Scattered Hearts

Scriptures: 2 Samuel 11:1-15; Psalm 14; Ephesians 3:14-21

As fallen human beings, we all have hearts which are scattered every which way except God’s. We get distracted by all the various sins (as I’ll note in a moment, as we go through a short version of David and Bathsheba), and we can have a general attitude that is in the psalm, and fail to meet God’s standard of a pure heart.

But Paul tells us in Ephesians that God can fix that, drawing our scattered hearts in and giving them singularity of purpose and focus, and giving us the power to do whatever it is that He calls us and asks us to do.

Now, everyone has a sinful heart, and we all have our own sins. We have quite a listing in the story of David and Bathsheba. It’s a very well-known story, but apparently not as well-known as I originally thought.

Those of you who have been in the Tuesday Bible study may remember, three or four years ago when we first started, I showed you a VHS film. It was a Veggie Tales film, and it was called “King George and the Ducky.”

I did this not just here, I did this up at the church in Michigan too, I’ve done it in multiple Bible studies, and my question is always, “What story in the Bible is this about?” So far I’ve only had one person who got it right, in all the Bible studies I’ve shown it to.

It’s the story of David and Bathsheba, set in a way that children can learn from it and appreciate it, without getting into the “stuff” that David and Bathsheba get into. So if you ever want to see a child-friendly version of a good Bible story, you just watch Veggie Tales’ “King George and the Ducky.”

David was in Jerusalem. Now some people say that was a sin to start with, cowardice, in some of the commentaries that I read. Because kings normally went out with their armies and fought. Now I don’t really that it was cowardice, because David showed his courage many, many times before.

But for some reason, David was in Jerusalem during the season when wars occurred. (You know, they couldn’t fight very well in the winter, because they couldn’t maintain the supplies to their men.) David was around, wandering around on the roof of his palace. He was looking out, and he saw a beautiful woman on a rooftop. And she was naked.

Now, some people start blaming Bathsheba at that point in time, that she shouldn’t have been up there, doing what she was doing. Some say she was doing rituals of cleanliness after her period. Others say she was doing rites of fertility. (If so, they apparently worked.) Regardless, she was up on the roof, probably not expecting anybody to be watching. And David was taken by her beauty.

Now there is nothing wrong with appreciating beauty. But when we appreciate beauty in any form, then we need to be very careful that it doesn’t slide over into covetousness or lust, depending on what it is. David apparently allowed that to happen.

So he called her into the palace. Now, nobody’s going to say no to the king. Not when he can cut your head off without due process. He called her there, and it wasn’t for tea and crumpets. So in the Biblical sense they “knew” each other. Then he sent her home. And she found out that she was pregnant.

So David had then committed sins not only of lust after another man’s wife (and he had around five or six of his own), but then he also committed adultery, since he was married and she was married. So he had already committed adultery, and then he found out she was pregnant.

Instead of owning up to it, then he decided to commit another sin (well, not on purpose). I call it the cover-up. He decided to call Uriah back from the army on false pretenses, so David was also bearing false witness. He was trying to get Uriah to sleep with his wife so then he could say, “That’s his child.”

Only, Uriah was a man of great courage and idealism, and even though he wasn’t a Jew – by the way, all the stuff David did was not “illegal” in a civic law sort of sense, because the king can claim other people’s property, as it were (and women, unfortunately, were seen as that. And Uriah wasn’t even a Jew. It doesn’t even say he was a God-fearer. He was a Hittite, a foreigner. He had no rights under Jewish law.

But David brings Uriah in there, and he tries to get him to sleep with his wife. Uriah refuses to do so, out of idealism, as he tells David. “All my compatriots are sleeping in the fields. I can’t sleep in a bed with my wife and be all cozy and comfortable, when they’re out there suffering hardship.”

Then David does something even worse. He essentially sends Uriah back with his own writ of execution. He creates a sealed letter and gives it to Uriah, and says, “Give this to Joab.” The letter tells Joab, “Make sure that this guy dies, and make it look like an accident.”

