Sermon delivered at Grace Presbyterian Church, November 12, 2000
Where Did That Come From? - Psalm 51, Part 4
When we do stupid or sinful things, and we begin to feel the guilt or suffer the consequences, we often look back on it and wonder, "Where did that come from?" "Why did I do that?"
Our fallen nature is very willing to suggest its own reasons why we sin:
A better question is,
King David had sinned horribly in his lust and adultery with Bathsheba. He then made repeated efforts to cover it up, including risking Israel's national security by having Bathsheba's husband killed in battle. David paid a heavy price for that one night of sin.
When God's prophet confronted him with it, we see how a true believer responds to his sin. David admitted that what he did was wrong. He grieved and humbly repented before God. He didn't make a display of sorrow to win the sympathy of the people. His heart was broken. He repented, and wrote this moving Psalm for us to learn from.
We have already studied the first four verses .. the Psalm begins this way ...
Psalm 51 (NASB) For the choir director. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
Then David continued by owning up to the real source of his sin:
When a verse begins with behold we know we are about to look at something impressive. He wasn't telling God to behold something his all-knowing Lord hadn't noticed. He was humbly saying to God that he wasn't going to hide the depth of his own depravity.
The poet Robert Burns, around the end of the 18th century, was in church when he noticed a bug crawling on the bonnet of a well dressed lady in front of him. He wrote his famous poem To a Louse. It was about how differently we might come across to others while thinking we look quite impressive.
In old English he wrote: "Oh wad some power the giftie gie us; To see oursels as ithers see us!"
Its translated: "Oh if some power the gift he would give us; To see ourselves as others see us!"
But here David sees a greater gift; to see ourselves as God sees us. David had beheld the awful corruption of his own human nature, and knew that it had infected his heart from the moment he was conceived in his mother.
David admitted where his sin came from. God assigned Adam to represent all the humans who would descend from him. When he sinned, guilt and moral corruption spread to everyone who would be ever born. The only exception is the birth of Jesus who was specially conceived by the Holy Spirit. We call this inherited condition original sin.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism summarizes this biblical fact in Question 16;
More simply, the old New England primer said, "In Adam's fall, we sinned all."
The Bible is clear about this:
Therefore, our guilt and the corruption that moves us to sin are inherited. Sin is a congenital disease of the soul, and a universal infection of all souls.
And by saying that he was a sinner from his conception, David wasn't excusing his sin as if he couldn't help it. David was confessing that he had done wrong because he was in need of a Savior.
Original sin leaves our souls morally inclined to displease God. We are born in sin. We all know that the fruit of a tree reveals its true nature. Apples being produced, proves that we have an apple tree. Sin being produced, proves that we have a corrupted heart.
But, you might say, "I'm a Christian!" So isn't that corruption taken away now? Believers are forgiven for their sin because Jesus paid the penalty for it in their place. They become able to have truly God-honoring motives. And they are made able to obey God's law both outwardly and inwardly.
But the infection of sin is not removed in this life. Even redeemed hearts still sin. Only in our glorification after death, is sin's power eradicated from us. Until then, we struggle, as did King David when he wrote this Psalm.
We have conflicting moral desires that want to do good because of God's love at work in us. But we sometimes slide backward, reminding us that we are only sinners saved by Grace. This was Paul's experience too:
David realized that his recent flood of sins exposed what had been there all along. It was only God's merciful restraint that had sometimes put chains on his depravity. God never withdraws our salvation. But he does at times leave us to ourselves to see what we would be without his constant provision
In this life, there is a some corruption in our hearts no matter what we do. No one can perfectly remove all selfish motives and purely do all for God's glory alone, or always keep from wavering in times of stress or temptation. So sometimes God lets us see those remains of sin at work in us.
One of the hardest things for parents to do is to let their children make their own mistakes. Certainly they don't let them do dangerous or fatal things. But there are times when they lovingly step back to let them learn the limits of what they can do. God, as our loving Father, sometimes lets us see how much we need to rely upon his grace.
So when we discover the depth of sin in us, it drives home the truth that all the good we do is purely a result of his merciful work in our hearts. We learn that since sin is in us from birth, then we can't blame our circumstances, our upbringing, or our human choices. This also means that our victory over it doesn't come by the efforts of men.
So no one has a natural advantage or disadvantage before God. Those brought up in a godly surrounding are greatly blessed, but no less corrupt from birth. Those deprived of good surroundings, are no more depraved in their souls. Refinements do not make a Christian. If you refine a depraved sinner with all the culture and manners imaginable, all you end up with is a very cunning and skillful sinner who believes he doesn't need a Savior.
