“Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” Psalm 51:11

We sing these words in the Offertory (which follows the sermon on Sunday mornings), but what do they mean and why do we sing them?

The words are a part of David’s penitential psalm, Psalm 51, written after his sin with Bathsheba. Though David sinned against Bathsheba by committing adultery with her, and though David sinned against Uriah by taking his wife and then arranging his death in battle to cover up his sin, against whom had David really sinned? As David confessed in verse 4 of Psalm 51, “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight — that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge.”

And was David in danger of having the Holy Spirit taken from him? Most certainly, for he hid and covered up his sin and remained impenitent for months, maybe a year or more, before he finally acknowledged his sin and turned to the LORD God for forgiveness (cf. Psalm 32) — Bathsheba gave birth to his son before Nathan the prophet went to David and confronted him with his sin (2 Samuel 11-12).

And, if the LORD had cast David off and taken the Holy Spirit from him, David would have remained impenitent and would have been lost forever. But God reached out to David in mercy and, through the prophet’s admonition, brought him to acknowledge and confess his sin to the LORD God and seek God’s mercy!

Do we deserve that God would cast us off and take His Spirit from us? Most certainly, for we, like David, are guilty before the LORD. We fail to love Him with all our heart, mind and soul. We fail to love our neighbors as ourselves. And, if God would deal with us as we deserve, we would remain impenitent and become hardened in our sinful ways.

But, God, through His Word, admonishes us and reveals our sins and failings. He shows us our guilt and the punishment we justly deserve. And then He does an amazing thing. When we see and acknowledge our sinfulness, He comforts us with His mercy. He assures us that Christ atoned for our sin by His sacrifice upon the cross and that in Him we have forgiveness for all our sins and a place in God’s family and kingdom. Instead of taking His Spirit from us, the Spirit works faith in our hearts which trusts in God’s mercy, receives His forgiveness and then moves us to amend our ways and live for our God and Savior!

God, by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit, restores in us the joy of His salvation and upholds us (v.12). And, as we tell others of God’s mercy in Christ Jesus, sinners are converted to faith in Christ Jesus (v.13).

With David, we sinners pray: “Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” We pray that He would, for Jesus’ sake, have mercy upon us and blot out our transgressions. We pray that He would restore to us the joy of His salvation and uphold us by His generous Holy Spirit.

Have mercy upon me, O God, and by Your Spirit, grant me repentance and faith in Christ Jesus, my Savior. Do not cast me away or take Your Spirit from me. Uphold and keep me by Your generous Spirit. Amen.

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Acts 2:38-39

How is it that one can receive the gift of the Holy Ghost? How can one “be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:18-20)?

Peter, in his Pentecost sermon, gives to us the answer: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

To be filled and led by the Spirit of God does not require any great work on our part. It does not require a specific prayer or a holy and sinless life before the Holy Spirit enters into us.

Through the good news of Christ’s innocent sufferings and death for the sins of the world, God graciously calls us sinners to turn from our sins to Christ Jesus for forgiveness and life everlasting (cf. 2 Thess. 2:13-14). The Holy Ghost reveals our sinfulness and utter failure to live up to the demands of the perfect Law of God (cf. Rom. 3:9-20, 23); but then the Holy Ghost comforts us with the assurance that our sins have been paid for and are forgiven for the sake of the shed blood of Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and rose again (cf. Rom. 3:24-26; Ps. 51:1ff.).

When, by the grace of God, we believe this and trust in Christ as our Savior, being baptized in His name and according to His command for the remission of our sins (Matt. 28:19), we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. He takes up residence in our hearts, teaches us of Jesus from God’s Word and strengthens and keeps us in the true and saving faith (cf. John 14:16-18, 26; 16:13-15). And He who has “begun a good work” in us will dwell in us and “perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, our risen and ascended Savior, we thank Thee for granting to us the gift of the Holy Ghost – for bringing us to turn from our sins to Thee for forgiveness, being baptized in Thy name, and for dwelling in us by Thy Spirit that we might be kept and preserved in the true and saving faith unto life everlasting. For the sake of Thy bitter sufferings and death we pray. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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Since many people I meet show little interest in heaven and express little desire to go there, I thought I’d provide a few instructions on how to go to hell instead. Following are just a few sure-fire courses of action to arrive in eternal hellfire and brimstone:

  • Ignore the whole issue of heaven and hell and put off all thoughts of God and eternity for another day.
  • Avoid, as much as possible, reading the Bible or attending churches where the Bible is read and taught. After all, the Bible is so narrow in its views regarding life, God’s judgment and the age to come.
  • Hope that God grades on a curve and will not condemn you if you have lived as well as the next guy.
  • Believe that you can escape the fires of hell and obtain eternal life in heaven by doing good deeds.
  • Live for now and indulge in all your desires because life is short.
  • Give no heed to preachers who call upon all to repent and look to Christ Jesus for mercy and forgiveness.
  • Treat the blood of Jesus shed for the sins of all as a worthless thing by continuing on in your sinful ways.
  • Ignore Jesus and His pleas for you to repent and trust in Him for pardon, forgiveness and life everlasting in heaven.

Yes, I could go on listing ways to be sure of hell; but wouldn’t you rather be sure of heaven?

It’s simple: Acknowledge your sinfulness and shortcomings and place your faith and hope in Jesus and His innocent sufferings and death for all sins. In Jesus, heaven is sure. Why? Because Jesus died for everyone’s sins, rose again and ascended into the glories of heaven to prepare a place for you! All who look to Jesus in faith will be spared the eternal fires of hell and receive instead the eternal glories of heaven!

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31 NKJV).

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Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” Acts 1:9-11 (Read 1-11).

This Word of God, which was spoken by angels to the disciples who had just witnessed Jesus’ ascension into heaven, teaches us that Jesus Christ will return visibly in the clouds of glory on the Last Day.

The Bible says: “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen” (Revelation 1:7).

As Jesus ascended into heaven, so He shall also return on the Last Day, the Day of Judgment. He will come again in clouds of glory. Every eye will see Him! Are you ready for His return and judgment? Are you prepared to meet Him?

Those who do not trust in Him for salvation will wail in sorrow at His return because they stand condemned for not trusting in the only begotten Son of God (John 3:18; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).

But those who do trust in Him as their Savior – believing that they have pardon for their sins and peace with God for the sake of Christ’s innocent sufferings and death in their stead – will rejoice at His return because He comes to take them to be with Him forever in the mansions of heaven (cf. Luke 21:27-28; Hebrews 9:27-28; John 14:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, as You have ascended up into heaven to the right hand of God the Father, so come again and take us to be with You forever. Graciously keep us in the true faith so that, on that Day, we may greet You with joy and not with sorrow. Grant this unto us for the sake of Your holy life and bitter sufferings and death upon the cross in our stead. Amen.

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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