“The Power of a Pure Heart”
July 29, 2018*
By Pastor John Partridge
2 Samuel 11:1-15 John 6:1-15 Ephesians 3:14-21
How many “church words” do you know?
You know what I mean. If you’ve been around churches or church people for any length of time, you begin to pick up a new vocabulary of “church words” that mean special things to “church people.” “Church words” leave unchurched people a little baffle when they hear us using them. And sometimes even church people can be a little confused. We hear these words, we know that the pastor uses them, and sometimes we might even use them ourselves, but if we’re honest, sometimes we aren’t completely sure what they mean.
I mention all of this because when we aren’t sure about the meanings of some of these words, we are also likely to misunderstand, or fail to understand, why those words are important. This morning we’re going to talk about some of these common church words. Specifically, we are going to talk about the words ‘spirit,’ ‘filled by the spirit,’ ‘heart,’ and ‘having Jesus in your heart.’ We hear these words all the time and we know that they’re supposed to be important, but at the end of the day sometimes we’re left wondering, “What difference does it make?” But it *does* make a difference. And I hope, after we work our way through today’s scriptures, that most of us will have a better understanding of these ‘church words’ and why they’re important.
We begin, once again, with the story of King David. But today we join the story in 2 Samuel 11:1-15, where we find David making what is almost certainly the greatest mistake of his entire life.
11:1 In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.
2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, 3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. 5 The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”
6 So David sent this word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David. 7 When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going. 8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. 9 But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house.
10 David was told, “Uriah did not go home.” So he asked Uriah, “Haven’t you just come from a military campaign? Why didn’t you go home?”
11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!”
12 Then David said to him, “Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13 At David’s invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go home.
14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. 15 In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.”
This is a difficult story for us because David is supposed to be a hero. As we noted last week, David is referred to as “a man after God’s own heart.” But the man in this story seems to be almost a completely different sort of fellow. In this story, during the spring when kings went off to war, David dialed it in, he sent Joab to war while he stayed home in his cedar paneled palace. When a naked woman took a bath across the street, David watched instead of looking away and then invited her over when he should have minded his own business. Then he slept with another man’s wife, tried to cover it up, and then, when he discovered that her husband, Uriah, was unfailingly loyal to his king, his country, and to his fellow soldiers, David rewarded his loyalty by betraying him and plotting his murder at the hands of the enemy.
That sure doesn’t sound like a hero to me. David’s behavior is nothing short of awful, even horrific. But this story does tell us something about the hearts of human beings, even the hearts of people who are good. We are reminded that even good people make mistakes. Good people still fall, we still sin, we still behave in ways that are brutally selfish and that ignore the commands of God even when we absolutely know better. When we read this story, we can’t help but be disappointed in David… and we should be. I’m certain that God was disappointed as well (not surprised, but disappointed nonetheless). And perhaps this allows us a taste, a sample, of how God must feel when we fail.
But before we dwell too much on sin, and selfishness, and disappointment, lets read an entirely different story about Jesus for comparison. The focus on this story, naturally, is Jesus and the miracle that he performs with the feeding of the five thousand. But as I read the story, today I want you to listen for the part of Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother because, although his part is small, his contribution changes the entire story from one of hopelessness, to one of victory, triumph, and faith. (John 6:1-15)
6:1Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near.
5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
How many of you were able to recognize the part that Andrew plays in the story?
It went by quickly, and I wouldn’t be surprised if many of you missed it.
But when Jesus asks where they can buy bread for a crowd of ten of fifteen thousand people, Philip’s answer is hopeless. Philip’s thinking runs basically in this direction, ‘We’re too far away from any town or from any bakery. There’s no way that the bakery would have enough food to feed this many people. And even if food could be found, there’s no way that we would have a fraction of the money that we would need to buy it.’
But Andrew is entirely different. Andrew has no idea how so many people can be fed. But rather than focusing on what they don’t have, Andrew focuses on the two things that they do have, the sack lunch that a loving mother packed for her son… and Jesus.
Andrew remembers that even when they didn’t have all the things they thought that they needed, what little they had, plus Jesus, had always been enough. Andrew remembered that Jesus had sent them all out to preach with no money, no food, no change of clothes, but only what they wore on their backs and staff. And with that they preached, and taught, and healed, and cast out demons, and the whole nation noticed.
Andrew reminds us all that even when it seems like we don’t have nearly enough, if we have faith, Jesus can use what we have, to accomplish far more than we ever imagined possible.
Little becomes much, when Jesus is in it.
So, as we think about the comparison of these two stories, and these two men, David and Andrew, let us also consider the words of the Apostle Paul from Ephesians 3:14-21 for some perspective.
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Paul prays that God, from his storehouse of glorious riches, might strengthen the church with power through the Holy Spirit so that Jesus Christ might dwell in our hearts through faith. Paul prays that we might be rooted and grounded in love, and be given power, so that together with all of God’s people, we might begin to understand how much Jesus loves… not just how much Jesus loves us, but how much Jesus loves everyone. Paul also says that when we begin to understand how much Jesus loves, then we will know a love that is greater than knowledge, and only then will we be filled to overflowing, Paul says “filled to the measure of all the fullness, of God.”
These two stories give us a little insight into some of those ‘church words’ I mentioned earlier. Although David was a man after God’s own heart, during the story of his encounter with Bathsheba, he was not acting in a godly way and we can see that he was not filled with the Spirit of God nor was he following the direction of the Spirit. Quite the opposite, in fact. Andrew, on the other hand, was listening and the Spirit within him prompted him to bring Jesus a sack lunch, even though he had no idea why, or how it could possibly be useful in feeding fifteen thousand people.
If you are ever tempted to ask, “What difference does it make?” to have Jesus in your heart, or to invite the Spirit of God to be at work within you, just remember these two men. By listening to God’s Spirit, Andrew’s faith allowed Jesus to do the impossible, but by ignoring that same spirit, David suffered one of his greatest failures.
When we put our faith in Jesus and invite his Spirit to be at work in us, we are empowered by God to do great, even miraculous, things even when we don’t have much to offer by ourselves. Remember that if one sack lunch can feed fifteen thousand people, God can do miracles with what you have to offer him too. Because little is much, when we offer it to God through faith.
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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org. If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online). These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.