Sunday, November 16, 2008

Saying Sorry: Psalm 51

I wonder have you ever broken anything at home? Maybe you were playing football in the house (when you shouldn’t), and a vase got smashed. Or maybe you were talking in school when you shouldn’t have been? What happens when you do something like that? Well, normally you have to say sorry – either to your mum or dad, or your teacher.

In our Bible reading this morning, we’re thinking about someone who is saying sorry. David was the king, the most powerful man in the country. And yet, he messed things up. He did things he shouldn’t have done, and then tried to cover it up by having a man killed. He thought he had got away with it – no one knew. But God knew. God sent Nathan the prophet to David, and David admits what he has done. This Psalm was written by David, as a confession to God – the way he says sorry to God for the wrong things he has done.

As we look at it today, we’re going to concentrate on the first two verses. We’re going to see three ‘threes’ – first, three ways to think about the wrong things we do; then three ways to think about God’s character; and then three ways God deals with our sin.

First up, then, David uses three words for the wrong things he has done. I wonder can you guess them – (hangman on flipchart). There are some big words there, but don’t worry, we’ll explain what they mean.

Trangressions. Transgressions are the things that we do when we disobey a command. So if your mum or dad tells you to do something, and you don’t, then it’s a transgression. Or if God’s Word says that we shouldn’t tell lies, and we tell lies, then that is a transgression.

Iniquity. To understand iniquity, we have to go back to the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were in the Garden, enjoying the good creation. But then they disobeyed God (a transgression), and ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Ever since then, all of us have gone astray, because of our sinful nature. Iniquity is this twistedness that we all have, which makes us do wrong things.

Sin. Sin refers to the specific things that we do wrong – either things we should do and we don’t, or things that we shouldn’t do but that we do.

Maybe you don’t like to think about how these words apply to you – after all, if we come along to church, then we like to think that we’re good people. But the Bible tells us that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23). All of us do things that are wrong – either doing things that we’re not meant to do, or not doing things we should do.

It’s like a dirty great stain on a white shirt. Sometimes I’m a messy eater and get Spaghetti Bolognese all over my shirt. The shirt is meant to be white, lovely and clean, but instead, it’s dirty. It doesn’t matter how much of the cloth is white, your eye is drawn to the stain, to the dirt.

You see, God created us to love him and to obey him. But we mess things up. We prefer to do our own thing. We turn our back on God. We disobey God.

And yet, the amazing thing is that God still loves us, and that God wants us to confess our sins and return to him. That’s what David did in the Psalm. He cries out to God, and asks him to forgive his sin. But as he does so, he reminds himself (and us) of three things he knows about God.

Verse 1, David says, ‘Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy.’ The first few words could also be ‘Be gracious to me.’ So we have David asking God to be gracious, to show grace – why, according to your steadfast love; and according to your abundant mercy. Because God has steadfast love and because God has abundant mercy, David asks God to be gracious.

There’s an old song that we used to sing in Dromore – grace is when God gives us the things we don’t deserve. And mercy is when God does not give us what we deserve. Why? He does it because he loves us.

You see, when we do wrong things, we deserve to be punished. If your mum or dad is speeding and the police catch them, then they get a speeding ticket. Or if someone parks the car in the wrong place, they get a parking ticket. Or if you kick someone from the other team in a football game, then you’ll get a yellow card – or even a red card.

It’s the same with the wrong things we do when we’re not driving or playing football. We have done wrong things against other people and against God, and there’s a penalty for these things. But God loves us, and so God, in his mercy, doesn’t give us what we deserve – if we trust in Jesus, and confess our sins. In the same way, God then shows us grace – he gives us what we don’t deserve – forgiveness and new life and having Jesus as our friend.

So we’ve thought about the wrong things we do. We’ve thought about the God we can run to. Now we’ll see what he does with the wrong things we do. Again, there are three things that God does.

Blot out my transgressions. You maybe don’t know the word blot. It’s a word that talks about removing things that are written down. You probably use these every day in school – can anyone guess? A pencil and a rubber. Things that are written down can be erased, removed. The page is clear again.

Or think of the whiteboard you maybe have in school. I have a smaller one here – and I need a volunteer to hold it for me.

Now imagine that there was a big list of transgressions – a big list of the things that we have done wrong. All of us would have a list like that – maybe punching your brother, or stealing sweets, or cheating on homework, or whatever… No one else can see this list, but God knows it. Because of God’s love, mercy and grace, if we confess our sins to him and say sorry for them, then God blots them out – the page is clear; there’s nothing against us any more.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity. David also talks about washing – not the washing of a bath, but washing of his iniquity. Now, maybe it’s hard to talk to boys about washing – I know I wasn’t too fond of a bath or a shower when I was younger – but this is also what God does to us. Remember the dirty shirt from earlier on? Just as we can wash it, and it (hopefully) comes up clean and white again, so God washes us. The dirt is removed, and we’re clean and fresh. God says in Isaiah 1:18 ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow.’

