Knowing God’s Forgiveness

How often is your life burdened down by a guilty conscience? Do you struggle with moving on from past sins? Do you find God’s forgiveness seemingly just out of reach? King David knew the struggle of being burdened down with a guilty conscience. He understood the weight and struggle of living a burdened life not enjoying God’s forgiveness. From his own experience he gives us a precious truth to consider.  He shows us how we can go from burden to blessing in Psalm 32:1-5.

Consider the Blessed Life:  These first two verses give us the result of forgiveness which results in a blessed life. “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile” (Psalm 32:1-2).

When someone is “blessed” their life is a life that is envied by others because it is a life filled with peace and joy. The life that others look upon and desire to have is the life the one who knows they have been forgiven as they live in the reality of this truth.  O how very happy is the man who knows he has been forgiven.

The person “in whose spirit there is no guile” is the person who has dealt honestly with his sin.  He has confessed his sin before God. In other words, he has defined his own sin just like God defines it.  This is a humble response to God’s convicting us of our sin. He then has taken God at His Word where it says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

To be forgiven from our transgressions, sin and iniquity is to be free of a life of guilt.  That is a person who is to be envied.  We all should desire to be in this state for it is a state that God desires for us to be in.  This is His will for each of our lives. Consider how far God removes our sin that has been confessed and that He has forgiven…“As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). The eternal distance between the east and the west is the distance that God removes the sin which He forgives.  The reality of this in one’s life is blessing—this is the blessed life!

Consider the Burdened Life: In these next two verses we see the results of a life of consumed and weighted down by guilt. “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the daylong. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer Selah” (Psalm 32:3-4). This is the burdened life!

The heavy hand of God was David’s conscience bearing witness against him as it pressed down upon him convicting him of his sin.  A guilty conscience can bring physical discomfort along with the obvious mental discomfort.  A guilty conscience is designed by God to reveal to us the intrusion of sin into our lives in order to move us to deal with that sin.

Consider your conscience as a smoke detector. The smoke detectors in your house are designed to go off when smoke is present.  Our conscience “goes off” when the intrusion of sin comes into our lives.  To roll over and cover your head with a pillow when the smoke detector is sounding would be tremendously foolish.  So too when our conscience is guilty, to disregard it is to act foolishly. Consider reading “Silencing the Sin Detector” here.

Consider the unBurdened Life: Here in verse 5 we see the remedy as David shares with us the process of getting right with God therefore going from burden to blessing.  We must confront the intrusion of sin through confession of sin. He says, “I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah” (Psalm 32:5).

To “acknowledge my sin” is to take responsibility for my sin by saying the same thing about it that the Lord says.  It is to see my sin as the Lord sees it.  My sin is a trespass against His infinite holiness. My sin is an act of “cosmic treason”[i] against the holy God in which I fail to achieve His holy and righteous mark of obedience that He has set for me.

David speaks of his openness before the Lord.  He had concealed his sin, in that he did not confess it for about a year.  His actions, now in humility, are to lay bare his heart and mind before the Lord as he confesses his sin and seeks reconciliation.  He stopped trying to cover his head with his pillow in hopes that the “smoke” might go away.  Instead he took action, confronted the intrusion of sin and found peace in his life once again. He returned to the life of blessing.

The precious truth of this verse is the fact that God ALWAYS forgives the sin of a repentant heart.  Keep in mind that David was forgiven for his sins of adultery and murder.  God desires to forgive ALL the sin that is in your life, even the ones you don’t feel like He can forgive. We must move past feeling and rest in truth. Move beyond living in the reality dictated by your feelings and learn to live in the reality based upon what God says.

Because of our “forgiving God” we can have great joy and peace as we learn to find it in Him.  When we confess our sin He, in His great grace, forgives us and covers our sin as if it never existed.  In His great mercy He removes from our account the record of that sin.  What a Great God we serve!

The wisest man who ever lived stated, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). The truth of this verse is foundational to moving from burden to blessing. A pastor friend of mine put it well when he said, “When I cover my sin, the Holy Spirit will uncover it.  When I uncover my sin, the Holy Spirit will cover my sin with the blood of Jesus Christ” (Steve Motes, Pastor of Chadds Ford Baptist Church).

