This sermon is part of the sermon series "Broken". See series.
Last week I talked about the road to compromise and the road to integrity. We are either on one or the other. David eventually walked the road to compromise. It started when he stayed home during battle time, when all the other men were gone. David was not where he should have been. He was home with the women. It was the wrong time for David to be home. He was feeling lonely. He was bored. And because he was lonely and bored—and perhaps feeling unappreciated—he went to his rooftop to view porn. He watched a woman bathe. He let every line drop. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong focus. He crossed boundaries, and he committed wrong actions. Another man's wife conceived his son. David didn't know what to do. He tried to get Uriah to come back from battle to be with his wife so that he could pawn it off. But Uriah wouldn't do it. So David ended up putting Uriah on the front lines of battle, and Uriah was killed.
David walked the road to compromise. He not only hurt himself, his family, Bathsheba, and Uriah; he hurt the entire nation. And what does he do? He just sits on it. For several months he allows it to fester inside of him. He describes it in Psalm 32 and in Psalm 38.
Finally, the prophet Nathan shows up and basically says: David, I need to talk to you. I need to tell you something that has happened in the kingdom. There is a rich man, who has all kinds of sheep and lambs, and there is a poor man, who only has one ewe lamb. This ewe lamb was his pet. It basically eats off of his table, drinks out of his bowl, and sleeps in his arms. The wealthy man had visitors coming into town, and he decided to cook a lamb for them. But instead of taking one of his own, he took the poor man's ewe lamb. He slaughtered it and fed it to his visitors.
"David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, 'As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die!'" David wants to know who this guy is. He wants to kill him. David says, "He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity." And Nathan points his finger at David, saying, "You are the man!" You are the one who took someone else's wife. You destroyed that man's home. And as a result, you've destroyed your own family. "You are the man!"
In 2 Samuel 12:13, David says to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." David expresses genuine repentance. He doesn't just verbalize his regret. He is genuinely repentant, and he writes Psalm 51.
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
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.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors your way,
and sinners will turn back to you.
Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.
In your good pleasure make Zion prosper;
build up the walls of Jerusalem.
Then there will be righteous sacrifices,
whole burnt offerings to delight you;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Many of us don't know what to do when we've blown it. We don't know what to do when we realize we're infected with sin. David was aware of his sin. He realized he had done horrible things. Some of us live in self-righteousness until we do something terrible. Then we realize we're infected. But God wants us to realize that we all are infected by sin. We all have blown it. All of us have fallen short of the glory of God. That is what the Bible says.
So what do we do when we've blown it? Psalm 51 gives us an example of what God wants from us. This psalm includes six things that God wants us to remember when we've blown it, when we've realized we are infected on the inside.
Focus on God's love, not your mistakes
First, God wants us to know that we can move past our mistakes. Ultimately we need to look to the Cross. Many of us, even as followers of Christ, allow our mistakes to define who we ware. Many of us struggle to forgive ourselves. But God doesn't want us to be defined by our mistakes. He doesn't want you to be defined by your past. Ultimately he wants you to be defined by his forgiveness. God wants you to be defined by the Cross.
In verse 1, David says, "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions." He recognizes God's unfailing love and compassion. In light of that knowledge, he asked God to blot out his sins, to wipe them away, to remove them as far as the east is from the west. David knew his heart was infected by sin, and he knew he needed God to work in his life.
David knows who God is. Many of us struggle to move past our mistakes because we have a wrong image of who God is. Many of us imagine God to be like a pagan deity with lightning bolts, waiting to zap us when we step out of line. To be clear, God is a God of justice, and sin has to be punished. But God is also a God of unfailing love and great compassion.
You and I have a love that fails. Our love wears out and runs dry. If you're married, you know that is true. We have to rely on God constantly to infuse us with his unfailing love so that we can share it with others. God's love never fails. It never runs dry. It never quits. It never stops. So, no matter what we've done, God doesn't stop loving us. David writes about this in Psalm 23: "Surely, goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." God hunts us down and follows us with goodness and love, not wrath and vengeance.
God knows all about you. God knows every recess in your heart. God knows all of the places you keep hidden from other people. He knows all of your thoughts. He knows every action you make. But he still has great compassion on you. He still wants to give you forgiveness. He still wants to move you past your mistakes.
