December 11, 2016
Pastor Gunnar Ledermann
This weekend, most of you saw a flyer that said, “If this is our best life, then why does it have to be so hard?” In the past you may have seen a flyer like this and thought, “Yes, this is my best life,” but now having lived a little longer, experienced a few more things, you read a sentence like this and wonder, “Why is my life so hard?”
Maybe you had a great job, great marriage, great kids, great health, great friends, but now some of those things are gone. Maybe something like this happened to you…One night, you saw someone in a different light and before you knew it you had traded your marriage vows for a one night stand. She’s married and so were you, but that didn’t stop you. A few weeks later and a few weeks late, a baby is on the way. You both know who the parents are. Fess up? No. Hide it, you hatch a plan to make it seem like it wasn’t you two, but the plan fails. Desperate now, you do the unthinkable, a scheme to get the other man out of the way, murder.
The secret is safe now, no one else knows, no one else will find out. Time passes slowly as the guilt festers inside, then, someone comes to your door. He knocks, you answer, does he know? Does he know how hard it is to have this broken past, to live with the guilt, to feel no peace.
This sounds like the next great Netflix original series, a drama with a twisted love story and murder. It’s actually a true story about David the king of Israel who slept with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of David’s army commanders, who was murdered at the command of David to cover up the affair, and the man who came knocking at David’s door was Nathan the prophet. If David had seen one of these flyers, he would have asked, “Why life is so hard and where can anyone find peace?”
David had messed up bad, so God send Nathan the prophet to give him a message. When Nathan came to David, he did not let on he knew what David had done. See, God had sent Nathan to David to confront him about his recent activities, but first the prophet was to tell David a story.
Nathan said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”
When Nathan finished the story, David was furious. All the love of the poor man was wrapped up in that little lamb, then one lamb chop dinner later and it was all over. How could this rich man do this, why steal when he had everything. This would be like the inventors of Facebook and Twitter getting together for lunch, and instead of paying for a fancy steak dinner, they decide to steal the janitors sack lunch out of the break room fridge.
No one does something like that and the same was true of the rich man and the poor man. David in fact was so upset by this story that he starts shouting out punishments for the rich guy. He said he owes the poor man four times what the lamb cost, he starts swearing and even says the man deserves to die. Nathan let David go on just long enough before he completely lost it and had a war party assembled to go out and find this guy, then he let David have it.
Nathan said to David, “You are the man!”
Instantly, all the blood rushed out of David’s face, he went pale, felt sick, the guilt welled up inside, he knew, Nathan knew and Nathan kept talking. He went on with the rest of the message God had given him to tell David. Nathan told David, God had given him everything. He took him, David a shepherd boy, out of the sheep pasture and made him the King of Israel. He allowed him to kill Goliath, to rescue Israel from the threat of invasion. When, Saul, the king before him, was jealous and tried to kill David, God protected him. God gave David the royal palace, the choice to marry any woman he wanted, victory in battle, a larger kingdom, wealth and health, but David threw it all away.
David hid what he had done from everyone, but he couldn’t hide from God. When Nathan confronted David, he didn’t hide, he didn’t make excuses, he simply confessed, “I have sinned against the Lord.” All along David should have said, “I am a sinner.” When he was first tempted to sleep with Bathsheba he could have stopped, confessed that he wanted to cheat, asked for forgiveness and gone back to bed with his own wife. Or after getting Bathsheba pregnant, he could have called Uriah in from battle and fessed up, but he didn’t. Instead, David kept making his life harder by covering up his sins.
Have you figured out what the answer to the question on the flyer is, what makes life hard? Sin. Sin is what makes this life hard. It isn’t our best life because we are constantly hurting ourselves and others. And after hearing David’s story you might be thinking, “Well, I haven’t done anything near as bad as he did.” You may not be an adulterous, baby-daddy murderer, but I bet you’ve checked someone out longer than you should have and I bet you’ve gotten angry and held a grudge a time or two, not to mention a few other sins here and there, more than you care to admit. All of that puts you and I in the same boat as David. We’re sinners and we’re all making life hard on one another.
