Repenting with Empty Hands (v. 1-2)
In our day there is prevalent teaching that God loves us and forgives us because we are special and so valuable. It is almost (and sometimes is) portrayed as if God has a nagging void that only we can fill. This is the opposite of saying we have a God-shaped hole in our heart that only Christ can fill. In Psalm 51 David makes his appeal on the basis of God’s unfailing love not David’s worth (even as the King of Israel). Are you trying to make me feel bad? You might ask. No. Post-sin is a time of intense guilt (rightly) and shame (unhealthy). Post-sin is a time of immense self-doubt. If the key to overcoming guilt was a high self-assessment, that would be like hiding your spare car keys in your glove compartment. God roots His love and forgiveness in His character. We can count on that even when our own track record is miserably poor.
A Humbled King (v. 13)
This may be one of the more over-looked verses in this great psalm. The great king of Israel is pledging to personally consult with the lowly of society as a peer. That was just not done. David would not be the same king after experiencing this work of God’s grace. Being king would no longer be his primary identity – he would be forgiven! He would be able to interact with sinners (not as prophet, priest, or king), but as an incarnate recipient of God’s personal grace.
QUESTION: What forgiven sin do you keep private strictly out of fear and pride? There is no need to confess all sin to everyone you meet. BUT the deciding factor in what we share should be God’s glory and the good of our neighbor NOT the protection of our reputation. One of the fruits of repentance is that ALL of our life is available to God when it can advance His kingdom.
A Full and Robust Repentance
A key to applying Psalm 51 is having an accurate and complete view of confession and repentance. In
our culture we have (to our demise) reduced repentance to “I’m sorry” (remorse). Ken Sande in his books The Peacemaker and Peacemaking for Families has done an excellent job of outlining a full and robust repentance. His points are outlined here, but you are highly encouraged to read one of these books.
The outline below comes from Ken Sande’s books. The explanations are original to this handout.
Address Everyone Involved – Anyone who saw, heard, or was affected by your sin should receive your repentance.
Avoid If, But, and Maybe – These words reveal an insincere repentance that is still trying to minimize the sin or shift the blame.
Admit Specifically – Sin does not occur in blankets; neither should repentance. Carefully reviewing the details is part of removing the “blindness” of sin and rebuilding trust with the offended person(s).
Apologize – Take the time to consider how your sin affected the other person. Sin has ripples. Our remorse needs to extend beyond the specific actions we took to the ripples of influence in the lives of those our sin affected.
Accept the Consequences – We should not believe that the forgiveness of sin means the removal of temporal consequences. Repentance is not a plea bargain or negotiation.
Alter Your Behavior – If you repent without a plan to change, you exhibit insincerity and force the other person into a position of “nagging” or being “judgmental” when they follow up wanting more than an admittance of wrong.
Ask for Forgiveness and Allow Time – God’s command to forgive is not your right to demand or be impatient. Impatience after repentance is hypocrisy. Demanding forgiveness is a form of trying to manipulate God – “God was on your team when I sinned, but now He’s on my team now that I repented.”