Sometimes smart people do dumb things. Sometimes wise people do foolish things. And sometimes even godly people do sinful things. The person who is talking to you has made a few of those. And the people that are listening? You’ve made a few of them.
But over and over in Scripture we find that we are related to a God who, although He will never, ever treat sin lightly, understands that we’re but dust, understands when we blow it big time, and is willing to meet us in a way that is absolutely contrary to human logic, absolutely contrary to what we know about anyone or anything else other than Him. He wants to forgive.
He wants to take even our worst moments, even when we knew it was wrong, and reclaim us for Himself.
I want to just read a story. This is one of the most godly men in all Scripture, his name is David. David was where he wasn’t supposed to be as well.
The Scripture says that it was time for kings to go out to battle and he stayed home. He was walking on the roof one night, he saw a very attractive woman. “He was a good man,” I have written in my Bible, in the footnote on the side, “in a weak moment.”
He was attracted, he lusted, he called for her, he committed adultery, she became pregnant, he brought home her husband, tried to get her husband to sleep with her so when the child came he would think it was his own, the husband had too much honor, so David sent him back on the battlefield and had him killed.
He later married the woman, she is now pregnant with his son, months have gone by and God is going to intervene through the prophet. And we pick up the story in II Samuel 12. Follow along.
“The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said,” that he’s going to use a word picture. To confront a king was like, “This is a good, quick way to get killed.” So, he decides, “I’ll use a word picture.”
“There were two men,” he says to David, “in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle. But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe that he had bought. He raised it and it grew up with him and his children. And shared his food and it drank from his cup and he even slept in his arms, it was like a daughter to him,” or a pet.
“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his sheep or cattle, to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him; instead he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and he prepared it for the one who had come to him.”
In this culture hospitality is very, very big. Very sinful [not to extend hospitality]. So, if a stranger comes, you are obligated to provide a meal. And here’s a super rich guy with all these sheep, all these cattle, and he says “Oh, I don’t want to waste any of mine,” so he takes the one little sheep that’s almost a member of the family from the poor man, butchers it, and prepares a meal.
Now, David is a shepherd. This hits close to home. Notice his response, “David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.’ Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man!’”
Boom. Now, notice he explains.
“This is what Yahweh, the Lord God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave you your master’s house to you, I gave your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if this had been too small, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the Word of the Lord by doing what is evil in His eyes?
“You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and you took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore,” here’s the judgment, “the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised Me and took Uriah the Hittite to be your own - his wife.
“This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all of Israel.’”
Here’s his response. David has been in denial, David has been pretending, he has been lying, he’s been living with a guilty conscience, and now when he sees it clearly, here’s his response.
“Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’” He comes clean. “And Nathan replied, ‘The Lord has take away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt, and the son born to you will die.’”
Under the Law, David understood. I mean, David got it right in his face and he understood, under the Law, committing adultery, what’s the penalty? Death. Under the Law, what’s the penalty for murder? Death.
God has given mercy to David. He’s owned his sin. Now, he understands the sword is not going to depart from his house: Judgment. He understands from out of his house there is going to be calamity and embarrassment and consequences. But the prophet has said, “God has forgiven you.” It’s a graphic picture.
There’s a question that I’d like us to ponder because Eugene Robinson is dealing with it right now. I bet he’s had a lot of long talks with his wife, a lot of explaining to do with his kids, a lot of explanations to coaches and teammates, and he has a book coming out. I happened to meet the publisher while I was at the NRB. And I met with him the morning that all this came loose and he said, “We sent ten thousand fliers to advertise the book of Eugene Robinson to the Superbowl and in a month it’s coming out.”
See, sin is an amazing thing. There are always ripples, aren’t there?
Here’s the question I want you to answer along with me: How do you ever recover when you know you’ve done something terribly wrong? I mean, how do you ever get back on your feet? How do you overcome the guilt and the shame and the embarrassment? How do you ever get right with God again? How do you ever experience His fellowship? How do you ever get this huge bump in the road behind you? How do you get restored? How does it work?
I believe God has given us the answer in Psalm 51 and as you open up the teaching handout here, notice that what we have is David’s prayer after this conversation with Nathan.