David was correct when he said the man who did this—stole the poor man's lamb—deserved to die. He knew his sin was deserving of death, but he also knew that God's love is unfailing. In his unfailing love, God sent his only Son. Whoever places trust and belief in Jesus Christ will not perish but have eternal life.
Confess your sins to God
Secondly, God wants us to admit our guilt. Once, a man cheated on his IRS forms and taxes. He felt overwhelming guilt as a result. So, several months later he wrote a note to the IRS, saying, "I cheated on my forms. I put the wrong numbers down. I've been feeling guilty, and I can't sleep at night. I'm sending a check for 1,500 dollars. If I still can't sleep, I'll send you the rest." We need to make full confession. We can't settle for partially opening up our heart. We can't settle for partially confessing our sin. God want us to come completely clean about our guilt.
That's what David does. He says, "Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me." He couldn't stop thinking about what he had done.
David also said, "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight." You might be thinking, Wait a minute. What about Bathsheba? What about Uriah? What about the nation? How can he say he sinned only against God? David is not minimizing his sin against Bathsheba, Uriah, and his own family. Instead, he's highlighting his sin against God.
Last week I said that living a life of integrity requires full commitment to God. Even when you recite your marriage vows to your spouse, your promise is made first to God. You're promising to obey God as you build your life with your spouse. You're promising to put Jesus' words into practice.
David realized that he was busted and broken. When he sinned, he realized that he hurt God the most. He hurt his relationship with God. When you and I sin, the person we hurt the most is God.
In verse 5, David says, "I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." David says we are born with the infection of sin. It's not something we learn to do. It's something we have. It's a part of us. It's a part of who we are. And God wants us to come completely clean, to acknowledge our sinfulness. First John 1:8 says, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth of God is not in us." If we claim we're not infected by it—that we're somehow above it or beyond it—we deceive ourselves, and the truth isn't in us.
I didn't realize my sinfulness until my early 20s. My marriage was in shambles. My life wasn't going the way I thought it should go. Emotionally and spiritually I knew I was at the end of my rope. And I remember admitting for the first time in my life that I was a sinner. I even said it out loud. I'm not a crier, but I cried when I said it. I said, "God, I'm such a sinner." And it wasn't from within me. I think God revealed that to me. I was studying to be a psychologist. Until that point in my life, I thought sin was something we learned. I had not yet come under biblical authority at this point. I thought we just had to unlearn it. I thought we had to do things like behavior management to get rid of sin.
I finally admitted that I was born with sin. I do infected things because I'm infected. I opened up my heart completely to God and said, "God, I need you to cleanse me." I surrendered my life to Christ. I said, "Jesus, I need what you died for on the Cross." Before I confessed my sin, the Cross didn't make a lot of sense to me. I hadn't done horrible things, not like David, so I didn't think I needed what Jesus came for, not until I confessed that I was born infected.
Allow God to work in the midst of your brokenness
Thirdly, God wants to use our brokenness to grow us. In verse 6, David says, "Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. Cleanse me with hyssop." Hyssop is a plant that grows in the Middle East. It's a sponge-like plant that people would use in offering sacrifices on the altar in Jerusalem. They would dip the hyssop into the blood. Or if they were ritually cleansing something, they would dip the hyssop into water and sprinkle something clean. David says he can't offer a sacrifice to remove his own guilt. There's nothing he could do. He realized that God had to work so that his sin could be atoned for. To be atoned means to be at one with God. David knew that his sin hindered his relationship with God, and there was nothing he could do to fix it.
"Cleanse me," he says, "with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice." The word crushed means broken and oppressed. He describes being crushed. This is what happens inside of us if we swallow guilt and don't come clean before God. It takes a toll on our emotional well-being and our physical bodies.
In Psalm 32 and 38, David describes what he felt before he confessed his sin. 32:3-4: "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer." Before he came clean, he was emotionally unhealthy. His energy was drained. He was depressed. He couldn't get out of bed. He couldn't move.
To be clear, I am not saying that all depression is a result sin and guilt. But I am saying that guilt can lead to depression. Some depression is physiologically based, but we need to realize that some depression is spiritually based. Some depression is rooted in guilt and anger.
