May 24, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Psalm 51)

Submitted by Susan I. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

Psalm 51

Key Verse

7 Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;

wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

8 Oh, give me back my joy again;

you have broken me—

now let me rejoice.

9 Don’t keep looking at my sins.

Remove the stain of my guilt.

God is …

1 Have mercy on me, O God,

according to your unfailing love;

according to your great compassion

blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash away all my iniquity

and cleanse me from my sin.

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned

and done what is evil in your sight,

so that you are proved right when you speak

and justified when you judge.

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;

wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

8 Let me hear joy and gladness;

let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

9 Hide your face from my sins

and blot out all my iniquity.

This is such good news, that God does not treat me as my sins deserve. There are times when I feel overwhelmed by guilt, or feel discouraged about myself or when I am convicted of a sin in my life but my focus turns inward. Psalm 51 remind me of the truth – the truth that sin isn’t just a character flaw or a defect in my personality that I need to overcome, but sin is against God – “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” Sin is rebellion against God, sin is defiling because it goes against God’s design for my life and my heart. This past week, I was feeling discouraged because of different mistakes I made, different ways I failed to show care and love to the people in my life. But during a time of prayer, I was brought back to these truths – that my sin is against a holy God but at the same time, he does not treat me as my sin deserves. And through bringing my sins, my feelings of disappointment, my regrets to God, I was brought to a point of honest confession where I had to face the fact that the root of my sin is selfishness and self-preservation and I can’t try to say that it’s poor character, or this is the way I am, or I have always been like this. It was because of my desire to protect myself that I tried to limit my sphere of concern to a specific group of people, it’s because of my faithfulness to my emotions and my awkwardness that I miss so many opportunities to show love, to put others and their needs first. And through that prayer of honest confession, God’s grace and mercy came to me again in a fresh and personal way. I clung to the fact that God forgives me and that God can and will blot out my transgressions. I clung to the fact that the stain of my guilt doesn’t remain with me forever – that God, my leaders, my peers, my fellow ministers, the people I minister to receive me again and again, and each day, I am given another chance to obey, to love, to humble myself, to put others before myself.

Lessons for me …

8 Let me hear joy and gladness;

let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

9 Hide your face from my sins

and blot out all my iniquity.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart,

O God, you will not despise.

Through Psalm 51, I am reminded that I can only have true joy and gladness when I am relating rightly with God, when I am honest about my sin, when I am confessing and repenting before God. I have many different ways of responding to my sin. There are times when I want to ignore it – either by justifying it and saying that it isn’t that bad, or being in denial about a bad habit, or trying to convince myself that I’m not affected or I am in control of the situation. Or at other times, I approach my sin with an attitude of resolve – resolve to do better, to not let this sin get the better of me, to show myself or others that I can defeat this sin. I also have a tendency to be an avoider – to avoid uncomfortable truths, to avoid feeling bad about my sin, to avoid what is being revealed about me. All of these different attitudes, different ways of dealing with my sin is because of my pride – because I don’t want to admit my sin, because I don’t want to feel appropriately broken and stricken by my sin. I am just being faithful to my desire to feel okay about myself. But then, I don’t have joy and gladness in my life or in my heart. I become disconnected from myself, from God, from God’s word and from others. I have experienced times in my life where I persisted down this path – to preserve myself, I compartmentalized and ignored and denied sin in my life. Knowing that I have these grooves in my heart, the capacity to be disconnected to this degree, I need to remind myself of these truths – that denial or a brushing over of sin might protect my pride but it is denying reality and it is sin against God – grieving God and is an act of rebellion and indifference against God. I need to remind myself of the truth that confession and repentance, as painful as it may be during the process, brings life, healing, cleansing in God’s grace, and as I receive undeserved forgiveness, I experience a joy that I didn’t know was possible. When I am in my sin, my thinking and my heart are clouded with darkness – darkness of guilt, shame and cynicism. When I come before God in confession, my focus isn’t on myself but against the God against whom I have sinned, and the God who forgives me and purifies me from all unrighteousness. When I am vague in my daily devotions or in prayers, when I just go through the motions, I go away from that time with the same burdens and guilt as I came into that time with. But when I open my mouth and utter the truth, when I name the person I ignored, when I admit I was petty in that incident, when I consider how the other person felt when I didn’t even think of them, when I see the picture of myself that is emerging from a series of incidents and just let it soak in, then I am humbled, and God is able to address me.

