I have thought a lot about the events in France and Turkey over the past two weeks, the events in Germany and Afghanistan. What has occurred to me is that when these sorts of things take place thousands of miles from us we don’t get as upset about them. The deaths in France (84) by a terrorist or the deaths in Turkey (250) by terror that was caused in a military coup because they thought their government wasn’t tough enough on terror. 9 in Germany by someone who was mentally ill and 80 in Afghanistan due to terror
We were never meant to kill each other, war, terror, or murder, this was not part of the world God created. But, Cain killed Able in an act of fratricide. All killing is an act of fratricide. It was not meant to be so, but it is so, and it is so because of sin. We have reached the end of this series on revival and I think its fitting we talk today about one of the components of revival which is a new understanding or a revived understanding of sin.
All the components of revival are contained in this psalm. They are: a longing for God, a renewed understanding of sin, humility, repentance and new life or new creation or new birth. Here it is:
Longing: Have mercy on me O God according to your steadfast love
Renewed understanding of sin: Against you alone I have sinned
Humility: Indeed, I was born guilty
Repentance: Purge me with hyssop . . .do not cast me away from your presence
New Life: Restore to me the joy of your salvation, Create in me a clean heart
Witness: My tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance
There it is, revival in a nutshell.
Now, I know that the title of this psalm says it is a psalm of David. But the Hebrew is unclear. It could mean a Psalm of David, A Psalm for David, or a Psalm About David. I do not believe, and most scholars don’t believe David wrote this psalm. The majority of scholars believe it is about David. Most believe it was written during the exile 500 hundred years after David. Also, some of the wording especially verse 4, makes this more of a communal psalm of penitence. The writer says against God alone he/she has sinned. David did sin against God, but he also sinned against Bathsheba and Uriah.
It is important, since this Psalm is about David, that everyone know the story of David and Bathsheba. I looked for a video to use for this, but they were all too long. So here goes. David had become very powerful, so powerful that he didn’t have to go into battle with his army. He had stayed behind and out of boredom really, spies Bathsheba taking a bath on the roof of her house. He sends for her and commits adultery with her. She is married to one of David’s most loyal soldiers, Uriah. What David had probably figured as a once and done deal, gets complicated. Bathsheba comes to him and tells him she’s pregnant. He calls for Uriah to come back home. Uriah comes back and David does everything he can to get Uriah to sleep with Bathsheba. He won’t do it. So David has him killed. David has him put on the front lines in the most dangerous place. David then takes Bathsheba as a wife. Enter the Prophet Nathan and he confronts David with this sin. David repents, but there will be consequences for his actions. The child for his tryst with Bathsheba dies and his family falls apart.
David’s life suddenly becomes chaotic, and as you can see in this Psalm he longs for God. He pleads for a new heart. He is humbled, repentant, and has a fresh understanding of sin. He knows that no kind of cultic sacrifice will appease God, it is only complete humility and repentance that will create a new heart in him.
I can remember a Wall Street Journal editorial about Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. The title was “Whatever happened to Sin?’ Well, what happened to sin was not liberalism. It is the other way around, what happened to sin was moralism. When we turned sin into only moralistic behavior was when the problem started. Now, please don’t misunderstand me. The Ten Commandments, what Jesus taught, the Sermon on the Mount especially which was his interpretation of the law needs to be followed. But sin goes much deeper than our behavior. Sin in the OT is defined as missing the mark. But more deeply it is our human condition “Indeed I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.” This is not a proof text for original sin, but a comment on our human condition. We all miss the mark. Pretty much we cannot help it. There is something in all of us that wants to control our fate, to be our own means to an end. The immoral acts we may commit are but evidences of the state of sin within us. I mean most of us can look at the Ten Commandments and say we have kept them for the most part in our behavior. But Jesus took it much deeper, to the root cause of the problem. He said if you looked on another man or woman with lust in your heart you have broken God’s commandment not to commit adultery. If you call your brother an idiot, you have committed murder. Jesus took it right to the heart of the matter so we all see we miss the mark from the beginning of our lives!
John Roars wrote this about this psalm: “the stories of Scripture and the realities of human experience attest to the fact that sin is not a surface wound; rather, it is a penetrating sickness that like a cancer eats away at the core of our being. Overcoming such an invasive disease requires a dramatic, divine intervention—a heart transplant, nothing less. This is the path to healing and wholeness, the psalmist concludes. It is the only way for him to achieve a restored relationship with God, to share again and always in the life of the Holy Spirit and in the joy of God’s salvation.”
I am talking about sin this morning because that is the only step in the revival process we haven't covered. Truly, we all are sinners. Until we realize that or are reacquainted with that, revival won’t occur because we are not practicing real humility and real repentance.
David has come face to face with the sin in his life. The deep down cancer. He became his own God, set his own rules. He was idolatrous of his Kingship and that resulted in the adultery and murder. David has become reacquainted with sin. David is longing for the relationship he once had with God. He is afraid that God will take the Holy Spirit from him like he did Saul. David realizes that he cannot experience forgiveness without God. That he cannot be made right with God except on God’s initiative. He realizes what he needs is a heart transplant. This goes back to the Hebrews scripture last week, which quoted Jeremiah, saying that God would give us a new heart for a new covenant.
We have waited to the end, to get to the beginning. We talked in the beginning about repentance, but to turn toward something, you have to turn away from something else. What we must turn away from are those things that keep us from turning toward God, but we can only do this if we get to the root of the problem, the cancer within. The cancer within is not admitting, or not realizing, that God is completely Holy and we are not.
The good news is that the Holy Spirit never departed David and it never departs from us. We may run away from God, but he never runs away from us. We may turn our face from God, but he never turns his face from us. Being made right with God is right there every day. God offers it at his initiative, its up for us to accept it.
Billy Graham tells the story that he and his wife was to be interviewed at his home for a well-known television show and, knowing that it would appear on nationwide television, his wife took great pains to see that everything looked nice. She had vacuumed and dusted and tidied up the whole house but had gone over the living room with a fine-tooth comb since that was where the interview would be filmed. When the film crew arrived with all the lights and cameras, she felt that everything in the living room was spic and span. We were in place along with the interviewer when suddenly the television lights were turned on and we saw cobwebs and dust where we had never seen them before. In the words of my wife, “I mean, that room was festooned with dust and cobwebs which simply did not show up under ordinary light.”
The point is, of course, that no matter how well we clean up our lives and think we have them all in order, when we see ourselves in the light of God’s Word, in the light of God’s holiness, all the cobwebs and all the dust do show up. Repentance concerns what we are, not just something we have done that is an expression of what we are.
We might not be David, but we are guilty of sin none the less. It’s our nature, and only God can recreate that nature by giving us a new heart. That’s what revival is all about isn’t it? Reviving or renewing us to be what God intends for us to be. To cure the disease of the sin, there is nothing we can do, but everything is possible with God. Now in you bulletin is a piece of paper. I want you to write on this paper what kind of sin your are struggling with, not necessarily the behavior, but what might be driving the behavior. Then bring it to the altar and we will burn it. This is symbolic of recognizing the sin, repenting with humility, and asking God to create a clean heart in you.