Second Reformed Church

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

"Create in Me a Clean Heart" Sermon: Psalm 51:1-19

“Create in Me a Clean Heart”
[Psalm 51:1-19]
February 10, 2016 Second Reformed Church
            If someone were to ask you about King David, what would come to mind?
            David and Goliath?  Shepherd?  A man after God’s own heart?  The author of many of the Psalms?
            There came a point in David’s reign when he became so prideful that when he saw Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, he determined to have her sexually.  And they committed adultery, and she became pregnant.  So David tried to fool Uriah into believing it was his child, and when he could not, he had Uriah killed.
            The prophet Nathan came to David and told him about a rich man who had stolen the only lamb of a poor man, and David flew into a rage, until Nathan told David that he was the rich man – and Bathsheba was the lamb.
            In response to his being cut to the heart by the guilt for his sin, David wrote Psalm 51 – it is one of a small number of Psalms that specifically tell us the occasion of their writing.
            Today – tonight – we celebrate Ash Wednesday – the beginning of the Lenten Season.  The Lenten Season is forty days, not including Sundays, during which we are encouraged to look at ourselves and our need for a savior.  It is a time of putting off and putting on – most effectively, putting off sinful habits and putting on good habits.
            The Lenten Season is not magic.  It was not commanded in the Scripture.  It was developed in the early Church as a means of reflection before we celebrate Easter.  It was meant to heighten our awareness of the depths of our need of Jesus – in His life, death, and physical resurrection.
            As we begin the season, may we quickly consider this Psalm and what it tells us about all humanity and the need for a savior:
            First, we see that all sin is against God.
            “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.  Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.”
            David committed adultery and had the husband of the woman put to death.
            And David turned to God for forgiveness – calling on God’s Mercy and Steadfast Love – that his sins would not be accounted to him, that God would cleanse him from his sin, his guilt, and his debt.  He acknowledged all of his sin – sin that God was well aware of – and he said that he sinned against God alone – and that God was justified in whatever judgment He brought to pass.
            Now, some people have complained about David’s understanding of the events that he had brought about – David, as king, called this woman – a married woman – to have sexual relations with him, she got pregnant, so David ended up having her husband killed.  Why was his sin only against God?
            Nathan accused David of sinning against Bathsheba and Uriah, and David did acknowledge his sin against Bathsheba and Uriah, and David made what reparations he could.  He was not saying that there was no sin in what he did to them – of course there was.  What David is telling us is that – ultimately, and most seriously – all of our sin is against God.
            God is the Thrice Holy God and all sin that God’s creatures – we – commit – is against God our Creator.  So, ultimate forgiveness – salvific forgiveness – can only be found in God’s Mercy and Loving-Kindness – through the Salvation that He would provide.  As the Holy Judge, God rightly would sentence sin against the greatest Being – Himself – to the greatest possible punishment.  And we would be hopelessly condemned unless a savior stood in our place.
            So, when we sin, let of quickly confess to God and ask His Forgiveness and Mercy for the sake of Jesus Christ.  And then let us do what we can to make things right with any human we have sinned against.
            Second, we are born sinners.
            “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.  Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.  Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.  Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.  Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.”
            David tells us that he – and every human since Adam and Eve – was born a sinner.  This is what we call “Original Sin” – it is the idea that since Adam and Eve sinned as our representatives, all we humans are now born inclined towards sin, desiring to do sin, not able to do anything of our own but sin.  That’s why David said that his mother conceived him in sin – not that his mother sinned in conceiving him, but – in the act of conception – in which a human being is created – that human being is created sinful – that is – inclined towards sin.
            Paul explained it this way:
            “And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’” (Romans 9:10-13, ESV).
            Rebekah became pregnant with twins by Isaac.  Neither of the twins committed sin in the womb – yet, they were sinners because they inherited the inclination towards sin from Adam, so God chose for His own reasons, and not based on anything the boys would do – or had done – to save Jacob and the let Esau follow his natural inclination in sin.
            David understood that only God could make him righteous – so he prayed that God would “purge him with hyssop.”  Hyssop is a plant that was used in the worship of God.  Hyssop was dipped in animal blood and flung on the repentant as a sign of repentance and God’s covering of sin – because blood is necessary for forgiveness.  But here, David understood that the priest’s spattering him with blood would not be enough – He needed God to purge him with hyssop.  And so this happened as Jesus shed His blood for all those who would ever believe.
            For believers, we understand what the author of Hebrews wrote, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11, ESV).
            If God sees fit to break our bones – as David writes – that we would learn to turn from sin and be righteous, then let us rejoice that God has broken our bones and pray that we would be forgiven and cleansed and made holy.  Because only God can make us righteous.