Prayer

God, all I can do is ask you for your mercy. I trust in your unfailing love, in your great compassion. Please have mercy on me and forgive me. Please wash me clean of my pride, of my wrong way of responding to you.

As I reflect on my sins and on the ways I respond to my sins, I see how my sins pile high before me and run deep within me. I am good at sinning and I am good at denying it or trying to trivialize it. But I confess before you that my sin is against you – my sin is against your law, my sin grieves you, my sin mars the conscience that you gave me. I cannot try to defend myself before you or excuse myself – I have to admit that you are right in your judgment of me – that I am a sinner through and through.

But you are a holy God, a God of light and truth – you desire light and truth in me. You speak to me through your word to show me the truth of my sin and my condition, to guide me into confession and repentance. You shine your light upon me as I live in the darkness of my sin, of my denial, of my self-focus.

God, I cannot deny my sin and cannot deny I am guilty. Please cleanse me so that I can be clean. I put my trust in Jesus’ work on the Cross and your forgiveness, that I can be restored in my relationship with you, that I can experience genuine joy because I am forgiven, because my sins are wiped away, because things are made right between me and you and I don’t have to hide, I don’t have to carry the burden of guilt and shame forever.

God, please change my heart – please make my heart pure – to desire you, to have spiritual hunger, to have a hunger to grow and to be more like you, to be faithful to you and to my convictions and commitments. Please keep me near the Cross – so that I will remain humble and thankful. And please sustain me each day as I struggle with my sins, as I battle temptations, as I am tempted to take it easy – please give me a willing and persevering spirit, to follow you and to be faithful. Only through your work in me, your sustaining me can I do the work you have given me, to share the gospel, to share my testimony, and to point people to you. I have experienced the pains and shame and darkness of going down my own path, and through your grace, I have experienced the joy, the gladness, the awe of being forgiven and restored to you. Please use me to be your voice to others, to show them who you really are.

Please forgive me of my sin and remove my guilt from me. I trust that you are the God who saves me, the God who forgives and cleanses me. In response, I want to declare your praises and your righteousness. I want to share with the students, with my family, with the people around me that you are a good, compassionate God, that you are a God who comes near and takes on the punishment for our sin so that we can be forgiven. I want to share through my words, through my life, through acts of love and sacrifice that you are a gracious God who is worthy of all of my praise and devotion.

I don’t want to just focus on externals though, or just go through the motions. You look at my heart and my inner thoughts and my motivations. As I come before you, as I journal and pray, as I reflect on the effects and consequences of my sins and choices and decisions, please help me to come before you with a humble heart, a broken and contrite spirit. This is the only appropriate response to my sin and only appropriate way to approach you.

Lord, I want to honor you with my life. I want to honor you by being a person of truth – through humble and daily confession and repentance, by being quick to admit my wrong and my fault, being quick to cry out for help and for your forgiveness. I want to honor you by being humble – not trying to defend myself, not trying to appear more or better than I am, not trying to point to myself at all. I want to honor you by declaring who you are – merciful, a God of unfailing love and great compassion, a God how cleanses and removes sin and restores us in a love relationship with you. Thank you for being this kind of merciful and gracious God.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Submitted by Chi S. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

Psalm 51

Key Verse

51:7  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

God is …

God sees our sins.  Here in this world we can put up a mask and cover up the sins in our hearts, and we can fool others for a while but we can’t fool God.  David knows that his sin is always before him, and if he himself can clearly recognize his sins, how much more so God?  Hebrews 4:12-13 says, “The word of God…judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.”  Not only does he see our sins clearly, but he is the righteous Judge.  David says in v.4, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done with is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.”  Hebrews 4:13 says, “Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”  This is indeed a scary thought, to know that we live before the gaze of the holy, Almighty God who sees not only our actions but also all our hearts and motivations.  And who can claim to have acted justly and righteously in all situations, and always with proper selfless motivations?

