James Merritt - Goodbye to Guilt
We're going to look at Psalm 51 and the reason why we're back in this Psalm for a second week is because the song is a very long song and it basically has two parts. So let me kind of go back and review if you were not here last week, or you're probably like me, I can't remember what I said last week. So we're going to go back and review real quickly. What happened was David, a King, had had a one-night stand with a woman that he was not married to, her name was Bathsheba. All the army was out fighting, David should have been out fighting, but he decided he'd take a break. And he sees this woman bathing on a rooftop, calls her up to the palace. They have what he thinks an innocent one-night stand, but the problem was, she gets pregnant.
Now David's in a mess. So, David brings Uriah, the husband, home from the battlefield, hoping he will sleep with her and then nobody will ever know the difference about who the father is. But, Uriah is a very honorable soldier and he refuses to sleep with his wife. So, David feels like he's got no recourse now. So to compound his problem, he has Uriah murdered on the battlefield. So now he is an adulterer and a murderer, and then he takes Bathsheba to be his wife. They have a baby, they think they're going to live happily ever after. That goes on for about a year. And then the prophet named Nathan comes to David, and confronts David with his sin. And God convicts David of his sin, and he wants to come clean. And it was out of that experience that David wrote this song.
I think it was a best seller for him, I think it's one of the best songs that he ever wrote because out of that experience he wrote a song to answer a question that either you need to have answered today, or you've needed to have answered yesterday, or you will need to have answered tomorrow. And here's the question he's answering in this song. When you're confronted, and caught, and convicted, of sin in your life, and you no longer want to run from God, you want to run to God, what do you do? You're confronted, you're convicted, you're caught, you're tired of running, you don't want to run anymore. You realize you can't run anyway, it just makes the problem worse.
Now you want to get back in God's good grace, as you want to get right with God, what do you do? Well, here's the good news. David wrote this song to tell us no matter what you've done and how bad it is, you can say good-bye to guilt. You can take the off-ramp of the guilt-trip anytime you so desire, if you'll do what David did and just ask God to do four simple things. And I would encourage you to write these four things down for this reason. You either will need them today, or you're going to need them tomorrow because we all sin, we all blow it, we all mess up. And when you do, if you're conscious is healthy, if you're conscious is Godly, if you really have a relationship with the God that made you, you will feel, and you will be guilty. And you got to know how to get off of that guilt-trip.
So here's what David did, he said four things to God. Number one, he said, "God, release me from my guilt". That's the first thing he beg God to do for him. "God, release me from my guilt". Because too often, as you know, when we do something that puts us on the guilt-trip, what do we normally do? Our first instinct is not to run to God, it's to run from God. And our first instinct is not to confess to sin, it is to cover the sin. However, what do we learn? When you run from God, and you try to cover up your sin, you just make the problem worse because the first step to dealing with guilt, and getting released from guilt, is just to make an honest confession, just to tell God what God already knows anyway. So, David's writing this song and he writes these words. He says, "I know my transgressions, that is, I know what I've done, I know it was wrong, I knew it when I did it. And my sin is always before me. I can't get rid of it". Now he's talking 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 you are justified when you judge".
David said, "You know, the only knife that's sharp enough to lance the boil of sin and get rid of the infection of guilt, is the knife of confession". Because let me tell you one thing that God will never accept for sin. Let me just kind of help you out right now. Okay? The one thing that God will never accept for your sin, is an excuse. You can't alibi your way out of doing something wrong. You know, it won't work. Well, God if you had not given me the mother and father I had, I would have been different. If I had red hair and been Irish, from Irish roots, I wouldn't have the temper that I've got, right? Or it's my wife's fault, or it's my husband's fault. Or look, if you had my brother, you would have killed him too. Okay. So you can't go to God and say, "You know, I've got this alibi, I've got this excuse". Because when you try to excuse your sin away, and alibi your sin away, it just makes the pain of sin, and the infection of a guilty conscious worse. And let me tell you why that's true.
Now, again, I'm assuming you have a real relationship with God. We're going to deal with this in just a moment. I'm assuming you got a healthy, Godly, good conscious. If that's true, then remember this. When we try to cover our sin, God will uncover it. But when we uncover our sin, God will cover it, prayer works. Sounds kind of intuitive, but it's true. When I try to cover up my sin, when I try to throw dirt over it, and put rocks over it, and hide it, God says, "Won't work, I'm going to uncover it". However, when you go to God, and you say, "Okay, you already know what I'm going to tell you anyway, here's what I've done". God says, "Okay, now I'll cover it". It has to be start with confession. Sin is not a cold, it's a cancer. It's not a misdemeanor, it is a felony.
