The Agony of Defeat (Psalm 51)

Sunday, August 9th, 2009
Sermon Series: Psalms

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The Agony of Defeat and Its Cure

Psalm 51

Now you may not remember it, but before ESPN Sportscenter existed, there used to be Jim McKay and the Wide World of Sports.  I remember watching it sometimes on Saturdays after cartoons were over.  Do you remember watching that on ABC?  Every week during the opening they showed sports highlights and would talk about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

The thrill of victory was typically a team celebrating their Super Bowl or World Cup win.  But the agony of defeat was always the same guy–Vinko Bogataj–a Yugoslavian ski jumper who had a massive wipeout off the end of the jump.  You probably have to be at least thirty to remember the image, but every week that show highlighted the thrill of victory and the painful agony of defeat.  It’s not too different from what ESPN Sportscenter does now.

We have a strange fascination with the successful.  And we are often captivated by massive failures.  There is a reason that we hear so much about OJ Simpson, Lindsay Lohan, Michael Vick, Michael Jackson, Manny Ramirez, Paul Stanley–it’s the same reason that we rubberneck at freeway accidents.  We love to watch success and failure, because we feel them both in our own lives.

Isn’t it true that you could describe your own Christian walk in the same way?  You have sweet times of communion and fellowship with God.  And then there are the hard times and train wrecks that cause us to lose all our joy.  Some of them are public, but many are private.  Sin against us, or more often sin by us destroys our joy, our hope, and our peace.  At the end of it we feel ravaged, beat up, like a failure, and even sometimes wondering if God could still possibly love us.

For the Christian the defeat of sin causes agony and pain.  This is sometimes due to circumstances, it is sometimes self-inflicted, and sometimes it comes from God.  There are thrills in the Christian life, but I wonder if for you the agonies of sin are overshadowing them?

Scripture provides an answer to these agonies–it describes a cure for the agony of sin, and that’s what I want you to see today.  We’re going to be looking at Psalm 51, which was written by someone who knew failure.  The man who wrote this had blown it in a way that caused massive, national, attention-getting pain.

When I sin, when you sin you may feel the grief of disobeying God.  You may hate the consequences of your sin in your relationships with others.  You may feel guilty and undeserving of grace.  Maybe you’ve committed sexual sin.  Maybe you’ve lied or stolen.  Maybe you’ve dabbled in witchcraft or the occult.  Maybe you’ve physically abused another person.  Maybe you’ve simply failed to do something that God commands you to do.  But I’m pretty sure that the agony of this man’s sin has exceeded your own.

Let me just start by declaring the consequences this man would endure as a result of his sin.  God declared that his family would be plagued with violence–in fact three of his sons would die violent deaths.  His wives would commit adultery and sleep with others in broad daylight.  Other sons would rebel against him and his authority.  He would be cast out of his house for a time.  And his youngest child would die.  All of this happened as a result of a season of sin by King David.  Can we agree that this judgment by God is worse than anything we’ve experienced?

Psalm 51 is a record of David’s repentance.  It’s his confession of the agony of his sins and the cure that’s available from God and the Gospel.

Second Samuel 11 to 12 is the story of David’s sins and God’s judgment.  Psalm 51 is the story of the cure for his agony.  Open up your Bibles to that point, and I want to begin by telling you that this isn’t easy.

(a) I feel inadequate

(b) poetry doesn’t outline well

(c) I won’t do justice to every part

So lower your expectations!

If you look at Psalm 51 in your Bible, you’re going to see the occasion on which it was written–“For the choir director. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.”  This is not some Bible scholar guessing at the occasion saying, “It seems like this would fit.”  This was written down, as a part of the psalm by David for all to know what had happened and what God had done in his heart.  That little subheading is verse 1 in the original Hebrew.

This is a very public declaration by David, intended for us to read and learn from.  Now if you haven’t read the story of David and Bathsheba, let me set the background here.  David stays home in the spring when he should have been out with his troops.  In his ease he spies a woman, lusts after her, invites her to the palace and they spend a night together.

All is well until a month goes by and David gets notice that she is pregnant from their escapade.  To escape blame, David invites her husband home from the war, assuming that he will make love to his wife so that the baby could be attributed to him.  The husband returns to the king, but refuses to go to his wife out of loyalty to his country and fellow soldiers.  David even gets him drunk, but cannot get him to go home.  So David arranged for him to be killed on the battlefield.

