Psalm 51: Sorry heart

Have you ever felt guilty?

It's not always bad to feel guilty.  Like when we're actually guilty!  If we didn't feel it, that would be a problem.

It's what we DO when we feel guilty that matters.

David (who wrote this psalm), takes his guilt to God...

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.

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.

When we have a good idea of who God must be, and a good understanding of ourselves by comparison, we realise MERCY is what we need.  Mercy is when people don't get what they deserve.  We would be in a whole lot of trouble with God if he gave us what we deserved and so every second that we don't get it, that's mercy.  He's giving us time to repent - to come to him with sorry hearts for our sin to ask for forgiveness.

That's what David asks for here.  "Blot out my sin", Wash it away", "Cleanse me".  He gets it.  This is what we each need God to do for us.  He knows his own sin and it's time to get real with God about it.

Have you ever done this? 

David had slept with another man's wife and then had the husband killed.  Serious sin!  But I wonder how many of us have fantasies that we would act on if we had the same power he did as king.  We certainly all have thoughts we should be ashamed of.  David knows he's a sinner as he comes to God...
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.

When it comes to moral goodness, God is right and we are wrong.  He is perfect and we are not.  He is clean and we are tainted.  If we disagree with him, we're wrong.  He loves us and longs for us to come to our senses and own our sin problem.  We can't have his mercy and forgiveness until we do come to him... empty-handed.

David says he was sinful from birth.  It means we're sinners by nature as well as by choice.  No-one had to teach us to sin.  It comes naturally.  And yet we CHOOSE it too.  We can't blame anyone else.  Our sin is on each of us until we take it to God. 

David knows that God has the power to undo what's been done...

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall 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.

So we need to recognise (as David did), that we need mercy and forgiveness from God but we also need to know that God has the power to make us right with him and to cleanse and purify us from our sin.  He doesn't just want to forgive us - he wants to make it as if we never sinned in the first place.  

He can do that for us!  He can blot out our sin.  We can be whiter than snow.  We can be full of joy in his presence, rather than full of fear.

But David asks for even more!  He wants a fresh start AND a close friendship with God...

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Not just mercy.  Not just forgiveness.  Not just purification so it's like we never did anything wrong.  But intimacy with God, close friendship and deep joy every day of our lives to sustain us through the best and the worst this world throws at us.

God is happy for David to ask for all this because he's happy to give it all and more!  And because of Jesus' death for us on the cross, we can be sure he offers the same to us today!  David even looks forward to a time when God has given him all of this and he gets to tell others the goods news of God's mercy and kindness for sinners...

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    so that sinners will turn back to you.

Brilliant!  If you're a Christian already, God can use you to help other's find God's mercy and forgiveness and everything else he offers.  Someone once said, "Evangelism is simply one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread."  They were right!  Let's be confident but humble about it... but let's do it!

And if you're not yet a Christian - trusting and following Jesus for your forgiveness and friendship with God, you should know that he doesn't just want to forgive you - he can SO turn your life around that others will even ask how they can know God like you do!
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
    you who are God my Saviour,
    and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.

"Bloodshed" is right.  David knew his sin.  But he also knew his God and that there was hope of everything he was asking for.  He'd written songs about the goodness of God and he knows he will again!

What makes you sing?  What's better than this?  The joy of knowing God personally as a friend!

David knows he's done nothing to impress God.  Quite the opposite.  He knows rituals and religion won't fix anything... 
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

God doesn't want our religion - He wants US!  David brings a sorry heart to God and it's exactly what God looks for.  Only then can God pour out everything he wants to give - forgiveness, friendship, a fresh start and a future with him.  If we come with tight fists and a hard heart, or with pride and self-righteousness, it won't work.  We need his mercy, so we need to come with humble, sorry hearts.

Even now David's not done asking for things.  He dares to ask for even more because he knows how good God is...

18 May it please you to prosper Zion,
    to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
    in burnt offerings offered whole;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.

He asks not just for himself but for the people of God to have a hope and a future with God where they know his love and mercy like he does and love and worship God like he does.

And we know God said YES to this request too - because today billions of people around the world are trusting and following Jesus and have come to know the same God David knows.

Do you know him yet?  If so, worship him today!  If not, what would it take?