The Forgiveness of God
Last week, I’m told that Zach did a tremendous job outlining our next sermon series called, “Turn AND Burn.” During this season of Lent, we are exploring what it means to abandon ourselves and our sins (TURN) AND live fully for Jesus (BURN). We will be using Psalm 51 as our camp ground over the next few weeks. Let me encourage you to read these 19 verses at least once a week as part of your Lenten devotionals.
Last week Zach shared the background of King David and his sinful actions which was in STARK CONTRAST to the faithful actions of Uriah the Hittite, one of David’s 37 Mighty Men…a man with whom David had great affection. Yet the king STILL chose to commit adultery with Uriah’s wife, try to deceive him, and ultimately conspired to have him killed. This foreigner was more righteous than God’s chosen servant king!
When David’s sins are exposed through the prophet Nathan, the king responded appropriately. He lamented over his sin and confessed to God his wrongdoing. THIS, among other things—including his lifelong posture of worship toward God—was why David was known as “a man after God’s own heart.”
Psalm 51 is not only a song of confession, but of forgiveness and commitment. THAT’S why we are exploring this text during the season of LENT. This is the season where we ground ourselves in the reality that we are ALL sinners in need of forgiveness and salvation.
To set the stage for today’s conversation, let’s begin by reading again the opening 4 verses of Ps 51: 1Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3For I know my transgressions. and my sin is always before me. 4Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
There are at least three things that strike me as utterly amazing and significant in the opening verses of this psalm:
1.David recognized that God is the One who was primarily offended because of his of sins. He was brutally honest with God. David knew that it wasn’t only Uriah and Bethsheba that he sinned against, it was against God! Ultimately, EVERY offense we make toward others offends the God of all creation.
2.David recognized that God was the Source of mercy and forgiveness from his sins. It is only GOD who can restore us…cleanse us…wash us. Sure, it’s important to seek reconciliation with those we’ve offended—in fact, we are commanded to—but how can David do that with a dead man. His blood cries out from the ground, just as Abel’s did because of Cain’s murderous offense. No, even when we can seek forgiveness from those we offend, they are not the ones who hold sway over our very souls. Only God is.
3.David demonstrated faith that, from the outset, God would forgive his sins. He recognized God as unfailing in his love and compassionate with his children. If we believe that regardless of how sorry we are because of our sins, God may OR MAY NOT forgive us, then many of us may throw in the towel and say, “What’s the use!” But that’s NOT the God we love and serve. Our God is ready to respond as we come to him in repentance and humility.
Zach told me that I get to play the “nice preacher” today because he had to play “mean preacher” last week, reminding us of how sinful we are and how much we are in need of forgiveness. To borrow the words of Isaiah, “All we, like sheep, have gone astray. Each of us to his own way.” We ALL need to repent of our sins.
Today I’m going to be the “nice preacher.” If you need to hear today that God loves you and stands ready to forgive you of all your sin, then you’ve picked a great day to be in worship at BUMC! To prepare for that great news, let’s turn our attention to the next five verses of Psalm 51 as we hear how David saw his sinful condition but at the same time understands and seeks God’s total forgiveness:
5Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place. 7Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. 9Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. (Psalm 51:5-9)
The opening verses of this great psalm are cries for mercy. David asks three things which essentially say the same thing: (1) blot out my transgressions; (2) wash away all my iniquity; and (3) cleanse me from my sin. These same requests are in reverse order in verses 7-9.
The word for “blot out” (maw-khaw’) meant to erase something, like from a book or a ledger. The word “wash” (kaw-bas’) carried with it the washing of clothes done by a fuller. The fuller’s soap and rinsing process would make a garment clean as new. Finally, the word “cleanse” is often translated as purify or purge. The idea is often associated with lepers who had to be deemed clean or purified by the priest before they could rejoin the Jewish community. To be cleansed, then, meant you no longer had the effects of your illness. You were, in essence made whole again.