And to prove this, David uses three words to describe sin and three words to describe what he needs for his sin. I'm going to read this and I want you to listen carefully what David calls his wrongdoing and what David says he needs to take care of his wrongdoing. Now, listen carefully. He says, "God have mercy on me, oh, God, according to your unfailing love. According to your great compassion". Now, listen to the language that he uses. "Blot out my transgressions, wash away all my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin".
Now, he uses three words to talk about what he did wrong. He talks about the word transgression. That word transgression means to cross a forbidden boundary, or to rebel against the law. The word iniquity means perversity because if you think about it, if there really is a God in Heaven, if there is, and if that God knows everything and He does, then it really is kind of perverse to think you can sin and get away with it. I mean, that's kind of perverse to think that, right? If He's always watching, always seeing, always knowing, then to really think that even though you may commit a sin under the cover of darkness, you may commit it, when nobody else, you think, is looking. To really think that you can get away with it, if there's a God in Heaven, that's kind of perverse, so he calls it iniquity. And then he calls it sin, and the word sin means missing the mark. In other words, when you sin, you just miss the mark of what God wants for you and what is best for you.
And then David says, "Cleanse me from my sin". That words cleanse means to purge. To put it in modern language, he said, "Lord, I need a sin detox. I need you to detoxify my body from this sin and my heart from this sin. Because that's the only thing that will release me from my guilt". So step one, I want to get right with God. I'm not right with God, but I want to be right with God. God release me from my guilt. Then step two, you say, "God, renew me by your grace. Renew me by your grace".
Now, this is so important because this is where a lot of us kind of fail and this is why a lot of this get frustrated with the fact that we keep doing the same thing over, and over, and over. Because David takes a bigger, deeper, longer step in his forgiving process that far too many of us don't take and it's the reason why, you know, we've all had this experience. You do something wrong, you lose your temper, or whatever it is, and you say, okay, I'm never going to do this again, I'm sorry, please forgive me, and I'm not ever going to do this again. Only to find that you do it over, and over, and over. And here's the problem. When we sin, when we do something wrong, just instinctively, we know we need to be forgiven. We know we need to make it right. I mean, nobody really has to tell us that, right?
But David realizes, you know what, forgiveness is not my only need. I need more than forgiveness because even though I sin with my hands, the problem actually is in my heart. Because you remember what we said last week, and if you don't, I'll remind you. You remember why we all sin? Remember, I said, you know, we all sin, we all do wrong, we all have failed, nobody's perfect. Why is that? Why do we all sin? Because we're all born sinners. We're all born with this sin gene within us. And we do what we do because we are what we are. And David said, "I don't want to deal with just the symptoms of what I've done. I want to deal with the cause of what I've done". And so here's what David said and it's something we hardly, rarely ever do. He said, "God, I just don't, I don't just need pardon, I need purity. I don't want to just be cleared of my sin, I want to be cleansed from my sin".
So notice what David goes onto say. He says, "Create in me a pure heart, oh, God and renew a steadfast spirit within me". See, David says, "You know, God, I get it. Guilt's not a fungus I can just scrape off with a stick. Guilt is not cured by some home remedy. It takes a heart remedy. I need radical surgery, I need a spiritual heart transplant. I really need a miracle". Because by the way, the word there create is exactly the same Hebrew word that used back in Genesis to talk about how God created the world out of nothing. So David says, "You know what, I know the heart of my problem. The heart of my problem is the problem of my heart. And God, you know what I need? I need a new heart". And you can't buy that at the store. They don't stock those at the hospital. You can't get that prescription filled at the pharmacy. Only God can do that.
And David says, "I don't need a minor repair job, I need a complete spiritual overhaul". Because our problem is greater than just individual sins, our problem is sin. And David said, "You know what, God? I don't want you just to deal with what I've done, you know what I've done. Yeah, I've committed adultery, yes, I committed murder. But, Lord, my problem's greater than that. I don't need you just to deal with what I've done. I need you to deal with what I am. Create in me a new heart, a steadfast spirit". So when we ask God to create in us a new heart and a new steadfast spirit, what we're really saying is, "God, I don't need to be just changed from the outside in. I need to be changed from the inside out".
You know this. If you're addicted to pornography, or drugs, or alcohol, or a bad temper, or materialism, or selfishness, or greed, or jealousy, or bitterness, let me help you on something. All the New Year's resolutions you make won't help. They're not the remedy because the problem is not on the outside of you, the problem is on the inside of you. And what we need is for God to renew us by His grace.
