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Archive for the ‘Sin’ Category

The 9 Marks Newsletter for Sept-Oct 2010 was recently posted on the internet.  This issue is entitled “Hell: Remembering the Awful Reality” and it is a clear, biblical reminder of the existence and purpose of hell.  Although hell is an unpopular topic today (even among conservative Christians), it is a reality which we must never forget.  Our belief in the eternal judgment of God provides much of the impetus in our evangelism and worship (i.e. shouldn’t we rejoice that we have been saved from the everlasting wrath of God by the work of Jesus?)

Following is the introduction to this issue, written by Jonathan Leeman:

“Wisdom so often in life prescribes moderation. It‘s wise to eat with moderation, to speak with moderation, to feel with moderation, some would even say to believe with moderation.

But there‘s absolutely nothing moderate about the doctrine of hell. It‘s extreme in every way. It‘s an extreme idea for the mind. It‘s an extreme confrontation for the heart. And it blows against all the rules of social etiquette.

Embracing the reality of hell means setting aside moderation. It means admitting that our sin is dark and heinous to the point of eternal damnation; that the white light of God‘s character and glory justly destroys those who have fallen short of his glory; and that that our non-Christians friends have nothing greater to fear. That‘s tough to do when you have moderate views of your sin, your friend‘s sin, and of God‘s glory.

Embracing the reality of hell also means going against the fallen cultural structures and belief systems of this world, all of which conspire together with our own hearts to repeat the serpent‘s promise of a moderate outcome, “You will surely not die.”

As hard as it is to stare at the doctrine of hell, surely it must be salubrious to our faith to do so from time to time. It forces us to once again reckon with who God is and who we are.”

It is worth your time to read this newsletter.  (I was particularly encouraged, convicted and edified by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson’s article entitled “What Then Shall We Preach on Hell?”)  You can find the newsletter available for online reading or downloading here http://www.9marks.org/ejournal/hell-remembering-awful-reality.

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I have listened to this excerpt from Matt Chandler on several occasions recently and have found it to be particularly insightful regarding misconceptions of the gospel which are common in the church today.  It is not too long and it is certainly worth your time to watch.

Praise God that He loved us while we were yet sinners!!!

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Tim Challies recently posted some thoughts on whether or not doctrinal error is sin.  I found his post to be clear, thoughtful and to the point.  It is worth reading.   You can find it here http://www.challies.com/christian-living/a-captive-conscience.

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Psalm 119:21 (ESV) – You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones, who wander from your commandments.

Reading through Charles Bridges’ commentary on Psalm 119, I came across the following quote regarding this verse which spoke powerfully to me…

“We wonder not at this expression of the mind of God concerning pride.  There is no sin more abhorrent to His character.  It is as if we were taking the crown from His head, and placing it upon our own.  It is man making a god of himself – acting from himself, and for himself.  Nor is this principle less destructive to our own happiness.  And yet it is not only rooted, but it often rears its head and blossoms, and bears fruit, even in hearts which ‘hate and abhor’ its influence.  It is most like its father, the devil, in serpentine deceitfulness.  It is always active – always ready imperceptibly to mix itself up with everything.  When it is mortified in one shape, it rises in another.  When we have thought that it was gone, in some unexpected moment we find it here still.  It can convert everything into nourishment, even God’s choicest gifts – yea, the graces of His Spirit.  Let no saint, therefore, however near he may be living to God, however favored with the shinings of His countenance – consider himself beyond the reach of this temptation… But can a sinner – can a saint – be proud? – one that owes everything to free and sovereign grace – one that has wasted so much time – abused so much mercy – so grieved the Spirit of God – that has a heart so full of atheism – unbelief – selfishness?  Nay, the very pride itself should be the matter of the deepest daily humiliation.  Thus the remembrance of it may, under Divine grace, prove an effectual means of subduing it in our hearts” (Charles Bridges, An Exposition of Psalm 119, Banner of Truth, pg 46-47.)

He concludes with the following prayer…

“Lord!   Teach us to bless Thee, for even Thy sharp and painful discipline which tends to subjugate this hateful pride of our hearts before our Savior’s cross!” (Bridges, pg, 47-48.)

Amen!

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The following is a sermon preached at First Baptist Church in Pine, Arizona on Sunday morning, July 12, 2009:

I don’t watch the news much, because I find most of it to be depressing and not all that edifying.  But recently, I was struck by an event which was reported on most of the news stations.  No… I’m not talking about the death of Michael Jackson.  I’m talking about the recent news regarding South Carolina’s Governor, Mark Sanford, and the public announcement that he was having an extra-marital affair.  As I have somewhat followed this story, I find myself very sad.  It is a tragedy that this man, who professes to be a Christian, could have fallen so far into sin.  And the consequences have been devastating.  His family is broken.  His Christian witness is tarnished.  And the name of Jesus Christ has suffered shame.

