By Walter Olsen
A Plea For Forgiveness September 2021
The title, A Plea For Forgiveness, is taken from the heading of Psalm 51 in the King James Bible. I use it here because it adequately summarizes the truth of the chapter. Further, it speaks of the great need of humanity today.
Psalm 51 is King David’s plea to God after the acknowledgment of his sin with Bathsheba. His sin brought shame and a sense of separation from God. Thankfully, he was able to reestablish his fellowship and walk with God. This truth is so much needed today in the lives of all believers as we become convicted of our sins and see them for what they really are in the sight of God.
The purpose of this article is to walk through Psalm 51:1-7 and make some needed applications to our own lives including the following:
“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions” (v. 1). When one becomes conscious of his sins, he becomes conscious of his need for mercy from God. Apart from the consciousness of one’s personal sins, the mercy of God is little more than a theological subject. We may be able to define what it means, but with little or no sense of a personal need for it. Actually, that is one of the primary failures of many believers today. We know the truth intellectually, but we fail to comprehend the truth for our own spiritual needs. Thus, we sail along thinking all is well when, in reality, it is not. A sense of conviction for sin is essential to a relationship with God.
It seems evident that David’s plea comes from a very burdened heart. His is not a casual plea to God, but a plea from a very heavy heart. Nothing else matters until he gets his heart right with God.
Note that David’s plea for mercy is to God. There is no other source of mercy because of our sins but from God! No man or system of religion can forgive sins. It matters not that many believe one can seek forgiveness from some form of religion. Only God can forgive sins. Years ago I remember seeing signs near some churches saying, “Only God saves.” It is still true today.
I fear it is easy for many individuals, even churches, to fall into the gap of being satisfied with a form of knowledge but without seeing the need for repentance. We may assume Biblical knowledge is all we need for a walk with God. As important as knowledge is, it alone does not necessarily establish a strong relationship with God. The point is, as one establishes a personal walk with God by repentance, the Bible begins to open up to him in new and wonderful ways. That is because of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in teaching him the truth of God’s Word.
“Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (v. 2). One who is really convicted of his sins is eager, not only for the forgiveness of his sins, but also for the cleansing of his soul. Where there is conviction of sin, there begins to be a desire to live a righteous life. Spiritual forgiveness and cleansing is essential to living a life of righteousness.
If one can be satisfied with just a regular, dutiful confession of sin, he probably cannot identify with David in his plea. It is so easy for our Christianity to become ritualistic. We do the same thing over and over because that is what we have been taught or because it is so easy to do, all the time thinking we are living a righteous life. Even if one has been a believer for a long time, that can be the norm of his or her life.
Christianity is more than having a smattering knowledge of the Bible and going through a routine of daily devotions. Daily devotions are essential to our spiritual growth, but they can be pursued without spiritual life and insight! Essential to our devotions is the matter of examining our lives for anything that is displeasing to the Lord. Here is where reading and meditating on the Word of God is so helpful. We need both the Word of God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit to reveal to us our sins. While we may be living basically a righteous Christian life, that doesn’t mean we are free from all sin!
“For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me” (v. 3). When the Holy Spirit has done a work of conviction in our lives, the results are evident. First, we acknowledge our own sins. That is, we own them for ourselves. There is no more trying to pass them off to someone else. Before we are saved, and sometimes afterwards, we seek to blame others for our transgressions. We fear getting caught with our misdeeds, with our sins. However, when the Holy Spirit has convicted us of our sins, we can no more pass them off to someone else. We must take the blame for our own sins.
Then, until we confess our sins to God and ask His forgiveness, our sins are ever before us. That is, we can no longer run from them or hide from them. They are a burden that we carry with us until we own them and confess them. Sometimes people live with unconfessed sin for a very long time. Sometimes when believers sit under the preaching of God’s Word, they come under strong conviction. The burden is great and there is no release until the sins are acknowledged and confessed. A side note here is that the preaching of God’s Word needs to be delivered with the accompanying power of the Holy Spirit. An intellectual delivery of the Word often falls short of bringing the conviction of the Spirit that is needed in many lives. A preacher does no favor to people when he skirts around the issue of sin.
“Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight: that Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and be clear when Thou judgest” (v. 4). When one is convicted of his sins, he realizes that his sin is against God. It may be against others as well, but it is primarily against God. As sinners, we cannot fail to deal with God, and that in a personal way. There is no forgiveness apart from a personal encounter with God Himself. He is the One who forgives. Thus we read, “If we confess our sins, He s faithful and just to forgive us of our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I Jn. 1:9). Certainly when we have sinned against others, we need to seek their forgiveness as well.
