Christianity 201

February 4, 2019

Adult-Sized Confessions

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Some of you know that articles used here are often return visits to writers we’ve used previously. Occasionally however, I’ll see a case where a blog or website was part of a series of shorter quotations on a particular topic, but was never featured on its own. THat’s the case with the site, Already Not Yet.

Today’s article is credited to Catherine Parks. Because some of you are so familiar with Psalm 51, I’ve included it in a different translation. The article begins at the title header below and you’re encouraged to click to read at source.  This is The Passion Translation by Brian Simmons.

David’s Confession

TPT Ps.51.1–2 God, give me mercy from your fountain of forgiveness!
    I know your abundant love is enough to wash away my guilt.
    Because your compassion is so great,
    take away this shameful guilt of sin.
    Forgive the full extent of my rebellious ways,
    and erase this deep stain on my conscience
3–4 For I’m so ashamed.
    I feel such pain and anguish within me.
    I can’t get away from the sting of my sin against you, Lord!
    Everything I did, I did right in front of you, for you saw it all.
    Against you, and you above all, have I sinned.
    Everything you say to me is infallibly true
    and your judgment conquers me.
Lord, I have been a sinner from birth,
    from the moment my mother conceived me.
I know that you delight to set your truth deep in my spirit
    So come into the hidden places of my heart
    and teach me wisdom…

David’s Cleansing

…10 Create a new, clean heart within me
    Fill me with pure thoughts and holy desires, ready to please you.
11 May you never reject me!
    May you never take from me your sacred Spirit!

…continue reading all of Psalm 51 in the The Passion Translation at this link.

8 Steps for Real Repentance from Psalm 51

My brother and I had a nightly childhood ritual of asking one another’s forgiveness for a list of vague sins. Having been warned not to let the sun go down on our anger, we made sure to cover all possibilities of sins we may have committed during the day. “Aaron, I’m sorry for yelling at you, hitting you, being selfish with the Nintendo, and tattling on you today. Will you forgive me?” His answer, along with his own confession, came back to my room in return. Thus we slept in the peace of the slightly remorseful.

When I read Psalm 51 (written by David after the prophet Nathan confronted him with his sin), I realize how lacking my childhood confessions were. Even many of my confessions in adulthood leave much to be desired.

Often we treat repentance as a statement—an “I’m sorry, please forgive me” that checks a box and (hopefully) alleviates our guilt. But if we look closely at Psalm 51, we see that repentance is a turning away from sin and a turning toward God—a process that doesn’t merely alleviate guilt but cultivates deep joy.

So how do we grow in a joy-giving habit of repentance? Here are eight steps.

1. Define the sin.

The first step to meaningful confession is understanding what sin is. David uses three different words for it in Psalm 51: “iniquity,” “sin,” and “transgressions” (vv. 1–3). Each term has been deliberately chosen for its unique meaning. “Transgression” is rebellion against God’s authority and law, “iniquity” is a distortion of what should be, and “sin” is missing the mark. David also says his sin is deep—there is no minimizing or excusing it.

2. Appeal to God’s mercy.

The psalm begins: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love” (v. 1). Here, David appeals for forgiveness based on what he knows about God’s character: that he is merciful. David knows God is committed to him in a relationship of “unfailing love”—and when we come before God in repentance, we do so because of his covenant with us through Christ.

3. Avoid defensiveness and see God rightly.

David’s sin hurt multiple people. He committed adultery, orchestrated a murder, and tried to cover it all up. And yet he says to God, “against you, you only, have I sinned” (v. 4). How can that be? Sin is missing the mark—God’s mark. Our sin does hurt others, and we must seek forgiveness from them, but all sin is ultimately against God.

4. Look to Jesus.

David writes, “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean” (v. 7). He knows hyssop signifies purification with blood (see Ex. 24), and he knows that blood alone can make him clean. What he doesn’t know is exactly how this will be done. But we do. We have the full revelation of Jesus, who “has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26).

5. Ask God to break and heal you.

David prays, “Let the bones you have crushed rejoice” (v. 8). When God reveals our sin to us, it’s painful. It’s never pleasant to confront just how unholy we are. But like a doctor resetting a fractured bone, it is God who breaks, God who sets, and God who heals.

6. Be comforted by the Spirit.

Next David prays, “Do not . . . take your Holy Spirit from me” (v. 11). But the fact that David is grieved over his sin is a sign that the Spirit is at work in him. Have you ever been so discouraged by your sin that you’ve wondered, How can God love me? Surely I’m not really a Christian. Take comfort in knowing that the grief you’re experiencing is a sign that you have the Holy Spirit working in you, causing you to hate what God hates.

