The reality of our rebellion, guilt, and sin and the realization of God’s graciousness, love, and compassion create the possibility that we can be in the wrong given God’s high standards, and yet God’s boundless love can make us right. It is this guilty-but-at-peace possibility that permeates the remainder of Psalm 51. Three verses in particular openly acknowledge remorse while at the same time conveying overtones of God’s restoration. These verses also lay a solid foundation for a biblical understanding of sin.
“Against you—you alone—I have sinned and done this evil in your sight” (v. 4). Sin indeed damages us and the people around us. If I lie to my wife and she discovers my deception, I damage my credibility as well as her ability to trust me. I’ve harmed both myself and her. But sin’s ultimate destructive power is experienced in the damage done to our intimacy with God.
David confessed, “Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me” (v. 5). Sin, while an act is also part of our identity. Sin is more than what we do; sin is embedded in our human nature.
Michel Lorito was born with a little-known mental disorder called pica. A person with this disorder is compelled to eat non-food items. Most sufferers crave dirt or plastics; Michel preferred metals. Over the course of his lifetime, Michel consumed two beds, six chandeliers, seven televisions, fifteen shopping carts, eighteen bicycles, and one Cessna airplane. And this is just a partial list.
While this account is strange, it also illustrates sin as something imprinted on our identities. We’re somehow compelled to consume things harmful to us. While sin is unexplainable and irrational, we simply can’t bring ourselves to stop. And the more we wrestle with sin, the more we discover we’re fighting with ourselves.“
God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (v. 10). God is in the character-transforming business. This is good news! Character change is possible for those in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Your past behavior may include lying, but in Christ your identity is no longer that of a liar. Perhaps your past involved stealing from others. But with God’s restoring power, your character transcends such petty behaviors. And here is a momentous thought: you may have lost, but you’re no longer a loser. God’s power to forgive is stronger than your past. God’s forgiveness not only removes guilt but also transforms your flaws into examples of his faithfulness. Here are words of hope for those of us covered with sin: “Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” (v. 7).
Despite his profound public failure, David is referred to in the New Testament as “a man after [God’s] own heart” (Acts 13:22). No sin can completely destroy your usefulness to God. He isn’t in the habit of throwing lives away. Certainly, if God can restore David through repentance, he can do the same with you.
What do you need to ask God’s forgiveness for today? Hold nothing back. He already knows all. God is waiting for you to come clean so that his forgiving power can be released to flow through your life. Even though you’re guilty, you can be at peace.
Psalms 51, I John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unforgiveness.