David acknowledges his sin as evil in the sight of God. That which is evil is totally repugnant in the sight of God. He cannot look upon it with any degree of approval. As the prophet Habakkuk said, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look upon iniquity...” (Hab. 1:13). When one is walking with God, he begins to see sin in the same light. Of course, no one sees sin with the same abhorrence as God. God alone is everlastingly and totally holy. Still, the believer begins to see and desire something of the holiness and righteousness of God.
The believer also begins to see that God is righteous and just in all He is and in all He does. A believer who gets his heart right with God can find no fault in the Person and character of God. He can raise no argument in the character and actions of God. From a sanctified heart, he agrees with the Biblical statement of who God is and all He stands for. Also, for the believer, this is not a forced conclusion, but is the result of who God is in and to him.
“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (v. 5). No one comes into this world apart from sin. That distinction belongs only to Jesus. Job declared, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one” (Job. 14:4). David acknowledged that his mother was sinful and that he was sinful from birth. He had no claim to any kind of self-righteousness.
It seems difficult for some people to acknowledge their own sinfulness, but until they do, no progress can be made in their relationship to God. No one of himself is approved of God. All are sinners. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Actually, the ministry of the Holy Spirit to reveal our sins to us is a great blessing, for without such ministry we would forever be lost in our sins and without any hope of forgiveness.
“Behold, Thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part Thou shalt make me to know wisdom” (v. 6). The thought here is that God would have us to know truth in our inner being. It is one thing to know truth intellectually and another thing to know truth in our inner being, in our hearts. Truth known intellectually is significant, but it is the truth we know in our hearts that changes our lives. To know something in our heads does not necessarily change our lives, but to know spiritual truth in our hearts draws us to God and reveals Himself to us. It is such truth that prompts us to love God and serve Him from our hearts. Any other kind of service lacks reality because it lacks the prompting of God Himself.
Having the truth of God in our inner being is so very important for many reasons. Without it, one will never really identify with the Person and reality of God. One may know much of the Bible, but it will have little real significance for him. He may be a faithful church member, having attended a Bible preaching church for many years and still not have the truth of God in his inner being. I fear many people fit into this category. Thus they are satisfied with what they are and know and never get beyond a casual acquaintance with God. (Actually, is it possible many church members are not really saved??!!)
Without truth in the inner part of one’s heart, he will not really identify with spiritual truth, that is, truth revealed by the Holy Spirit. The teaching of such truth makes him uncomfortable and he will usually try to avoid it. If a pastor preaches such truth, he will often find fault or leave the church. The real conflict, though, is the conflict between the Spirit and the flesh.
Further, he will not identify with believers who have such a relationship with God
Now, how does one come to have truth in the inner parts? It really comes down to the matter of being honest with God about who and what we are. Even if we are truly born again, we may not be seeking fellowship with God. We may still be loving our identity with the world system about us. The truth is, we need to see the sin in our own lives! In our heart and on our knees, so to speak, we need to see our own individual sin. We need to identify with God’s message to Israel, “He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, ‘Is there not a lie in my right hand?’” (Isa. 44:20).
Indeed, deception is the great enemy of both the matter of salvation and spiritual growth. We need the clear presentation of the Word of God and a mind and heart to receive it. We need to come to the place of distrusting our own minds and hearts when it comes to determining spiritual truth. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes...” (Prov. 3:5-7).
“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (v. 7). “When David spoke of God’s cleansing him with hyssop, he was alluding to the use of hyssop at the religious ceremonies to sprinkle sacrificial blood on the altar. This represented the removal of sin through the shedding of blood” (Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 832). The point is, the shedding of blood is absolutely necessary for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus shed His blood on the cross so we may be forgiven of our sins. There is absolutely no other way. “..without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22).
The problem today is that many try to bypass the need for the shedding of blood. Hence the emphasis on good works, trying to keep the ten commandments, church rituals and many other things to seek God’s forgiveness of our sins. To the extent that a church does not preach the shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sins, it is a false church.
It is such a great truth that, when we are cleansed with the blood of Christ, we are seen by God as being whiter than snow! Nothing can stand in the way of our salvation and being accepted in heaven when we have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ! The really good news is that there is no sin that can keep us out of heaven when we have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ!
Psalm 51 should cause every believer to truly rejoice in his or her salvation. By the Spirit of God, it removes all the false assumptions of salvation. Not only that, but it shows how the believer can truly be in fellowship with God. Further, it demonstrates that regardless of one’s past, he can still find forgiveness and peace with God. We have so much to praise God for!
BJ and I continue to be about the same. We thank God for His marvelous provision in spite of some challenges.
The month of August has brought some special blessings, such as family gatherings, a class reunion for my high school class, and some interesting rides in the country.
Let’s remember to pray for one another and our nation in these trying times.
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