7. Rejoice and proclaim truth.

In verses 12–15, David asks God to make him so joyful about his salvation that he can’t help but proclaim the gospel to others: “Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.” This is important, because so often we do the opposite—we wallow in our sin and draw back from serving others because we think we’re unworthy. But the joy of forgiveness should compel us to share the good news with friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors.

8. Resolve to obey.

We can do all the steps above, but if we’re planning to sin in the same way again, then grace isn’t truly taking root. What God desires is the mark of true repentance—a heart that is “broken” by sin and truly “contrite.”

As Puritan pastor Thomas Watson wrote, “‘Til sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.” If we come to God with a heart set on obedience, he “will not despise” it because of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf (v. 17).

Unlike my childhood bedtime apologies, practicing this kind of repentance has led to deep joy as I learn to hate my sin and love my Savior more. It has also led me to open up with others, not seeking to hide my sin, but enlisting others in praying for me and building a community of women who fight our sin together. Like David, it’s my joy to tell others of God’s grace and forgiveness, depending on Christ each step of the way.

November 29, 2016

Cursing People Who Desert or Betray Us

Today’s author was featured on a blog aggregate that also features some of my writing. David Kitz writes at I Love the Psalms. The particular one under discussion today is a tough Psalm for many readers. Even Wikipedia (not necessarily a best choice for Bible commentary) notes, “Psalm 109 is a psalm noted for containing some of the most severe curses in the Bible.” Spurgeon didn’t mess around with this Psalm either,

Those who regard a sort of effeminate benevolence to all creatures alike as the acme of virtue are very much in favor with this degenerate age; these look for the salvation of the damned, and even pray for the restoration of the devil.  It is very possible that if they were less in sympathy with evil, and more in harmony with the thoughts of God, they would be of a far sterner and also of a far better mind.  To us it seems better to agree with God’s curses than with the devil’s blessing; and when at any time our heart kicks against the terror of the Lord we take it as proof of our need of greater humbling, and confess our sin before our God. (sourced at)

Take a closer look at the text below and see what you think! Click the link to read at source and check other Psalms-based devotionals.

Cursing in the Bible

Reading:                      Psalm 109                                                                  

(Verses 6-15)

Appoint someone evil to oppose my enemy;     
let an accuser stand at his right hand.
When he is tried, let him be found guilty,     
and may his prayers condemn him.
May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership.
May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.
May his children be wandering beggars;     
may they be driven from their ruined homes.
May a creditor seize all he has;     
may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.
May no one extend kindness to him     
or take pity on his fatherless children.
May his descendants be cut off,     
their names blotted out from the next generation.
May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD;     
may the sin of his mother never be blotted out.
May their sins always remain before the LORD,
that he may blot out their name from the earth (NIV).

Reflection

This portion of Psalm 109 contains fourteen mays of condemnation. After reading this long list of curses spoken against this unnamed individual, it becomes abundantly clear that David, the author of this psalm, was not affectionately inclined toward this man of treachery. This man, who earlier was identified as a friend, had turned against David. In the verse just prior to today’s reading, David laments, “They repay me evil for good, and hatred for my friendship” (Psalm 109:5).

Psalm 109 is called an imprecatory psalm. The word imprecatory simply is a fancy term for cursing. I am sure many Christians are unaware that there is cursing in the Bible—cursing coming from the man who penned Psalm 23—the LORD is my shepherd.

Many find the imprecatory psalms deeply troubling. I include myself in that number. Does God condone calling down curses on our enemies? What about the words of Jesus?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Matthew 5:43-46).

I remain convinced that Jesus calls us to live on a higher plane—the plane where he dwells.

Response: Father God, I need your help. I find it easy to lash out at those who have hurt me. When I want to go for the jugular help me reach out for Jesus instead. I want to be more like you, Jesus. Amen.

Your Turn: Is there a place for the imprecatory psalms in the Bible? What purpose might they serve?


Go Deeper: For a much longer treatment of this Psalm at Bible.org, which also contains a broad overview of the imprecatory Psalms, click this link.

January 13, 2012

Psalm 6: I Drench My Couch with My Weeping.

Two days ago I shared a passage from The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson.  For those of you who know Peterson’s Bible translation, The Message, I hope this leaves you wanting to read some of his other writing.