I hear the account of this man’s sin and my thoughts immediately go to myself.  Could I fall into gross sin, like he did?

Let me ask you a question… could you?

How does a Christian fall so far into sin?

We need to recognize that temptation and sin can strike anyone at anytime.  None of us are immune.  If we are honest, often we don’t even try to fight it.  We simply give into our own sinful desires and wander off down the primrose path of sin with little or no provocation. It might not be sin as far-reaching as adultery, but sin is sin and all sin is displeasing to God.  Often we don’t even try to fight it.

Sometimes, we try to put up a fight, but we don’t really realize what we are fighting or how to fight it.  Part of this stems from the fact that we don’t stop to think about how temptation and sin work in our lives.

How are we tempted?

What are the steps which lead us into sin?

In one of his speeches, Governor Sanford made reference to the sin of King David with Bathsheba.  And although, as a student of Scripture, I could poke holes in some of his statements regarding the biblical account of David’s fall, I do think that David’s sin gives us a very clear picture of how temptation and sin work in our lives.  So that is what we are going to look at today…

Open your Bibles to II Samuel 11

This is an important text in the life of David.  It provides something of a hinge point in David’s life.  Up until this point, David’s life was a long, upward climb of blessing.  God chose David to be king over His people Israel and God blessed him with success and wealth.  And as God’s representative among the people, David was expected to live according to God’s standards and lead God’s people in doing the same.  And for the most part, he did that.  He is described as “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22, I Samuel 13:14.)  He is called the “sweet psalmist of Israel” (II Sam 23:1).  He is the only figure in the Old Testament Scriptures who is said to have been permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit (I Sam 16:13.)

But David… just like us… was a sinful human being.  When he was good… he was very, very good… but when he was bad… he could be downright wicked.

Just like us…

The first ten chapters of II Samuel describe for us David’s rise to power… but then we encounter chapter 11… where we see just how far God’s people can fall into sin…

Verse 1 is very important, because it sets the stage for what is to come.  We are told in verse 1 that “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” (II Sam 11:1.)

This is the continuing account of the war which began back in chapter 10.  Israel had gone to war with the Ammonites and they had been victorious over the Syrians, who were the allies of the Ammonites.  But then came autumn.  No one went to war in the fall, because this was the harvest season and if you didn’t bring in the harvest… whether you won the war or not… your family would starve.  Then came the rainy season of the winter.  They didn’t have good roads like we do today.  Travel came to pretty much a standstill in the winter.  But come spring, it was open season for war again.

But more importantly for us to notice, this was the time when kings went out to war.  Yet where do we find King David here?  He is at home in Jerusalem… enjoying the leisure of his palace.  The impression we are given here is that every able-bodied male in Israel was out on the front line, fighting against the Ammonites, while David is at home, relaxing and enjoying the privileges afforded him as king of Israel.

One day… David gets up after his afternoon nap and he is walking on the roof of his palace and he spies a beautiful woman bathing in a house below.

Now I have heard many commentators accuse Bathsheba of immodesty here.  Some even go so far as to suggest that she was trying to entice the affections of the king (Eugene Merrill, Bible Knowledge Commentary, II Samuel 11:1-2.)  But we should remember that most homes in ancient Israel did not have the kind of privacy which we have come to expect today.  Furthermore, we need to remember that David is on the roof of the palace… which towers over the rest of the city.  He had a unique vantage point from which to observe this woman… a vantage point which probably no one else in the city had.  And he took advantage of it.  The Hebrew here implies that this wasn’t just a brief glimpse of something he shouldn’t have seen.  No.  David watched here during the entire process of her bath.  And as he watched her, he began to wonder who she was.

We should note that David already had multiple wives and concubines (II Sam 2:2, 3:2-5, 5:13.)  He wasn’t exactly lacking in the area of companionship.  But he wanted something more.  He wanted this woman.

So he begins asking around about her. Who is she?  And it seems he doesn’t have to wait long to find out the answer.  She is the daughter of Eliam… one of David’s mighty men and… probably… the granddaughter of David’s trusted advisor Ahithophel (II Sam 23:34.)  But… more importantly… she is also the wife of one of David’s faithful soldiers, Uriah the Hittite (see II Sam 23:39.)