We literally get to eavesdrop on this great and godly man who committed adultery, who committed murder, who knew better, who knew God better then at this point than probably any of us will ever know Him. And yet, in a moment of weakness, in a window of time, in a point of vulnerability, he made a disastrous mistake and then did what most of us do. Instead of owning it early, he tried to hide it and cover up.
And what do we learn? What have we learned? When you cover up, cover up, cover up what does sin do? It grows and its impact grows. In fact, if you want to jot down in the margin of your notes, “Psalm 32.” Psalm 32 tells us what was happening inside of David.
And he said, “The Lord’s hand was heavy upon me. When I was silent about my sin it was like being in a desert. My body was wasting away.” When we know things aren’t right with God, when we have sinned against Him and others, it will eat you up. It will crush you, spiritually. It will devastate you, emotionally.
Remember Jim and his testimony, what did he say? He was depressed. And, you know, in a group this size, we’re all human, aren’t we? What we all have in common, as human beings, is failure. Is failure.
Now, we rank it, I’m not sure how much God ranks it, the consequences are different but you have failed and you have failed and you have failed and you failed and you failed and I have failed but here is the message of Psalm 51: With God, failure is never final.
We’re going to take the Lord’s Supper later in the service. And by the time you get a little piece of unleavened bread that will represent the sinless work of the Son of God dying on the cross, His body in your place, and His blood spilled, I hope you’ll be able to hold those.
And as you hold them, I hope in the VCR of your mind, the pictures, the things that you’ve done that you’re ashamed of. Maybe some things that no one knows about, maybe some things that, right now today, you’re involved in. I’m praying that by the time you get those elements, the Spirit of God will break through the armor of your denial, break through how you’re covering and hiding your sin, and let you know that you can come clean today. You can be forgiven today.
For some it’s from your past, no one knows about the abortion and you’d be ashamed if anyone ever found out. For some of you men, you’re the one who urged her to have the abortion. For others, it’s the affair, it was the business trip, it’s just a one night deal.
For others it was flat out stealing. You got away with it! No one knows but you never know if they’re going to find out.
For some people it’s a big, dark, ugly past. For others it’s a secret. And it’s dipping into the Internet or to adult bookstores and you are hooked on pornography.
For other people you have a thought life and a mind that goes in directions that you feel so overwhelmed by guilt you just feel like the biggest hypocrite. You feel pulled this way and pulled that way and you’re here today and you want to be close to God but you feel like there’s a war and it’s always going on inside and you don’t know how to get out.
And then there are some of you that just think, you know, “Boy, thank God I’ve never blown it big time. I like the title to this message. How to experience God when you’ve blown it big time because I’ve never blown it big time!”
I’d encourage you to read the Sermon on the Mount. See, what happens in our day is we rank those sins. Jesus says that God is absolutely pure, absolutely holy.
And so in Matthew chapter 5 He says, “If you’ve never had an affair but lusted for a woman in your heart, you have already committed adultery in your heart. If you’ve never acted and committed murder but you’ve had anger and wrath toward someone else, you have assassinated them already in your mind. If you have gossiped and torn down it’s like shooting or assassinating another person’s character by gossip.”
Now, you may not think that’s big time but I got news for you. He does. And that sin, although never seen, never popping up on the screen, and having more limited impact on others, it’s an offense to a holy God.
If you don’t think so, try something. Just as an experiment I dare you to turn the TV, the radio, don’t go to a movie, don’t rent a video. Have a media fast for seven days and substitute that with time in the Scriptures. And you will turn on the TV a week from now and you’ll see things in commercials and language and images that will offend you that never offended you before.
And if you really want to get offended and you really want to get a picture of who God is, take a thirty day media fast and you will start to open and you’ll say, “I can’t watch that anymore.” Because you will begin to look at life the way God looks at life.
James chapter 3 says, “Anyone who becomes a friend of the world,” you know what he calls us? He says, “You adulterers.” And we have a Church and we have a nation that has become a friend to the world where you know something? Sin doesn’t bother us very much. It bothers God a lot.
And we don’t experience the freshness and the promptings of the Holy Spirit and we don’t experience the kind of joy and we don’t see the power and answers to our prayer. You know why? Because God is holy.
