Can a Christian Fall Into Serious Sin?

Sermon by Derek Thomas on May 3, 2009

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The Lord’s Day
Morning

May 3, 2009


II Samuel 11


“Can a Christian Fall Into Serious Sin?”

Dr. Derek W. H.
Thomas

Now turn with me if you would to II Samuel 11. Before
we read this passage, let’s once again look to God in prayer.

Lord our God, we bow once again before the
Scripture. It searches us, it knows us through and through, it points the way to
our blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Now this morning, Father, we ask for
the blessing of the Holy Spirit that as we read this passage it might be hidden
deep within our hearts. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

This is God’s word:

“In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent
Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites
and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

“It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch
and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a
woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired
about the woman. And one said, ‘Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam,
the wife of Uriah the Hittite?’ So David sent messengers and took her, and she
came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her
uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. And the woman conceived, and she
sent and told David, ‘I am pregnant.’

“So David sent word to Joab, ‘Send me Uriah the Hittite.’ And Joab
sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab was doing and
how the people were doing and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah,
‘Go down to your house and wash your feet.’ And Uriah went out of the king’s
house, and there followed him a present from the king. But Uriah slept at the
door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down
to his house. When they told David, ‘Uriah did not go down to his house,’ David
said to Uriah, ‘Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to
your house?’ Uriah said to David, ‘The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths,
and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field.
Shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you
live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.’ Then David said to
Uriah, ‘Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.’ So Uriah
remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. And David invited him, and he ate
in his presence and drank, so that he made him drunk. And in the evening he went
out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to
his house.

“In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand
of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, ‘Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest
fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.’ And
as Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew
there were valiant men. And the men of the city came out and fought with Joab,
and some of the servants of David among the people fell. Uriah the Hittite also
died. Then Joab sent and told David all the news about the fighting. And he
instructed the messenger, ‘When you have finished telling all the news about the
fighting to the king, then, if the king’s anger rises, and if he says to you,
“Why did you go so near the city to fight? Did you not know that they would
shoot from the wall? Who killed Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? Did not a
woman cast an upper millstone on him from the wall, so that he died at Thebez?
Why did you go so near the wall?” then you shall say, “Your servant Uriah the
Hittite is dead also.”’

“So the messenger went and came and told David all that Joab had
sent him to tell. The messenger said to David, ‘The men gained an advantage over
us and came out against us in the field, but we drove them back to the entrance
of the gate. Then the archers shot at your servants from the wall. Some of the
king’s servants are dead, and your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.’
David said to the messenger, ‘Thus shall you say to Joab, “Do not let this
matter trouble you, for the sword devours now one and now another. Strengthen
your attack against the city and overthrow it.” And encourage him.’

“When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she
lamented over her husband. And when the mourning was over, David sent and
brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the
thing that David had done displeased the Lord.”

Thus far God’s holy, inerrant word.

There are few passages as deep and dark as this one.
Deep, because this is David. This is the man after God’s own heart. This is the
king of Israel. This is the author of so many of the Psalms we still sing to
this day. And dark because of this sin…or perhaps more accurately these
sins, for they are many. I want us to think about this passage this morning
along four lines of thought.

I. The circumstances of David’s
temptation.

Let’s begin, shall we, considering the
circumstances of David’s temptation.
The author is telling us something in
the very first verse. It’s springtime, when kings go off to war. And he tells us
that he sends Joab, the commander of his army, he sends his best men, including
Uriah the Hittite, and all Israel. But David stays behind in Jerusalem. Now you
all know from perhaps even a modest sense of ancient history, running up until
at least the Middle Ages, that it was customary for a king to go into battle
with his men. You will know, of course, that the king would carry (or at least,
someone would carry) the king’s banner to show where he was in the fighting, and
that in the course of a battle he would be surrounded by his personal entourage
of troops. So the author is telling us at the very outset of this chapter there
is something wrong here.

It is a time of neglected duty. Something is not
right in the soul and heart of King David.
He is not the man he used to be.
The battles that we have read about in the previous chapters (that we would
have read about, had we read the opening chapters of II Samuel, chapters of
glory and triumph) have now begun to give way. Time has passed, and David…I
can’t help but think that David has begun to think that he is the most powerful
man in all the world — invincible, untouchable. He’s lost sight of God. He’s
begun, I think, to imagine that all of this he has done by the power of his own
hand and by his own strength. And something is terribly wrong in David’s heart,
because he is neglecting his duty.

It’s also a time of dampened zeal. There is no
zeal in David’s heart to sing the songs of Zion.
It’s nighttime and he
cannot sleep. Time was when David would have composed a psalm, and would have
(according to the Psalms he has written) spent the night in prayer and
watchfulness. God has put him in an extraordinary position, but something is
terribly wrong.