If that was the only picture of God, then indeed there is much room for despair.  But wonder of wonders, God turns out to be not a wrathful, vengeful God but God who has mercy, who has great compassion, who washes away our iniquity and cleanses us from our sins.  Psalm 130:3-4 says, “If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?  But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.”  It’s because God is so merciful that we have such hope, that even when we are weighed down by our sins, we can be sure that God is like the waiting father in Luke 15 who is longing to forgive and to run out to his prodigal son and to joyfully welcome him back home.  This is a picture that gives us so much hope, to know that God is a God of unconditional love and unconditional forgiveness, to the point that he sent his one and only Son to die in our place on the cross.  Verse 17 says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”  As I imagine the prodigal son making his journey back home, with his clothes tattered and his spirit broken, I think that the only thing that was on his mind at that point was wondering what his father’s reaction would be, whether he would still be accepted back even as a servant.  Imagine his total shock and utter amazement to realize that his father has been waiting for him all along, longing to welcome the prodigal back as his son!  And that is God’s heart for all the prodigals, when we come before him with a broken spirit and a contrite heart, fully expecting rejection and condemnation, we find that we are not despised, that God does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities, but that instead we are embraced and welcomed home.

Lessons for me …

Because God is such a merciful God, I don’t ever need to put on a mask and hide my sins, but I can always come before him and confess my sins honestly, admit that once again I have messed up, once again I have fallen short, once again I am in desperate need of his mercy and grace.  These past couple of years, God has shown me again and again the different sins in my life that I need to repent of, and many times I was shocked, shamed, and humbled.  And there have often been times when I’ve wondered how God can take back someone like me, who is so broken, who so instinctively turn to pride and selfishness and reject God’s calling for me to serve and to love others.  David’s prayer in v.10-12 “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.” is a prayer that I’ve uttered many times, not knowing whether God will indeed hear and grant my prayer.  Intellectually I know that God forgives, I know that God does not despise broken and contrite hearts, I know that if we confess our sins then he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness, but when I am that prodigal on that road back, knowing fully what I have done and having my sin always before me, it’s hard not to tremble and wonder whether God’s grace actually extends to me.  But each and every single time, I find that God’s promises are actually true, that he has been waiting for me to come back home to him all along, and as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed my transgressions from me.  When I came before him with a broken spirit and a contrite heart, sorry for all that I have done and sorry for all my sins, I was not despised by God, nor was I despised by his people; I was not cast from his presence, God did not leave me in the consequences of my sins, but each time I have experienced him restoring to me the joy of his salvation and granting me a willing spirit.

This is a cycle that needs to happen again and again in my life.  As I look in my heart, I see so much pride, so much selfishness, and so much sin.  And as I get older, I have come to see more clearly the extent of my sins and their ramifications and how much they hurt others, and at times they are indeed discouraging.  But thinking about God’s past history with me and how he has never given up on me and never gotten tired of me repenting and coming back to him, I can have that confidence in coming back home to him each time, praying David’s prayers in v.10-12, trusting that he who has been merciful and patient will continue to be faithful, and that even when I despise myself, he does not despise me.  As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.  As a father, there is absolutely nothing ever that my son does that will make me despise him and give up on him, and no matter what he does, what kind of trouble he gets into, how much he may hurt me, I just want my relationship with my son back, I just want him to love me and to trust me again.  And if a sinner such as I can love my son this way, how much more so my heavenly Father?  This gives me so much hope and confidence to keep coming back to him again and again, with nothing in my hands to offer, no sacrifices or burnt offerings or good work to bring, but simply with a broken spirit and a contrite heart each time, falling before him pleading for mercy.  And that is a prayer that God hears and grants.  Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”  Satan tries to tell me that there is no use, this time I have gone too far, there is no way God will accept me back, and I might as well just stay in the pigsty and make the most out of the situation.  But God’s word reminds me that there is always room at the foot of the cross for a sinner such as I, because my sins have been atoned for through the death of Christ Jesus my Lord and Savior.  So may I always approach the throne of grace with confidence each time to receive mercy and find grace, trusting in God’s love and forgiveness each time.