It is the truth of God’s Word that sets us free. “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). When you rest in the stabilizing truths of God’s Word you move from living a reality based upon how you feel to a reality based upon truth. Let His truth truly set you free and move from a life of burden to a life of blessing.

[i] “Any sin is more or less heinous depending upon the honor and majesty of the one whom we had offended. Since God is of infinite honor, infinite majesty, and infinite holiness, the slightest sin is of infinite consequence. The slightest sin is nothing less than cosmic treason when we realize against Whom we have sinned.”—Jonathan Edwards

Silencing the “Sin Detector”

It’s the middle of the night and you are enjoying a restful night when a high-pitched, piercing sound suddenly breaks through the quiet, stillness and startles you awake. You realize that the smoke detector has been set off by the presence of smoke in your home. But instead of addressing the issue you pull your pillow over your head and try to return to the peaceful rest you had been enjoying just moments before.

Would you ever do this? The answer is obviously “NO!” The situation needs immediate attention.

Unfortunately when it comes to sin, we often are guilty of covering our head in hopes that the piercing noise of our conscience will quiet down and go away. Why do we do this?  Why do we insist on covering our heads and plugging our ears instead of addressing the problem? The problem is not our conscience but sin that has set of our conscience. What then is the remedy? How are we supposed to Biblically address our internal “sin detector?”

Many Christians live defeated lives simply because of failing to Biblically confess their sins and in turn live their lives filled with the noise of guilt—a guilty conscience.  How hard would it be to live in a home while the smoke detector is sounding constantly? How stressful would it be to try to carry on conversations and lead a normal life? How productive would a person be in this environment?

Often we try to quiet our conscience by engaging in something to try to distract us from thinking about our noisy soul—our guilty conscience.  Just as we would never go and remove the battery to silence the smoke detector in order to remedy the problem we must learn to stop trying to silence our conscience by any other means than God’s way—the Biblical way.

Consider with me Psalm 51 as we look to Biblically address our “sin detector.” The title of gives us some insight into the circumstances surrounding this psalm; “when Nathan the prophet came unto [David], after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” Nathan comes to King David and says, Thou are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7)

Has your conscience ever called out to you in a piercing voice, “You are the man/ woman!”?

Here in Psalm 51 we see a “Precious Truth” regarding the confession of sin.  What does true confession look like? It begins with actionturning toward God and considering Who He is and what is He like. When we sin we turn away from God and separate ourselves from Him.

Isaiah tells us what our sin does to our fellowship with God. He says, “Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities [sins] have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:1-2)

In order to be in right fellowship once again we must turn back to Him in repentance. This is what we see taking place here in Psalm 51. David cries out to the Lord saying, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions [willful disobedience].” (Psalm 51:1)

Question to answer: “Who is God and what is He like?”

David turns back to God and pleads for mercy—this mercy that is based upon God’s unfailing love. David relies upon what he KNOWS to be true about his God. Keep in mind that God loves to forgive—He wants to forgive us from our sin. It is important to understand who God is, what He likes, and what He dislikes.

The prophet Micah puts it this way, “Who is a God like unto Thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He retaineth not His anger forever, because He delighteth in mercy.” (Micah 7:18)

Notice that God “pardons sin”—He forgives and He does not hold onto “His anger forever, because He delights in mercy.”

Knowing that God is a merciful and forgiving God leads to a peace that surpasses all understanding (Isaiah 26:3; Philippians 4:8-9).

Next we see a request—cleansing is a work of God. David asks God, “Wash me from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalm 51:2)  He asks God to make him clean again as his sin has defiled him.

To be “throughly” cleansed is to be washed repeatedly with intensity. Think of a washboard. Biblically cleansing comes through confession. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

What does improper confession look and sound like? The most frequent is simply, “I’m sorry!” (for what?) or “I’m sorry that you were offended!” How about, “I’m sorry that you took it wrong!” Each of these take no responsibility for our sin and places the blame on the other person.

So what is proper, Biblical confession? We first have seen two actions—a turning to God and making request for cleansing. Consider with me six steps in the confession process. The first three deal with what we acknowledge while the last three reveals the heart of true confession.

