Ephesians 1:1. I found it striking what Paul wrote in this verse. The letter to the Ephesians is a rich letter.
Luke 15:18-19, “I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.'” The Prodigal son said, “I have sinned,” not “You have sinned.” The Prodigal son was not the only one who said, “I have sinned.” There were five others who uttered the same three words. Pharoah, Saul, David, Job, Judas and the Prodigal son. You may feel very impressed if someone said to you “I have sinned,” but not so impressed if they said “You have sinned.” In the case of three it didn’t mean anything to God because of why and when they said it – they were words from the lips, no deeper than the lips – no depth to it. Confession to sin is necessary for our salvation.
Prov 28:13, “He who covers his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” With three God saw deeper than the lips, He saw the hearts. God looks upon us and looks on the heart. Three confessed their sin but did not forsake it, and it led to their ruin. Three confessed their sin, and forsook it and went on to find mercy and prosperity.
Pharaoh – Ex 9:27: “Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time; the Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked.” This was just the cry of a frightened man; white chunks of ice fell, lightning running on the ground. He feared, but his heart was as hard as ever. He said: “Who is the Lord that I should obey Him.” It says the Lord hardened his heart. The Lord just sends his word and our response is either to harden our hearts or soften them. Pharaoh could have had a place beside Aaron and Moses, but he hardened his heart. A frightened man cried, “I have sinned.”
Salvation means to get rid of the rocks or hardness. Ten plagues were sent to try and soften Pharaoh’s heart; that is just like ten experiences or ten gospel meetings. There were thunder and lightning and he said “I have sinned.”
An unprofessing son drove into shallow water, broke his neck – was in hospital, paralyzed from below the chest. He did not know if he would live or die. He asked for the workers to come and pray and read to him. Then slowly the feeling came back into his body, first he could move his big toe, then the leg. Movement came back, and now he did not want the workers any more. A cry born in the storm, died in the calm. The sailors say, “When they reached the shore, they prayed no more!”
All of God’s work starts with a soft heart. Convention begins when our hearts are soft, because like the potter needs soft clay, the farmer needs soft soil to weed out and sow, the blacksmith needs soft metal to unite it, God needs a soft heart.
King Saul – I Sam 15:24, “Saul said to Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.” He said I have transgressed – feared the people and obeyed. It came from a rebellious heart, and he made excuses. It was a mixed confession, with excuses. We should not say, “IF I have hurt you, or if I have offended you, I am sorry.” We should say “I have offended you, I have hurt you.” His cry did not mean anything because of a rebellious heart and excuses. He said, “I obeyed the voice of God.” Next he confessed with excuses. The oxen lowing, and things still alive need to be fed; they were not taken care of. “When you were little in your eyes you were made King. Why did you not obey?” Partial obedience is not obedience. Selective obedience is not obedience. It’s like cafeteria style where you pick what you like – partial obedience is not obedience.
At one convention it was said, “Obedience, Obedience, Obedience!” There are three kinds of obedience – unwilling obedience, willing obedience, and selective obedience – which is for convenience. Saul thought partial obedience is obedience. When I was a teacher, I asked my students to do their homework in ink, with double spaces – available for correction, and their name in the upper right hand corner. I said I will not accept it if they didn’t do that. I wanted obedience. I didn’t expect the right answers, but they had to obey. God does want His people to obey. The Author of eternal salvation wants His people to obey.
Jesus is the author of salvation to those who obey. Obedience is better than sacrifice. Faith is the sacrifice of our understanding. And obedience is the sacrifice of our own will. It is the sacrifice of our will that God wants. To hearken means to listen with the intent to do; it is better than the fat of lambs. Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. We know witchcraft is wrong. Rebellion is just the same.
Saul wouldn’t obey, and was slain on the high slopes of Gilboa by an Amalekite, that he had spared. His “I have sinned” didn’t mean anything to the Lord.