Cleanse me from my sin. When David talks about cleansing, he’s talking about something that was dirty, but is made clean. If you’ve been in hospital recently you’ll have seen the hand wash tubs. Before you go onto the ward to see your granny or whoever, you have to rub your hands with the special hand wash gel to stop infection. This is cleansing.

Even though our hands look clean, they’re actually dirty with bacteria and germs, and we need to be cleansed before we go into the hospital.

Can you see what David is talking about? Things that are dirty and bad, are made clean and new. When you were getting ready for church today, you have to make sure that your uniform was clean and tidy, and maybe even polished your shoes.

But when it comes to our sins, there’s nothing that we can do to get rid of them by ourselves. The list would just keep getting bigger and bigger – no matter how hard we try to be good. The good news is that Jesus can deal with our sins.

When David wrote this Psalm, hundreds of years before Jesus came, he trusted that God would be able to blot out, wash and cleanse his sins. He didn’t know how God would do it. But we now know – as we live on this side of Jesus’ death and resurrection, after it has happened. The Bible tells us that ‘Christ died for our sins’ (1 Cor 15:3) – he took our sin upon himself, and died in our place, so that we can be forgiven.

Remember the list of sins from earlier? It’s like a bad school report – we have all these things against our name. All the wrong things we’ve done. Jesus never sinned, and has a perfect report card, with nothing against him. So when Jesus died for us, he took our sins upon himself – he changed the names at the top of the reports so that he took the punishment for our sin, and that we can go free. There’s nothing against us now, if we trust in Jesus. Isn’t that good news? Let’s praise God for his love, his grace and his mercy – if we confess our sins, God will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Maybe you’ve never heard this before. You’ve been worrying about the big list of wrong things you’ve done. Guilt has been plaguing you for a long time. God wipes the slate clean – your sins are forgiven – not because of how you feel or what you do – but only because Jesus has taken them away from you – he died in your place.

Or maybe you are a Christian, and you’re worried about a sin you’ve committed since coming to faith. You keep confessing it over and over again. Take heart today that if you have confessed the sin, then it is forgiven.

This talk was presented at the Family Service and Church Lads' Brigade (CLB) Enrolment in St Elizabeth's Church, Dundonald on Sunday 16th November 2008.

1 comment :

  1. My comment is this. why is it so hard for us as human beings to say I'm sorry. I do remember as a child cursing in front of one of my teachers when I got home that day I received a lashing from my Mom that I can still remember up until this day. Needless to say when I got to school the next day I apologized and really meant it. I'm still able to say I'm sorry to anyone that I've felt that I've done wrong. Now in my adult life I've had many things done wrong to me and yes I am able to forgive but what is this that people walk around demolishing each others spirit and just can't seem to get those two little words out of there mouth. Yes I know that Jesus forgives our sins and we don't deserve it but I see so many people hurting each other and just walking away and saying if Jesus forgives me that means I shouldn't have to apologize. It's about time that people step up and realize that not saying I'm sorry hurts you just as much as the other person. So many people are suffering from drug addictions, alcoholism, depressions and the list goes on just because they can't or wont say I'm sorry. I summise that GOD is tired of us sinning against him and each other. I was born in the Great United States of America that was founded upon Christian beliefs and can't understand why two little words are so hard to say. And I'm disgusted and tired of hearing well maybe he or she does'nt quite know how to say that I am sorry. I'm guessing that it's a pride issue. Well doesn't the BIBLE say that the Lord hates a proud spirit!!! I think it's about time we as a nation begin to swallow our PRIDE and begin to say I'm sorry and mean it. Will everyone listen? Not likely, some peoples hearts are so hard they don't want redemption but for those of us who do lets start today if you have wronged someone and you realize that you wounded this person deeply if possible find that person and give that person a heart felt apology and ask The Lord yourself to heal this person that you've wronged. And if you are the wounded ask the Lord to heal your heart and if possible let that person know how they hurt you sometimes that person may not know how deep the scars run and just maybe we pray that through that experience that person may be won and turn there soul over to the Lord!!! wouldn't that be great!!!! I hope I reached someone today just a tid bit from someone who has hurt and has also been hurt. GOD BLESS YOU!!! And let's start some healing!!! Let's do our Father a favor and learn to be kinder to one another