            Third, we continue to sin.
            “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. “
            David, as a believer, now expressed the fact that we are at the same time righteous and sinners – we have been forgiven and made right with God through Jesus the Savior, but we continue to sin.  That fact should, in one sense, trouble us tremendously, and cause us to call out to God again and again to have our hearts made clean.  We should call out to God that He would make our spirit right – again and again.
            And David asked God not to take the Holy Spirit away from him and not to cast him away from the presence of God – something God would be right to do to us rebellious creatures, but God does not – based on His Will and His promises to bring us into His Kingdom and to transform us into the Image of His Son, Jesus.
            And still, we don’t always feel filled with joy – even as we understand our salvation – we may become spiritually depressed about our struggle in this life.
            Paul put it this way – and notice how he ends this passage:
            “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
            “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (Romans 7:15-25, ESV).
            Paul explained that there is a war going on in believers – that part of us that joyfully wants to follow after God, and that part of us – that sin nature which is not yet removed from us – that wants us to turn away from God again and sin again – such that Paul momentarily despairs of his state as a sinner, but then rejoices because he and all we who believe have been eternally saved and are being made holy by the Holy Spirit and through the work of Christ Jesus.
            And so we can only conclude that salvation is God’s work:  we are conceived desiring to sin.  We are saved and forgiven and made righteous through Jesus Christ, and we continue to sin.  So our only hope is that salvation is all of God – and it is!
            Fourth, we are to respond to our salvation by spreading the Gospel and being thankful to God.
“Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.  Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.  O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.  For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
David responded to salvation given to him by God and God alone by vowing to proclaim the Gospel – by proclaiming the Glory and the Righteousness and the Holiness of God and the Way of Salvation.  And he vowed to praise God as God was willing to open his lips.
This was David’s response, as he explained, because God doesn’t need animal sacrifices – they are not enough to make a person right we God – we have looked at that before – the very best the Sacrificial System of the Old Testament could do was make a person partially right with God for the very moment of the sacrifice – and then it was gone.
God gave the sacrificial system so Israel would understand the seriousness of sin and so they would turn to God for salvation.  And we understand now that Jesus has fulfilled the Sacrificial System – as we saw when we looked at the book of Hebrews.  Jesus has fulfilled all of the Law perfectly, and God calls us now to have a broken heart for sin – to repent of our sin and vow not to do it again – and we claim this by the work and the merits of Jesus alone.  And so we go on, in thankfulness to God and by telling other people Who God is and what He has done in coming to earth to save a people for Himself.
            And fifth, we are to do good works.
            “Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem; then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.”
            David called upon God to carrying our His Will among believers – among the Church – building her up for His Name’s Sake.  And David explained that when God does grow His Church in holiness – what is called the process of sanctification – the process of becoming holy, then God will delight in receiving the sacrifices of the Sacrificial System.
            And we rightly say, “Wait a minute – didn’t we just say that the Sacrificial System was unable to save anyone?  Didn’t we just say that God doesn’t delight in the Sacrificial System?  Didn’t we just say that Jesus fulfilled the Sacrificial System?  How can David now say that God delights in the Sacrifices of the Sacrificial System?”
            David was not saying that salvation is by works – he has already denied that.
            David was not saying that God needs sacrifices.
            What we need to remember is that David was alive before the Temple sacrifices were abolished.  The Temple sacrifices were God’s Law for the people of Israel.  So it was right for them to make the sacrifices that God required – not for salvation – but in obedience to God.
            We live in the time after the Temple sacrifices have been abolished.
            So, we need to read this text, understanding that God delights in our faithfulness and obedience to Him.  Being faithful and obedient to God does not save us, but being faithful and obedient to God gives us joy and delights God.
            And don’t we want joy?  Don’t we want to delight God, our Father, Who has saved us?
            This Lenten Season, let us remember:
            All sin is against God.
            We are born sinners.
            We continue to sin as Christians.
            We rightly respond to God’s salvation of us through spreading the Gospel and being thankful.
            And we do the good works God has called us to for our joy and God’s delight.
            Let us pray:
            Almighty God and Father, we come before You confident that You will hear us – confident that You will forgive us when we repent of our sin for Jesus’ Sake.  We ask that You would open our mouths and lead us to desire joy in You and having You be delighted in us.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

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