David – II Sam 12:13: “And David said unto Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ And Nathan said unto David, ‘The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.'” When David said “I have sinned,” the confession came from the heart of a genuinely repentant man. David put away the sin. God also put away his sin, because he forsook and confessed it, and he went on to prosperity and blessing. David put away sin so the Lord did not have to put him away. He did not sin when he was a boy, but when he was in the height of glory, in luxury and prosperity and ease – not as a shepherd, or in adversity, or fleeing from Saul. He became self-indulgent. This is written for our learning. He that standeth let him take heed lest he fall. David fell, sinned. Rightly or wrongly he was determined to have Uriah’s wife. His heart was hard. He tried to cover his sin – You shall not prosper. Uriah was a noble, loyal man. He slept at the door of the king, showing his loyalty to the king. David made him drunk. It takes a lot of hardness to make a man drunk. He then arranged for Uriah’s death. It takes quite a lot of hardness of heart to arrange for a man’s destruction! 2 Sam 11:13: the thing David did displeased the Lord. If we displease the Lord, nothing will go well after that. The Lord then had mercy. He sent Nathan the prophet to David. I am sure Nathan went to David in fear and trembling. He spoke the parable of the wayfaring man – which is just the flesh that comes – coming for the one little ewe lamb belonging to the poor man. David’s anger was kindled; he said “The man that has done this thing shall surely die!” Nathan said, “Thou art the man!” David took “the poor man’s one little ewe lamb.” Sometimes we are indignant of other people’s sins. We can’t see our own sin but we see that of the other man. This parable is like a mirror. We often see others’ sins directly and our own indirectly. It is hard to see ourselves sometimes. We need two mirrors to see ourselves, or parts of our anatomy. Through God’s servants and the word of God – we see ourselves, and see the will of God. David saw himself, and he said I have sinned against the Lord. He was able to take correction. It takes a soft heart to take correction. A soft heart does not get offended.
There was a man giving problems. We tried to visit him, and speak as gently as possible to him. He just about threw us out in a rage. I was feeling so sorry because of his hard heart. He could not take correction and was out of the Way for 12 years. He got cancer, and called for us. At home in his bed he apologized for that day which had cost him 12 years out of the Truth. Now his heart was soft.
David, too, could take correction. He was in the depths of despair in this experience in Psalm 51 – Create in me a clean heart – something he did not have. Create means to make something from nothing. God can make something out of nothing. Create in me a clean heart, love, willingness, faith – where there is nothing. David realized it was his hope to have a broken heart. Broken says: “I am sorry.” Contrite says I am willing. A broken and a contrite spirit is the real sacrifice that God can’t resist. Psalms 51:19: THEN God will be pleased with the bullock offering which is the costliest and finest offering. A truly repentant heart is the most costly and finest offering. David found mercy and prosperity. God never mentioned David’s sin again, and he was called “The man after God’s own heart.”
Job 7:20: “I have sinned: what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men? Why hast thou set me as a mark against thee, so that I am a burden to myself?” Job didn’t know what had happened – he was a confused man. God said he was perfect and upright, one of the best who feared him, but tests, troubles came. He lost his family, his friends, possessions, substance, farm and wife. He made no excuses. His cry was, “What shall I do?” and God accepted his cry. Job 23:15: “Therefore am I troubled at his presence: when I consider, I am afraid of him.” “The almighty troubles me, makes my heart soft.” Job knew it was no good to get bitter or hard. My sister lost her husband in a fire. She said, “I feel bitterness trying to creep in” – that is hardness. But she didn’t want that. Job 34:32: “That which I see not, teach thou me, and if I have done iniquity, I will do it no more.” God honoured his spirit and he got blessing. Just show me.
Judas – Matthew 27:24: Judas said, “I have sinned and betrayed innocent blood.” His repentance to the priests meant nothing to them. They said, “That is your business!” The Pharisees continually found fault. A hard-hearted person can find fault even with perfection. Judas cried out of remorse and regret – that is not repentance. Judas was with Jesus from the beginning – saw miracles – heard and saw the same as the other disciples did, but his heart was still hard.
