. The person playing Mark had absolutely real sobs and wails. Even though he was playing a character in a play, you could tell he was reliving his own experience. Then Satan calls his sharply dressed attendants, his demons, to come “take this one away” and we see them bodily carrying Mark away with him screaming in anguish over his eternal fate. And the scene goes black.
The next thing we hear and see in the play is that sound of a heart monitor and we are watching a video on the screen and one of the EMS attendants shouts “I’ve got a pulse” and they begin furiously working to get Mark back to life. After we in the video them arriving at the hospital and rushing him in the door the video goes black and the live production on stage comes back up to lights. This scene is like maybe three months later and we progressively see by the conversations that Mark is changed man. And then at the end of the play, the central character looks toward the audience and everything goes black behind and it’s just him in a single spotlight. He explains how he learned from the car wreck and called to the Lord to be His Savior right after he regained consciousness in the recovery room. He said this was different than all his previous warm-fuzzy spiritual experiences, this was real. He said that he was a changed man and then began a plea in tears to each one in the audience that does not know Jesus as their Savior and how the “I do more good than bad” idea is just Satan’s way of deluding us. We are imperfect and unholy and do not deserve citizen in heaven on our own. It is only through Jesus that we find salvation and the pardon of our sentence to hell that we truly deserve. Hell is real he said. I’ve been there he said. The house lights came up and the pastoral staff came on stage and the lead character began the altar call process.

I was there. I came down. The irony of the main character being named Mark just added to this encounter with the Holy Spirit who had been on me for a few months since I started going back to church in October 2001. I remember this play in vivid detail as you can see. The play was about me! Every bit of it I could feel my heart pounding in my chest and my head throbbing, because this was my moment! This was my salvation moment. It was the moment that all my pretenses and defenses fell away. I am nothing but filthy rags before God and I am at His mercy. I truly deserved hell and still do in the absence of the wondrous work of Jesus Christ on my behalf. I will take half of what I am entitled to in heaven through Jesus just to say thank you to him. I would be the lowliest of the low in heaven just to show Jesus how thankful I am for what He has done for me that I don’t even in any way deserve.

That’s the idea that came to mind today as I focused on Mephibosheth i in this passage, 2 Samuel 19:15-40, this morning (as part of three blogs on this passage). Over this blog and two others, we will focus on the three characters that are presented (Shimei, Mephibosheth, and Barzillai). Today, we look at Mephibosheth. So, let’s read the passage now and think on Mephibosheth:

15 So the king started back to Jerusalem. And when he arrived at the Jordan River, the people of Judah came to Gilgal to meet him and escort him across the river. 16 Shimei son of Gera, the man from Bahurim in Benjamin, hurried across with the men of Judah to welcome King David. 17 A thousand other men from the tribe of Benjamin were with him, including Ziba, the chief servant of the house of Saul, and Ziba’s fifteen sons and twenty servants. They rushed down to the Jordan to meet the king. 18 They crossed the shallows of the Jordan to bring the king’s household across the river, helping him in every way they could.

As the king was about to cross the river, Shimei fell down before him. 19 “My lord the king, please forgive me,” he pleaded. “Forget the terrible thing your servant did when you left Jerusalem. May the king put it out of his mind. 20 I know how much I sinned. That is why I have come here today, the very first person in all Israel[a] to greet my lord the king.”

21 Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said, “Shimei should die, for he cursed the Lord’s anointed king!”

22 “Who asked your opinion, you sons of Zeruiah!” David exclaimed. “Why have you become my adversary[b] today? This is not a day for execution, for today I am once again the king of Israel!” 23 Then, turning to Shimei, David vowed, “Your life will be spared.”

24 Now Mephibosheth,[c] Saul’s grandson, came down from Jerusalem to meet the king. He had not cared for his feet, trimmed his beard, or washed his clothes since the day the king left Jerusalem. 25 “Why didn’t you come with me, Mephibosheth?” the king asked him.

26 Mephibosheth replied, “My lord the king, my servant Ziba deceived me. I told him, ‘Saddle my donkey[d] so I can go with the king.’ For as you know I am crippled. 27 Ziba has slandered me by saying that I refused to come. But I know that my lord the king is like an angel of God, so do what you think is best. 28 All my relatives and I could expect only death from you, my lord, but instead you have honored me by allowing me to eat at your own table! What more can I ask?”

29 “You’ve said enough,” David replied. “I’ve decided that you and Ziba will divide your land equally between you.”

30 “Give him all of it,” Mephibosheth said. “I am content just to have you safely back again, my lord the king!”

