Feeling Forgiven – Psalm 51

 So many times we go through life feeling like we’ve done the most horrible thing. Sometimes we have. Sometimes we haven’t. What is horrible for some is nothing to others. Sometimes it is something that was done to us. Sometimes it is because we remember things wrongly. But often we have a feeling that does not let us feel as if we are forgiven, or even forgivable. Sometimes we are paralyzed because of this feeling.

Satan is constantly trying to tempt us to do something we know we should not do: “Come on, no one is here. Who will know? It feels good! You KNOW you like it. You know you NEED to. It wont hurt. You know you DESERVE it. If you do this, you will feel so good! If you do that, so-and-so will like you (or in some cases, will love you)! Everyone is doing it, why not you!?! You don’t want people to think you’re a fanatic, do you? You don’t want to be so good that people don’t listen to you. Do you really think you’re too good to do that!?! After THIS day/week, you really NEED and DESERVE this….”

And then we fall.

And once we fall, Satan torments us to make us even more ineffective: “You call yourself a CHRISTIAN!?! If you were REALLY a Christian, you would not have done that! If you KNEW God, how could you have done such a thing? You’re full of horribleness, how can you even THINK of volunteering for that? You shouldn’t go to the prayer meeting, EVERYONE will KNOW what you’ve done! You shouldn’t go to church, you’re such a sinner and that place is only for the ‘chosen’ and if YOU’RE chosen, then you’re FROZEN. You’ve done something SO bad, who would listen to you, you hypocrite!”

Or for those of us who are not Christians, Satan works to ensure we never try to become one. Are any of THESE messages familiar? “I’m too ugly for God to want to love me. I’m too fat to be forgiven! I’m too dumb to be forgiven! I’m too weak to be forgiven! I’m too terrible to be forgiven. No one could EVER forgive me. My sin is worse than any other sin – I’ve committed the unforgivable! I don’t deserve to be forgiven!”

Well, the last one might be accurate – NO ONE DESERVES TO BE FORGIVEN! We are all sinners and all continue to fall into sin! But we’ll talk more about that later.

For now, I think its safe to say that if you are alive, you’ve been tempted by Satan. And you’ve probably succumbed to his wiles at least once. If so, then this psalm is for you! This psalm is an example of doing what is written of in 1 John 1:9:

 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Some of us are probably saying to ourselves, Oh that’s all well and good, But if forgiveness is so easy, why do I feel so terrible?!? I can never meet the standards needed to be a ‘good Christian’ so why bother trying?”  Others might be saying, “Well, I know I’m eternally forgiven, but that doesn’t get rid of the consequences of sin in my heart. I can’t deal with what I’m feeling, so why continue trying!?!”

I’m here to tell you that you don’t HAVE to feel condemned! We can ALL feel the forgiveness of God and be changed! This psalm of David’s will show you how!

Let’s get started and read the text, Psalm 51:

For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. 7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. 14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. 18 In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem. 19 Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Notice that the superscript says David wrote it after the prophet Nathan confronted him after David had committed adultery with a woman.

Let me give you the background. David was the king of Israel and God had chosen him to be the king and called him a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). He had everything he could want – until one day he saw a woman. He decided to commit adultery with her (both of them having been married to different people), and then in trying to ‘fix it’ he conspired to have her husband killed! (You can read about that in 2 Sam chapters 11-12). Take a look at 2 Sam 12:13:

13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD .”
Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die”

We can see that God forgave David for sinning the instant he admitted that he had sinned against God. But after David was confronted by Nathan that he wrote this psalm.  So this psalm was probably not written to ask forgiveness, but so David could feel forgiven.

Notice David’s appeal to God’s mercy and grace in verse 1

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion

In the NASB, the word used for mercy is ‘grace’ David is asking for God’s mercy and grace. Mercy is unmerited clemency. Grace is the bestowal of unmerited favor. Another way to look at grace is: getting something good that we do not deserve. David is asking for something to which he knows he has no right. But notice something ELSE: he’s doing it on the basis of God’s loving kindness (hessed) and God’s great compassion.

