THE GOSPEL HAS THE POWER TO OVERCOME
NOT JUST THE PENALTY OF SIN,
BUT ALSO THE POWER OF SIN.
REMEMBER HOW IT IS PUT IN THE HYMN ROCK OF AGES?
IT’S THE DOUBLE CURE
FROM THE PENALTY BUT ALSO THE POWER OF SIN
HOW EAGER WE ARE TO UNDERSTAND THIS.
AS KELLER SAYS, “IF YOU ARE SURE YOU UNDERSTAND THE GOSPEL, YOU PROBABLY DON’T. IF YOU THINK YOU ARE JUST STARTING TO GET IT, YOU MAY BE.”
I am starting to get it. Truly, the gospel is helping me in some areas tremendously, but in other areas I am still so prone to wander, so prone to leave the God I love.
Yet I had some exciting light-bulb moments when I was in Psalm 36 and Psalm 37 that I am so eager for us to look at together.
In preparation, let me tell you a way my youngest daughter used the gospel to overcome the power of sin recently in her life.
Annie is a nurse and recently made a mistake with a new procedure with a patient. When she was asked to do it, she hesitated, because she wasn’t sure she completely understood the procedure, but succumbed to pressure to do it right away. Then, afterwards, she realized she hadn’t done it correctly. First, the gospel gave her the power to own her sin. She should not have succumbed to pressure, but she did, she knew, because of her idol of approval. The gospel, in part, shows us the evil in our own heart, how we are unfaithful to the Lord and run to our idols. But next, Annie realized she had to go and confess her mistake to the doctor in charge, an angry young man who tends to fly off the handle at nurses. She knew, for the sake of the patient, she must confess that she hadn’t done the procedure correctly. To do it again would cost time, convenience, and money. She expected rage, and rage he did, cursing her loudly in the hall for all to hear. But Annie took it, standing on the Rock, her “stronghold in time of trouble.”
She called me later and thanked me for teaching her how to apologize well. After his shouting ceased, she owned her wrong, didn’t point out his part, but left that to God, articulated the pain it caused both the patient and him, and promised to do what she could to make it right. The doctor softened and the procedure was done again, and all ended well. The gospel helped Annie overcome the power of sin, that darkness in her heart that can cut her and other people to pieces.
One of my favorite definitions of the gospel, often quoted by others, is this:
In Psalm 36, we will see these two sides of the gospel. We see in the opening a portrait of the wicked, whose mouth is full of deceit, who plots trouble on his bed, and who has no fear of God. Yet before we point a finger at “evil men,” we must remember that Paul shows us in Romans that this is true of every heart, for within us an evil lurks that is so bad that Christ had to die for us. We can put on a good front, and be very nice, like Dr. Jekyl, but we must be aware of the beast within us, or we will continually deny and cover up our sinful ways. It was this realization that helped Annie own her sin rather than defend herself in her heart.
But the gospel also shows us how loved we are, for Christ went all the way to the cross for us. If we remember how steadfast is His love, then even if the consequences for owning our sin are costly and humbling, we know God will be with us, and as the close of Psalm 36 and all of Psalm 37 shows, God’s steadfast love is like the heavens, covering us with a canopy of love. Though clouds will appear in the heavens, representing, Spurgeon believes, our trials, his steadfast love reaches to the clouds. We can surrender to Him and humbly admit our sin to ourselves, to Him, and to others. Jesus quotes Psalm 37:11 in The Sermon on the Mount: “the meek shall inherit the land.” We must take the long view of life and realize, if God be with us, indeed, who can be against us? Psalm 37 is filled with promises that are a result of God’s great gospel love. Our own Renee, who often helps us think with her good questions, was pondering, how once she interpreted verses (like she was seeing in Psalm 34, but we see again in Psalm 37) as ways we can do things to get blessings. Instead, they are quite different. These are blessings that come, not from “doing” certain acts and expecting God to reward us, but rather, these are blessings that come when we wait on the Lord and stand on the power of the Gospel. We’re going to look at some of these promises in light of the Gospel.
We will take two weeks on this, because it is so important, and because these are such high vacation weeks, I have made homework shorter so you can do it. This is so key to your Christian walk of power.
Sunday, July 20th Icebreaker
1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
2. If you are beginning to grasp the double power of the gospel, share one way the gospel is helping you overcome the power of sin in your life. Be specific.
Monday – Tuesday of Week One: Psalm 36:1-4
3. Read Psalm 36:1-4
A. Describe some of the characteristics of sin that has flourished.
B. Compare Psalm 36:1 to Romans 3:18. What similarity do you see?
It is sobering to realize that the Romans passage is not just about the
most evil of men, but about us if we do not apply the gospel to
the sin lurking in our hearts. A natural defense mechanism is denial or
justification for our sin.
C. What does Romans 2:15 tell us is the “natural” response to the conviction of our consciences?
I am asking the Lord to help me not be in denial for I have seen that long-term, denial is not a friend. I have often thought (though I know God is sovereign) that if my husband hadn’t been such an optimist, denying the seriousness of his symptoms, that he might be alive today. I have told myself I am going to quit denying I could be in trouble when I might be. I want to know if a tooth is really going bad, or if my tire might really be going flat, or if my “little sins,” are really abominations. “Little things,” may not be so little, or can definitely become overwhelming if not stopped, like the little foxes the ruin the vineyards. Those foxes must be stopped before they do irreparable damage.
Wednesday: Gospel Application
Ask the Lord to give you self-revelation about areas where you are in denial. Once you have identified the truth, begin to develop a plan to overcome with the power of the Gospel. In his book, Gospel Treason, Brad Bigney writes:
…Make a plan. I find that most people fail to change
because they fail to make specific plans to change.
Change doesn’t just happen in “fuzzy land.” You
specifically sinned your way into where you are, and
you’re going to have to specifically repent your way
Remember how our own Rebecca did this in regard to over-eating? First, she
identified her comfort idol, and then, she said “Instead of eating this pie at
night and sitting in front of the news, I am going to stop eating pie and read
spiritually edifying books about intimacy with God. It wasn’t a quick fix, but
God came to be slowly.”
4. What revelation into your heart did God give you and what is your plan for overcoming with the power of the Gospel?
Thursday-Friday: Psalm 36:5-12
Ed Bigney quotes Ed Welch in regard to making your overcoming plan: “The path of change goes through the heart and continues on to the gospel, where God most fully reveals to us his Son Jesus Christ in the death and resurrection of Christ.”
This is where Psalm 36 now turns. Yes, we are depraved, but we are also loved, as revealed by the gospel. He will, indeed, meet us.
5. Read Psalm 36:5-12.
A. What images of the Lord’s mercy does the psalmist use?
B. In what ways is his steadfast love like the sky. Go out and look and see what parallels you see?
C. Spurgeon says the clouds are like our trials, blocking the sense of His warmth — but what does this psalm teach about the “clouds?”
D. Do any pictures in this passage becomeradioactive to you? If so, what? How might this help you with your plan for overcoming sin?
6. Report how your plan is working in apply the Gospel to overcoming sin. How can we pray for you?
7. What is your take-a-way and why?