But David did not only experience depression. Psalm 38:4 and 38:7 say, "My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. My wounds fester [and basically stink] are loathsome because of my sinful folly. I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning.… My back is filed with searing pain; there is no health in my body."
His depression, which was a result of his sin, affected his physical health. He was sick. He had excruciating back pain because he hadn't confessed his sin to God. It was destroying him. Unconfessed sin will do stuff to us. It will hurt us emotionally, spiritually, and physically. And that's what happened to David. Some of us carry guilt, and it takes a toll on our emotional well-being, as well as our physical well-being. But listen to what David did. He said, "Let the bones that you have crushed rejoice." He asks God to restore his joy.
Karl Menninger, a non-Christian psychiatrist, said, "If I could convince my patients that they were truly forgiven, 75 percent of them would never see me again." A non-Christian is saying people need forgiveness.
That's why Jesus came. That's what David needed. That's what he cried out for. And that's what we need. Some of us go through life beating ourselves up because we can't forgive ourselves. Some of us are unable to forgive others. As a result, we're unable to be cleansed by God, and we continue to live in sin because we haven't been forgiven and renewed.
"Let the bones you have crushed rejoice." Sheep often stray from their shepherds, and sometimes they get killed or lost. In the Middle East, shepherds would take runaway sheep and break one of their legs, bind up the leg, and put the sheep around their neck. The shepherds would carry the sheep until the sheep's leg healed. The sheep's head would usually rest next to the shepherd's heart. Sheep that are broken when they are lambs stay close to the shepherd when they are full-grown.
The same is true for us. David isn't necessarily saying that God broke him. Circumstances, his choices, broke him. God wants to give you joy in the midst of brokenness. He wants to put you around his neck and hold you close. He wants you to hear his heartbeat. He wants you to know who he is. And as you continue to grow, he wants you to stay close to his side. David never sinned again that way. He abandoned the road to compromise, and he continued on the road of integrity. Like that lamb that had been broken, he stayed close to the Shepherd's feet.
Forsake your sinful ways
Fourthly, God wants us to leave behind our old ways.
There is a story about a man who walks into a restaurant. He orders a Coke, and as soon as he receives it he throws it in the waiter's face. The waiter is ready to fight, and the man says, "Oh, I'm so sorry." He actually is sorry. He says, "I have a horrible compulsion. I can't help it. Whenever someone hands me a drink, I throw it in their face. Please, forgive me." Then he says, "I'm working hard to overcome it. Would you bring me another one?" And the waiter says, "Do you promise not to throw it in my face?" And the man responds, "I'm going to do everything I can not to throw it in your face. I'm working really hard to resist." And so the waiter says, "Okay, I'll bring you another one."
So the waiter comes back with another Coke, and the guy throws it in the waiter's face. And the waiter says, "I thought you said you wouldn't do that." He says, "Oh, this compulsion is so strong. I promise you that I will check myself into an in-patient clinic to get some help. Forgive me. I'm so sorry." The man felt genuine guilt and sorrow.
So he checks himself into a clinic, and for one month he gets intense psychotherapy to deal with his compulsion. When he gets out of the clinic, he goes back to the same restaurant, and he walks in and he says, "I'm cured. Give me a drink." And the waiter says, "Wait a minute. I had to change my shirt last time you were here. Are you sure you're cured?" And the guy says, "I know I'm cured. I promise." The waiter says, "Okay, if you're cured I'll bring you a Coke."
And so the waiter brings him a Coke. The guy looks at it and throws it right in the waiter's face. And the waiter says, "I thought you said you were cured." And the guy says, "I am cured. I still have the compulsion. I just don't feel guilty about it anymore."
There's a lot of truth in that story. Oftentimes, we think the cure is to make ourselves not feel guilty about sin. We look for the right counselor or friend to tell us that what we are doing isn't wrong. We don't want to feel guilty. But that's not the cure. The cure is to deal with the infection that led to your behavior in the first place. The cure is to be changed on the inside.
David says, "Hide your face from my sin and blot out my iniquity." How is God going to do that? In verse 10, David says, "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Spirit from me." He's basically saying: God, I need newness. I don't want to go back to the same old infected behavior. I need for you to cure the infection. I need for you to create in me a pure heart. I don't just want to press reset and go back to the same infection. I want that to be removed.
