Friday, December 7, 2018

Serving in Weakness and Flesh

As much as we would like to deny it. As much as we may protest that it’s not true. As much as we might posture that we never do so, we must confess that we often find ourselves serving in weakness and mostly in our flesh. We are incurably human, though indwelt and empowered by the Spirit of Christ Jesus. We who are honest certainly find ourselves occasionally expressing our hearts as David, the psalmist king, did in Psalms 32 and 51.

Both of these psalms have, as their backdrop, the ugly episode of David’s lethargy, lust, adultery, deception, and conspiracy to murder. These psalms are his expressions of grief, remorse, confession, and repentance. They are reflective of our hearts on many occasions.

Though the backstory is the same, David begins these psalms differently. In Psalm 32 he speaks objectively, but in 51 he speaks in first person, begging for mercy.

Psalm 32
How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered!
How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit!

Psalm 51
Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;
According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity
And cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
And my sin is ever before me.

I would imagine the writing of Psalm 32 preceded the writing of Psalm 51. I generally have a more objective view of sin at first, then feel the weight of it much more personally, later. Perhaps you experience the same thing as David and I.

In Psalm 32, David’s objectivity is soon erased and he describes the effects, physical and emotional, of his sinful silence and broken relationship with the Lord. In Psalm 51, he focuses even more tightly on his guilt and God’s righteous judgment of his personal sin. In both psalms, the remedy for this brokenness is confession.

Psalm 32
When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away
Through my groaning all day long.
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah.
I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I did not hide;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”;
And You forgave the guilt of my sin. 

Psalm 51
Against You, You only, I have sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight,
So that You are justified when You speak
And blameless when You judge.

After 52 years of following Christ Jesus, I have a terribly sensitive conscience. I find my spirit convicted by sin, overt and secret, very often. I am much quicker to confess and slower to rationalize today than I was even ten years ago. I embrace my personal weakness and repent of my fleshly rebellion more readily now. Is this your experience?

As the psalms progress, the psalmist makes an appeal to his readers, followed by an expression of trust in God; he also asks the Lord to clean his heart, to renew his spirit, to not banish or abandon him, to restore his soul’s joy, and to sustain his spirit.

Psalm 32
Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found;
Surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him.
You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble;
You surround me with songs of deliverance.

Psalm 51
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.

Even in our weakness, in our error, in our rebellious flesh, we can hear the Lord’s voice calling us to a restored relationship. Let’s pray to him in a time when He may be found. Let’s ask Him to create clean hearts in us, to renew our spirits with steadfastness, to restore our joy, to sustain our spirits with willingness. In so doing, we will find Him to be our hiding place, our preservation from trouble, and we’ll find ourselves surrounded by a symphony of deliverance songs.

As we serve the men and women, the boys and girls of sport, let’s pay attention to our soul’s condition. If we are serving in the weakness of our flesh, let’s turn to the Lord, confess, repent, and trust Him to restore us in mercy and grace. Rather than rationalizing and appealing to pop psychology, let’s pour out our hearts, as did the psalmist, and trust Him to embrace us as His dearly loved children. For such we are.

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