So our depravity is not overcome by our efforts or refinement. Its conquered only by grace through God's application of the work of Christ.
In that same place where we have in-born sin, God is only pleased to see holiness.
Psalm 51:6 Behold, Thou dost desire truth in the innermost being,
And in the hidden part Thou wilt make me know wisdom.
Psalm 51:6 Behold, Thou dost desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part Thou wilt make me know wisdom.
Again, here is something to behold! But this time its not the fact of his original sin that David so humbly holds up before God. Here its God's holy expectation which is ours only by grace.
What God desires ought to be found in man's innermost being. The place he speaks of here is where our desires and motives lie. God is not impressed merely with our outward show, or our words. To Israel, David looked like a godly king all the while this cover-up was going on. But he knew himself that what he appeared to be was not what he was. We can fool those around us for a while, maybe for a long while. But in Isaiah 16:7 God warned Samuel not to look at a man's appearance or stature ...
Its the heart that is corrupt, and that continues to tempt us even as believers. While we remain imperfect in this life we are potential sinners even as David was. The heart is where the danger lies ...
Its the desires deep inside us that cause the moral conflicts that often snare us and hurts others.
So David shows us this sharp contrast in these two verses ... First his confession of the problem, his inherited iniquity and sin. Then he turns the spotlight to what ought to be there in its place:
God desires truth to be in our hearts. He doesn't want to find imaginings or false beliefs there. He made our hearts to house truth.
And the first truth we need to have in our hearts is about our real inner nature. If we don't admit that we need a Savior, we are lost in hopelessness. And if we don't admit that as believers we must continue to rely wholly upon grace, then we are living a lie.
Truth is that which agrees with what God has said about us. We need to replace the lies with what is honest and real. Fantasies are for children. As we mature, we need to know what is reliable and helpful. If we hope in fairies and wishes ... we will never find real solutions. If we hope in our own imagined abilities to overcome our problems on our own, we will never discover God's love, mercy, forgiveness and deliverance in Christ.
Then David pleads with God that he would come to have wisdom. He doesn't mean here that he wants his IQ to increase, or to improve his memory. He doesn't even mean that he wants a more analytical mind or a more creative genius. The wisdom he means here is of the heart, not of just the head. One ancient writer spoke of a "full head and an empty heart"
He wants God to improve his ability to accept the truth and to follow after the right path. On that night of temptation he thought a moment of sin with the beautiful Bathsheba would give him a good moment of pleasure. But godly wisdom would have judged that there is no real pleasure in things that displease God.
Moses showed this kind of wisdom when he sided with the calling of God in Hebrews 11:24-25,
Wisdom is when our affections desire to conform only to what God says is right.
God doesn't want outward show. He wants inward truth, holiness, and devotion to moral purity. So we must have our hearts united with Christ if our outward behavior is to really honor God. When obedience is externalized the most we can hope for is to put on a good act.
Because of the inner origin of sin, an inner cure is needed. God wants truth and wisdom in there where sin tries to dominate our lives from birth. Though in Adam we were created in holiness, ever after humans are conceived in sin. So we must be redeemed to inward holiness if we are to enjoy God's blessing forever.
Our fallen nature's answer is like the plan of a cheap handy-man. When the wood of a wall or fence is rotten and brittle, it can sometimes be covered over with heavy coats of paint. But though that might make it look acceptable or even good from the outside the fence or wall is rotten and will not hold up when it is stressed.
In the same way we can often put on good outward behavior, even religious behavior. But there can be no hope or confidence before God, until there is evidence of a changed heart. This shows itself in humble confession and repentance and by seeking God's provision in Christ.
But there is a good message here -- not a discouraging one.
First: There is never progress or confident inward assurance, if we can't admit the real problem. By understanding the source of our inward corruption, that it didn't happen by our circumstances or personal bad choices, we can begin to deal with it at the source. A polluted stream can't be cleaned up if the source of pollution isn't stopped.
Second: Our own behavior and that of those around us can be confusing and discouraging, until we can make real sense of it as God explains the problem to us. If we know where sin comes from, we can finally understand the moral struggles we face daily.
Third: When we understand the impossibility of moral progress on our own, we can begin to understand the wonderful work of Grace in our lives. we can also have hope for those around us who seem irretrievably lost. The most evil people on earth can find transformation by coming to the Lord who causes us to really change.
So we learn from this Psalm to own up to our sin and to deal with it effectively by coming to the Lord who alone can make us alive and cause us to be growing to overcome our sins.
Paul wrote in Romans 6