His wife Bathsheba mourns, and once done David takes her as his wife and she has his baby.  In some ways it was a silent crime–even Bathsheba likely did not know all that transpired against her husband.  But 2 Samuel 11 concludes the saga with these words, “But the thing that David had done was evil in the sight of the Lord.”

Let’s just say that this is the beginning of the trouble.  In one sense I think we’d all agree that those words are something you do not want written about you–that’s a bad sign.  That’s a bad day.  But on the flip side, that same thing is written about all of us already.  We have all done evil in the sight of the Lord at some point.

But to David God sent a prophet named Nathan to confront him.  Now we don’t know if God gave him the story, or if Nathan was just clever, but he shows up to David with a story.  A poor man had a little lamb that was like family.  It grew up with his kids, slept with him, ate from his plates and drank from his cup–it was like a child to him.  But when a rich man with many flocks needed some food, the rich man took the poor man’s lamb and ate it.

David was flaming hot–“That man deserves to die!”  And Nathan responds with the classic, “You are the man,” and describes all the consequences of David’s sin on his kingdom and his life.  At this point David is broken.  He is genuinely repentant.  He recognizes his sin and longs to be cleansed.  David had committed two sins for which the Old Testament law had provided no forgiveness.  The penalty for adultery was death.  The penalty for murder was death.  David knew there was nothing to merit his forgiveness–nothing in himself, nothing in the world.

I think that most all of you are familiar with that feeling.  Whether you call yourself a Christian or not, all of us have done things that we regret–maybe not of David’s magnitude, but painful things.  You said something and then felt guilty for your cruel, biting words.  You did something that left you feeling empty inside and full of regret.  Maybe you deceived, or defrauded, another person.  You violated their trust and took advantage of them, and afterwards you felt dirty inside.  You may feel like something has been torn from your soul.  You want to be clean–you want forgiveness, and you think, “God will not forgive me if I pray.  Why would He believe me this time?  What have I done to deserve his mercy?”

We have all felt guilt and remorse and sorrow for our sin.  The question is how do we deal with it?  A religious person asks, “What can I do to receive God’s mercy?”  The Bible declares, “Nothing.”  A person who grasps the Gospel will admit, “God, I need your mercy and there’s nothing I can do to earn it.  I repent and I trust you to cleanse me.”

Psalm 51 unveils how all true repentance is found in the hope of the Gospel, even back in the Old Testament.  It reveals God’s cure for all sin’s agonies.  This is a psalm that I saw with new eyes a couple of weeks ago.  It is a psalm for anyone who has struggled with the guilt of their sin and the desire to be righteous.  Most simply, it can be broken into two parts:

Verses 1 to 9 are David’s plea for pardon–it’s him saying, “I need forgiveness”

Verses 10 to 19 are David’s plea for purity–it’s him crying out for change saying, “I need renewal”

I want to walk through this Psalm in these two parts and draw out some core, repeated principles, and we’re going to spend a little more time in the first half than the second, so don’t get worried.

Let’s read verses 1 to 9 and look at . . .

First  David’s plea for pardon

1 Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;

according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight,

so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge.

5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.

6 Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,

and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.

7 Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

8 Make me to hear joy and gladness, let the bones which You have broken rejoice.

9 Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities.

David is writing from a broken heart, and we see four marks of true repentance repeated over and over in the first nine verses.  In fact the starting point of all true repentance is found in verse 1.

1  You Must Believe that God is Gracious

David cries out in verse 1, “Be gracious to me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Thy compassion blot out my transgressions.”  The problem with many of us is this:  we simply don’t believe that God is gracious.  Yes we read that He is in Lamentations 3:22, “His compassions never fail; they are new every morning.”

But when push comes to shove, and we have sinned again, we are prone to think that His grace has ended.  He now stands with arms crossed saying, “Seriously?  Again?  How can I believe you this time?”  We believe that He lacks grace towards us, because we often fail to show grace to others.

David and any genuinely repenting person come to God because of His mercy.  This is the sole basis for any approach to God by sinners like us.  David starts off the psalm of confession with three words that focus on God’s mercy.  Do you see them?

“Be gracious”

“According to Your lovingkindness”

“According to the greatness of Your compassion”

Grace is the unmerited favor of God–His kind help to those who don’t deserve it

Lovingkindness describes his unfailing, steadfast love that won’t ever quit on you

Compassion is deep, inward love comingled with pity–God remembers our weaknesses

This is the foundation for everything that David will confess.  Any real plea for forgiveness to God is grounded in a deep-rooted belief that He hears and cares.  God is not like your dad–He doesn’t get angry with those whom He loves.  He doesn’t pay back evil with evil.  And God is not like you–He is able to overlook your faults.  He doesn’t grow weary of your words.  His love for you won’t quit.  It doesn’t give up.  He knows your weaknesses even better than you do.  He offers help to all those who call out to Him.

You must believe that God is gracious.  All true repentance demands this belief.  If you don’t believe in his grace, then your confession is mere duty and obligation.  If you don’t believe in His grace, then you must (you better) perform and live in such a way that you win his favor.  If you don’t have confidence in his grace, then you are stuck with guilt and anxiety about appearing before Him.

The Bible says again and again that God is gracious.  He is compassionate.  He is full of lovingkindness.  If you are convicted of sin in your life, this is your starting point.  But with that . . .

2  You Must Confess That Your Sin is Vile

This is also evident from the very start in verse 1.  Right after crying out for the grace of God, David declares how ugly his sin is.  Think about this–every sin you commit is a declaration that this thing, this action, holds promise to make you happier, more satisfied, more pleased than anything that God has to offer.  When we sin, we are thinking that our joy will be positively affected by what we’re doing.  When you lie, you are not simply disobeying God, but you are in that moment believing that another person’s acceptance of you is central to your joy.  Your reputation is of more value than your righteousness.  When you get angry, you are not just lacking self-control, but you are declaring to all those around you that you are the god whose will must be obeyed and you will not be happy until that comes to pass.  When you cheat on your income taxes, you are showing that you value money, possessions and their comfort more than God and His favor.

Even when you are nice at church and you try to do good to everyone, you may be trying to be your own savior by being good enough that God has to take you.  You can avoid Jesus by keeping the law or by breaking it.  Whenever we commit sin, we are saying that it’s beautiful and satisfying.  When we repent, we are confessing to God that it is not beautiful or satisfying.  We are saying that it’s ugly, it’s unsatisfying, it’s vile, and it’s foul and wicked.

In these first nine verses, David mentions his sin eleven times.  It is at the forefront of his mind and heart.  He uses four different words to describe it–transgression, iniquity, sin, and evil.

Transgression is crossing a forbidden boundary (e.g., Iran capturing US hikers last week)

Iniquity joins the act and the penalty together into one thought–sin as something which God hates and actively punishes

Sin (miss the mark) speaks of failing to live up to God’s expectations and requirements

Evil is something God considers bad

Any confession of repentance demands that you see your sin as God does–evil and vile.  David says this eleven different ways in this psalm.

1 blot out my transgressions.   (They left a mark on him)

2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.  (Required cleansing by another)

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.  (Could not be rid of their weight)

4 Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight   (Failed to live as God desires) so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge.  (justly condemned)

5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.   (a problem from birth)

9 Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities.   (God sees all David’s failures)

David is not just saying, “Father, forgive me for sinning.”  Notice how he is frank and explicit in declaring the sins of his heart.  God is not satisfied with vague generalities.

Do not think that you can deceive God by a mere confession about doing wrong.  Confess your sin to be as enormous and revolting as God sees it.  All true confession and repentance evidences a hatred of sin.

An old Puritan said, “If you think lightly of sin, you will not be concerned to be finished with its guilt or consequences.  You will not be watchful against its assaults.  And you will not be very thankful for any supposed deliverance from its curse or power.”  (Plumer)

Repentance of sin means that you are not proud of it, you don’t think it’s funny, you don’t boast about it.  You hate it.  And you see how much it has infected your heart.  You are the worst sinner you know.  It is not that you’ve just done something bad to yourself or against others.

