The Penitential Psalm, 8


Psalm 51:13 

After seven studies in Psalm 51, we have finally reached the end with this one, number eight.  Over the past seven studies, our focus has been, for the most part, on King David and on what he prayed.  Of course, we made applications all along the way of his experiences to ours, but generally speaking, it’s been all about King David.  In our final look this wonderful penitential psalm, we turn our attention from David to ourselves.  What is the second biggest lesson we can take away from Psalm 51?  It centers on verse 13, which says:

Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.  (Psalm 51:13  AV)

“Then.”  When? 

An important word in verse 13 is “then.”  What is it there for?  When we read that word, “then,” another word pops into our minds:  “when?”  When would David “teach transgressors” God’s ways?  Let’s see when he thought he would:

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.  (Psalm 51:10—13  AV)

It’s important that after this work of God in David, the King wasn’t interested in doing anything of a political nature for Israel; he was interested in teaching God’s ways to transgressors, but ultimately he wanted sinners to be converted.  That seems to have been his overriding concern.  David wasn’t a minister, priest, or missionary.  He was a king—the political leader of a great nation!  His “job” was to be the king, but his aspiration was to lead sinners to God.

Someone once made this profound statement:

The Christian ministry is the only profession in the world in which the message and the messenger are inseparable.

Every single born again believer has been touched by God precisely the way King David prayed to be touched.  Paul put it this way:

I have been crucified with Christ: and I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the real life I now have within this body is a result of my trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  (Galatians 2:20  TLB) 

When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!  (2 Corinthians 5:17  TLB)

Yes, we have all been changed from the inside out, as Paul declared and as David prayed for.  We have been gloriously set free from sin—forgiven and given a second chance by grace of God.  We have been filled with the Holy Spirit and empowered to live right.

Now what?  What do we do with all that?  Did God do all that for us just so we could go to heaven?   Of course not!  We are all indebted to God for His life changing grace.  And we owe sinners—those who do not know Jesus—something.  We owe them an explanation of why we are different and how we have been changed.

…preach the Word of God urgently at all times, whenever you get the chance, in season and out, when it is convenient and when it is not.  (2 Timothy 4:2  TLB)

Of course, Paul’s advice to young Timothy concerns pastoral ministry, and few of you reading this are pastors.  But every single believer is called to take the Gospel to the lost.

We are full of the message of God, and we have become His messengers.  Remember, you can’t separate the two!

The motive 

Christians ought to be indebted to God for His grace; we should be willing to work for Him as often as we can, wherever we are.

Quietly trust yourself to Christ your Lord, and if anybody asks why you believe as you do, be ready to tell him, and do it in a gentle and respectful way.  (1 Peter 3:15  TLB)

Yet faith comes from listening to this Good News—the Good News about Christ.  (Romans 10:17  TLB) 

We are Christ’s ambassadors. God is using us to speak to you: we beg you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, receive the love he offers you—be reconciled to God.  (2 Corinthians 5:20  TLB) 

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry… (Ephesians 4:11, 12  NKJV) 

That phrase in Ephesians 4 is important because it applies, not to preachers, but to ordinary men and women, boys and girls.  If you know Jesus, then you should be trained to do “the work of the ministry.”  In other words, we attend church to learn more about our salvation; more of the Word of God, so that we can go out into the community to do exactly what David wrote about:  to teach transgressors the ways of God and to convert sinners.  It’s our responsibility.  It’s our calling.  It doesn’t matter what your “job” is.  Your calling is to be one who takes the Word to the lost.  You can do just about anything to make money, but your calling is heavenly.

But as for me, I get as close to him as I can! I have chosen him, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful ways he rescues me.  (Psalm 73:28  TLB)

Why does God want to use people like David, and people like you to do His work?  Have you ever wondered about that?  The Bible tells us:

Notice among yourselves, dear brothers, that few of you who follow Christ have big names or power or wealth.  Instead, God has deliberately chosen to use ideas the world considers foolish and of little worth in order to shame those people considered by the world as wise and great.  (1 Corinthians 1:26, 27  TLB)

God uses ordinary people to do His extraordinary work.  It’s not the great preachers or evangelists that get the job done most effectively; it’s people like you, reading this, during your coffee break or when you should entering data.  It’s regular people without theological degrees or training that God calls and uses to “tell everybody about the wonderful ways he has rescued you.”

Think about David as a good example.  He really was a perfect choice to talk about God because:

(1)  The horrible nature of his sin.  This man, David, knew real guilt and sorrow.  He had committed murder!  That’s a sin most of us will never commit.  We may think about it, but we never will.  David did.  The greater the sin, the greater the sense of guilt, the greater the relief of forgiveness.

But we’re all sinners; we’ve all done horrible things in God’s sight that we hope and pray nobody else ever learns about.  We have experienced forgiveness of sin and we’ve been set free from sin.  We’ve experienced what everybody wants to experience.  Nobody wants to be chained to their sin.  We know the answer!  The sinner needs to hear it.

(2)  The nature of his repentance.  He knew that repentance was far more than just saying “sorry.”  Real repentance involves feelings of sorrow, yes, but it also involves admitting guilt and it involves making a change.  Repentance means going the other way.  Once your traveling in the direction of sin, but now you’re going in the other direction.  That’s repentance, and that’s what David was doing.

The sinner needs to know this.  People who don’t know Jesus are missing out on the best life has to offer!  How would a person feel if all of a sudden all guilt and shame were taken away?  How would a person in bondage to one sin or another feel if in a moment that bondage vanished as they were set free?  How do you think a sinner feels when he finds out he doesn’t have to be that way?  David had been where every sinner lives.  No wonder he wanted his life taken care of by God so that could turn around and go tell others!

(3)  He was the best encourager.  There isn’t a person alive who can’t relate to David’s experiences to one degree or another.  Most of us can’t relate to a king or a priest or a military genius.  But we can all relate to a person who was caught; found out; facing shame and disgrace.

David’s ultimate goal 

David wanted to be forgiven and cleansed and have his life remade by God.  He didn’t ever want to do what he had done again.  Why?  So that he could tell others about what God had done for him.  But ultimately his goal was this:

sinners shall be converted…

Ultimately David wanted unbelievers to become believers.  Ultimately he wanted a conversion to take place in the sinner’s life.  Converted to what, though?  The last two words of that phrase are the key:

…unto thee. 

David wasn’t interested in making the sinner feel better about himself.  He didn’t want him to join his church or denomination.  David wasn’t concerned with any other aspect of the sinner’s life save for the condition of his heart.

Psalm 51 is an amazing piece of inspired and inspiring literature.  It is so on many different levels, just a few of which we have looked at over these eight studies.  Hopefully we’ve all learned a little more about what repentance and forgiveness is all about.  Sin is serious and nobody is above the justice of God.  David, sinner though he was, was still close to God and still loved Him more than anything or anybody and he wanted others to experience God’s goodness as he had.

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