Now if you’re looking for a 12-step program to make life easy or become a better you so you don’t sin anymore, you’re in the wrong place. In fact, that would keep you in David’s sandals because that’s what he was trying to do. He was stuck in his sins and kept trying to make up for them, but that doesn’t work. You can’t cancel out sins and you can’t make up for them. Once they’re done you can’t out run them and you can’t out run God.
But if we can’t out run God, this life seems pretty pointless and God seems pretty scary. We’re just going to keep on sinning and God, that mean guy up in the sky, is going to punish us. It’s true, God does punish sin. He has to, like a cop has to arrest someone who commits a crime. It’s called being just. Criminals deserve punishment. Law breakers, sinners, deserve punishment. God is just, so he allows justice to be served.
David had sinned against God and he deserved to be punished, but did you notice what Nathan said to David after he confessed, “I have sinned against the Lord?” Nathan does not follow up with a message of God’s punishment, but with God’s forgiveness. Nathan assured David that:
“The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.”
Did David hit the ground at that point? Was he brought to his knees as that guilt he had been carrying around was taken away? He had thrown away so many blessings from God, ruined families and lacked a moral center as leader of God’s people. Yet, God’s message to him was forgiveness. After all that he had done, God wanted him to know his forgiveness and his peace.
Nathan assured David that he was forgiven, but there were consequences for what he had done. David and Bathsheba’s child became sick and died. Later on, in David’s life, God allowed one of David’s sons to turn on him and try to steal the kingdom from him. The rest of David’s life was hard, but no sin could separate him from the love and forgiveness of God.
Is this really fair though, did David deserve God’s forgiveness? If you think it’s unfair for God to forgive David his sins, you’re right. Even if God would have punished David for the rest of his life, no amount of suffering or hardships could have made up for his sins. And the same is true for you and me. All of us are sinners, ever since Adam and Eve in the garden. We all inherited a sinful nature from our parents. We were born sinners, live as sinners and we die sinners.
All of us are helpless on our own to overcome sin and the ultimate punishment for sin, that is death. You and I are not alone though. Just like God sent Nathan to David to share with him a message, to share the word of God. Someone shared the word with you. You may have heard it for the first time in your mother’s womb, in a classroom as a child, from a coworker or a pastor knocking at your door on a rainy Saturday.
The truth is that God knows this life is hard, that’s why he doesn’t leave you and I alone in it. He gave us his word, the Bible. Through the Bible, God shares his message of forgiveness. You and I cannot undo our sinful nature; we cannot make up for our sins and we can’t make peace with God. Instead, God made peace with us. God made peace with us by sending his Son, Jesus.
Jesus was born without sin, he was perfect. As he grew up he was tempted to sin just like everyone around him, but he never gave into sin. As he traveled around he told people about all the promises God had made in the Old Testament to send a Savior to bring peace to the world. Jesus was that promised Savior. There were some who didn’t believe Jesus’ message, so they brought him to trial, accused him of things he hadn’t done and sentenced him to death. The innocent, Son of God was going to be put to death, death on a cross.
Jesus died on the cross. Even though he had no sin and deserved no punishment, he allowed himself to be put to death. He took the punishment that sin deserves. This wasn’t the end though; in fact, it was the plan. Jesus allowed himself to be put to death, so that he could trade his perfect, innocent, sinless life to you and me, and take the punishment that our sinful, broken lives deserve. Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice.
Like in battle, when an enemy soldier throws a grenade into a trench and one soldier jumps onto the grenade to save his fellow soldiers. Jesus gave up his life to save you. Jesus made the payment for our debt of sin, then he came back to life. Jesus the Son of God could not be held down by death, it was his choice to offer up his life and it was his choice to come back from the dead. Jesus holds the power over life and death. Now that the payment for our sins has been made, now that the punishment has been served you and I are free. Jesus made peace with God for us. Through our Savior Jesus we have forgiveness and life.
Back to the original problem, “If this is our best life, then why does it have to be so hard?” Sin makes this life hard, our sins that hurt others and the sins of others that hurt us. And it’s that sin that leads to death, but death is not the end because this isn’t our best life. The life to come will be your best life. The life that Jesus won for you, the life you will spend in heaven at peace with God. Jesus who rose from the dead will bring you back to life too. He has forgiven your sins and death no longer has any hold on you. Listen to God when life is hard because forgiveness is peace. Divine Peace. Amen.