This is what David is seeking. But, as he did in verse 3, David elaborates on his human condition: 5Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. The prevailing idea among many Christians is people are generally “good” people and that should be enough reason for God to let us off the hook and into heaven. David understood what we now call the doctrine of total depravity. This takes us back to the Fall in Genesis 3. We are born with the sin-nature.
And yet, we read that God “desires faithfulness even in the womb; he teaches wisdom in that secret place.” The apostle Paul puts it this way in Romans 1:20à For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from His workmanship, so that men are without excuse. David knew this, and in fact, all of humankind knows this. The trouble is, much of the world refuses to accept it a truth!
I recently heard a pastor, Dave Allgire, say this about our sin and God’s forgiveness: It’s WORSE than you think and BETTER than you think! Our sin is way worse than we think it is. It affects not only us and others around us but also our holy Father in heaven. We can try to minimize what we’ve done thinking, “Well, my sins aren’t as bad as ________.” But the reality is, YES! Our sins are way worse than we imagine.
But there is an equally significant and eternally more beautiful truth: No matter how sinful we are, God is even more forgiving! That’s why David could pray with confidence: 9Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. If God could forgive a lazy, lying, cheating, murdering adulterer like David, don’t you think God can forgive you?
Yes, God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness is WAY BETTER than we think! Some of us just can’t accept that God would love and forgive the likes of us, but that’s a lie from hell. God loves you so much that he wants an eternal relationship with you, so he sent Jesus Christ to take your punishment on the cross so you don’t have to! That’s WAY BETTER, isn’t it?
Notice there is a consequence to sin, despite the assurance of forgiveness. David says, 8Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Even when we fail to obey God’s Word and find ourselves “in a tight spot” as a result, we can rejoice knowing that we have a compassionate God and Savior!
In our Call to Worship this morning we heard the words of David found in Psalm 103:
1Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—3who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases. David is full of praise—inside and out—not because life is a bed of roses…not because he has no trouble or never sins and has to pay the consequences for them…but because of WHO God is. He goes on to declare: 8The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 9He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 11For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
Some of us have been holding on to the pain of guilt for what we may have done weeks, months, or even years ago. We may believe in our minds that Jesus died to forgive our sins, but somehow we can’t let go of the past. At the root of this is a failure on our part to forgive ourselves. We simply cannot let ourselves off the hook for what we did.
In August of 2014 I did what in my mind was one of the worst things I could have ever done to one of my children. No one was physically hurt, but the repercussions of my sinful actions reverberate to this day. I’ll never forget how terribly I treated my daughter.
BUT…I have been reconciled with Hannah Rose AND with God. I no longer hold onto unforgiveness. I no longer allow the enemy to use my past to determine my future. If the blood of Jesus was good enough to forgive the thief on the cross…or Peter who denied Him…or millions of others who trusted Jesus to take away their sins…it is good enough to forgive me of that sin…and all other sins I have ever committed!
I have chosen to trust God’s word : “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). And if God can forgive me…if my daughter can forgive me…then I can forgive myself.
How about you? Are there things in your life you know have offended God? Have you taken them to the Lord in prayer? I love the lyrics of one of the great hymns of our faith: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”
What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!
Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer!
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer!
Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge–take it to the Lord in prayer!
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In his arms he’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.
Today’s message is a very simple one. Even though you’ve sinned against God, you are even more forgiven through the shed blood of his Son, Jesus Christ. God loves you and desires a relationship with you, free from sin and shame. He is MORE than able and willing to bring you into that state of forgiveness if we are willing to admit our need of him, accept his forgiveness, AND forgive ourselves in the process!
Some messages are more informational while others are inspirational…they move us to action. So, here’s what I want us to do. I want us to spend just a few minutes in silence while we quietly pray to God, thanking him for making a way back to himself through Jesus Christ. Then I want us to offer to Jesus any burden on our hearts: maybe it’s a sin you committed recently or a long time ago…maybe it’s a friend who’s going through a hard time…maybe it’s a family member who is far from God. Whatever the situation, take it to the Lord in prayer. Prayer not only changes circumstances, it changes US!
After a couple of minutes of silence, we will close our service by singing “He Knows My Name”