Now in our courts today, we call that conspiracy to murder. If it succeeds, then you are an accessory to murder, and you can be charged with murder yourself. Even though you didn’t do it directly, you’re the one who caused it.

So here we have David – let’s see, he’s gone through lust, which is like coveting, he’s gone through adultery, false witness, a kind of thievery, since he stole a man’s wife. And I’m pretty sure that all that stuff counts as not respecting his parents and the law that Jesse tried to teach to his son at the time.

Yet we have a man here who is called a man after God’s own heart. We could sit in judgment on him. It wouldn’t do us a whole lot of good or be productive about it. Because, ultimately, he repents of the sin that he did, and he does what needs to be done to set himself right with God.

Each of us, while it may not be as drastic as David’s sin, has committed our own sins, and we have our own favorites that we do as well. Our hearts are frequently skewed toward that desire, that sin, that lust for whatever it might be.

We even act as if there is no God. A study recently showed that, for all the changes that are going on in our culture, did you know that 76% of the people still call themselves Christian? Now, that’s down from 94, and then 86. But I mean, 76%, three-quarters of the nation, still call themselves Christian. And 49% call themselves “evangelical” Christians.

And yet, look at where we are as a culture. They certainly don’t live as if they are followers of Christ. We certainly don’t live, in this American culture today, as if we believe there is a God, that there will be a day of judgment, that there will be a time coming when things will be made right, when Christ comes again. We live, so frequently, as if we don’t believe there is a God.

We even come to church, and we might feel good, and we go through church and we get all inspired, and then on the way home, you know, somebody on that two-lane 61 there is going 40 miles an hour and there’s no tractor in front of them, and we get irritated as all get-out.

Suddenly we’re not acting very Christian. Rage isn’t listed as one of the sins in the Ten Commandments, but Jesus says that counts as murder in your heart, so I guess it fits in that way. And we totally lost, already, our focus and our desire.

And yet it’s there for us, if we simply open ourselves to it. The Holy Spirit is present for us. Paul said, in his letter to the Ephesians, in 3:16-17, he prayed that God “would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”

The inner man is something that he refers to all the time, for the person who is the believer, who’s been transformed and renewed in Jesus Christ. He talks in other places about the battle between the old man or the carnal man, and this inner spiritual man.

Just because you’ve been converted, you’ve taken Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, doesn’t mean it’s all over and done with. It’s a marathon, as Paul likes to say elsewhere, and you have to run the long race, and you have to stay true.

In order to do that, you have to depend on this power. You have to pray for the power of the Holy Spirit. This power is great enough to help us achieve anything that God has called us to achieve. We seem to forget that. We live like we don’t believe it.

Now, I think in part it’s because – and this was an example I saw in my searches online for illustrations – we don’t see it in fireworks, we don’t see it in a huge display of power. We look at a nuclear bomb, and that goes off with a big bang, and flash, and nobody will ever forget Nagasaki or Hiroshima.

But there are nuclear power plants – in France, 76% of the electrical power that is provided in that country is provided by nuclear power plants (I bet you didn’t know that one either). It’s a quiet power. Every one of those nuclear facilities has the ability to give off just as big an explosion as a nuclear bomb. But the power is restrained and directed and focused and taken care of. Nobody even thinks about it. You take it for granted.

In a like manner, in the beginning of the church, the Holy Spirit came with a big pyrotechnic display of power, as there was a huge sound like a rushing wind, there were tongues of flame split upon the apostles, there were healings, there was speaking in tongues, there were all kinds of miracles. That was necessary at that time.

But just because those things don’t occur every day now doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit is not present with us at this very moment and that power’s not available to us in our own lives.

In West Texas, there is a famous oil field known as the Yates Pool. During the Depression, this field was a sheep ranch owned by a man named Yates. Mr. Yates was not able to make enough money on his ranching operation to pay the principal and interest on the mortgage, so he was in danger of losing his ranch. With little money for clothes or food, his family, like many others, had to live on a government subsidy.