Matthew 27:2: Satan put it into Judas’ heart, then, it says Satan entered his heart. His heart hardened, their heart softened. John 13: Satan put it into Judas’ heart to betray Jesus. He entered in because of his hard heart. Satan uses a hard heart for the foundation of his work. God uses a soft heart for the foundation of His work. The prince of the world came to Jesus and found nothing in him to work on because his heart was always soft. Jesus was always meek and lowly and the devil found nothing in Jesus’ heart he could use. The devil uses hard hearts. Satan can build on greed, selfishness, etc. The prince of this world comes to look for something to work on.
John 13: Jesus was with his disciples. He took the towel to do what none other would do. Peter felt condemned, he said, “You will never wash my feet,” and Jesus said then you have no part with me – he wanted a part with Jesus. Jesus also washed Judas’ feet, but the water never reached Judas’ heart, He could not wash the dust off Judas’ heart. In Matthew 26, Judas said, “Is it I?” The Lord said, “Thou hast said.”
The captain of the Titanic received many warnings about the icebergs ahead and that they were on a destruction course. But he would not listen or change. It takes a soft heart to take instruction and warning. Judas did not change. Jesus gave Judas the sop to show he still loved him. Jesus kept a soft heart towards Judas even when Judas was gone. Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, with a demonstration of love but a terribly hard heart. Next day there was no comfort for him, and he said, “I have sinned.”
We were told that the purpose of sin is to bring us to the feet of Jesus. But Judas, when he had sinned, went to the priests and not to Jesus. If our heart is soft and humbled, and we come to the feet of Jesus, provision is made for our sin. Judas could have had forgiveness at Jesus’ feet; he could have found mercy. But he went to the hard-hearted priests. There had to be a Judas, but it did not have to be that Judas.
The Prodigal son – He said, “I will arise and go to my father.” This is a parable about what sin is, where sin takes us and the remedy for sin. The prodigal wanted to be independent of the father and free. Iniquity is taking our own way. There are lots of good people who do not lie and cheat, but take their own way – it is sin. The Prodigal had many illusions – sin takes us to a far country and far from God. His pocket was full of money, his head full of ideas, and his heart filled with passions. He thought he would be merry – and was miserable. He thought he would have a feast – he found a famine. He thought he would be free – he found himself in bondage. The hymn says “Every day some new illusion seems to offer what you crave, and the author of confusion leads men to a hopeless grave.” The world offers illusions. He went to a far country, fed on husks; a mighty famine arose and he was in want.
A mother asked about a wayward son – what could she do? What do you do to help a prodigal? Two things: 1 – you pray, 2 – you show him the father’s house has bread and to spare, there is more than we can ever use, that you are happy. This parable tells the remedy for sin. The remedy for sin is a U-turn. He not only made a resolution, but he did it. It is one thing when the alarm clock goes off, another thing to get out of bed. Confession is one thing; to forsake sin is another thing.
This parable explains repentance is a change of direction, and masters and mind. He got rid of illusions. A change of diet, not feed on what the world does. A change of friends and a change of garments. Have the Master’s mind. Raiment is the outward part. The best robe was just the outward part of the difference. A cry, a confession of sin means everything to God when we come to him.
A mother had just received news of her son, killed in battle. She was disconsolate, found no comfort and a neighbour lady tried to comfort her. The mother then said, “If I could just see my son for 5 minutes, it would mean so much to me.” The neighbour asked, “If you could see your son, in what form would you like to see him? When he was born – as a babe? When he graduated with honours? The day he left in the army?”
“No,” she said. “I would like to see him the way he was, as a little boy – when I told him to take off his meeting clothes, lest he dirty them. But he didn’t listen, and he fell in the mud, and ran to me and said, ‘Mommy I am sorry, sorry, sorry,’ I would like to see him like that.” God would like to see us that way. We can find mercy and go on to prosperity. Hymn 321