From "Sin Cage" to "Free Bird"
Psalm 51 is a gut-wrenching chapter of the Bible in which David pours out his heart to God and comes clean about his sin. Some of you know what it's like to blow it. Many of you have already come clean about your sin and are walking in freedom. Some of you are stuck in a pattern of sin and you're not sure you will ever get free.
David moved from the sin cage to freedom in four phases. Trapped is that place where sin has you pinned to the mat. This is the phase where you've messed up big time and you wonder how you could ever stand tall and face God again. But God invites us to come to Him with our sin. Coming clean and owning up to the seriousness of your offense against God is the first step toward setting things right. But watch out—it's possible to get stuck in the ‘fessing up stage.
Here's a pattern you might recognize:
Sin. Pray about it. Tell God you're sorry. Pray about it again. Tell God you're really, really sorry. Sin again. Repeat.
Yesterday I quoted verses 1–4 of Psalm 51 where David honestly lays out his sin before the Lord. Sometimes we get stuck in this phase. We recognize that we've blown it, but we get lost in all the sin and guilt and shame and don't know what steps to take to restore a relationship with God. In this phase we struggle to believe that God will really forgive us.
In verse 7 David writes, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall me whiter than snow."
David trusted that God would forgive him and cleanse him completely, instead of hanging his hat on whether or not he felt forgiven. Feelings aren't facts. God's Word promises that He will forgive us when we ask. We can continue to run on the hamster wheel of guilt and shame or we can believe His promise that when we ask for forgiveness, God will forgive us.
First John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
David doesn't write about telling someone other than God about his sin in this psalm, but he did confess his sin to the prophet Nathan. I know we are using Psalm 51 as our guide to walk through the stages of a do-over, but I don't want you to miss this step.
James 5:16 says, "Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working."
Only God can forgive our sins, but dragging sin into the light by sharing it with others provides strength and accountability.
This step ultimately keeps the Body of Christ healthy. Psalm 51 wraps up by urging readers to "do good to Zion." In other words, do what is best for the church as a whole. My ESV Study Bible offers this commentary on these verses:
The psalm closes by enabling worshipers to see the relationship between their own spiritual health and the well-being of the whole body of God's people (Zion). That is, each member is linked to all the others in a web of relationships, and together they share in the life of God as it pulses through the whole body. Thus each member contributes to (or else detracts from) the health of the whole.
Your sin can have a negative ripple effect on other believers, or you can ‘fess up and press in to those believers, benefiting you and them.
Do you want out of the sin cage? Come clean before God, and then tell someone in your church who can pray for you, encourage you, and hold you accountable in the future.
It is possible to be set free from the sin cage. Let me say it again. You can be free.
Galatians 5:1 says, "For freedom Christ set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery."
As a result of the fall, we will continue to sin until we reach heaven, but we never run out of opportunities to come clean and accept Christ's forgiveness.
In the last verses of Psalm 51 David wrote about the freedom God made possible. He said he would teach other sinners about God's ways (v. 13), that he would sing of God's righteousness in the face of his sinfulness (v. 14), that he would sing God's praise (v. 15) and that God would not turn away from David's repentant heart. He knew freedom came after confessing his sin.
Let me be clear, this is not like a twelve-step program where everything falls on you to get things right. In your own strength, you can never be free from the cage of your sin. God has done all of the heavy lifting that is necessary to get us free. He clearly shows us in His Word which steps to take, but we do have a role to play in the process.
Which brings me to you...
Where are you in the process of starting over after you've really messed up? Are you still in the pit of sin? Have you come clean? Are you stuck on the hamster wheel of telling God your sin over and over and over? Have you dragged your sin into the light by telling another Christian? Are you ready to believe God when He promises to forgive you?
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall me whiter than snow (Ps. 51:7).
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