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Discover the Book - July 20, 2008

  • 2008 Jul 20

Just As I Am


Psalm 40

Christ is our refuge. We can flee to Him at any time, in any condition, and He will never turn anyone away. In a pitiful, muddy mess David trudges to the Lord. Like children on their way back from digging along a creek, head to toe in mud—David came just like he was to the Lord.

In Psalm 40, David cries out in his need to the Lord and says what we all should say—we are dirty sinners by the standard of our Holy God and can only come to Him as we acknowledge and confess that truth. Then and only then can He take us in.

There was an old expression when I was growing up that described someone who was down emotionally, they'd say that they were "in the pits” That meant that things weren’t going well.

This Psalm can reflect any of the pits that David had lived through, and there were many. So it is possible to see him speaking of any era of his life—and maybe even of all of them! David was painfully aware of his own failures, weaknesses, shortcomings, and sins. He likens them to a pit. Salvation as well as sanctification was likened to being lifted out of those pits all through life.

We need to recognize today that it is sinful to think that we are better than someone else and to look down upon others. It does not matter who they are—before God they are on the same plane as we are. We are all sinners and need to come to the Cross and accept Christ as our Savior.

The humble approach we need when we come to Jesus was beautifully seen in the story behind one of the best known hymns in America. A great preacher in London, by the name of Caesar Milan, was invited one evening to a very large and prominent home where a choice musical was to be presented.

The musician was Charlotte Elliott born in Clapham, England, on March 18, 1789. As a young person she had lived a carefree life, gaining popularity as a portrait artist, musician and writer of humorous verse.

Now at thirty, her health began to fail rapidly, and soon she would become a bedridden invalid for the remaining years of her life. With her failing health came great feelings of despondency. The visit that night by the noted Swiss evangelist, Dr. Caesar Malan, proved to be a turning point in Charlotte’s life. Charlotte thrilled the audience with her singing and playing. When she finished, the evangelist threaded his way through the crowd which was gathered around her.

When he finally came to her and had her attention, he said, “Young lady, when you were singing, I sat there and thought how tremendously the cause of Christ would be benefited if you would dedicate yourself and your talents to the Lord. But,” he added, “You are just as much a sinner as the worst drunkard in the street, or any harlot on Scarlet Street. But I am glad to tell you that the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, will cleanse you from all sin if you will come to Him.” In a very haughty manner, she turned her head aside and said to him, “You are very insulting, sir.” And she started to walk away. He said, “Lady, I did not mean any offense, but I pray that the Spirit of God will convict you.”

Well, they all went home, and that night this young woman could not sleep. At two o’clock in the morning she knelt at the side of her bed and took Christ as her Savior. And then she, Charlotte Elliott, sat down and, while sitting there, wrote the words of a favorite hymn “Just As I Am”:

Just as I am, without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me, and that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come! Just as I am, and waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot, to Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come! Just as I am, tho’ tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt, fightings and fears within, without, O Lamb of God, I come, I come. Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind— Sight, riches, healing of the mind, yea, all I need in Thee to find— O Lamb of God, I come, I come. Just as I am—Thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve; because Thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come!

My friend, may I say to you, that this is the basis on which all of us must come to Christ.    

Throughout the remainder of her life, Miss Elliott celebrated every year the day on which her Swiss friend had led her to a personal relationship with Christ, for she considered it to be her spiritual birthday. Although she did not publish this hymn until 1836, fourteen years after her conversion experience, it is apparent that she never forgot the words of her friend, for they form the very essence of this hymn.

There are portions of Scripture that need substantial introductions, because they are not well known, and there are other sections that need very little introduction. Psalm 40 is in the second category.  It tells of a man who was stuck in a slimy pit, bogged down in mud and mire, but then was rescued by God, who set his feet on a rock and gave him a firm place to stand.  That man was King David.

I remind you that David was the beloved king of Israel, who reigned powerfully and well for forty years.  He was installed, blessed, and approved by God, who called him “a man after his own heart” (1Sam. 13:14).  David was nearly always in close fellowship with God, and he wrote almost half of the Psalms.  By his writings and by his common speech, he regularly and faithfully proclaimed the grace of God to others.  Yet in Psalm 40 he describes himself as having been mired down in a pit from which he was unable to escape.

Here are the various pits that may be alluded to in these verses:

The Pit of Sin: This could be on David’s mind as he remembered Bathsheba. Remember how David decided to stay home while he as King was supposed to be leading the army. While enjoying his palace in Jerusalem he looked down into the courtyard of a nearby house where the grand-daughter of his aged counselor Ahithophel the Gilonite (II Samuel 15:12) lived with her husband the great warrior of King David, Uriah the Hittite. David had noticed her beauty at other occasions but this evening seeing her unclothed drew him to allow his lusts to plunge him into sin. The rest is so sadly known from 2nd Samuel 11.

Maybe you are caught in a similar sin. Maybe one sin has led you to another and you are hopelessly mired in the pit of sin. That is the nature of sin. Sin is a powerful monster that entraps all who play with it. While captivated by sin there is no end to what you may do. If you are in the pit of sin there is help available—God is in the business of rescuing us from sin. Flee to Him, cry to Him from your pit and let Him pull you out and put your feet on the Rock. 

The Pit of Defeat: This could be Saul in David’s mind. It was so hard. Saul could never be pleased no matter how hard David tried. Or maybe it was Saul’s bitter hatred and jealousy at David’s success that defeated David, or even the bitter agony and defeat of David’s own son’s betrayal, and attempt to destroy his father which left David in despair. Whatever pulled David into the pit of defeat—God could rescue him. 

The Pit of Bad Habits: We all have to mortify our proud flesh. When David didn’t, he may have thought of his defeat in numbering the people. William James, in his classic “Principles of Psychology”, put it this way:

Could the young but realize how soon they will become mere walking bundles of habits, they would give more heed to their conduct while in the plastic state.  We are spinning our own fates, good or evil, and never to be undone.  Every smallest stroke of virtue or vice leaves its ever so little scar.  The drunken Rip Van Winkle, in Jefferson's play, excuses himself for every fresh dereliction by saying, "I won't count this time!  "Well!  He may not count it, but it is being counted nonetheless.  Down among his nerve cells and fibers the molecules are counting it, registering and storing it up to be used against him when the next temptation comes.  Nothing we ever do is, in strict scientific literalness, wiped out.  Of course, this has its good side as well as its bad one. 

The Pit of Circumstances: If anyone could wallow in the despair of having all the worst of circumstances, David sure could. When he wasn’t running from Saul, he was fleeing his own country men, or the Philistines and everything in between. But whenever we think of hard circumstances look at Paul’s life. Turn to 2nd Corinthians 11:24-28; 1st Corinthians 4:9-13; 2nd Corinthians 6:4-10.

2 Corinthians 11:24-28 “From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.”

1 Corinthians 4:9-13 “For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! 11 To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. 12 And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; 13 being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.”

2 Corinthians 6:4-10 “But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, 5 in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; 6 by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, 7 by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, 8 by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

When you are in a pit, remember that Christ is our refuge. We can flee to Him at any time, in any condition, and He will never turn anyone away.

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