Psalm 51 was the topic of a study group I attended some time ago. Knowing it was coming up, my prayer partner and I opened it up to have a look. There is so much in this wonderfully honest psalm. We enjoyed reading and talking it through. Would you bear with me as I give you a tiny bit of background. David wrote it after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba and the prophet Nathan had called him on it. David had sent Bathsheba's husband Uriah on to the front line of battle, causing his death. When reading it through I came upon v4 and it took me by surprise "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight." “You’ve got a nerve David” I wanted to scream. “What about Uriah. Did you not sin against him too, sleeping with his wife, then killing him”? But then it hit me. God views all sin as sin and equally wrong, whether it is a lie or murder? After thinking on this a while, it dawned on me, that the key to sin is not so much the sin itself but the attitude behind the sin and that is why David had sinned against God first and foremost.
As a Christian of a number of years standing, it is easy for me, maybe you too, to rank sins according to how detestable they are to me. This subtly leaves a scary amount of space for me to catalogue sin on my own ‘Richter Scale” of seriousness. Some sins really shake the ground under and around me and some barely cause a stir. Do you get what I mean? Let’s take gossip for example. It’s a sin alright. We concede that much. Yet compared to murder, it’s not that bad, yet we can very easily assassinate a person’s character by our gossiping. The same applies to pornography. It’s not as bad as rape, so a person can rationalise it by saying it’s really it’s not hurting anyone and its enjoyable enough, so I’ll give it a rank in the not too serious section, a bit lower than some others sins. Hear that noise… it’s me opening a can of worms, but here goes … Homosexuality. Well for some this is the most detestable of all sins, but is it really? God definitely calls it sin, as He does call gossiping, lying, cheating and lusting sins as well. Is this making you uncomfortable? All sin is sin because firstly it’s against God. It’s motivated by our heart attitude and then shows itself in our actions.
Some of us, including myself, base our ideas of sin on a subjective system. I guess this is where David, who was a man after God’s heart, got it right. Verse 3 says “I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” It’s so easy to look at others who are sinning publically and feel quite good about ourselves. If this is the case we have missed the point. The purpose of the Bible is to teach us about a loving, compassionate, just, fair, powerful, merciful God, yet we’re playing with fire if we think we can be the ones who judge what is and isn’t sin and where that particular sin falls on sins “Richter Scale”.
I love how David was pouring his heart out to God in repentance. He wasn’t saying “Lord I’ve done wrong in my life, can’t exactly remember right now what it was, but forgive me for that which I can’t remember, but Lord at least I’m not as bad as ‘so-and-so’ down the road.” How many of us are guilty of blanket confession for things we can’t remember because we don’t want to? How many of us try not to remember, or think we really don’t have a very ‘exciting’ life and therefore there’s not too much sin to actually repent of. Sin is not so much the act, but rather it’s the heart of selfishness. Sin is choosing myself over God or you, no matter what the consequences. When you think about sin, couldn’t we all fill a few pages of our selfish acts? We can take huge lessons from David in this psalm.
Confession and repentance are about the heart attitude that has lead to the deed. . This repentance thing is big. It’s not only vital for our salvation, as Jesus says in Mark 1:15 “The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.” It is also vital for daily walk and the daily infilling of the Holy Spirit Acts 2:38. After Pentecost, Paul and Barnabas were again filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 13:52. We need to be daily, moment by moment, open to the filling of the Holy Spirit in our lives Ephesians 5:18. Part of our transparency in relationship with our Saviour and King is repentance. See what I mean when I say it’s a big deal?
“Create in me a pure heart oh God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10. It does not say create in me a pure life, but a pure heart. God wants your heart right now, in its current state, whether that is ashamed, self-righteous, broken, proud, wounded, healed, betrayed or dismayed. He is the ultimate re Creator. He will take your brokenness, your pride, your weakness and turn it into purity and spotlessness. Let’s get this straight. I’m not just talking about a renovation job but a complete re-do down to the foundations. All it takes is the humility to repent and a willingness to open your heart to the work and filling of the Holy Spirit. This is between you and God so let’s leave others out of it.
This is why sin is never secret. That’s the part of omniscience that can actually be so reassuring. I mean if He knows all, then he knows about that secret sin. And if He knows about that and He’s still pursuing you, then He really loves you and He’s not going to give up on you anytime soon. Let’s make that forever!!