You’ve sat through a sermon where it feels like every word was spoken to you. Your stomach is in knots, convicted of your utter sinfulness. What do you do? How do you process this? How can you approach God when you’re so aware of your failure?
Pray with one of the greatest failures of the Bible: David.
In Psalm 51 David faces God after a sermon from Nathan that cut to his heart because of his adultery with Bathsheba. Learn to pray his prayer of honesty, conviction, hope and longing for change.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
You can call on God to have mercy on you- he can handle it. His love never fails, his compassion is great.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
It’s time to be honest with God. Yes, we’ve sinned against other people. But worst of all, what we’ve done is against our pure and loving God. Let that grieve you, admit the guilty verdict you deserve.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
David was guilty. We are guilty. But all that will change if God intervenes. And Jesus’ death washes, sanctifies, and justifies us (1 Cor 6v11). Take David’s requests for forgiveness on your lips and be confident- ‘I will be clean.’ Let the tears of grief over sin turn to longing for joy.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Don’t stop at asking for forgiveness, David doesn’t. Ask for change. We need new hearts not just new behaviour. And the God who created the universe can create a pure heart by his Spirit in us.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Saviour, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
Your failure and experience of grace is a story to tell. Pray for your church family- who can you tell about the astounding mercy you’ve received?
May it please you to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem. Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous, in burnt offerings offered whole; then bulls will be offered on your altar.
The church is God’s city, Jerusalem. The threat of temptation is real, long that God would strengthen us.
How does God feel about you today? Delighted. He delights in the ultimate sacrifice of the Lord Jesus in your place. And now he even smiles on the sacrifice of your life you bring to him- ‘holy and pleasing to God’ (Romans 12v1).
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