This is the sort of God we follow! God is a loving and kind God full of compassion and always ready to be gracious and merciful to those who seek Him. When we fall into sin, we too are to appeal to God’s grace and mercy because of HIS love and compassion! GOD LOVES US!

God’s LOVE, God’s COMPASSION, God’s MERCY, God’s GRACE are the answers to those messages we sometimes get about being unlovable and undeserving and ugly and terrible and too weak and too dumb, and not deserving forgiveness. Its not about you – its about GOD.

Not only are we to appeal to God’s grace and mercy, but we are to ask God for forgiveness, as we see David did  in Psalm 51:1-2

blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

Note the three different ways of asking for what is essentially the same thing: “Blot out my transgressions”, “Wash away all my iniquity”, “Cleanse me from my sin”. Transgression means ‘an infringement of a law”. Iniquity means “wicked act”. Sin means to miss the mark, or as Romans 3:23 says,

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Remember that David was already forgiven! Even so, David recognized that what he had done went against what God wanted, he named it a wicked act, he called it sin and he asked that God clean him up!  

Remember, he had already been forgiven, but here he was asking for cleansing! And he was not relying on the human High Priest, he was relying on the grace of GOD! He was not asking a priest to forgive him. He was not asking that a High Priest make atonement, but he was asking the loving, compassionate, merciful GOD HIMSELF to cleanse him.  

If we are not feeling forgiven, perhaps it will help you to ASK God to forgive and clean you.

Now let’s see David agree with God what he’s done and who he was in verses 3-5:

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

Here we see the reason David asks for forgiveness and cleansing – He can’t get his sin out of his mind! Given what I know of people, he probably felt guilty before being confronted by Nathan and certainly afterwards. Some of you will say, “Didn’t he sin against anyone else?” Understand that David undoubtedly recognized that he had sinned against his own body, against Bathsheba, against her husband Uriah, against his own family, and against his nation.  But ultimately, and theologically speaking, he sinned only against God – since it was GOD who made the rules and decides what is right and wrong. It was against God’s law that David transgressed. Others might say, “Well, he committed adultery and murder, but what I did was not so bad – I don’t need to be ‘cleaned’.” Now, many of us try to convince ourselves that what we did was not bad, on the grand scale of sin that we set up for ourselves: we only had sex outside the confines of marriage, we only got drunk, we only told a lie, we only haven’t forgiven so-and-so, we were justified because so-and-so did what THEY did, etc., etc., etc….  The thing is, it is not up to US to decide what is a sin – GOD created everything, including YOU! Regardless of whether we want to agree or not, GOD decides what is right and wrong. God decides whom He will forgive. GOD decides what you need to do to be forgiven. Realize that if we are not feeling forgiven, it’s probably because God and we are not in agreement with what we’ve done and what God has done.  Guess who’s right?

Now verse 5 could either be a recognition of original sin, “conceived in sin”, or it could be recognition of the fact that he’s always been a sinner – never was he better or worse than when he committed adultery and murder! I think it’s both.

Remember what Romans 3:23 says?

 “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

In fact, Romans 14:23 tells us

[E]verything that does not come from faith is sin.

We have a sinful nature, plain and simple. We all sin. Everyone is a sinner.

Others of us will say, “What I did was MUCH worse than adultery and murder!” God sees no difference between adultery, murder, and lying – they are all sins according to Revelation 21:8,

… The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

Now, there’s no question that we all sin. The thing is, to feel the forgiveness of God, we have to admit our sin and agree with God about our sin.

1 John 1:9 says,

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

The next thing we need to do to feel forgiven is acknowledge what God really wants from us. Verse 6:

Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

Now some of you will say, “inner parts? God doesn’t want anything to DO with MY inner parts – they’re corrupt! Isn’t what I DO what matters?” Yes, what you do matters, but you have to recognize, that God is much more interested in what is going on INSIDE you than He is with what you are doing. You can go to church, do good things, be on the church board, be a pastor, do any number of things for God, but if you think what is going on INSIDE you doesn’t matter, then you don’t know what it is to be a Christian – its about trusting God for what He’s done and will do. God wants to KNOW you. Your mind and heart are of utmost importance to God. God loves you and will forgive you and will cleanse you and will teach you – if you acknowledge what God wants! What you have on the INSIDE shows in what you do. If your mind and heart belong to God, then you will do what God wants. But if he does not have your inner parts, then the good things you do is just religion and all in vain.