So, David says, "God, would you release me from my guilt? God would you renew me by your grace"? And then David says, "Now after you do that, God, would you revive me for Your glory? Would you really... I mean, make me into something I've not been a long time". Because here, listen to what David's doing, this is so great, you talk about coming clean, you talk about being transparent. David said, "You know, I've already proven something, God. I don't do very good at temptation. I just don't. And I don't want to find myself in this same mess again".
And so the question is, how can we know we can fight temptation and beat it. Listen, getting free of guilt, that's the easy part. Anybody can do that. I can get you off a guilt trip just like that. No problem. The hard part is not getting back into it, not getting on that same road again. The hard part is how do you fight temptation? So listen to what David says, he says, "Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me". Now if you think about it, let me just talk about that, that's kind of a strange statement. What do you mean? Don't cast me from your presence, don't take your Holy Spirit from me. That's kind of strange. As a matter of fact, it's kind of frightening. Because really, if you really are a true believer, you don't want to lose the presence of God. You don't want to lose the Holy Spirit in your life.
So the question is, what did David mean by that? What is David referring to when he says, "Oh, God, please, don't cast your presence from me, and don't take your Holy Spirit from me". The reason why David said that was, he understood something I want you to understand. And that is that we need two things if we're going to live the life that God wants us to live. If we're going to be the persons that God wants us to be. And we are going to do the things that God wants us to do. You got to have two things, if you don't have both these things, listen, you will never be, do, or live the way you ought to be doing living if you don't have these two things. You need God's presence and you need God's power. If you say to God, those three things, you make those three requests of God and God answers all of three of those requests, then there's a fourth thing you would just naturally ask for. And it just comes. And I understand why David did it.
The last thing that David says to God is, "God would you restore me to your gladness"? Would you restore me to your gladness? Now here's the question I want to ask you. You go to God, and you say, okay, I'm going to follow these steps. You know, you're on a guilt trip, you've done wrong, you've been wrong, you know you're wrong, you tried to hide the wrong, hadn't worked, you feel guilty, can't sleep, whatever. And some of you are saying, well, you know, can I be honest with you, pastor, I tried this. It didn't work. You know, I've gone to God and told God I'm sorry, asked God to forgive me, but I don't know why I still feel guilty, and I still feel dirty. And how do you know that God has really cleansed your heart? How do you really know the sin's forgiven? How do you know the guilt is gone? I mean, you don't even know what I've done, you don't know how bad it is. How do you really know you're on the right path?
Well, listen to the last few stanzas of this song because this is what makes this song such a best-selling song, as least in my heart. He says this, restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me. Now, this is so easy, don't miss this. David never asked for his salvation to be restored. Why didn't he? Because he never lost it. You don't lose your... no sin causes you to lose your salvation. So here's the way God works. If you're truly a believer and that's the question I'm begging. And I am begging that question. If you really are a believer, you really do know God, you really do follow Jesus, when you sin, here's what happens. Does God take your salvation away? Absolutely not. God takes the joy of your salvation away. God takes the gladness of your salvation away.
See, when a believer sins, they don't lose their salvation, they lose the fringe benefits. They kind of lose the package. Let me tell you this. I've met a lot of people in my life, you met a lot of people in my life, and we've all met some very sad, miserable people. Let me tell you this. The saddest, most miserable person I've ever met in my life, you know who they are? They're not atheists, they're not agnostics. They're not even people that are living in sin, and feeling guilty about it. That's not the most miserable people I've ever met. By, far and away, the most miserable people I've ever met in my life, are people who at least say they're believers in Jesus and followers of Jesus. But they're living in unconfessed, unforsaken, unforgiven sin. Those are the most miserable people I have ever met. Because I'm about to say something right now, and I want to say it with confidence.
As a matter of fact, to quote my former mentor, Dr. Rogers, which I do quite a bit, there are some things I'm dogmatic about and there are some things I'm bulldog-matic about. What I'm about to tell you, I'm not dogmatic about, I'm bulldog-matic about. If what I'm about to tell you is not true, I'm going to resign this church and go sell shoes because I don't believe anything this book says. If you can live in sin, and be happy, you are not a follower of Jesus. If you're a follower of Jesus, you cannot live in sin and be happy. Now, notice what I said. You can sin and be a follower of Jesus, didn't say that, I didn't say you couldn't sin. You can sin and be a follower of Jesus. You can't be happy. If you can live in sin and be happy, you're not a follower of Jesus. If you're a follower of Jesus, you cannot live in sin, and be happy.