Prayer

Dear heavenly Father, thank you that you are a compassionate and gracious God, thank you that you do not treat me as my sins deserve or repay me according to my iniquities.  Thank you, Lord, that you have sent your Son to take my place on the cross, and now my sins have been taken away as far as the east is from the west.  Because you have been so merciful and gracious to me, please help me to have the confidence to turn back to you over and over again every time I sin, knowing that you are faithful and just and will forgive me my sins and purify me from all unrighteousness.  I know that there are no sacrifices or burnt offerings that I can bring, nothing that I can do on my own to make up for my sins, but praise my Lord and Savior Christ Jesus that he has done all the work, and now all I need to do is to simply come before the throne of grace to receive mercy and restoration each time!


Submitted by Michelle Y. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

Psalm 51

Key Verse

1 Have mercy on me, O God,

according to your unfailing love;

according to your great compassion

blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash away all my iniquity

and cleanse me from my sin.

God is …

God is able to extend his mercy on a sinner like me because of his unfailing love, and he is able to blot out my transgressions because his compassion is great.  He is able to wash all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.  He is a God who desires truth in my inner parts and teaches me wisdom (v.6).  The older I get, the more I see the depth of my sins as it manifests itself in many different ways. I see my desire for comfort come out when I rush to do things so that I can have time for myself or when I turn a blind eye to someone’s need because it would require me to respond and leave my comfort.  I see my selfishness expose itself when I am calculating with my time and money.

As I am confronted with the same recurring sin issues, I see the same character flaws glaring at me, and how it does not affect me only but hurts God and the people around me.  Then I see how helpless I am against my own sins.  No amount of “good works,” making excuses, or even blaming others or situations, can remove me from the one truth that I am a sinner and utterly hopeless before God.  It was only when I humbly admitted who I was, did I see that all God wants from me is “a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart” (v. 17).

King David says in verse 6, “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.”  God’s desire is that I become a person who embraces truth so that he can reside in me and teach me in order to restore me.  He is able to blot out my transgressions, wash away my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin because of his love for me and to see me restored from my guilt, shame and regrets.  .

Lessons for me …

As we enter our third year of ministry here in Minnesota, I know that more truths about myself and sins are going to come up as I continue to serve and try to love others.  At the same time, I also know that it is through these times of being confronted with truths which will be opportunities for me to humbly admit and allow God to shape my crooked ways into a straight path.   In verses 10-12, David cries out to God, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.   Do not cast me from you 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.”  It is my desire that I will also grow to have the same sense of desperation as David had for God to cleanse him from his sins, to purify him, so that he can be used to teach others to return to God.  When I refuse to deal with my sins because of my pride, I stifle the work that God wants to do not only in my life but also in the lives of others because my sins can stumble or be a poor example to others, especially to non-Christians.  When I make excuses or belittle my sins, it not only affects me but the people around me including the church that I am a part of which God wants to use to bring the Gospel message to the students on this campus.

As I also get to continue to do ministry, I see the importance of coming before God to acknowledge my sins because it’s through acknowledging my sins that I grow in deeper conviction of my need for the Cross and see that God is the only hope for a sinner like me.  And it’s with this same conviction that I find confidence in God who is able to cleanse me and renew me every time I humbly come to him.  This is truly the Good News that I have the privilege of experiencing over and over again and that I have of sharing with the students at the U.  It is what gives me hope for the various students that we minister to including students who come from completely non-Christian or un-churched backgrounds, students who are disillusioned with the church, and students who come hungering for Truth.  It’s my prayer that as God is able to do this restorative work in my life that I would not resist because of my pride but that I would be humble and yearn for a right heart that is ready to serve him.

Prayer

Father God, I thank you that you are a God who is able to cleanse me from my sins and restore me into a rightful relationship with you.  I confess that there were many times when I resisted truth about myself because of my pride, and yet you did not leave me there as I was but through the truth of your word and through the voices of truth in my life you opened my eyes to see my desperate condition as a broken sinner.  I thank you that your mercies are new every day and therefore my sins are not held against me but are washed away through the blood of Jesus Christ.  I thank you that you desire truth in my life and that you teach me wisdom so that I might live in your presence and experience living with a pure heart and a renewed spirit to continue walking with you faithfully.  I pray that you will grant me a humble heart when I am confronted with truth about myself, and a desperate heart that desires a restored fellowship with you when I fall.  And I pray that as I continue to get to serve you here in Minnesota, that I will be a faithful pillar of the church so that we can bring others to hear the Good News of your unfailing love.

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