I did something I’ve never done before on Friday afternoon. I was just in the mood and I’m reading through the New Living Translation, I’m just checking it out. Somebody sent it in the mail. It was nice. It’s very readable and I read in one sitting the entire book of Leviticus. I read it fast. I usually get stuck there. I’m reading through the Bible this year. I was astounded, I mean, it was like a fire hose. I was astounded of how high God views the issues of holiness, how particular and how He longed for holiness and His presence to be in every aspect of worship and life for the people of Israel.
And, boy, I realized, “Whoa. The God that I worship has grown much smaller than the God who is.” So, with that as a backdrop, maybe you and maybe I have blown it a little more big time than we think. So, what do you do?
There are seven steps, I believe, that flow out of Psalm 51 to spiritual recovery. If you pull out a pen I’ll put you to work, have you fill in the key word.
Step number one is, “Come clean with God.” Get honest. Get it out in the open. Stop the secrecy. Stop rationalizing. Stop minimizing. Stop reframing it. Stop saying everyone else does it. Stop comparing yourself to someone else that does it worse. Stop it, stop it, stop it, stop it, and come clean with God.
That’s what David did. “I’m the king. I got special privilege, I have all the pressure of the office, and it’s a struggle and she’s a beautiful woman and what’s…” And we do it. Do what David did. He got to the point he said, “I have sinned against the Lord.” This is the most difficult step but without this, the next six mean nothing. Come clean with God.
As I continue to speak, I want you to pray a little prayer. Pray the prayer of Psalm 139, even as I continue. “O God, search me and know me. See if there be any wicked way in my heart.”
And the Holy Spirit… don’t manufacture stuff. You know, some of you that have a guilty conscience that comes naturally. Don’t try and think something up to feel bad about. Trust me. The Holy Spirit will make it vivid and clear if there is a problem. But just be open to Him about relationships, about conduct, about viewing, about habits, about your relationship with the Lord. And then come clean. Come clean. You do that, it begins to happen.
I read a book on the way back on the plane by a fellow named Steve Arterburn. He is with the New Life Clinics, used to be called the Minirth Meier Clinics. And there’s a chapter, one of the seven keys to renewal is - confession.
And let me just highlight, he makes one point I think is worth mentioning. He says there are three reasons why people don’t come clean with God. The first is fear of losing our reputation. But then he says, “The fear of being publically exposed can keep us awake at night and with a feeling of dread. But it’s better to be found out and even have a damaged reputation than to allow the venomous secrets to poison our relationship with God and others.” Get it out.
The second reason he says we don’t do it is fear of losing our favorite sin. You know, when you come clean with God you realize you can’t keep doing that anymore. You need to break that relationship off, you need to stop that habit, you need to address that.
And the third he says is the fear of losing our security. When our emotional or financial security is linked to something sinful, naturally we fear confession. Confession will bring change and the immediate change may not seem to be good. This is where faith comes in. If we agree with God about it, what He says, and what He says is good, we can trust the ultimate outcome of obedience will be good.
You know, Jim, as he shared his testimony, can you imagine what he felt like? If I tell my boss, I might lose my job. If I come clean, my whole life will fall apart. But you know what? Staying where we are will destroy us for sure anyway.
The second step to recovery is, “Ask God for forgiveness.” Look at Psalm 51, the first two verses. He prays, he’s been confronted, and now we’re eavesdropping right in his room as he prays to God and he says, “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 all my sin.”
Did you notice the verbs? There are four of them. Here is a guy who just says, “Help me! Forgive me. Cleanse me. Have mercy. Blot out. Wash away. Cleanse me.” Did you notice the basis? He’s not cutting a deal. He’s not negotiating a settlement. He’s not saying, “Now, God, I’ll do this if You do this.” He’s not saying, “Now, God, I know that I was a little off and…” He’s not reframing things, he’s not minimizing, he’s not saying, “Now, a lot of kings have done a lot of things worse.”
What’s he say? “On the basis of Your character,” two things he cites. One, “Your unfailing love.” It’s a Hebrew word that means God’s loyal covenant love toward us. And the other word is His compassion.
The related New Testament word means, literally, “out of the bowels,” or, “out of the womb.” Out of something down deep inside of God that feels what we feel. He says, “God, on the basis of who You are, not on the basis of what I have done, will You wash, clean, forgive, and cleanse?”
If you’ve never done that, get honest and then ask Him to forgive you. Ask Him to forgive you. He wants to.