After a section on the life of David which deals with the narrative of David’s story, Peterson moves on to deal with the prayers of David, particularly the penitential Psalms, beginning with Psalm 6.

(NLT) Psalm 6:1 O LORD, don’t rebuke me in your anger
      or discipline me in your rage.
 2 Have compassion on me, LORD, for I am weak.
      Heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony.
 3 I am sick at heart.
      How long, O LORD, until you restore me?

 4 Return, O LORD, and rescue me.
      Save me because of your unfailing love.
 5 For the dead do not remember you.
      Who can praise you from the grave?

 6 I am worn out from sobbing.
      All night I flood my bed with weeping,
      drenching it with my tears.
 7 My vision is blurred by grief;
      my eyes are worn out because of all my enemies.

 8 Go away, all you who do evil,
      for the LORD has heard my weeping.
 9 The LORD has heard my plea;
      the LORD will answer my prayer.
 10 May all my enemies be disgraced and terrified.
      May they suddenly turn back in shame.

The trouble that we are born into “as sparks fly upward: (Job 5:7) provides the content to this first penitential prayer.  We are not told what the trouble is:

  • God’s anger provoked by sin (v.1)?
  • Sickness? (Healing is mentioned in vv. 2-3.)
  • Persecution? (Foes, workers of evil and enemies are referred to in vv. 7-8, 10.)

Probably all of these, but more.  The sin in the world breaks out in troubles all over the place.  Every once in a while one of the the troubles triggers an avalanche of dismay and sorrow that simply overcomes us.  There are times when an accumulated sense of the sheer mass of trouble in the world just knocks the wind out of us, knocks the prayer out of us –

  • all the sin,
  • all the sickness,
  • all the meanness:
  • damaged lives,
  • broken hearts,
  • child abuse,
  • raped women,
  • rampant hunger,
  • torture,
  • the grinding poverty of the poor,
  • the unchecked greed of the rich,
  • desecrating violations of our land and water and air,
  • brutal arrogance in high places.

Details pile up.  There is a lot wrong with the world.  We have moments when the apocalyptic brutality and blasphemy loose in the world tramples our life to the ground (Ps. 7:5).  Those moments are compounded when we realize that some of the wrong is in us – we are not just observers of it, we are part of it.  Sin is not a Them thing; it is also Us.  When the two moments come together – the Them wrongs and the Us wrongs – the hurt and hate, the guilt and sin catalyze an enormous sorrow.  We find ourselves in the middle of Psalm 6 weeping our prayer:

I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eyes waste away because of grief,
they grow weak because of all my foes. (Ps. 6:6-7)

The language is extravagant – crying every night and waking up with pillow and mattress tear-soaked.  But is it exaggerated?  Maybe not.  Not at least if this prayer comes out of a heart that is in touch with the catastrophic dimensions of sin and all the tears of despair and (sometimes) repentance that flow night and day, year after year pooling into a great salt sea of sorrow:

  • the tears of the lonely,
  • the tears of Rachel weeping for her children,
  • the tears of Paltiel weeping for Michal,
  • the tears of David weeping over Absalom,
  • the tears of Peter weeping outside the court of Caiaphas,
  • the tears of the women on the Via Dolorosa,
  • the tears of Jesus – weeping over Lazarus,
  • Jesus – weeping over Jerusalem,
  • Jesus – weeping in Gethsemane.

Tears, Tears, Tears.  We find ourselves swimming in a sea of tears.  **

The way of imperfection takes us through slums and suburbs, across battlefields and into refugee camps, to hospitals and homeless shelters.  We find common ground with the addicts and the abused, the victims and victimizers, the down and out and the up and out.  On the way of imperfection we find ourselves following Jesus to the well in Samaria, the sycamore tree in Jericho, the pool of Siloam, the cross on Golgotha where “Christ is in agony to the end of the world.” ***

There is much laughter and singing and dancing on this way, palm branches and hosannas.  But there are also tears and laments, rivers of them, every tear a prayer and not one unnoticed – “my tears in your bottle!” (Ps. 56:8).

~Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way pp 93-4

** The verb translated “flood” is litteraly “I swim…”  We can translate, “I swim in a river of tears.”  See Isaiah 25:11 and Ezekiel 47:5.  Charles Briggs, The Book of Psalms (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1952), vol. 1, p.50.

***Blaise Pascal, Pensees (New York: Random House, 1941), #552, p. 176.