To feel forgiven – to feel the peace we get with God, we must acknowledge that God wants our hearts & those secret places we try to hide from Him.

If God has our inner selves, then our outer selves will also belong to Him.

Once we acknowledge that God wants our inner selves, we have to accept the results of His mercy and grace – forgiveness & renewal. Let’s look at verses 7-12

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.1

One of the first things we get when we accept what God has done is cleansing. In verses 7 and 9, we can see that when God cleanses you, you will be so clean that you will be whiter than snow. Realize: snow is not just white on the outside, its white on the inside as well! You will be so clean that God will not see your sins – they will be as if they never were!

Some people say, “I am so dirty, I can NEVER be forgiven or clean!” If you still say you can’t be forgiven, then we’re back to you and God not being in agreement – and guess which one of you is wrong? 

Don’t fall into the trap the enemy would love you to be in! Don’t think God is limited. Don’t think you are bigger than God. GOD says you ARE forgiven if you confess (or admit) your sins and believe! God created you,; its God who forgives you; its God who cleans you! You just accept what God does! 

The next thing we get to accept is joy! Notice in verse 8 that David asking to hear joy and gladness – in fact, he wants to rejoice! He specifically asked to let the bones God had crushed rejoice. The conviction of God can be crushing indeed! Many times we are able to feel God’s correction or conviction (or perhaps Satan’s or our own condemnation), but we do not allow ourselves to feel God’s forgiveness! Its easy to feel bad — sometimes we do it so others will feel bad for us and maybe not hold us accountable. It is often SO difficult to feel better, to say nothing of how difficult it is to feel real JOY! We need to accept the forgiveness and cleansing of God and let GOD help us rejoice! I know it’s hard while we’re in the moment, but we can rejoice for the difficulties we’ve faced, because they help us grow closer to God.

And God is the one that grows US! We can see this when we realize the next thing we accept that God has given us a new heart!

Notice the word ‘create’ in verse 10 – this is the same word used when speaking of what God did in the creation of the universe. He created the universe out of nothing, and this is what He does with our hearts – he does not use the old one, but gives us a new heart, a pure heart. This is not a reconditioned heart. It’s a NEW heart. If you know you’re forgiven, but don’t feel that way, maybe the problem is that you have never asked for or accepted the new heart God creates! The life of a growing, maturing, Christian is filled with times when God wants to change him – but we have to be willing. By asking, we show our willingness – by accepting, we begin to change!

In verse 10, we see that we also get to accept a renewed spirit. In verse 12, he restates the same thing, asking for a new willingness to obey God – The King James Version calls this spirit a ‘right spirit’.   The idea is the correct spirit – not a spirit that does what it wants – not a spirit that succumbs to every desire, but a steadfast and consistently faithful spirit. David wants to want what God wants. David is asking for God to renew his spirit of faithfulness to God – but more than asking, he is accepting it. You see, David recognized that God wants us to be holy and faithful – and because of that, God is more than willing to give us what we need to be exactly that! We simply have to ask and accept what He is giving us!

We see in verse 11 that when we agree with God, we also accept fellowship with Him. If we are admitting our sin for the first time, then we get NEW fellowship, and if we are already believers, we get continued and renewed fellowship with God.

When King Saul had sinned to the point where God was done with him as king, the Spirit of God had been taken from Saul and had come onto David. David did not want to lose that. He didn’t want to be rejected by God and he didn’t want to be abandoned by God. So he specifically asked for God to not leave him.