#1 – Confession of sin is acknowledging our personal responsibility.

“For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.” (Psalm 51:3)

David takes full responsibility as he “acknowledges his transgressions”—there is no blame-shifting. He says, “my sin is ever before me”—this is the reality of the memory of that sin. When properly dealt with, thus having the confidence of forgiveness, this memory will be a reminder to help to keep us from sin. But when we fail to deal with our sin Biblically it brings guilt, which is by design in order to bring us to repentance.

#2 – Confession of sin is acknowledging who I have offended. (v. 4a)

“Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned,…” (Psalm 51:4a)

All sin is an offence against God as it is a violation of His law.  When we sin we dishonor the Lord. David was not only sorry for the consequences of his sin. He was sorry for the sin itself as he was grieved over the fact that he offended God in breaking His law. We must always confess our sin to Him as well as others we have wronged.

#3 – Confession of sin is acknowledging the extent of my sin. (v. 4b)

“…and done this evil in Thy sight: that Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and be clear when Thou judgest. ” (Psalm 51:4b)

Literally the word “confess” speaks of saying the same thing. It is properly defining sin the way God defines it and NOT in the way we define it. We fail to confess when we justify or make excuses about our sin—why it was justifiable under those circumstances. Proper confession only comes when we see our sin as God sees it.

#4 – Confession of sin reveals a change of heart (v. 13)

Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto Thee.” (Psalm 51:13)

That night on the roof top along with the days following, David was concerned only about himself (2 Samuel 11). He hurt so many people in the process. Now we see his heart has changed as he desires to be used in helping others.

One who has been restored to right fellowship with God can be useful once again in helping others be restored. This can be in the form of openness about our sin and its consequences while giving testimony of God’s mercy. A truly repentant heart will seek to help others. Consider Jesus’ words to Peter about his ministry that he would have after his denial of Christ.

Jesus says, “But I have prayed for thee [Peter], that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted [restored/ reconciled], strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:32)

The reality is that God desires to use broken and forgiven people. He sees value in those who have genuinely repented of their sin.

#5 – Confession of sin reveals a grateful heart (v. 15)

“O Lord, open Thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth Thy praise.” (Psalm 51:15)

Where David’s lips had been sealed in shame he now asks the Lord to open them in praise. David’s desire is to worship the Lord and tell others about God’s greatness. He sees himself as an undeserving soul whom God spared. His grateful heart is seen in the praise he gives to God as he acknowledges Him for His unfailing love and tender mercy, rehearsing these powerful truths to anyone who would listen.

“And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 40:3)

#6 – Confession of sin reveals a humble heart (v. 17)

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise [treat as worthless].” (Psalm 51:17)

The “sacrifices” or worship of God that are acceptable to Him come from a “broken and a contrite heart.” This kind of heart is one that grieves being intensely broken over their own sin. It is seeing sin as God sees it and in turn being truly broken before God.

It is seeing the effects of our sin upon God as His heart is broken when He sees us choose to sin instead of obey Him. It is acknowledging that our sin was the reason that God’s Son chose to take up our cross in order to suffer and die in our place. Being “broken and contrite” is genuinely saying, “Woe is me!” as Isaiah did in Isaiah 6:5.

“Then said I, ‘Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.’”

Isaiah saw God in such a real way as to bring to light his own wretchedness in comparison.  Against the backdrop of a thrice holy God, Isaiah realized that even his most minute sin caused him to be unfit and undeserving to be able to stand in the Lord’s presence. Genuine confession reveals a humble heart that sees how unworthy I am to stand, as a sinner, in the presence of an infinitely holy & righteous God because of the perfect work of my Savior.

In all of these aspects of confession we see genuine repentance—we see the change of mind about our sin which leads to a change of life. True heart-felt confession shows change of behavior not just hollow words.

When we humbly read and receive this psalm and see God’s unfailing love, mercy, grace and His willingness and readiness to forgive the repentant soul, it will bring us to our knees in worship being in awe of the greatness of our God.

In conclusion, enjoy how the psalm ends, “Then shalt Thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon Thine altar. ” (Psalm 51:19)

Be confident that God is pleased when we come to Him, His way! We can then can KNOW that the worship we offer will be worship that He accepts.