31 Barzillai of Gilead had come down from Rogelim to escort the king across the Jordan. 32 He was very old—eighty years of age—and very wealthy. He was the one who had provided food for the king during his stay in Mahanaim. 33 “Come across with me and live in Jerusalem,” the king said to Barzillai. “I will take care of you there.”

34 “No,” he replied, “I am far too old to go with the king to Jerusalem. 35 I am eighty years old today, and I can no longer enjoy anything. Food and wine are no longer tasty, and I cannot hear the singers as they sing. I would only be a burden to my lord the king. 36 Just to go across the Jordan River with the king is all the honor I need! 37 Then let me return again to die in my own town, where my father and mother are buried. But here is your servant, my son Kimham. Let him go with my lord the king and receive whatever you want to give him.”

38 “Good,” the king agreed. “Kimham will go with me, and I will help him in any way you would like. And I will do for you anything you want.” 39 So all the people crossed the Jordan with the king. After David had blessed Barzillai and kissed him, Barzillai returned to his own home.

40 The king then crossed over to Gilgal, taking Kimham with him. All the troops of Judah and half the troops of Israel escorted the king on his way.

In this passage, we see that David showed tremendous mercy and generosity as he returned to Jerusalem. He spared Shimei, restored Mephibosheth, and rewarded the faithfulness of Barzillai. He restored Mephibosheth. Mephibosheth was so thankful for the king’s mercy that he was willing to give all his property away just to show thanks to David for sparing him. Regardless of whether he thought he deserved it or not, Mephibosheth knew that the king could do away with him simply for not coming to him in that critical time of civil war. Mephibosheth knew that David could have him killed so there was no pretense in him. He was literally filthy rags before David. He was overjoyed when David showed him mercy to the point that he willingly gave away everything that he owned.

Are you thinking that you can deal with Jesus later? Are you living as though you got it all under control? Do you think that you are good enough? The reality is that you cannot do enough good to make up for even one sin. One sin convicts us and we are done. We are no longer candidates for heaven when we commit our first sin. We are done. We are out. We are finished. Then, when the Righteous Judge reviews the evidence of our lifetime of sins, we are convicted without recourse. We are habitual sin criminals. We are a third strike criminal with no recourse but banishment to the eternal prison of hell. But we have one and one only hope. His name is Jesus Christ. He has taken the punishment for our sins. Cry out to Him and believe that He was the Son of God who willingly went to the cross to die for our sins. Cry out to Him and believe that He was risen from the dead to give you hope about eternity in heaven. Cry out to Him ask him for mercy before the Father. He is your only way out of the sentence you have on your head.

Think about it. I did. I throw myself at the mercy of my Savior and have been living a life of thanksgiving to Him ever since. He snatched me out of my bus to the prison called hell. I will willingly be a janitor in heaven just to say thank you to Jesus for saving me. Please come to Him. There is no later. There is only now.

Amen and Amen.

Deuteronomy 6:1-25 (Part 6 of 6)

Love the Lord Your God

Although I am not an architect or a carpenter who design and then build things from scratch, when I look back on my career, I have been a build it from scratch kind of guy. In every job I have ever had, it seems, I have either created a function that did not exist before or I have had reclaim or rebuild something. Much of my career, I have been internal auditor which means you often have to audit business units of your company that have never been audited before. Even when those business units have been audited before, each audit is a unique animal unto itself. As an internal audit director in one of my jobs, I had to create a department that did not exist before.


When I have been on the other side of the accounting fence, as a controller of a business or controller of a business unit of a larger organization, I have often been hired to create or reclaim. In my first controller’s job, I had to create the corporate function of the small business that I was working for that had multiple plants and was growing through acquisitions. In my current job as controller, I had to reclaim a finance function that had gone haywire because of poor leadership and underqualified individuals holding the position of controller. I spent the first year on my current job just trying to figure out our balance sheet and income statement. Many, many hours were spent reconciling balance sheet accounts that had not been reconciled or reconciled properly in over 3 years. It was a mess. Back in those days, I was working 70 hours a week, in the office and at home, just to clean up the mess that was my company’s finance function. I had to write, institute, and enforce policies that had not existed before. I had to establish structure that had not existed before. I had to provide leadership to employees who pretty much had danced to their own drummers as the previous three inept controllers were in the position. Our legal parent company thought Fujikura America, Inc.’s (FAI) finance function was a joke (and it was!). No one at the corporate office of our parent company trusted any financial report that came out of FAI and who could blame them. It was a long struggle to get things whipped into shape but now 8 years later, our financial statements, our general ledger, our reconciliations and the trustworthiness of our financial statements is without question. Internal Audit at our parent company often uses our reconciliations of general ledger accounts as examples to the rest of the companies that they own and manage.