Some of us need to ask for that. We can ask for forgiveness, but unless we have repentance and unless we say, "Create in me a pure heart," we're going to return to porn, sinful habits, unhealthy relationships, and so on. God wants to cleanse your heart. He wants to create in you a pure heart. And David says, "Renew a steadfast spirit in me." He's asking God to make him loyal. Steadfast means loyal. Loyal sheep stay close to the shepherd. David asks God to use his brokenness to grow him, to draw him close. He wants to leave his old, sinful ways behind.
Allow God to help you deal with the consequences
The fifth thing we learn from this psalm is that we need to know and remember when we've blown it. God wants to help us through the consequences of our mistakes. Second Samuel 12 describes the consequences of David's actions. Nathan says to David, "What you have done privately will be done to you publicly by your own family members." And it does happen. David opens the door, and two of his sons walk through it.
David knows there will be consequences for what he did. It's interesting that David doesn't ask God to remove the consequences. Many of ask God to remove the consequences of our sin. When I was a kid, I walked into a classroom to take a test, and I prayed, "God, forgive me for not studying. Give me the knowledge I need." God isn't going to remove the consequences for not studying. But God says he will help us as we deal with the consequences.
And David knows that. In verse 12, David prays, "Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." David knows he will deal with the consequences, but he asks for God to maintain his joy. He asks for God to sustain him as he has difficult years. He asks God to give him willingness and perseverance.
God wants to do all of that for us. So you've made mistakes. There will be consequences. You'll be forgiven. But God wants to walk with you as you deal with the consequences. He won't let you drift into despair. He wants to give you back your joy. And not only that, he will give you willingness to persevere as life gets tough.
Our actions have consequences. Maybe your failed marriage is your fault. You and your spouse were once one flesh, one spirit. But now there is spiritual hemorrhaging. God wants to walk with you as you deal with the consequences. Or, maybe you deeply hurt someone. God says there will be consequences for you and for them. But he will walk with you. And God says he will sustain you. He will sustain you and give you joy in the midst of your trials.
Allow God to use your mistakes for ministry
The sixth thing we need to remember is that God wants to turn our mistakes into ministry opportunities. In verse 13, David says, "Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you." He's saying he will have something to pass on to others.
Do you know that the mistakes that you've made, the brokenness that you've experienced, can be the foundation of God's work in your life? God can actually take that and turn it around for ministry. God can use your failures and brokenness to minister to others. The best teachers aren't necessarily those that have read everything in books, who have incredible head knowledge. The best teachers are those who have lived life. Oftentimes, they've had to learn the hard way. David asks God to take what he learned the hard way and to use it to teach others. He wants to use his experience to help others not fall down the same road to compromise.
Have you ever wondered why golf balls have indentations? Golf balls aren't perfectly round. They have impurities, indentations, flaws. But these are intentional. They have indentations because aeronautical engineers tell us that a perfectly round golf ball without impurities, without indentations, will fly about 130 yards. However, if it has indentations, flaws, in a sense, it will utilize wind resistance and fly twice as far as a regular, round ball.
There is spiritual truth in that. God can, and wants to, use our flaws and brokenness to make us fly higher and go farther. The places where I've been broken the most as a human being are the places where I've been most effective as a pastor. And it's the same for you. God wants to use your flaws and mistakes for something good.
Do you need to receive forgiveness? Do you need to confess sin? Do you need a clean heart? Maybe you need to surrender your life to Jesus Christ. Perhaps you need God to examine you and your behavior.
Ephesians 1:7 says, "In Christ, we have redemption through his blood in accordance with the riches of God's grace." He will blot out your sins. First John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." The Greek word for confess is homologeo. Homo means same; logo means word. Confession means we say the same word about our sins that God says. If we see our sin as God sees it, he will forgive us and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Psalm 103 says that as far as the east is from the west, so he has removed our transgressions, our sins, from us. All we need to do is receive what Jesus came to give. All we need to do is admit that we are sinful, that we are infected, that we do sinful things. All we need to do is ask God to remove those things from us.
Philip Griffin is the Senior Pastor of the Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin.