If you hang around long enough you’ll discover that the people most serious about following Jesus Christ think, talk and pray about sin a lot. It might even sound like an obsession. Can’t we just lighten up?
These same people, who are serious about following Jesus, might adopt that advice if they didn’t know Psalm 51. Because, not only does Psalm 51 do a pretty good job of identifying sin, it also leads us into God’s delight. In fact, the more we reflect on this psalm the more we will see that the only way into the freedom and delightfulness of God is through an honest interaction with Him about our sin, an interaction that, more often than not, will break our hearts.
Like David the king, who wrote this psalm, we’d rather avoid such embarrassing subjects. As we will see, however, it is a great mercy when God makes it impossible to ignore our sin any longer. David evaded that moment for almost a year before God sent Nathan the prophet to confront David. Afterward, he wrote Psalm 51 as a prayer of repentance to God.
Just how bad was David’s sin and…How bad is my sin?
2 Samuel 11-12 tells us that David committed adultery with Bathsheba then had her husband Uriah, who was a close friend of David, murdered. Now that’s what everybody calls sin! More, David was called “a man after God’s heart”. He was a believer. Psalm 51 invites anyone, no matter the sin, to join David in his prayer of repentance.
David does not try to avoid the horror of his sin. He pursues it. Like a pathologist, David gets out his microscope to examine the tissue of his sin closely. What he discovered is:
- There is no human remedy for sin. It can only be remedied with grace. see “gracious” (v.1)
- Sin haunts the inner life – see “my sin is ever before me” (v. 3)
- God speaks his diagnosis of sin into the heart – see “speak, judge” (v.4)
- Sin is a genetic disorder, “brought forth in iniquity” (v.5)
- Sin soils the inner life. So it has to be “washed/cleansed” (vv.2,7)
- Sin weakens resolve, turns us on our sides like a capsized ship. – see “right spirit” (v.10)
- Sin separates from God. (v.11)
- Sin robs of joy. (12)
- Sin pollutes the will and all of life (sacrifices). (vv.12, 16)
To pursue the diagnosis of your sin is the necessary beginning of the journey from brokenness to delight.
David also admits his sin. First he admits it to God. Later,through Psalm 51, David admits his sin publically. Only those against whom you sin need to hear your confession, but to admit it is the second step from brokenness to delight.
How can I hope for forgiveness?
We surely can’t look to self for forgiveness! We must look to God. Scottish pastor Robert Murray McCheyne once advised:“For every look at self take 10 looks at Christ” When David looked to God, this is what he saw:
David saw, first
- A Merciful God, full of�
- loving-kindness (1)
- grace (1)
- and compassion (1)
Next David saw an offended God
- Universally offended by all sin (4)
- Not silent or passive about sin (4)
- who loves truth and wisdom in the inner being (9) and delights in a spirit/heart broken and contrite over sin (17).
And a Powerful God
- who is able to wash away sin, powerful enough to deal with sin.
How did the powerful God ultimately deal with sin? 1 Peter 2:24:
“[Christ] bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, for by His wounds we are healed.”
And 1 Corinthians 1:18-24:
“We preach Christ crucified …to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
When God forgives me He changes me (See verses 10-12)
His forgiveness makes me:
- Clean, whiter than snow, the baggage of sin is gone!
- Right or steadfast in spirit, no longer capsized, but upright and ready to catch the wind.
- at peace in God’s presence and with His Holy Spirit.
- Hear the joy and gladness of God’s salvation. Solid, nor circumstancial, joy comes back again.
- Willing. I am no longer resisting God’s rule, but ready for it.
And that brings us to how God comes to delight in us
God delights in me when He sees me confessing my sin, when He sees the fruit of His convicting work — a broken and contrite heart.
God delights in me when He sees me confessing His mercy:
- In worship. He loves the praise of a forgiven person.
- In witness, when the story of my sin and forgiveness leads another sinner to repent and believe in the Christ who forgives. Strangely, God uses the story of our sin to praise Him. Cynics see our sin and God’s mercy, and are convinced that He is the Lord who shows mercy to sinners — even big sinners like David…and me…and you.