Day after day, as he grazed his sheep, he wondered how he would be able to pay his bills. Then a seismograph crew from an oil company came into the area and told Mr. Yates that there might be oil on his land. They asked permission to drill a wildcat well, and he signed a lease contract.

At 1,115 feet they struck a huge oil reserve. The first well came in at 80,000 barrels a day. Many of the later wells were more than twice as large. Thirty years after the first well was drilled, all the wells still had the potential of pumping 125,000 barrels of oil a day. And Mr. Yates owned it all!

The day he purchased the property, he received the oil and mineral rights, yet he was living on government assistance. A multimillionaire living in poverty! What was the problem? He did not know the oil was there. He owned it, but he did not know it!

I sometimes think this is similar to us as Christians. we have some really good things available to us in Christ, but often we don’t even realize it! And we don’t put these things to use in life. One of them is the power to overcome obstacles and difficulties in life. Doesn’t this idea of power sound good? It is good and it’s from God and it is ours if we’ll just avail ourselves of that power.

So how do we avail ourselves of that power? Well, Paul makes it very clear. “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” That’s a euphemism for prayer. You don’t have to bow your knees, although it certainly is a good position and posture to be in. Some of us may have problems getting up, though, if we get on our knees.

But you need to pray. You need to pray for God’s power to be manifest in your life. You need to pray for the sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit, who is there with you. Prayer is our key for unlocking the power that is there for us to grab hold of.

It’s like what Corrie Ten Boom said about prayer. She said, “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” Why not make the Lord in prayer your steering wheel instead of your spare tire?! There’s even a country song by Carrie Underwood called “Jesus, take the wheel.” Maybe you’ve heard it.

We pray for the Spirit’s presence in our lives and we pray for power. And we should pray in a certain way. Paul notes that he asks that “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”

Phillips Brooks, a preacher, said, “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers, pray for powers equal to your task.” Amen! Whatever God calls a person to do, it can be done with God’s strength.

This is our need today. We need to take our scattered hearts and we need to focus on God and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit needs to have a monopoly on our lives and when He does, we will experience greater power for life and service.

Now I know in America, monopoly is a bad word. They’re always trying to break up monopolies, supposedly, in the government – except the government monopolies. Personally I hate the game Monopoly. But the fact of the matter is, in this particular case, when you’re speaking of a monopoly of our lives, that means that we need to have somebody who runs every aspect of our life.

Our instinct is for it to be us. We want to be in control. But we are shortsighted and limited in our perspective and our heart. We don’t have all knowledge. We don’t have all power. We need to consciously turn over to God, in prayer.

We need to do this as individuals and we need to do this as a church. E. M. Bounds wrote: “The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men. The Holy Spirit does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men…and those are men of prayer.”

The Holy Spirit can strengthen our inner being or our human spirit if we ask God for His strength. But what if we don’t ask? What if we try to make it on our own strength? Does this mean that we have to go it alone or without help? I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t want to try to do things on my own. I know my limitations of will and strength.

I want to rely on God’s Spirit to strengthen me for life and service. I can’t serve or teach and preach without His help! Maybe you can. Maybe you can go through your life without God’s help. If you do, then I will stand in amazement of you. But the fact is, even if you think you are doing it without God’s help, you could do so much more with God’s help.

So my challenge to you this week and beyond is to open yourselves up, to begin to take your scattered heart and focus it on the One who has died for you, the One who has given you a purpose and a meaning in life, the One who has given you life itself. That you pray to God, that the Holy Spirit’s presence would be manifest to you, that His power would flow through you, and that you would become a channel for God’s work in today’s world.

The fool says in his heart, “there is no God.” From what I know of you, none of you are fools. But it is time to show the world, who is foolish and unknowing and uncaring, what it means to know God and to be one of His children. And through your life and your witness, may you give God the praise and the glory, in all that you do.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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