After the Second World War, General Douglas MacArthur and his wife and their little son Arthur went to live in Japan, where MacArthur was administering the Island after the war. As things settled down, slowly the American occupying troops were being sent home. And the way they decided who would go home first, was on a point system: “so many points were awarded for each month overseas, so many for battles and decorations, and so on.” Little Arthur was tired of living in Japan and wanted to go home, so at one point he asked his dad: “Do I have enough points to go home?” (William Manchester, American Caesar, p. 515)
Unfortunately, that is the way that too many people think of going home to heaven: they think if we have enough “points,” based on our goodness or good works, then we get to go. But that is not true at all. The Bible tells us that we are not saved by our good works, but by the GRACE of God — which is what our verse for this morning says:
“Save me because of Your lovingkindness” (Psalm 6:4)
We are saved by God’s lovingkindness (or grace) which is what we are celebrating as we share in the Lord’s Supper this morning.
I. We need saving
This is the first thing you see when you read this Psalm. In :1 David says: “O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your anger, nor chasten me in Your wrath.” The language here shows that David knew that he had sinned:
— He uses the word “rebuke” here: “Do not ‘rebuke’ me in Your anger.”
A “rebuke” by nature is a response to someone. You don’t just walk up to somebody and rebuke them. You rebuke them when they have said or done something wrong.
For example, in II Samuel 7:14 God uses this same word about David’s sons who would follow him as king. God says if he sins, I will “rebuke” him.” A “rebuke” is a response to sin.
So when David says here, “Lord, do not REBUKE me in Your anger,” he’s saying, “I know that I have committed sin. I have said or done something wrong. Please don’t rebuke me for it.” So by asking God here not to “rebuke” him, it is an open admission of his sin.
— Then he says “nor chasten me in Your wrath”. God tells Israel in Leviticus 26:18 that if they don’t listen to Him and obey, “I will punish you seven times for your sins.” The word “punish” there is the same Hebrew word as used here in Psalm 6, as “chasten.” So again, David is saying, “don’t ‘chasten’ me; don’t ‘punish’ me” — because he knows he has sinned and he deserves it.
So right off the bat here in Psalm 6 David admits that he has sinned, and he asks God to be lenient towards him. But the important thing is, he does admit his sin to God. And later on in :4 he asks God to save him — but it all starts here in :1, because it is here that we see WHY he needs saving — because he has sinned against God.
Now as we know, this condition of “needing saving” is not David’s alone. We ALL need saving. It is a universal condition of mankind. The Bible tells us that in very beginning, God created the man and the woman for perfect fellowship with Him, but He also allowed them to make a free choice, to obey Him, or to disobey. The Bible tells us they were tempted, and chose to disobey God. Disobedience to God is sin. And their sin brought death and destruction to the world, and separated them from God.
But their sin also affected all of us who are descended from them. Romans 5:12 says that “death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Because of Adam & Eve’s first sin, we have all inherited a sin nature, so that each of us is inclined to sin. So when we come to the time when we are able to choose for ourselves, we ALL DO in fact sin. We are ALL sinners, both by nature and by choice.
This is one of THE most fundamental things we need to understand about mankind: that we have ALL sinned, we have ALL separated ourselves from God, and thus we ALL need saving.
Some of my earliest memories as a boy were at the First Baptist Church of Harrah, Oklahoma, a place similar in a lot of ways to Angleton. Our pastor was fiery young preacher by the name of Hoyt Aduddell. I remember one Sunday he preached a strong message on greed, and in the course of the sermon he repeated the phrase, “Gimme, gimme, gimme.” “Gimme, gimme, gimme.” Several times he used that phrase, and it really made an impact on me. I remember after the service, I was walking out of the church with my dad, and I was feeling quite wise at eight years of age, and I was very maturely jingling some coins in my pocket as I said to my dad on the way out: “‘Gimme, gimme, gimme’ — that sounds just like the girls.” (I had three younger sisters growing up.) My Dad didn’t miss a beat. He immediately responded: “Sounds like all FOUR of you to me!”
Thus I got one of my first and earliest lessons both on self-righteousness, and the universal depravity of mankind. It is not just “some of us” who are sinners. It’s not just those “other” people we know, or hear about on tv. We are ALL sinners. Romans 3 says “For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” It is not that some people are really vile sinners, and need saving, but others of us are really “pretty good” and don’t need it. No, we are ALL sinners. We ALL need saving.
And one of the most important moments of your life will come when you face up to that, and like David here admit your sin, admit that you are not all you should be towards God and man, and admit that YOU TOO need saving. You can’t be saved until you admit that you need it.