3  You Must Confess that Your Sin is Against Him

You see this especially in verse 4.  David says, “Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight.”  This is somewhat incredible.  Now pretend you were guilty of coveting–you really wanted money.  It’s your functional messiah and you’ve been thinking that if only we had $25,000 more, life would be so much better/easier.  Well that’s a sin of the heart.  It’s happened mainly in your head–maybe a bit of evidence on your tongue.  At that point you’d be justified to say, “I have sinned against you only, O God.”

But David says this!  You’ll remember he committed adultery with Bathsheba.  He got Uriah drunk.  He had Uriah killed.  He ensnared others in his sins as they followed his orders.  How is it that he can say, “Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight.”

Here is how . . . God is more offended by sin than the most outraged man or woman.

Sin that you commit is always a deep and cutting wound to Him.  Are you a victim of someone else’s sins?  Maybe even the victim of abuse?  I am not trying to minimize or downplay the grief you feel or the sins done against you.  What I want you to know is that God is more angry, more offended than you even feel.

Someone has said:  “Secret sin on earth is open scandal in heaven.”  David is putting the focus on the one whom the sin was primarily and finally against.  You see in order for him to commit adultery, another god had to have become lord of David’s life.  He either made himself to be his own god, assuming that he was wiser than the God who made Israel’s laws, or he made Bathsheba into an idol so that she became more important than God, and without her he could not be happy.  Either way he had sinned against God first by putting something else in the place of God in order to sin.  Every act that followed was worship of that other god.  David’s sin and all sin is an offense primarily against the God of the Bible.

When you confess your sin, do you see that it is an offense against God? Do not repent of the consequences.  Do not repent of the guilt.  Realize that your sin is foremost against God and repent of that.

Martin Luther summarized David’s feelings here by saying, “I cannot boast of merit or righteousness before you, but I am evil together.  In your sight, this is my character – I do evil.  I have sinned, I do sin, and shall sin to the end of the psalm.”  It has been this way since birth.  Verse 5, “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.”  That’s not a statement of sin by his mother.  He’s saying that sin is not a momentary problem for him, not something brought on by circumstance.  Sin is something that has existed in our hearts from birth.  I am evil altogether.

So, in this plea for pardon, David:

1) Calls out for the grace of God

2) Admits that his sin is vile

3) Confesses that his sin is against God

And then the last mark of repentance that we see here is that . . .

4  You Must Believe that He Will Cleanse You

Now you may be thinking of course He can.  Why would I confess my sin otherwise?  But let me ask you this–have you ever prayed repeatedly confessing the same sin over and over?  Have you ever confessed your sin but the guilt of it hung heavy on your heart?  Have you ever felt that something bad happened in your life as punishment from God, even though you had already sought God’s forgiveness?  There is a difference between reading and thinking that God is able to cleanse you of sin, and actually believing and trusting that God will cleanse you of your sins.

David looks to God alone to be cleansed. He cries out to God–wash me, cleanse me, purify/purge me.  Hide Your face from my sins.  Blot them out.  The language here is so evocative.  David recognizes his guilt before God.  He sees the dark mark of his own heart, and he cries to God for cleansing.  He is a man who could do anything he wanted to absolve himself of guilt.  He was not in your situation.  He was not powerless.  He did not have people over him.  There were no limitations.  He was the king.  He had the power, the money, the influence to make things go his way.  But he saw his sin as against God and not men. He recognized that there was nothing he could do to rectify the situation.

You see, if your sin is simply against another person, or yourself, or society, then you can do something pleasing to them to gain their forgiveness and make atonement.  But if your sin is against the God of the universe for purposeful rebellion against His ways, then your only hope for forgiveness is by a payment for your sins.  You may wonder, did David know that?  I mean this is 1,000 years before Jesus.  But we see in the text that David did understand much of this.  He knew that blood would be needed to pay for his sins.

Verse 7 says, “Purify me with hyssop.”  Hyssop was used as a brush to scrub out blots on paper.  It was used ceremonially by the Jews to cleanse germs from houses and hands.  But its first use in Scripture was the tool for painting blood on the doorposts of the Jews during the night of Passover.  You remember how when Israel was enslaved in Egypt God was working out their release, bringing plagues upon Egypt.  And the final plague was that the firstborn child of every household would die–only those who had painted blood from the Passover lamb would be spared.  This act was a picture of how the blood of Christ would one day cleanse the children of God and protect them from the judgment of God.  The most prevalent use of hyssop in Scripture is for cleansing by blood.  By David saying “purify/purge me with hyssop,” he is saying, “Forgive me by the blood of another, an innocent one, who has died for me.”