David had lived with a year with his sin. You say well, so how do you know he was a believer, because what did David say? I was miserable, my sin was always before me. I'd go to bed thinking about my sin. I'd get up thinking about my sin. I would eat thinking about my sin. I'd ride my horses thinking about my sin. I'd go explore my vineyards and think about my sin. Everywhere I went, my sin was right behind me. I lived in the filth of sin and the misery of guilt every single day. And the simple reason is he tried to cover his sin instead of confess his sin and that's where everywhere David went, the ghost of guilt followed him because sin glues guilt to a healthy conscious. That's why we need to say good-bye to guilt because if you are a true believer and this is so important.
You can tell me, you can come to me right now and you can say, "Now, I don't care what you say, I'm a follower of Jesus". I'm not going to judge this, I'm going to tell you this. If you're living in unconfessed, unforsaken, unforgiven sin, and sleeping like a baby, you're not a follower of Jesus. The Jesus you say lives in you, is not the Jesus that lives in me. So what happens? How do you know you're restored? How do you know you're revived? How do you know you've been released? How do you know it's all over? David said, "Hey, there's two surefire ways you'll know it". You ready to watch this? He said, "First of all, you will become a witness again".
Listen to what he says in verse 13, "Then, that is, I've been forgiven, guilt's gone. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners that will turn back to you". You know why? Sin not only soils the soul, it seals the lips. If you're a believer, but you're living in sin, and you've not confessed that sin and forsaken that sin, let me tell you what I know, guarantee this is true. If you're not walking with Jesus, you won't be talking for Jesus. If you're not walking with him, you won't with him, you won't be talking for him. When you know that your own testimony will condemn you and you've got to plead the fifth, you won't say anything.
But when you're right with God, and you're tight with God, and you walk with God, you'll talk for God. There's a dear friend of mine, I love him with all of my heart. He'll tell you right now, if he was here, he'd tell you I'm the best friend he's got in the world. I was in the office not too long ago and he's chosen to walk off the path of righteousness. And I, you know, go to his office quite a bit. Because we're just, you know, great friends. And I was in his office not long ago. And I walked out of his office and I was walking back to my car and it hit me like a ton of bricks. It's the first time in years, I'd been to his office, first time. I used to go to his office where I'd walk into his office, sit down just to chat.
First thing he would talk about is Jesus. And then the second thing, he'd tell me about some scripture that he had read, or we'd always quote a verse of scripture to each other. I'm walking out to my car and it hit me like a ton of bricks. First time in years, he never mentioned Jesus one time. Never quoted scripture, one time. I asked him, "You reading your Bible"? He drops his head, no, could have told you. Because when you're right with God, and you're tight with God, and you walk with God, you talk for God. You'll become a witness again. Then David says this. He says, "You'll become a worshipper again". He says, "Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth would declare your praise".
Why did he say that? Because for a year, he kept his mouth shut. For a year, he didn't go to church because, you know, when you're living in sin, and you're swimming in guilt, you don't want to come to church, or if you do come to church, you won't enjoy it when you're there because the spirit of God will convict you. And your heart just won't be in it because you're not reading your Bible, you don't want to read your Bible. You come and you're not enjoying the messenger, you're enduring the message because sin will either keep you from the Bible, or the Bible will keep you from sin. Sin will either keep you from God, or God will keep you from sin. That's exactly the way it works. Because when guilt walks out of your heart and God walks into your heart, worship will fill your heart.
So let's deal with where we may be right now. You may be saying right now to yourself, you may be saying, you know, I feel guilty because I am guilty. I'm abusing drugs and alcohol. I've had an abortion. I've cheated on my spouse or I'm cheating on my spouse right now. I've ruined my marriage. How can I be sure that God will forgive me? How can I know that if I come to God, and I confess and come clean, how do I really know that God will accept me? How do I know that God really will cleanse me? How is it, how can I finally come to God and really confess to God and know beyond a shadow of a doubt, after I do that, it doesn't matter how I feel, I know I am forgiven.
Listen, I'm done. There are two things that absolutely guarantee me and guarantee you, that will happen. The cross of Jesus, and the blood of Jesus. So, it's a beautiful song. I do believe it was his number one seller, I do. I think Casey Kasem would have loved this song. I think it would have been in the top 40 for years. Because you know what this song really tells us? It tells us there's a God in Heaven, that is so loving, and so merciful, and so gracious, and so kind that no matter what you have done and how long you've done it, there's a God that says, "I'm waiting to forgive, I'm wanting to forgive, and I'm willing to forgive". And because of the cross, anytime you're ready, you can wave good-bye to guilt.