My dear friends, I want you to understand
something this morning. The only reason…[I speak to all of us here this morning
who profess to be the children of God]…the only reason you and I have not fallen
into sin, gross sin, terrible sin
…maybe not this sin here, but gross and
terrible sin nevertheless…the only reason why we haven’t fallen into that sin
is not because of a lack of desire on our parts
.

It is because there has been a lack of
opportunity.

God in His graciousness has put a hedge
about us, preventing us from doing the thing that we otherwise would do. I want
you all to understand that this morning. Every day, every single day we need to
thank God that we have been spared from falling into certain sins not because of
a lack of desire on our part, but because desire has not coincided with
opportunity. And it was all of God’s doing. It was His sovereign providence. It
was His graciousness. He had set a hedge about us.

Now, friends, you understand that there are times
when God removes that hedge to test us, especially when we grow too big for our
boots; especially when pride lingers in the heart; especially when we begin to
think that we are invincible and untouchable. And woe betide us, then, when God
actually provides the opportunity and says to us, ‘Have your way. Let’s see.’

II. The progress of his
enticement.

I want us to see, secondly, the progress of his
enticement.
In the first few verses, especially verses 2 and 3 and 4, the
writer uses some verbs, and I want us to pay attention to the verbs this
morning. Because it’s late in the afternoon…dusk has begun to fall…David is on
the roof of his house. He’s maybe waiting for those cool breezes that blow in
the Mediterranean when the sun goes down. And he spies across the way the roof
top of a house. And on the rooftop of that house is a woman bathing. And the
writer says, using a very particular Hebrew word, that she was very beautiful.
He saw, he sent for, and he lay with. Do you see the
progress? He saw, he sent for, he slept with. It is a progress. It is precisely
what James tells us in chapter 1:

“Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then
desire when it has conceived brings forth sin, and sin when it is fully grown
brings forth death.”

It’s exactly the same. There is a morphology, a pattern
to sin
. It is the morphology and pattern of enticement. He saw, he sent
for…he slept with. You understand he should have dealt with it at the moment he
saw. You understand that. The moment he saw, the moment the idea
entered into his brain, he should have dealt with it. He should have mortified
that thought, he should have mortified that sin. He should have destroyed it. He
should have called upon God. He should have done whatever was necessary to
prevent that sin from following its course to its conclusion.

Sin, you see, sometimes says to us, ‘Don’t ask what
the long-term consequences of this action will be, just live for the short term
gratification and worry about the consequences later.’ My friends, I want you to
understand this this morning (the words of Robert Murray M’Cheyne): “The seeds
of every known sin… [of every known sin]…lie within our hearts.” Every
one of us…the seeds of those sins lie within our hearts.

III. The complexity of his sin

Thirdly, I want us to see here the complexity of
his sin.
It’s a bit like “spot the broken commandment.” Was there adultery?
Of course. Did he dishonor the glory of God? Of course. Did he lie? Of course.
Did he covet? Of course. Did he dishonor his mother and father and bring them to
shame? Of course. There’s hardly a commandment that he hadn’t broken by the end
of this miserable, wretched story. It’s almost beyond belief, isn’t it (unless
we recognize it in our own hearts), the extent to which David tried to cover up
his sin, bringing Uriah home that he might sleep with his wife and therefore
that the child might be at least perceived to be his. But it didn’t work.
Getting him drunk…but that didn’t work either. And writing a letter and making
Uriah carry his own death warrant. You wouldn’t credit this story if you didn’t
know it was in the Bible, would you? You wouldn’t believe it, that the author of
the Twenty-third Psalm — “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me
to lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters…and restores my
soul” and so on — you wouldn’t credit that that man is this man. “Spot the
broken commandment”…the lying, the deception, the cover-up. All sin is like
that.

I’ll never forget [I think I’ve told you before, and
I’ll keep on telling you because it never really leaves my mind], I was just a
young boy — seven, eight, nine years of age — in my mother’s bedroom where on
Christmas Eve…. I knew, as we all knew — my brothers and sister, we all knew
that my mother hid the Christmas presents in her wardrobe. I knew that. We all
knew that. And it was dark. She was outside the window, looking up. I had the
light on, so I couldn’t see her. She could see me perfectly. I had my hands on
the presents…I had them in my hands, and I heard this voice as though it came
from nowhere, “Derek, what are you doing?” And my instant response without
hesitation…I said, “Nothing.” I said, “I’m not doing anything.” But she could
see me with my hands on the presents! The instant response of deception. If it
wasn’t so desperately tragic and serious….