Pause and think about this for a moment.  David may not have known Bathsheba personally… but he knew her husband personally.  He was a mighty man who had served David faithfully. He knew her father and her grandfather.  Shouldn’t this have had some effect on David?  Let’s be honest… he already had more than enough female companions… his eye shouldn’t have been wandering in the first place.  But when he discovered whose wife and daughter and granddaughter she was… you would think the matter would be closed.  But it wasn’t…

Verse 4 says, “So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her…” (II Sam 11:4.)  He sent his messengers and “took” her.  The Hebrew is really strong here.  He took her for his own.  Yes… it also says that she “came to him.”  She wasn’t entirely innocent in this.  But Scripture seems to lay the bulk of the blame on David.  He was… after all… God’s anointed one… a man after God’s own heart… the sweet Psalmist of Israel.  He was expected to be an example for all of God’s people.  Yet he chooses here to do what he knows is wrong.

He took her and had his way with her… then sent her home.  How insulting!  How disrespectful!  How wicked!  And it seems that he thought the matter was over… until she contacts him and says, “I am pregnant.”  Verse 4 says that “she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.”  At the risk of being overly blunt, this probably implies that she was cleansing herself from ritual uncleanness after her menstrual cycle.  Since her husband was away in the service of David… it tells us in no uncertain terms that this is David’s child.

David has a problem.  What will he do?  He will attempt to cover up his sin.

Moving quickly through the text, we see that David summons Uriah home from the front line under false pretenses, hoping that he will go home and sleep with his wife and… nine months later… everyone will be congratulating Uriah at the birth of his child.

But Uriah stands in sharp contrast to David, despite the fact that he is a Hittite and not an Israelite.  David is living in luxury while his men are sweating and bleeding and dying on the front line… but Uriah is cut from a different cloth.  He refuses to enjoy the comforts of home while his comrades are out on the battlefield.  Even when David gets him drunk… he still won’t go home to be with his wife.

So David’s hand is forced.  Something must be done to Uriah.  “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”  (II Samuel 11:14-15.)

Do you see how despicable this is?  David takes this man’s wife, impregnates her, then manipulates Uriah into carrying his own death sentence to Joab.

Do you see how far the godly can fall???

And Joab is obedient to his king.  In fact, he goes above and beyond to fulfill David’s wishes.  He doesn’t just send out Uriah to his death, but some of David’s other servants as well, lest anyone get suspicious (II Sam 11:16-17.)

The problem is now solved!  Isn’t it???

When Bathsheba hears that her husband is dead… she mourns for an appropriate length of time… which in these days would have been a measly 7 days (MacArthur Study Bible, II Samuel 11:27)… then David took her into his home and made her his wife.

We should note that Bathsheba mourned for Uriah.  Whether this was true mourning or simply external formalities, we don’t know.  But there is no mention of David mourning for him.  If you read through II Samuel as a whole, you see how striking this is.  David spends almost a whole chapter mourning the death of Saul… who had done everything within his power to kill David (II Sam 1:11-27.)  He spends half a chapter mourning the death of Abner… Saul’s general (II Sam 3:31-39.)  But when Uriah… one of his most faithful men… dies at David’s own decree… he doesn’t even seem to shed a tear.  I think this is a testimony to just how far David has fallen into sin at this point.  His heart is hardened to the point where he doesn’t seem affected at all by what he has done.

Look at how far this “man after God’s own heart has fallen”!!!

The Progress of Temptation and Sin in the Life of David

We should take this to heart.  If David… God’s anointed king… the “sweet Psalmist of Israel”… “a man after God’s own heart” could fall into such heinous sin… then aren’t we susceptible as well?

In I Corinthians 10, Paul is speaking explicitly about the sin of children of Israel in the wilderness, but listen and tell me whether or not it applies here as well…

1 Corinthians 10:11-14 (ESV) – 11 Now these things happened to them (specifically idolatry and sexual immorality) as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

The examples of failure found all throughout Scripture should stand as sharp examples for us of what not to do.  If David could fall into sin of this magnitude… then certainly we can as well.  But God always provides a way of escape.  In order to find this escape route… it is helpful to examine the progress of temptation and sin… and II Samuel 11 provides us with a good example of the pattern which temptation and sin often follow in our lives.  Not all sin follows this pattern… but much of it does…

With that said… notice that there are 7 steps in the progression of temptation and sin described here:

We see in verse 1 that David is not where he is supposed to be.  If he had been fulfilling the obligations which God had laid upon him as king of Israel… then this sin would never have happened.