In the same way, I have accomplished the same thing in my role at my church. Prior to my becoming involved in the financial management of my church, there was nothing but a checkbook. Managing a church through a checkbook is fine when it is a small church and money is small and the need for information is small. However, my church had grown to a church of 700 people. Financial performance could not be determined by looking at a checkbook. Sure, a checkbook tells you how much net cash you have but it does not tell how much we are spending on payroll, how much we are spending on office supplies and how much of each type of revenue we received and so on without extensive work. In order to refinance our church’s debt, we had to establish structure where none had existed before. We had to create a chart of accounts. We had to go through three years of excel checkbook registers and assign revenue and expenses to our account structure so that we could generate financial statements. It took about three months to wade through all of that. Once we established where we were at as of 2013, we implemented an enterprise management software. As my position at the church has evolved into not only finance but also administration, it is again charting uncharted waters for a church that is only 9 years old. Most of the time, whatever I do from a financial or administrative standpoint at my church is something that has never been done before.


So, I guess that’s me. I am that something out of nothing guy. I am that fixer guy. I am an architect and carpenter of sorts that creates a building from nothing. I am accounting architect and carpenter. Having said all I guess that is the thing that intrigued me about the verses in this passage, Deuteronomy 6:1-25, that we are going to focus on today. Those verses are vv. 10-13. Let’s read with a focus on those verses as we read through this whole passage one last time before we move on:


6 These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.


4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.


10 When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.


13 Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. 14 Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; 15 for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. 16 Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah. 17 Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. 18 Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors, 19 thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the Lord said.


20 In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?” 21 tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Before our eyes the Lord sent signs and wonders—great and terrible—on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. 23 But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land he promised on oath to our ancestors. 24 The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. 25 And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”


Here, in vv. 10-13, God tells the Israelites, through Moses, that He is giving them the Land that they are entering and that it will not be a situation where they are having to start from scratch as they did at each stop in their wilderness journey. There would be cities but they did not build them. There would be houses that they did not build. There would be goods in those houses that they did not produce. There would be water cisterns that they did not construct. There would vineyards and olive trees that they did not plant. The Promised Land was ready made for immediate occupation like a move-in ready house. They did not build it but it was ready for them. They did not earn it but it was gifted to them.

How contrasting that is to what I have had to do in my career. In most of my jobs, I have had to create something out of nothing or organize what was once chaos. When I look back at how I left those positions and when I look back on what I have accomplished in the last eight years in my current job (as well as what I have accomplished in the last four years in my functions at my church), you can look back and say I did that. I accomplished that. In each of the past jobs, I have left the function better than it was before I got there. Now, in each of my full-time job at FAI and my part-time job at LifeSong Church, I can look back and see how far we have come. We have accomplished a lot. And we are better off than before I got there. You could say I have earned the success that I have encountered. The attaboys are because of a lot of hard work and sacrifice.


However, sometimes we think of our salvation in the same way. We think that if we do all the right things, God will smile upon us and let us into heaven. We think if we do more good than bad that He will smile upon us and let us into heaven. It is a lot of hard work to try to be good enough to get into heaven. When heaven is based on me doing more good than bad, that can be and is an all-consuming balancing act because of our penchant for doing bad things.


What the Bible tells us though is that we can never do more good than bad to get into heaven. Just one sin is enough to condemn us much less the daily sins that we commit. Just one. That’s all it takes. God is holy and pure and righteous and is truth. Everything about Him is pure and positive. Therefore, we cannot exist in His presence with our impurities, our sins. We are condemned by the fact that we are impure in His sight. Just as a single ink drop into a glass of pure water will taint the water and eventually permeate the whole glass of water, we are the same before God. Our first sin taints us. Our subsequent sins permeate our being. We simply cannot come before God and are condemned to hell by Him because we are not holy, pure, and righteous like Him.


The only chance that we have is through Jesus Christ. He is our gift. He suffered on the cross to take our condemnation away from us. Through Jesus Christ we are gifted the Promised Land. Our entry into the presence of God will not be because of our own efforts to be more good than bad. It is simply the gift that is the Son of God. We will enter the gates of heaven because of His gift. We will not have earned. We will praise God all day long not because we the builder and achiever of our lives but because of the gift of Jesus Christ. We will walk the streets of gold not because we accomplished great things for the Lord in this life, but rather because we beneficiaries of the mercy and grace we have received through Jesus Christ.


Amen and Amen.