For I will declare my iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin.
O LORD, rebuke me not in Thy wrath:
neither chasten me in Thy hot displeasure.
For Thine arrows stick fast in me,
and Thy hand presseth me sore.
There is no soundness in my flesh because of Thine anger;
neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin.
For my iniquities are gone over my head:
as a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.
My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness.
I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly;
I go mourning all the day long.
For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease:
and there is no soundness in my flesh.
I am feeble and sore broken:
I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart.
Lord, all my desire is before Thee,
and my groaning is not hid from Thee.
My heart panteth, my strength faileth me:
as for the light of my eyes, it also is gone from me.
In Thee, O LORD, do I hope: Thou wilt hear, O Lord my God.
For I will declare my iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin.
Forsake me not, O LORD: O my God, be not far from me.
Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation.
(selected verses from Psalm 38)
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Normally when David begins with melancholy, he ends with praise. This time, however, is different. His heart is especially heavy because of his sin. Oh, to be broken because of my sin. If I am not so broken as David was, then I think too lightly of my sin. I will think it trivial, a small matter of no importance. But God does not weigh sins. No sin is more weighty than another. Sin is sin. Period. Christ shed His blood on the cross for all my sins, not just the “horrible” ones. For me to think any one of my sins is “not all that bad” is to make a mockery of the sacrifice Christ paid on my behalf.
Often I find that I make light of the sins I want to hold onto. I call them by other names so that I won’t think of them as sin. After all, I already know that a believer is not supposed to live in sin, habitually practicing it, right? I’ve read the book of I John. This epistle was written to help people know if they truly have been redeemed by whether or not they continue to habitually live in sin and by whether or not they love other believers.
Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew Him not. Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as He is pure. Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins; and in Him is no sin. Whoever abides in Him sins not: whoever sins has not seen Him, neither known Him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that does righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous. He that commits sin is of the devil; for the devil sins from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever is born of God does not commit sin; for His nature remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. —1 John 3:1-9
The key to understanding the book of I John is to remember that all the verbs are expressing an ongoing, continual, habitual action. The writer is not saying that those who are born of God will be sinlessly perfect from that moment on. He is only saying that they will not habitually practice the same sins over and over without guilt. They will not continue in any activity that the Holy Spirit has convicted them in their hearts that it is sin, though to be sure they will fail time and time again.
I’m going to use a ridiculous situation as an illustration. Say I love photographing leafless trees. I took hundreds of such photos before I became a child of God. But then I received Christ as my Savior, and the Holy Spirit convicted me that it was sin to take pictures of leafless trees. But my photos were very popular among my customers, and they brought in a lot of money. I justified it as art, as good business, and as an expression of who I am. Now, you may not see anything at all wrong with photographing leafless trees, but if I continue to take these photos, with the burden of guilt on my conscience that what I’m doing is wrong, I will grieve the Holy Spirit. And what’s worse, every time I take a picture of a leafless tree—or sell one that I already have—it will deepen the callous on my heart until I no longer feel the Holy Spirit’s conviction. Then it will become easier to commit other sins that are far worse than photographing leafless trees. (Here I go qualifying sins again.) And before you know it, I will be walking far away from fellowship with God and will be completely useless to Him, though I will still be His child. Once accepted into the family of God, we are always and forever in the family. God never disowned anyone, for all our sin—past, present, and future—was forgiven at the moment of salvation. But He wants to have fellowship with us—not just call us family, but actually walk in the garden with us and talk as friend with friend. How can He do that if we allow sin to stand in the way?
This brings me back to Psalm 38. It was not an easy psalm for me to read, for I wanted a pick-me-up. But God put it here for a reason. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). You and I need to be reminded that every sin hinders the sweet fellowship the Father longs to have with us. When I repent of my sin, as David did, then my heart will be light, and I will be ready once more to sing God’s praises.
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Photo taken on Skyline Drive, Virginia, 2014.