David knew that his sin against God required a blood sacrifice.  And he knew that the law provided no acceptable sacrifice for his sins, so David cries out to God in faith that God would Himself cleanse him.  And this remains our only hope:  if you see your sins as vile and as rebellion towards God, if you desire to be washed from your sin, not just pardoned from guilt or freed from consequences so that you feel better . . .

5  You Must Look to Christ to Cleanse and Forgive You

He is the one whom God appointed to die in your place.  And if you place your trust in Him and the complete sufficiency of His righteousness, then God will cleanse you of your sins and accept you just as He does His own Son.  He died once for all your sins, for all of time.  Hebrews says that over and over again.  And that cleansing will conclude with joy and praise.  Verse 8 says, “Make me to hear joy and gladness, let the bones which Thou hast broken rejoice.”

The outcome of all true repentance is joy and gladness, not continued sorrow and grief, but joy through delight in God.    David’s circumstances didn’t change.  Those promised consequences by God would still come.  But David prayed and fought for joy to be the focus of his heart, even as those great and heavy pains would be thrust on him.

Now at this point, the whole second half of this Psalm switches focus.  Gone is the mention of sin–after eleven mentions to this point, there are none from verse 10 forward.  Having sought cleansing by God, David now cries out for change–he’s pleading for purity in verses 10 to 19.

Second  David’s Cry for Change

Think about this–for months David had been walking in sin, doing the duties of religion, but without any real heart.  By the time Nathan came to David the baby had been born.

More than nine months had passed, likely a few more.  It is only now that he recognizes the spiritual danger he was in, and he cries out for change.  It is never too late.

Some of you may feel like you’ve been separated from God for so long.  Memories of prayer and hope and joy are just shadows.  David shows us that time can pass, but God remains open-armed towards you.  He awaits your return to Him.  And now David cries out for change, and we see five effects that repentance has on your heart and life.

1  Repentance Restores a Longing for Intimacy

When Samson gave in to Delilah, the Lord departed from him.  When Saul refused to obey God’s commands, the Lord departed from him.

David cries out in verses 10 to 11:

10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

11 “Do not cast me away from Thy presence, and do not take Thy Holy Spirit from me.”

For months, David had cared little for the work of God in his life.  Now in repentance David cries out for continued intimacy with God.  In the Old Testament the Spirit of God did not permanently indwell believers in the same way as today.  The loss of the Spirit would not be a loss of salvation, but a loss of intimacy, anointing and fruitfulness.  David is pleading for his spiritual closeness with God to continue.  He uses the same word “create” as is used in Genesis 1.  He asks for a miracle.  Create from nothing in me a clean heart, O God.

If you do not feel close to God, if you do not have a longing for closeness with God, then it’s very likely that you need to uncover sin in your life and repent of it.  The confession of sin always creates a longing for an intimate, close relationship with God.

2  Repentance Restores Your Joy in God

David says in verses 12 to 13:

12 “Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit.”

13 “Then I will teach transgressors Thy ways, and sinners will be converted to Thee.”

We speak about whatever it is that we love and appreciate.  You talk about your boyfriend.  You quote your favorite movie.  You talk about your job.  You tell others about the restaurant you love.  You talk about what you find joy in.  David is pleading, God restore my joy in you.  Let Your salvation be my greatest joy.

When you sin, you have made something other than God your greatest, most supreme love.  When you see your sin and repent, you long for God to regain His place as your great delight.  The outcome of all joy is natural conversation about what you love.  If you don’t talk to others about God, consider if there’s something else you find greater joy in.  Teaching and evangelism both flow out of the joy you have in your salvation.

In sin, your focus is on yourself and you finding joy in something other than God.  In repentance, your focus shifts to others and them finding the joy in God that you have.

3  Repentance Renews Your Ability to Worship

When you are caught in sin and blind to it, you can be here on a Sunday and sing freely.  But when your eyes are opened to the magnitude of your sin before God, guilt can overwhelm you and your lips are sealed closed.  You feel unworthy to pray, you may feel nervous to be around other Christians who look like they gave their act together.  Your guilt makes you feel like a hypocrite to sing.  Repentance renews your ability to worship.