Sometimes we believe that we’re so terrible that God would not want to be near us, let alone live within us. But did you know that no Christian today has to worry about losing the Spirit of God? Romans 10:9 says,

“That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

And if you are saved, then the Spirit of God lives within you. And if the Spirit of God lives within you, He will never leave you. You can grieve Him, you can quench Him, but you can never grieve Him away or quench Him away. We are told, in Ephesians 4:30,

 “… do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

If you believe, you are sealed by God to be HIS. Therefore no child of God can lose the Spirit of God. Sometimes we don’t feel forgiven because we are not allowing the spirit of God to work in us. But all we have to do is ask for what God has already done so we can allow ourselves to accept it.

As part of feeling forgiven, we also must accept the restored joy of salvation.

In verse 12, David asked to have the joy of his salvation renewed. Remember that David had already been forgiven. David was trusting God and did not lose his salvation. But he lost the joy of his salvation, and he wanted the feeling of communion with God restored. He wanted to feel that connection with God that is oh so sweet! When we sin, we loose the joy of our salvation, but with forgiveness, we can regain that joy as well!

Finally, as a result of what we God has done, we are to acclaim God’s actions and attributes:

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. 14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. 18 In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem. 19 Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar.

How many times do we NOT speak up about what God has done in our lives? How many times have we had the opportunity and not taken it – instead we stay quiet or attribute it to a coincidence or something else, instead of praising God. By not giving God the glory, we allow ourselves to overlook what God has done and is doing. When we make a habit of praising God, we will begin to look for where God is working in our lives and what he has done. The more we realize what God has done for us, the more we will FEEL forgiven.

If we feel forgiven, we will let people know! We will talk about who God is and what He’s done. This is exactly what David says he will do.  Notice in verse 13 David says he will teach sinners (that’s another word for transgressors) God’s ways. David will talk about who God is and what God has done in his life! David will speak about the love and compassion, mercy and grace God showed David. He will speak about all that God has done for him, and because people hear about what God has done for him, people will turn to Him!

In verse 14, David speaks about God’s righteousness – His goodness, His moral rightness, His blamelessness. Because of what God has done, David will speak about how RIGHT and GOOD God is. Because of what God has done for him, David will praise God whenever he feels prompted! So often we feel a prompting to say or do something, but we worry about how we will look or what people will think. But if we want to feel forgiven, we need to give God praise. The more we praise God, the more we will feel forgiven. 

God knows the condition of our heart and spirit! God is not interested in just the outer stuff, since He knows what is going on inside the heart of each one of us. God wants us to be contrite and broken – not rebellious! This is the sort of thing David will praise God about. If you have agreed with God about who you are and what you’ve done, you only have to accept what GOD has done for you, and if you still don’t feel forgiven, then I suggest you acclaim who God is and what He has done for you.

Because of the God’s goodness, David asks God to make Israel prosper, which will result in more people giving the type of sacrifices God is interested in: broken and contrite hearts, which will in turn result in people doing the things God has asked them to do.

So let me sum up: sometimes even though we are forgiven, we don’t feel forgiven. In times like that, we need to remember that its not about US, but its about GOD. We need to recognize God’s love and compassion and APPEAL to God for mercy and grace. We need to ASK for that forgiveness we’ve already received. We need to AGREE with God about what we’ve done. We need to ACKNOWLEDGE that God really wants our hidden places, our minds and hearts. We need to ACCEPT the changes God makes in us – a cleansed self, a forgiven self, a renewed ability to rejoice in our salvation, a new heart and a willing and faithful spirit. And we need to acclaim who God is and what He’s done in our lives.

For those of you who do not know Christ – who have never BEEN forgiven, let alone FELT forgiven, know that God loves you and wants you to know that to be forgiven all you have to do is agree with Him that you’ve been doing things wrong – you’ve been sinning – you’ve been following your own way instead of His. But God knew you would, and so He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to die as the only sacrifice you will ever need to be right with God. All you need to do is admit you’re a sinner and accept what God has done for you.

For those who DO know Christ but have not been walking as you should be and want to FEEL forgiven, know the altar is open. All you have to do is what? APPEAL to God’s mercy and grace, ASK for the forgiveness you’ve already been given, AGREE with God about what you’ve done, ACKNOWLEDGE that God wants our minds and hearts, and ACCEPT the things God has already given you. Only THEN can you truly ACCLAIM who God is and what He’s done.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: