Preached on Sunday, March 25, 2007
Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY
This just in: there is someone in leadership in our country that possess moral conviction. In our culture, that is newsworthy!
I wonder how many people had ever heard of Peter Pace before he made headlines this past week. What is a shame is that this man is our nation’s top military officer, a veteran decorated 48 times over, a distinguished military career. Yet, that alone is not newsworthy enough. On what matter does General Pace have conviction?
His interview with the Chicago Tribune noted this:
My upbringing is such that I believe that there are certain things, certain types of conduct that are immoral. I believe that military members who sleep with other military members’ wives are immoral in their conduct, and that we should not tolerate that. I believe that homosexual acts between individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts.
If you read the papers and see the news on the web, you would believe that General Pace spoke only of homosexuality, but he spoke of all types of immorality and put them on the same level. Whatever his worldview on life, clearly part of that worldview is, but what is clear is that he does not believe sinful or immoral behavior is right and it should not be tolerated among military personnel.
What a tragedy when we come to a point when someone makes a statement like that — and its newsworthy! When Dr. Albert Mohler of Southern Seminary was on Larry King Live not too long ago dealing with the question of homosexuality in the church, one other panelist who was also a clergywoman noted how her relationship with her female companion was “holy and completely natural to her and that she was being who God made her to be.” Dr. Mohler responded by saying, “I have a great sympathy for everyone who desires to have a relationship with God, but that only comes through Jesus Christ — and the gospel is about repenting of sin, not celebrating it!” What an important conviction to have — we must deal with our sin, not tolerate it. We must call sin by what it is — rebellion against a holy God. We must be desperate to kill sin or, as John Owen has said, ‘sin will be killing’ us.
Psalm 51 shows a desperation as David deals with his sin. David, a man after God’s own heart, found himself in a situation in which so many men find themselves. In 2 Samuel 11, it tells of a battle in which the people of Israel were engaged, yet at the end it says, “But David remain at Jerusalem” (2 Samuel 11:1, ESV). When we are idle when it comes to the duty God places before us, sin cannot help but transpire. If we’re not following our Father, we’re following our flesh. David gazed out, saw Bathsheba — the wife of Uriah, one of David’s mighty men — bathing. He sent for her, had relations, then tried to hide it by sending for Uriah from the front telling him to go home. Uriah refused and slept at the door of David’s palace. David then sent Uriah to the front of the battle, where he was killed. Once Bathsheba finished with the prescribed time of grieving, David immediately brought her into his house and made her his wife and bore him a son.
So getting back to Psalm 51, you see the title: “To the Choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had on in to Bathsheba.” Nathan, through a clever story, informed David of God’s view of his sin. The consequences? Nathan prophesied that, “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me. … I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. … For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.” When David confessed his sin, Nathan said, “The Lord also has put away your sin, you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scored the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die” (see 2 Samuel 12).
Sin is serious business. Rebelling against the living God has serious consequences. Let us learn the lessons from Psalm 51.
1. Until we see our need for help, we will not treasure his hope (Psalm 51:1-6).
We laugh at the jokes where men are driving and are notorious for refusing to ask for directions when everyone in the car knows they are lost. The reason we tend not to ask is that we always tend to believe we know our way out of the situation. We try to play it cool and stay collected. It is only when we are at the end of our proverbial rope do we even think about asking. We’ll not ask for help as long as we believe we can get out of our predicament.
I believe many people reject the idea of sin because they reject the idea that they need help — and thus discount the hope that God provides. David was desperate for help because Nathan confronted him about his sin and because he was under conviction of his sin. What’s the nature of this sin?
Notice he begs God to blot out his transgressions, to wash him thoroughly from his iniquity, and to cleanse him from his sin. By using these terms, David was a student in understanding all the angles of sin. He knew better than to say that sin is simple some mistakes one makes. It’s much more serious. Transgressions comes with the understanding of crossing a boundary God has set between the holy and unholy. Iniquity is an understanding of our original sin — that we were born depraved (which is what David notes in Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” The term ‘sin’ in verse 2 deals with a falling short, much like what Paul noted in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
As he gets to verse 3, he says, “I know my transgressions, my sin is ever before me.” That is good! It is good to know not only that you have cross a boundary, but that you know where the boundary is! With all the hubbub from General Pace’s comments, our culture tends to avoid the boundary — and anyone who says there is a boundary gets shouted down. We applaud those who say we are more enlightened and have moved on from those boundaries. Yet we must be careful.
So many try to avoid what sin looks like, but they also try to avoid whom their sin is against! When we pollute, we think it is just affecting the next generation. When we commit sexual sin, we think it’s just against us or the one we’re with or against our spouse or future spouse. We think, when we have a rift with someone, we think it’s just against someone. But know for certain who you have sinned against.
“Against you and you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” How can David say this? We sin against a lot of people. The sins are our responsibility. Yes, that’s true — but how do you know what a sin is? How do you know where that boundary is? How do you know you have fallen short? You know because God is the one who sets the boundaries — and God is the one from whose glory we have fallen short! And even if you just look at how David sinned against Bathsheba and Uriah, those two and everyone on earth are made in God’s image.
2. Untill we treasure his hope, we will not know true joy (Psalm 51:7-12).
We cannot experience true joy in anything while we are still in our sin. What is sad is that so many believe they can. But the bar is set too low. We think he have joy, but it will be like counterfeit money. It may look real, even feel real. You may even fool others and spend that money … but at the end of the day, it’s not real and will be deemed worthless.
Psalm 51:8 says, “Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.” Verse 12 also says, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation.” Where is this joy coming from? Look at verse 7: “Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” The word ‘purge’ literally means to ‘de-sin’ me. David’s heart was so broken over his sin that he wanted nothing more than for any remnants, any traces of sin to be extracted from him.
Notice what the writer of Hebrews 9:19-22:
For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people,  saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.”  And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship.  Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
This hyssop was a small plant that could be easily used for a brush. In the Temple ceremonies, the priests used it to sprinkle blood. In Exodus 12, when the people of Israel while enslaved in Egypt were told to use this hyssop to cover the doorways with blood, so when the angel of death passed over, their firstborn would be spared. So this hyssop of which David and the writer of Hebrews speaks is an expression of God’s mercy — it was used to cleanse and purify and forgive me. Paul says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Ephesians 1:7). What can wash away those sins, dear friends? Nothing but the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Shouldn’t that bring us joy? When we are clean, we are joyful. When our bones are set once again. When we have a God who will hide our sins once forgiven, who will blot out our iniquities from his book, shouldn’t that bring a joy and a delight?
Now notice what David writes and prays in Psalm 51:10-12:
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
I had a pastor friend who liked to restore cars. He would take a shell of a car that had been beaten up and wrecked and to those of us who did not have his skill, it looked as if that car could never be restored. Yet he could do it — and do it well… you never would have thought that any good could have come of that.
God not only restores, he re-creates. Only God can create something out of nothing. When we are in our sin, our spirits are wrong — undeniably wrong, and in our view irreparably wrong. Yet God gives us a renewed spirit, a right(eous) spirit. Now we look at verse 11 and think, “David is asking God not to take away his salvation!” Not at all, for once we are sealed in the Spirit, we are sealed in the Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14). What he is saying is, “I deserve it, so please don’t give me what I deserve. I do not deserve to have your Holy Spirit in me, but I’m thankful he is there to convict so that I can confess and then I can conform to your will and way.”
But again, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation.” Not, restore my salvation, restore the joy of my salvation. We wonder why we have so many joyless Christians. You may wonder, where is the joy? The question you may have to ask is, “where is the sin that robs my joy? Where do I need to be made clean?” Sadly, we are too often blinded to our sin, so we have to ask God to make us see it. We have to ask God, “Lord, make me willing to see it and deal with it and put it before you.”
Not long before she died in 1988, in a moment of surprising candor in television, Marghanita Laski, one of our best-known secular humanists and novelists, said, “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me.” We do! His name is Jesus Christ! He is in the forgiveness business.
3. Until we are broken before God, we cannot hope to please him (Psalm 51:13-20).
Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman told of a distinguished minister, Dr. Howard, from Australia who preached very strongly on the subject of sin. After the service, one of the church officers came to counsel with him in the study. “Dr. Howard,” he said, “we don’t want you to talk as openly as you do about man’s guilt and corruption, because if our boys and girls hear you discussing that subject they will more easily become sinners. Call it a mistake if you will, but do not speak so plainly about sin. “The minister took down a small bottle and showing it to the visitor said, “You see that label? It says strychnine — and underneath in bold, red letters the word ‘Poison!’ Do you know, man, what you are asking me to do? You are suggesting that I change the label. Suppose I do, and paste over it the words, ‘Essence of Peppermint’; don’t you see what might happen? Someone would use it, not knowing the danger involved, and would certainly die. So it is, too, with the matter of sin. The milder you make your label, the more dangerous you make your poison!”
David writes in Psalm 51:13-15
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
When God delivers us from our sins, our iniquities, our transgressions, the idea is that we will turn around and teach others who are in need of sin. They’ll see the work God has done in you, and “sinners will return” to the living God. When God delivers us from our sin and our self, from “bloodguiltiness,” we cannot help but “sing aloud of [God’s] righteousness.”
When Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up, he saw himself. He reminds me of a newspaper article in which the writer interviewed G.K. Chesterton. He asked Chesterton, “What is wrong with the world?” to which Chesterton responded, “I am.” Isaiah said:
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.  And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.  And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.
 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”
How we declare the praises of our God and how we sing when we worship is a dogged reflection of how we view God’s mercy and deliverance. Ron should never have to ask us to sing out, nor should any other worship leader in this world! We have been delivered from our guilt. And here is the essence of our worship:
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise
(Psalm 51:16-17, ESV).
You see, they had grown to where they worshipped the form of worship rather than seeing the function of worship was to worship the Lord God. Worship extends from brokenness. In order for us to be what He desires, he has to break us in order to remake us in his image. We can come to worship and sing and stand and pray and listen in all the right places and think, “I’ve worshipped.” Have you? We can have the right form or worship, but fail in its true function. It’s function is to exalt the lordship of Jesus Christ into all areas of life — where He is predominant.
Romans 6:1-3 says,
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?  Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”
We have died to sin when we trust in the fact that Christ died for our sins as a sacrifice. We lay our lives on the altar as a sacrifice to him.
The renowned American author John Steinbeck described in his work Travels with Charley a Sunday visit to a New England church. The minister delivered a no nonsense fire and brimstone sermon (remember those?). Note Steinbeck’s reflections:
For some years now, God has been a pal to us, practicing togetherness, and that causes the same emptiness a father does playing softball with his son. But this Vermont God cared enough about me to go to a lot of trouble kicking the Hell out of me. He put my sins in a new perspective. Whereas they had been small and mean and nasty and best forgotten, this minister gave them some size and bloom and dignity. I hadn’t been thinking very well of myself for some years, but if my sins had this dimension, there was some pride left. I wasn’t a naughty child but a first-rate sinner, and I was going to catch it.
After listening to David’s reaction to his sins, and after seeing how God desires to deal with the seriousness of our sin and to lift its guilt therein, how do you see your sin? Frankly, how you see your sin is a reflection of how you see your Savior! Is Christ just a good-ol’-boy in heaven wanting to simply bestow blessings like candy? Or is he more than that — wanting to deal with the primary and most devastating problem plaguing humanity which is our sin? Sin is simply unbelief — believing in the promises of the world, the flesh, and the devil rather than the promises of God through Christ.
John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America (New York: Bantam, 1996), 78. Quoted in Haddon Robinson, Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages, 2nd edition (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 147.