Although it may be a bit of a stretch to apply this to our situation today… it is clear in Scripture that we are more prone to temptation and sin when we are consistently failing to engage in those activities which God has given to us to keep us from sin.  For example:

1)      The Psalmist says that he has hidden God’s Word in his heart that he might not sin against Him (Psalm 119:11.)

2)      Jesus told His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane to watch and pray that they might not enter into temptation (Matt 26:41.)

3)      The author of Hebrews writes that we are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together so that we will not abandon our confession of faith and fall into sin (Heb 10:23-27.)

Now I want to be clear… no matter what we do… we will never be sinless in this life.  But if we are failing to take advantage of the means of grace which God has given to us… then we should not be surprised when we constantly fall prey to temptation and sin.

If we are not making an effort to spend time in God’s Word and prayer and seeking to worship God… both privately and corporately… and forsaking fellowship with one another… then we are not where we are supposed to be… and we become particularly vulnerable to temptation and sin.

Secondly, we see that temptation attacked David through his physical senses.  He “saw” Bathsheba… and he made no effort to filter out the temptation from his sight.

Unlike Job, who made a covenant with his eyes that he would not look upon young virgins (Job 31:1)… David let his eyes wander to sin.

We must take care what we look upon… and what we listen to… and what we smell and taste… for this is often the way in which temptation attacks.

Next, we see that after David saw Bathsheba… he pondered what this sin might be.  He inquired about her.  He toyed with the idea of the sin in his mind.

This is always a dangerous thing to do.  Yet how often are we guilty of this?  We think about what it might be like if… just this once… we were to indulge our sinful desires.  Maybe it isn’t sexual immorality that we desire… but when we ponder how easy it is to cheat or manipulate others for our own gain… or when we indulge fantasies of what it would be like to take revenge upon those who have wronged us… when we do that… aren’t we taking a big step in the direction of actually committing that sin???

Fourth… after David let his eyes and imagination wander… he took action… and the result was death… literally, physical death for others… and discipline for himself.

James, in his New Testament epistle, describes this same cycle very well…

James 1:14-16 (ESV) – 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.

Temptation begins within our own sinful hearts.  We sin because we want to sin.  Our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer 17:9.) The natural thoughts and intentions of our hearts apart from the work of God are only evil continually, we are told in Genesis 6:5.  When we pamper these sinful desires… when we nurture them and encourage them in the fertile soil of our deceitful hearts… they grow and give birth to the act of sin… which results in death.  If we think otherwise… we are deceiving ourselves…

David was deceiving himself when he gave way to the desires of his own heart and allowed his eyes to linger upon a woman that he should not have looked at, pondering what it might be like to let his desires come to fruition.  And the result of his self-deception was sin.

Fifth, we see that David was not content to sin alone.  His sin spread outward to others as he involved them in his sin.  First…he involved his servants in his sin… then Bathsheba… and finally Joab.  David leads others down the primrose path into sin of their own.

Sin loves company.  O how often we, just like David, lead others down the road into sin.  Maybe we aren’t leading people into sexual sin.  But consider the sin of gossip.  How often we speak a misguided word here or there… to this person or that person.  And what do they do in response?  They begin to think things they shouldn’t think about others.  They share this new found information with others.  Sin loves company… and often we drag others with us when we stumble into sin.

Sixth, he attempted to cover up his sin.  He didn’t want to be discovered.  He was willing to stoop to any length in order to keep his sin a secret… even if it meant murder.

This seems to be a pretty common progression of temptation and sin in the life of God’s people.  Time won’t allow us to examine this in detail, but it shows remarkable similarity to the fall of mankind described in Genesis 3

–          Eve shouldn’t have spent time talking with anyone who cast doubt on the goodness of God.  She was where she wasn’t supposed to be…

–          She “saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes”… temptation entered through the senses… and she saw that “the tree was to be desired to make one wise”… meaning she pondered what this sin might be like… then she took it and ate (Gen 3:6.)

–          Then she involved Adam in her sin.

–          Then they both tried to cover up their sin… with coverings made of fig leaves and by hiding from God (Gen 3:7-8.)

I would suggest that if we examine the pattern of temptation and sin in our own lives… we will find something similar.

But there is one last factor in this progression which I think precedes everything else here.  Look at the last phrase in verse 27… “…But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord” (II  Sam 11:27.)  Literally… “…the thing which David had done was evil in the eyes of Yahweh.”  This tells us that God was watching.  God’s eyes were on David the whole time.

He was watching David as he neglected to be where he was supposed to be.

