Can you believe there are only two weeks left in our study? We’re now in Session Five “The Longing for God’s Grace” and I just love this quote Sheila selected from Philip Yancey as the opening to this chapter:
If I care to listen, I hear a loud whisper from the gospel that I did not get what I deserved. I deserved punishment and got forgiveness. I deserved wrath and got love. I deserved debtor’s prison and got instead a clean credit history. I deserved stern lectures and crawl-on-your-knees repentance; I got a banquet—Babette’s feast—spread for me.
This week we are going to let go of the burdens we have been carrying around in our hearts as we study our need to embrace and receive the forgiveness and grace that God so freely offers! It’s going to be a wonderful session!
This week for the study we will:
- Watch the video for Week 5 – either on DVD or via streaming video on Study Gateway.
- Answer the group discussion questions.Go through the discussion questions for Session 5 in The Longing in Me Study Guide (pages 89-99). These are the same questions that we’ll tackle in our Thursday online chats — at 2 p.m. EST and 9 p.m. EST each week. Join us!
- Get a head start on the discussion for Session 6. On pages 100-101 of your study guide, fill out your summarized thoughts for each week in preparation for our final week. (Wow!)
- For your personal study,answer the questions and reflect upon Sheila’s notes in The Longing in Me Study Guide (pages 103-106).
- Recommended (but optional) readingfor this week: Read chapter 7, “The Longing to Make Everything Right,” in The Longing in Me – the hardcover, not study guide.
Watch the Video for Week 5: The Longing for God’s Grace
Create in me a clean heart, oh God; and renew a right spirit within me. — Psalm 51:10
When Sheila and I chatted at the kickoff (which you can still watch here), I asked her why she chose David for this study about our deepest longings. After she had lived through the heartbreak of adultery and divorce and wrestling with people wanting to know who was the “bad guy” and who was the “good guy” in that broken marriage, why study David? What was it about his life that made her want to tell her story alongside his?
See, I’ve had a problem with David. Of all the heroes in Scripture, David’s story is the one I’ve wrestled with. He was a man of such big passions (which I love) and such wild extremes (not so much). You might look at the timeline of his life like this:
David was a good guy.
Young David the shepherd was dismissed by his family as not worthy of much and yet out in the rocky fields and hills where he protected and defended the sheep from lions and bears (1 Samuel 17:34-36), he passionately sang songs of worship and praise to God. He trusted the Lord with his whole heart even in the darkest valleys and when in terrible danger.
Teenage David, who was still somewhat of a pipsqueak, boldly proclaimed to Goliath (1 Samuel 17:45-47) that he was coming against him in the name of the Lord Almighty and would not only knock him out with a rock, but then would cut off his head so everybody would know that a giant was no match for the God of Israel.
But, later on when he was King, David’s passions for battle and worship waned and he wandered. He grew complacent and thought more of himself than of God. He wasn’t satisfied with one woman. Or two. Or three. He filled his palace with wives. And then, as we study in this lesson, one famous and fateful night David got up and walked around on the roof (2 Samuel 11) where he saw the beautiful Bathsheba bathing. And he wanted her. And he took her.
David was a “bad guy”.
David didn’t dabble in a little mildly wrong behavior. He was never a man to do anything by halves. He swan-dived into sin. This wrong choice was just the first of the dominos. It led to a pregnancy, a cover up attempt, and then to murder.
“A man after God’s own heart”. How does that compute? How do you go from wild love for God, to disdain for God, to sin as flat-out as murder and be called a man or woman after God’s own heart?
Repentance matters to God.
God sees our hearts. Even though we’re just people with limited understanding of other people’s hearts and oftentimes poor interpretations of interactions, we know that repentance isn’t something that can be faked. At least not for long. The real thing is obvious. The person who hurt, offended, failed, or otherwise sinned against another is either truly sorry or they’re not. We are either truly sorry or we’re not. And, we can tell. When someone’s not sorry, their words are completely hollow.
But, when Nathan approached David with that wise story, and then when he said those four little words “You. Are. That. Man.” David proved that he was a man after God’s own heart.
He owned it 100%. He didn’t make excuses or divert attention elsewhere. He didn’t hedge or try to justify. He didn’t start to tell his “side of the story”. He just repented. For real. Full stop. To God.
That’s it! That’s what makes us a woman or a man after God’s own heart. Repentance.
David was a “good guy”.
Sheila shared with us on the kickoff chat that she and her former husband had had several conversations over the years that helped them understand one another better, but how much she longed over the years for one moment when her former husband would have said he was sorry. Oh, how I have longed for that, too!
True repentance is like water on a forest fire. That’s what David did. It didn’t erase the terrible repercussions just as a forest fire leaves a black, charred wasteland in its wake. It didn’t bring back Uriah. It didn’t repair his relationships with his family. It didn’t revive a dead baby. But, it brought him back into peace and relationship with God. He modeled for us what that looks like. Hear this song to the Lord:
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from Your presence
or take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to You.
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
You who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of Your righteousness.
Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare Your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
You, God, will not despise.
— Psalm 51:10-17 (NIV)
Repentance matters to us.
There are going to be broken relationships where we will never get an apology. Or be allowed the opportunity to give an apology. The person who hurt us may never feel sorry, or guilty; they may even have given themselves false justification that stings even more and show only disdain and mockery. But, God know our hearts even better than we do.
Who do we want to be? Men and women after God’s own heart.
That doesn’t mean we live life perfectly — quite the opposite! But, it means that we have the great privilege when we’ve really blown it and caused harm and damage to those around us to fall on our faces before God and say I have sinned against You.
Prayer for the Week
Lord, create in us clean hearts, repentant hearts. Thank You for giving us David’s example of taking full responsibility for our sins and humbling ourselves before You when we’ve done wrong against You and against those around us. Help us to hear the Nathans in our lives and pierce our hearts, Holy Spirit, when we need rebuke. We love you, we trust You, and we want to be men and women after Your own heart. Amen.
When did you understanding of grace begin and what have you learned about grace for this week’s study? We’d love for you to share your comments this week!