The Fruit of Restoration
by Bob Burridge ©2012
There are times when we wish we could go back and do something differently. It might be a decision that put us in harm’s way, or choices where wisdom was set aside and the consequences of our bad judgment torment us for a long time. Bad investments or unwise purchases can plunge us into lingering debts. Poorly chosen words can ruin a friendship, and an inattentive moment can cause an accident where lives are changed forever.
Among those regrets are the times when we have done things contrary to God’s moral principles. As believers we struggle with that awful awareness that we have offended the God who redeemed us. Our conscience burns away inside when we imagine how we must appear to our Creator’s holy eyes.
When we are crushed by debts, or humbled by calamities, it is wonderful to be told that the problem has been taken care of and is finally behind us. We learn the joy of a debt that has been cleared, of a disease that has been cured, of a surgery that went well, or of the passing of some bad experience or threat. That kind of news makes us want to thank anyone who might have helped make it happen for us. It’s hard not to let our joy show.
Luke records a situation in the life of Jesus Christ that illustrates this principle.
Luke 7:36-50 tells about the time Simon the Pharisee invited Jesus to his home. While he was there a woman with a sinful reputation came to honor Jesus. She came thankfully because she knew that she was forgiven for her sins. Moved with gratitude and great emotion, she walked up behind Jesus and began to weep. Her tears dropped down onto Jesus feet. She loosened her hair and used it to wipe his feet. Then she started to kiss the feet of her Savior. Next she broke open a costly alabaster jar of very expensive perfume and started to anoint his feet. With no thought for social customs, she was overcome with gratitude and love.
Ignoring the rules of the Pharisees, Jesus did not rebuke her. He permitted her to continue. Simon said nothing out loud, but he thought to himself, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” (Luke 7:39)
Not only did Jesus know who this woman was, he knew her heart, and he knew Simon’s inner thoughts too. He answered the unspoken concerns of Simon’s heart with a parable in Luke 7:40-42.
Two men were in debt to the same lender. One owed 500 denarii, another owed 50 denarii. Neither was able to pay his debt. But to their relief, the lender canceled both debts. Then Jesus asked Simon which of the two will love him most?
Simon answered very carefully, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” Jesus told Simon that he was right. Then Jesus explained the lesson. He not only interprets it for us, he applies it in Luke 7:44-50.
First he pointed out Simon’s own lack of hospitality. Simon offered him no water to wash his feet, no towel, no kiss of welcome, no anointing oil. He had shown little concern for honoring his guest. In contrast, this woman washed his feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, had not stopped kissing his feet, and brought expensive perfume to anoint him.
Then Jesus came to his main point, he confirmed that the woman’s sins had been forgiven. He said in Luke 7:47, “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”
By her service and love this woman evidenced that she had been forgiven. Luke’s account points to the source of love and devotion. It flows from a forgiven heart changed by the grace of God.
Simon showed no love, no sense of service, therefore had no evidence of forgiveness. The implication was devastating if understood.
Nathan also used a parable when he came to expose King David’s sin.
In 2 Samuel 12:1-4 Nathan told King David about a rich man with many flocks and herds. When a visitor came to him, instead of using one of his own lambs for the meal he killed one which was kept as a loved animal by a poor family which had nothing but that one lamb.
When David heard the story he was angry, and said that the rich man who did this deserved to die. He should restore the lamb fourfold. Then Nathan said to David, “Thou art the man.”
The prophet Nathan had not come to David alone, the Holy Spirit was there too. David felt the weight of his sin after his secret adultery with Bathsheba, after his attempts to cover it up and his conspiracy with a military commander to have Bathsheba’s husband killed. As Nathan spoke, the King was humbled repentantly before God.
It was upon this occasion that David wrote this wonderful Psalm we know as Psalm 51. In the first 12 verses he admitted his guilt and offense against God, and expresses his confidence in God’s promises of grace. Assured of restoration David continued in the next portion of the Psalm.
David hoped that others would be helped by his restoration.
Psalm 51:13, “Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You.”
David’s concern was not limited to himself. He evidenced the heart of a true King. He saw his restoration as a way to help God’s people, those who were sinners like himself. He did not aspire to help only the great, the rich, or the famous who would build up his reputation or ego. The single characteristic that marked out the objects of his concern was their awareness of a need for spiritual restoration. He wanted to help offenders like himself, whoever they might be.
David also understood the importance of declaring what God has made known to us. The ways of God must be taught because they are the means God has ordained by which the Holy Spirit works in our hearts when we have done that which offends our Creator. The revealed word enlivened in us by grace exposes our need and drives us into the arms of the Savior.
David wanted God to make him an example of how grace restores us though we have proven our utter unworthiness and depravity. He wanted to be the teacher God would use to convert sinners. Being “converted” is not just changing religions as the world often uses that term. It is the change produced in someone’s life by God’s grace. God delivers his word through those he uses as teachers. The results and evidences of this work of grace are seen in the lives of God’s people. This is how David hoped to help others who were sinners as he was.
Often those who have overcome a problem can be used in a special way to help those struggling with the same issues. There are support groups made up of those who have recovered from diseases, or who have gone through other types of serious tragedies. As Charles Spurgeon said, “Reclaimed poachers make the best gamekeepers.” It was John Newton, the redeemed slave trader who helped end slavery in England, and wrote Amazing Grace, one of the greatest hymns of all time.
Those delivered from serious sins can have a special ministry of encouragement. Of course no one should ever glamorize sin or suffering, nor should anyone make it seem good to fall so that we can specially help others after we recover. But when we fall, as those forgiven and restored by grace, we can rejoice in being able to specially help others taken in by temptation.
The Bible provides many examples where God used penitent sinners as encouraging examples of the work of Grace.
The Apostle Paul was a fierce persecutor of Christians. He was a Pharisee who believed that he was righteous in himself and had no need for a Savior. When redeemed, God used him to bring many self-righteous people to faith in Christ, and to promote joy to those who had become aware of their sinful offenses.
King David is the example here in Psalm 51. Little did he know how his experience and this Psalm would effect so many struggling sinners for thousands of years after his death. There have been many thousands of encouraging sermons and commentaries written on this helpful Psalm.
The redeemed become an example of God’s deliverance to others who also need that salvation. Never let your sin be a discouragement that keeps you from seeking to be a witness to the gospel of grace. Instead, your deliverance should motivate you all the more to tell the good news. Bishop William Cowper wrote, “Every talent received from God should be put to profit, but specially the talent of mercy; as it is greatest, so the Lord requires greater fruit of it, for his own glory, and for the edification of our brethren.”
Those delivered from sin are the ones God often uses in helping others discover his work of restoration through the work of Christ. The only testimony properly admitted in a trial is that which comes from first-hand witnesses. Those who have merely heard someone else say something are not allowed to testify. This is why God’s word calls the redeemed to be his witnesses. They have seen his work first hand and can know the shame of guilt, and appreciate the triumphant message of grace.
We need to overcome our fallen nature that suggests that evil sinners cannot be redeemed, or that fallen believers are beyond hope. We should never forget that these are exactly the kinds of persons God promises to redeem and to restore. God is able, and his promises can never fail.
The elect are invisible until they show a credible trust in the work of the Savior. When the redeemed fall into sin, the truth of their deliverance may seem uncertain to others until they are restored repentantly to rediscover the joys of God’s grace. The momentary invisibility of grace at work should not be seen as evidence that it is not about to demonstrate itself in a struggling life.
The means of this salvation and restoration is the promise of God, declared and demonstrated by other believers in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is our privilege to be the tools in the hand of our Creator bringing the word of the gospel to those in need of its hope. This was David’s great encouragement.
David anticipated his offering great praise.