He was watching David’s wandering eyes and wandering imagination.

He was watching as David sinned and dragged other people into his sin.

He was watching David’s pathetic attempts to cover up his sin.

God’s eyes are always upon us.  He is always watching.

But there is something else which is very significant about this phrase.  It is the only time God is mentioned in the entire chapter.  God is virtually absent from everything described here.

What does that tell us?  It tells us that God was the farthest thing from David’s mind as he wandered willfully into this sin.  Although David knew God personally… intimately… he seems to be intentionally trying to forget that.  He is suppressing the knowledge of God… ignoring that He is there and watching.  He is doing much the same thing which we see described of unbelievers in Romans 1…

Romans 1:18-25 (ESV) – 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Here we are told that unbelievers know that God exists, yet they choose to suppress this knowledge and they worship the creation rather than the Creator.  The result is that God gives them over to their sin and foolishness… which spirals downward into sexual immorality.

Don’t we see this same progression functioning here in David as well?  David knows that God is there.  He has a more intimate knowledge of God than unbelievers do… yet he pushes this knowledge out of his mind… and seeks to worship the “god” of his fleshly desires rather than the God who has freely poured out his lovingkindness upon him.  And the results are not that different from what we see described in Romans 1… David falls into sexual sin.  Thinking he is wise… he has become a fool.

And yet there is a difference… an incredible difference, particularly as we follow this account into the next chapter and see that… rather than giving David over to his sin forever… God disciplines him and brings him back to Himself.

In II Samuel 12:1, it is God who sends the prophet, Nathan, to confront David in his sin.  God does not leave him in this downward spiral.  God convicts David and begins to draw him back to Himself.

In II Samuel 12:13, after David confesses his sin before God, the prophet, Nathan, tells David that, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die…”  Not that David gets off scott free.  The thing which David had done displeased the LORD… and God disciplined him.  David’s wives would later be defiled by his own son, Absalom, as disgusting as that it (II Sam 12:11, 16:22.)  His family would be rocked by unending strife (II Sam 12:10.)  And the child born to Bathsheba would die (II Sam 12:14, 18.)

Do not be deceived.  God is not mocked.  If we sow the seeds of sin, we will reap the harvest of discipline (Gal 6:7-8.)  And yet there is forgiveness for God’s people.  Not because we deserve it.  But because God has put away the sin of His people.

If this account of David’s sin teaches us anything… it is that no one is immune to temptation and sin.  If we are honest… then we are no better than David.  We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God… and we all continue to fall short of the glory of God.  There are days and times when we act as if God is not there… when we pretend that He is not watching.  Far too often, we fail to avail ourselves of the means of grace which God has given us to keep us from sin.  We allow ourselves to be drawn away after the temptations of this world.  We ponder the possibilities of sin, then we take action and violate God’s law.  We involve others in our sin and seek to cover up our failures.

We are no better than David.  That is why we all need a Savior.

How is it that God can put away David’s sin and ours?  It is not because we deserve it.  We deserve death.  It is only because Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, bore the punishment we deserve for our sin.  He suffered the death that we deserve so that God could stamp, “Paid in Full” over our account.  It is only when we turn away from our sin and trust in Jesus that our debt can be paid.  This is the only way we can be forgiven for our failures in the face of temptation and sin.  This is the only way that the displeasure of God can be removed from us.

Does this describe you?  Do you recognize yourself in the example of David?  Do you see that you have sinned?  Have you confessed this sin before God and are you trusting in Jesus to save you from the judgment to come?  I pray that you have, for there is no other way to be forgiven for our sin.

If you are a Christian, then I would urge you to take to heart the words of the Apostle Paul… “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (I Cor 10:12)

Don’t you think this would be David’s advice to us as well?

Don’t you think this would be Governor Mark Sanford’s advice?  Rather than coming forward after the fact and seeking forgiveness for his sin… don’t you think Governor Sanford wishes that he had thought through these things and taken precautions to not let temptation and sin get a foothold in his life?

We should all take this to heart and take care lest we fall… for none of us are immune to temptation and sin.

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While remembering Good Friday, John Piper carries on an imaginary conversation with death.  It isn’t very long, but it is quite powerful.  It is certainly worth your time to read.  You can find it here http://www.desiringgod.org/Blog/1726_a_conversation_with_death_on_good_friday/.

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Mathew 26:36-39 (ESV) 36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37  And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38  Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39  And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

 

The following video is an excerpt from C.J. Mahaney’s message “The Cup.”  Watch it and be reminded of the grace of our God in Jesus Christ…

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