In fact I believe that sometimes God may allow us to fail in some significant ways, so that the facade of “self-righteousness” which we have so carefully constructed, will just come crashing down like a house of cards — and so we see so clearly that we are not “so good” as we thought we were, but we are sinners at heart, just like everyone else. The Bible is very clear: we are ALL sinners, and we ALL need saving.
This connects to the Lord’s Supper that we celebrate this morning — this is why Jesus had to come, to give His body and blood on the cross, which we commemorate with these elements. The reason He had to do it, is because we had all sinned, and needed saving. Had He not done something, we would have all been lost forever. Your first step towards being saved, is to recognize that you have sinned, and that you need to be saved.
II. Our Salvation Is By God’s grace
This is SO important: David does NOT appeal to God here, on the basis of his own faithfulness or goodness. He doesn’t say: “God, help me because I have been so good.” No, he knows he has fallen short, like we just saw. He’s already said, I deserve to be “rebuked;” I ought to be “chastened.” He admits that he doesn’t “deserve” what he is asking God to do for him. He is asking God to be “gracious” to him. To be “gracious” means to treat a person better than they “deserve.”
In our text for this morning, :4, he says: “Save me because of Your lovingkindness.” Here again is the Hebrew word “CHESED” we looked at a few weeks ago, that deep, rich, almost untranslatable word that Martin Luther said was the best Old Testament description of the New Testament concept of God’s GRACE.
“Grace” is not something which is “earned” by the person who is given it. It is entirely due to the goodness and love and mercy and grace in the heart of the One who is giving it. That is what grace is. It is a free gift of goodness which is not deserved by the person who receives it.
In fact David uses the very word “gracious” in :2, where he says: “Be GRACIOUS to me, O LORD …”. He’s saying, God, I am asking You to treat me better than I deserve to be treated, not because I “deserve” it in any way, but just because You are that kind of merciful, gracious God. And indeed, that is just the kind of God He is. That is His nature.
In the book Cleopatra: A Life, by Stacy Schiff, there is an interesting phrase that the writer used to describe Julius Caesar. It said: “Nothing was dearer to his heart, than pardoning supplicants (those who asked).” (p. 30) Julius Caesar just loved to pardon people. In fact, there was this one citizen that Caesar pardoned — and then this man turned against Caesar again, and he was condemned again, and when he pleaded for mercy, Caesar pardoned him yet AGAIN! People just shook their heads in disbelief. Caesar just GLORIED in showing mercy to people! That was just an inherent part of who he was.
And what we can be so thankful for today, is that GOD is the same way, and even more so. God just LOVES showing mercy to people. He LOVES showing grace. He GLORIES in doing so. Ephesians 1 says He forgives us “to the praise of the glory of His grace.” He just shows grace and mercy and forgives because it glorifies Him to do so! He just IS gracious. That is who He is.
But what we need to keep in mind is that our forgiveness is NOT based on anything that we say or do or earn. It is solely and entirely based on HIS mercy. He shows us grace and forgives us just because He is gracious and merciful — NOT because of anything good in us; or anything we say or do.
And we need to remember also that this grace God shows us was not “cheap.” It is “free” to us; but it was not cheap for. Him. See, God could not just arbitrarily “wave His hand over the universe” and decide to show us all grace and pardon our sins. God is a holy and just God. Sin must be punished. That is why He had to send Christ, who paid for our sins on the cross. That is why Paul says in Romans 3 that through the cross, God could be “just AND the justifier of the one who has faith in Christ.” Because Jesus died on the cross, God could be our “justifier” — He could forgive us. But He could also be “just” in doing it — because He didn’t just “ignore” our sins; He paid for them fully in the person of Christ on the cross.
So God’s grace that forgives us was costly. It cost the body and blood of Jesus:
— I Peter 2:24 says “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross.”
— I John 1 says “the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
So it cost the body and the blood of Jesus, for God to be able show us this mercy and grace. It’s not anything that WE did that brought us this mercy. It is what HE did for us, on the cross.
So as we take the Lord’s Supper today, we do it remembering what these elements of the Supper represent: they do NOT represent our “hard earned sweat and tears.” They do NOT represent OUR body’s work in any way. NO: it is significant that these elements do not represent anything about US at all, do they? NO: they represent what HE did:
— the unleavened bread represents HIS body.
— The juice represents HIS blood.
That is because salvation was bought by HIS body being pierced through on the cross, and it was bought by HIS blood being shed as a payment for our sins. Salvation is based on what Jesus did, NOT anything that what WE did or ever can do. So as we take these elements in a few minutes, we should be reminded of what it took to give us our salvation. The Lord’s Supper reminds us again, just like Psalm 6 teaches us, that salvation is of God’s grace, not anything that we earned or deserved in any way.