Here David asks for deliverance from internal guilt so that his worship would be strong and joyful again.

14 “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, Thou God of my salvation; then my tongue will joyfully sing of Thy righteousness.”

15 “O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Thy praise.”

Bloodguiltiness is the guilt that lingers in his heart over the effects of his sin on others.  Free me from the guilt I feel about killing Uriah.  Free me from the guilt I feel about enticing Bathsheba to sin.  God can forgive quickly, but we can linger long in self-obsessed guilt that ignores the Gospel.  And that guilt we feel over sin cripples our worship of God.

If God has forgiven you, then you do not need to continue to accuse yourself.  If God has forgiven you and you continue to accuse yourself, then you are saying that the death of Christ is insufficient payment for my sins and I need to do some penance/works.  Repeated confession of the same thing is the result of a failure to believe that God does forgive.

The gospel says that Christ’s death satisfied God’s wrath against your sins.  Your repentance restores your ability to worship by freeing you from the guilt of your sins.

Praise of God flows out of forgiveness realized.

4  Repentance Requires More Than Works

When someone fears for their life, they make promises to God that sound like this–“Dear God, if you let me live through this, I will never touch alcohol again.”  When a Christian is feeling great remorse for what they did, you might say—“God, I promise that I will never do that again–I will cut up my credit cards.  I will stop drinking.”

David says,

16 “For Thou dost not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; Thou art not pleased with burnt offering.”

17 “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.”

Acts of obedience are not the solution to sin.  Repentance requires more than works.  God’s desire is for your heart–a broken and contrite heart, one that is crushed, bruised, broken, small.  In repentance, you have been dethroned as god.  You are broken, small and crushed.  Your repentance is accepted by Him as you see your sin and are humble before Him.

Repentance requires a heart that’s broken over its sinfulness.  You see yourself as a worse sinner than any other because you know the depths of sin in your heart.  God will not despise someone with this heart–instead He will delight in you (verse 16).

Do you feel far from God?  Separated from Him?  Like everything you do is never enough?  It could be that you have kept yourself on the throne of your heart.  It could be that you need to repent of trying to earn God’s favor through a great lifestyle.  On the flipside . . .

5  Repentance Requires More Than Words

Know that God is not satisfied with words alone.  Genuine repentance is manifest in both words and deed.  When your child hits their brother/sister, what do we have them say?  “Sorry.”  (It’s often incredibly obvious that they don’t mean it.)  And if you are not satisfied by their insincere apology, why do you think God would hear and respond to, “God, please forgive me for lying to my boss,” if there’s no meat/substance/heart behind it?

Repentance is more than saying I’m sorry.  Repentance is confessing your sin before God and turning from your sin.  David shows us this.

18 “By Thy favor do good to Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem.”

19 “Then Thou wilt delight in righteous sacrifices, in burnt offering and whole burnt offering; then young bulls will be offered on Thine altar.”

You see it’s not that God just wants a broken and contrite heart, and is content to let worship and sacrifices slide.  No, he wants both.  He delights in a broken and contrite heart that worships, sacrifices, and obeys Him.  Do not think that God is satisfied with a simple, “I’m sorry.”  He wants your heart and your hands working in unison.  He is not interested in mere confession or simply granting pardon.  He wants truth to replace deceit.  He wants wisdom to replace foolishness.

All true repentance includes this–a pleading for pardon and a crying out for change.  If there is sin that you need to repent of this morning, do so.  The way is clear.  He is waiting to hear from you.

If you are not a Christian, all we’ve been describing this morning is a simple roadmap for how you come to know God.  You acknowledge your rebellion against God.  You confess that to him and ask him to forgive you by applying Christ’s life and death to you.

Come to God.  Come humbly.  Cast yourself at his mercy.  Confess your guilt.  Have faith that He is merciful.  Trust that the blood of Christ is enough to pay for all your sins.  God will abundantly pardon.  He has never cast away any who came to Him seeking forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  Beg for His blood to be applied to your life, that God would then create in you a clean heart.

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John serves as a pastor and elder at Faith Bible Church

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