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Wash Me!

April 11th, 2019

Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. (Psalm 51:7)

One of the most staggering truths of the Scriptures is to understand that we do not earn our way to heaven … works have a place – but as a demonstration of having received God’s forgiveness, not as a badge of merit for having earned it. (Ravi Zacharias)

The Christian gospel is simply and clearly centered in the forgiveness of sins that we receive through Christ. In terms of personal application, nothing else is as great a truth as this. Christians are those who believe that Jesus has paid for our sins on the cross, and that He is forever interceding for us before the Father in heaven.

But because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is able to save completely those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them. (Hebrews 7:24-25)

There are many times that we believers will fail in our Christian walk. There are spiritual dangers on our right and left, and even in our hearts and souls. The Bible teaches us that God protects us so that “he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear” (1 Cor. 10:13). Yet even with this protective provision we will fail.

Do we lose our salvation when we fail? Some think so, but I do not. We may have lost the joy of our salvation, and sense of freshness of our Christian life. We will lose the leadership of God in our hearts when we sin and do not confess our sins – “If we say we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:10). We will be like an errant and disobedient child who stubbornly refuses to obey his parent, and who feel the disapproval and distance of his parent, but is not disinherited.

When the Christian confesses his sins to God and he receives cleansing, and restoration, and a rejuvenation of his inner life. The sin that blocked the Christians heart – his inner spiritual “ear” – from hearing the voice of God is removed and God’s voice, His word, becomes alive and hearable again.

But what is the payment for our sins? There is only one payment that can forgive, cleanse, and restore a Christian to God – the death of Christ for our sins. In the Old Testament they observed rituals and animal sacrifices, but these pictured the coming of Christ and the ultimate sacrifice He would make on the cross. When David said, “Purify me with hyssop,” that was a reference to the Old Testament ritual and ultimately a reference to Christ.

This is the Christian’s faith, that in Christ’s death is the forgiveness our souls crave. True Christian repentance is not mere sorrow for sinning. Neither is it merely sorrow for sinning that results in promises not to do it again, or promises to undertake some great feat or to undergo some great personal punishment. It is sorrow and repentance and turning away from sin, but turning toward Christ, and moving toward Him in genuine faith.

The Christian faith is centered in that understanding:

But now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been revealed, as attested by the Law and the Prophets. And this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God presented Him as an atoning sacrifice through faith in His blood, in order to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance He had passed over the sins committed beforehand. He did this to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and to justify the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26)

What is required is for us to reach up in faith and to take hold of Christ, to take hold of His grace. Faith is required. Faith realises our sin, but it also believes that God can forgive through Christ.

It is never enough just to be sorry for one’s sins. That is merely the beginning of conversion. Conversion is only complete, and can only truly call himself a Christian, when he believes that Christ is God’s answer for his sin. Have you done this? Have you repented, confessed your sins, and trusted in Christ? Have you come God in prayer and said, “Wash me by the blood of Christ and I shall be clean”?

Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior. (John Newton)

Psalms, Spiritual Recovery

Repentance and Recovery

January 2nd, 2019

O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing;
heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled.
But you, O LORD—how long? (Psalm 6:1-3 ESV)

Repentance is a gift of God. We are tempted, I believe, to look at repentance negatively, when we should look at it as one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity. The Jewish Christians in the New Testament rejoiced when they heard of Gentile conversions and said, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18). When we read a psalm like this, we are seeing the evidence of God’s gift to us of repentance, that leads to blessings.

The inner awareness that we need to repent speaks to our credit, that we feel shame and guilt when we have sinned, knowing that we were made for something better. The one who has aspired to do right, to be responsible and compassionate, when he has failed, and when he has the courage to cry out to God in honest humility of heart, that is an admirable human being. Repentance as the Bible describes it involves (a) inner regret, (b) turning from evil, and (c) turning to God in faith.

Repentance and Grace

David repented before the Lord and found God’s forgiveness. He turned from sin and turned toward the Lord. The first part of this psalm recorded his prayer of repentance, and the last part David expressed the assurance that God had heard his prayer and forgiven him: “For the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping. The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD accepts my prayer” (Psa. 6:8b-9). 

David cried out, “Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love” (Psa. 6:4). And in the turning of the sinner to God was the assurance of God’s turning toward the sinner with grace and forgiveness. Through the prophet Zechariah God said to the nation: ” Return to me, says the LORD of hosts, and I will return to you” (Zech. 1:3). The rebuke and the discipline of the Lord was intended not for the sheer punishment of sin, but so that the person might turn from sin and turn to the Lord.

These two always go together if God is the One who has brought conviction. The Lord never puts upon us the awareness of our sin without also assuring us of the availability of His grace and forgiveness. No matter how grave the sin, the Lord constantly invites us to come to Him for cleansing and forgiveness.

“Happy repenting” doesn’t sound right, because the act of repenting is not one filled with happiness, but rather regret. But repenting the way God intended us to has actually a very joyful outcome – assurance of forgiveness and restoration into a healthy relationship with Him. The Christian life is one of constant repenting and thereby constant receiving and enjoying the grace and forgiveness of God. His grace far outweighs our sin, and His comfort far outweighs our shame. The joy of the Lord comes upon our turning to Him in repentance and faith.

How long?

David’s words reveal the agony of his soul that in mid-thought – bouncing from his sin, his physical languishing, and pain of his bones – he suddenly interjects these words: “How long?” Some translators have sought to make them read more smoothly and have added something to try and interpret them, such as “How long until you restore me?” (NLT). But in the original they stand out as a sudden cry from David’s heart.

The most common question in all the word of God is “How long, O God?” (Psalm 13:1; 89:46; Rev. 6:10, for examples). How long must we endure our own sinfulness, our fallenness and impurities? We long for eternal life, for changed hearts that are purified by God’s power. We long to see an end to suffering and injustice, as well as unbelief and evil. We long to see the new person – incorruptible bodies and perfected spirits that are completely sanctified.

I have personally discovered something redemptive and worshipful in praying this question to God. I believe God has left these desires for perfection in our hearts and as we cry out to God we are expressing His work within us. God put this desire in our hearts and we are revealing in this prayer a new nature and a new set of desires as new creations in Him. The answer eludes us, of course, other than to say:

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:8-9)

And Christ adds the assurance, “Surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). The repenting soul has the assurance of God’s grace and the comfort of His Spirit.

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The New Testament Greek had a certain word that was translated “repent” – metanoeo – and it was a technical word which meant a change of heart. The Old Testament repeatedly called for Israel to repent, but the Hebrew did not have a specific technical word for repentance, rather the understanding of it was based on the context. Most often the word was “turn” – shub – and commonly used to turn from sin and turn to God. The word naham was also used to describe the inner regret that accompanies repentance: Job used this word when he said, “I … repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). Unlike metanoeo these were, however, common words and the majority of times these two words were used in the Old Testament they were not about a faith experience, rather it was the context that determined their spiritual meaning.

Therefore repenting in the Old Testament had three human components: (1) to feel regret for one’s actions, (2) to turn away from sin and unholiness, and (3) to turn to the Lord. The one who did so could be assured that God would turn toward Him in forgiveness and cleansing, soothing the pain of discipline and the shame of the sin that accompanied regret.

Daily Devotions, Psalms