You see, my friends, sin is deceptive. It doesn’t
come up to you and draw out a sword and say, ‘I am your enemy, fight me.’ It
doesn’t happen like that. Sin comes like Judas, kisses you on the cheek and
says, ‘I am your friend. I will honor you. I will never leave you nor forsake
you. I’ll make you feel good. I’ll make you a better person. I’ll gratify your
most inward desires.’

Do you know what adultery is? John Piper says
adultery is like casting Jesus in the title role of an X-rated movie. That’s
what adultery is. You see, when we sin we take Jesus with us. If you’re a
Christian, if you’re a believer, if you profess to know and serve the Lord Jesus
you can’t leave Jesus outside the door like you leave your boots or your shoes
outside the door, and then you come out and put them on again. You can’t do
that. You are in union with Christ. Paul, in

I Corinthians 6…you know, if Paul hadn’t written it I
wouldn’t have believed that this was possible…but Paul says in I Corinthians 6
about the Corinthians who were complicit in a sin as bad as this one, that when
you sin, when you commit adultery, when you go and visit prostitutes (in the
case of I Corinthians 6), you take Jesus with you. You bring Him into open
shame.

IV. The heart of David’s
failure.

Fourthly, I want us to see the heart of David’s
failure.
Turn over the page to chapter 12 and verse 10, and Nathan is
speaking. Nathan is a prophet. Nathan is the man who tells this little story.
It’s a heart rending story about a king who has lots of sheep of his own but he
slays the sheep for a sacrifice and for food…he slays the only little pet lamb
that this man has. And as David heard this story (he’s a shepherd, remember), it
just gets to him. The injustice of it all! And Nathan turns to him, you
remember, and says, “You are the man.”

Well, Nathan is speaking in verse 10 of the next
chapter (and it’s the voice of God, of course):

“Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have
despised Me….”

David has despised the Lord. That’s what this is about.

You don’t think that you could ever be brought to
that position where you would commit a sin in willful defiance of what God says
in His word. My friend, if you think like that, there’s a word from scripture
for you: “Take heed, you that think that you stand, lest you fall.” Take heed if
you think that you can stand all by yourself and that these sins will never ever
darken your doorsteps, will never tempt and allure you. “Take heed, lest you
fall.” David despised the Lord.

But look at the last verse of chapter 11:

“The thing that David had done displeased the
Lord.”

David despised the Lord, and the Lord was displeased with
David.

This is the heart of this story. Can a Christian
fall into sin? Big sin, gross sin, terrible sin, awful sin? Of course. Of
course, is the answer. It is all so dreadfully possible.

This passage is here for many reasons, but it is
here to warn us…to warn us. It says to us, I think, several things.
It says
to us first of all we need to guard our minds. We need to guard our hearts. We
need to make sure that the word of God is dwelling deep within our hearts. It’s
telling us we need to make sure that we are keeping close fellowship with God.
It’s saying to us that we need to have regular — regular — times of
prayer and fellowship with God.

And if this morning I’m speaking to you and you are
not the man or woman that you once were…your heart doesn’t sing for joy as it
once did…you no longer sing, “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s
ear,” and you have begun to drift and to slip your moorings, then, my dear
friend, you are in mortal danger. Do you understand that? You are in mortal
danger. And this morning let this passage be a warning to you to pull you back
from where you are and to set your course and sail in the direction it ought to
be going. Don’t let this day pass. Don’t let this day pass until you have come
to God and pleaded with Him to bring you back to where you once were and set
your soul aflame for Him.

I may be speaking this morning — and I have no
particular intent in doing so — but I may be speaking to someone this morning
for whom this is the very sin…this is the very sin with which you are being
tempted. To you especially, whoever you may be — businessman on the road,
husband or wife whose marriage is perhaps in some degree of difficulty and
trouble — my dear friends, learn to love your spouse again as the bride of your
youth, as the husband of your youth, and heed the voice of Jesus in this
passage. Maybe it’s too late. Maybe it’s too late. Maybe the line has already
been crossed. And I want to say to you, yes, there is a way back. There is a way
back. It’s on the other side of repentance. It’s on the other side of
confession. It’s undoubtedly on the other side of some pain, but there is a way
back into the arms of Jesus.

Our gospel says to us this morning that the blood of
Jesus covers all our sins, including these. What a gospel! What a Savior! I
trust, my friends, that this passage will be a warning to you and to me today to
“run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the
author and finisher of our faith.”

Well, let’s sing together Turn Your Eyes Upon
Jesus
. It’s No. 481.

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