III. We Must Make It Personal:
He says, “Save ME according to Your lovingkindness/grace.” This is important. David doesn’t just make some “general theological statements” about the depravity of man and the grace of God here. No, he applies these things to HIMSELF. He says, Lord, don’t rebuke “ME” for MY sin. He prays, God, “Save ME according to Your grace.” He makes this very personal and applies it to himself.
This is so important. The things that God teaches us in His word about sin, and grace, and salvation, and all these things, are not just “mental concepts” for us to understand. They are truths about US, that we need to make sure that we apply to OUR life personally — and if we don’t, we will miss out on God’s salvation and grace.
I’ve been impressed as I’ve been reading through the Book of Luke in my own Bible reading recently, about how Jesus emphasizes the PERSONAL commitment we have to have to what He is teaching:
— “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not DO what I say?” (Luke 6:46)
— In Luke 11, someone cried out to Jesus and said, Oh, blessed is Your mother. But Jesus wasn’t impressed with this emotionalism. No, He said: “On the contrary, blessed are they who hear the word of God and DO it!” (Luke 11:28)
— “If you know these things, you are blessed if you DO them.” (John 13:17)
Jesus says, it is no good just “hearing” His teachings, or “knowing” them. You have to DO them. You have to apply them to your life for you to be saved, and for them to make a difference in your life. You’ve got to personally apply it.
There’s been a lot of talk these days in our COVID-19 situation about possible vaccines, that there is really not going to be an end to this until there is an effective vaccine that can keep people from getting it — otherwise it’s just a matter of time until we all have it. But let’s suppose they DO come up with a vaccine (and let’s suppose that it is proven and safe, which may be a big stretch! — but let’s just say for the sake of argument that it is proven and safe.) If they DID come up with a proven and safe vaccine, people might be tempted to say, “Oh great; we are all saved!” But that’s not really true, is it? It’s only going to save those who do what? TAKE IT! Just because the vaccine is there is not going to save a person who doesn’t personally receive it.
And that’s exactly how it is with salvation too. God has sent Jesus to die on the cross and give His body and blood for “the sins of the whole world” as I John 2 says. But in fact, just like a vaccine, He is only the actual Savior of those who take Him; who receive Him as THEIR OWN personal Lord & Savior.
John 1:12 says “as many as RECEIVED Him, to THEM He gave the right to become the children of God.”
So how do you “receive” Jesus? What, practically speaking, do you have to do to be saved? What you have to do is just what we are talking about here: you have to make this personal, just like David did in this Psalm. David said:
— Lord, rebuke ME not (He knew HE had sinned)
— He knew that HE didn’t deserve salvation, so He asked Him to be “gracious to HIM.”
— and He called out in :4 and said, “Save ME according to Your grace.”
David was saved, because he made all this personal. He asked God to do this for HIM.
And if you want to be saved, you have to make sure that YOU have made it personal too:
— You have to admit that YOU have sinned.
— You have to understand that YOU don’t “deserve” to be saved, but that it only comes to you by God’s grace, through Jesus’ body & blood on the cross.
— And you have to ask God to save YOU.
You’ve got to make it personal, in order to be saved.
If you never have done it before, why don’t you make it personal right now. Ask God to save you. And what better way to do it than to use the very words of this verse as your prayer: “Save me because of Your grace.” That’s not a complicated prayer. But it’s a life-changing prayer if you mean it. It’s very personal: “Save ME because of Your grace.” It’s admitting your sin; it’s asking Jesus to save YOU, not because you deserve it, but because of His grace. Pray that and mean it: “Save ME because of Your grace.” If you will make it personal like that, God will save you — He delights in saving people by His grace!
And for all of us today who have already received Jesus, that’s what we are remembering as we take this Lord’s Supper:
— We’re remembering that we needed saving. That’s why Jesus had to come and do what He did.
— We’re remembering that we were only saved by God’s GRACE, by what HE did on the cross for us, with His body and His blood.
— And we’re remembering that we have to make it PERSONAL. He did this for US. Like Paul said in Galatians: “He loved ME, and gave Himself for ME.”
Let’s bow our heads together as we respond to this word, and prepare to share in the Lord’s Supper …
INVITATION/PREPARATION FOR LS:
— If you’ve never done it before, ask God to save you now by HIS grace in Christ: “Save ME by Your grace …”.
— If you know Christ, rehearse in your mind what He has done for you, saving you by His grace.
— AND take time to prepare for this Lord’s Supper:
— Confess any sin
— Determine to make right any broken relationship
— Breathe a word of thanks to God for what He has done for you …
LORD’S SUPPER: I CORINTHIANS 11 …
LET’S SING TOGETHER AS WE CLOSE, REMEMBERING WHAT HE DID FOR US, when He “saved us by His grace”: “AT THE CROSS”!