Psalm 51:14-15, “Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, The God of my salvation, And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.”
David did not excuse his sin, or minimize what he had done. He asked to be delivered from nothing less than bloodguiltiness. Literally, it means he asked to be “delivered from bloods.” This is a plural of emphasis which often indicates crimes that carry the death penalty. David had committed adultery with another man’s wife, and he planned the death of her husband. Yet he never lost confidence in the power of God to save him from his guilt and deserved penalty.
It may seem like a strange qualification for a witness of God’s righteousness, that he would admit to bloodguiltiness. But humble repentance is a more important characteristic for the believer than an imagined sense of innocence or superiority.
One time our family doctor sent me to a specialist for some minor surgery. The surgeon was good in the operating room, but had a reputation for being short and cold toward his patients. Some months later I was in for a check up and our doctor asked if I remembered how harsh the surgeon had been. I remembered very well. Then he told me that he was not that way any more. He had since undergone surgery himself. Now he was noticeably more understanding and open with his patients.
When God humbles us by our sin and guilt, we appreciate the agony of others as they struggle with feelings of guilt before they understand how much they are forgiven by our gracious God.
David expected that his restored soul would not be able to contain his joy. It would break forth with singing about God’s righteousness. Songs about God’s goodness to us fill thousands of editions of hymnals.
Would we not rather expect David’s joyful song to be about his deliverance rather than about God’s righteousness? The King’s great joy was not simply that he was now off the hook for his guilt, but that God was no longer offended by it, yet without violation of the holy justice of his Creator. He was forgiven, but the eternal righteousness of God was preserved.
What he had done was so horrible that he deserved death and eternal infinite condemnation. He did not merely ask God to overlook his sin. He did not hope in a divine amnesia where somehow his sins were just ignored. That kind of mercy and forgiveness is an unfounded myth. It would be righteousness disregarded and justice violated.
David was a king. He knew that offenses must be satisfied justly. If he was promised forgiveness and restoration, that must mean that the debt was paid in full. Though he knew less of our Savior’s work than we do today, that promise given in Eden, foreshadowed in the law, and repeatedly announced by the Prophets was his hope.
God’s righteousness imparted to him by the work of a loving Savior was a wonderful theme for his songs of praise. David’s maturity before God came as he humbled himself in childlike submission to grace. It is amazing how much we grow up, when we humbly bow down.
When we sin, as we all do, our humble confession and praise is a good lesson to the world and to other struggling believers. Psalm 40:3 says, “He has put a new song in my mouth — Praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, And will trust in the LORD.”
Sadly, even as God’s redeemed children, instead of songs of joy as we look at God’s promises, our tongues and lips often complain when calamity comes. Or they whimper in depression when guilt weighs down upon us. Excuses are sought out, and blame is shifted to others we imagine are to blame for our improper behaviors and attitudes. As James 3:6 tells us, “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.”
However, lips, tongues and mouths were designed to sing praises to God. The next time you use your mouth, lips and tongue, remember why you have them. God displaces a world of wickedness when he looses our tongues to sing his praises. How wonderful to have those parts converted back to their original function. That is the good fruit our restoration brings.
Like the woman who was driven to anoint the feet of Jesus with her tears, like the man who loved much because he was forgiven a great debt, like David whose sins of blood-guiltiness were paid for by a Savior who was yet to come, we need to own up to own debt, and appreciate its costly payment by grace upon a Roman Cross outside of Jerusalem.
In the one who is forgiven much, there is much love, and it cannot contain itself. It will stir in us an uncontainable desire to tell others, and to help them discover God’s grace too. It will make our hearts break forth in humble praise and thanksgiving.
Where is our love? our daily and Sabbath praise? our testimony to others? Where is our passion to help others find the joy of salvation? It ought to be the natural desire of the truly redeemed soul. May God stir our hearts to that kind of humble love and thankful service.
(Note: The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Bible unless otherwise noted.)