2020-6-21 A Cry of Repentance

A Cry of Repentance
Psalm 6
June 21, 2020

Prayer for Illumination:

Lord God, let the words of your servant’s mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, our Rock and Redeemer. Through Christ. Amen.

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. According to sheminith. A psalm of David.

Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger

or discipline me in your wrath.

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;

heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.

My soul is in deep anguish.

How long, Lord, how long?

Turn, Lord, and deliver me;

save me because of your unfailing love.

Among the dead no one proclaims your name.

Who praises you from the grave?

I am worn out from my groaning.

All night long I flood my bed with weeping

and drench my couch with tears.

My eyes grow weak with sorrow;

they fail because of all my foes.

Away from me, all you who do evil,

for the Lord has heard my weeping.

The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;

the Lord accepts my prayer.

10 All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish;

they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.[1]

This is the Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.

I am a recovering news addict. I worked in news radio before going to seminary. I was up-to-date with what was happening in Columbus, in Ohio, in the country, and the world. During and after seminary, I still read the paper and several news sites so that I could stay up-to-date with what was happening across the world.

If you’ve been keeping up with the news for the past three months, your emotions have probably been all over the place. Maybe you’ve felt anxious. Maybe you’ve felt scared. Maybe you’ve felt angry. Maybe you’ve felt all of those emotions and more during one newscast. How do we handle our emotions? How do we express them in a godly way?

This week we’re starting a short summer series looking at the Psalms. The Psalms are some of the best known and well loved passages in the Bible. When I was in Germany with Cru, there was a girl on the trip who read all 150 Psalms each and every month. Towards the end of the trip, we were in Switzerland on the side of the mountain. And as we sat overlooking the mountain side and the valley, she began to recite Psalm 8 praising God. She was praising God that even though the view of creation was stunning and spectacular, God is mindful of mankind; he has made us a little lower than the angels and crowned us with glory and honor. Psalm 8 gave her words to praise God.

We love the Psalms because they help us express our emotions in a godly way. John Calvin said the Psalms were an anatomy of the soul because they are like a mirror that reflects our emotions.[2] They help us express our anger, our fear, our anxieties, and our despair all the while praising God. So for the next couple of weeks we will be looking at the Psalms so that we can find a way to express our emotions in a godly way.

This morning, we are looking at Psalm 6. Psalm 6 is a psalm of repentance. Repentance is the place where we need to start. It is the place where true gospel transformation begins. As we examine this psalm, we’ll see that God disciplines us so that we will repent and that God saves his people by grace alone.

God Disciplines Us So That We Will Repent

God disciplines his children when they sin. At this point, David has sinned. We don’t know how David has sinned. But he has. We often think of David as the righteous king, the one every other king is compared with. We often think of him as a man after God’s own heart. And he was those things. He was the king every other King of Israel and King of Judah was compared with. He was a man after God’s own heart.

But he was also a sinner. He sinned when took Uriah the Hittite’s wife as his own before having Joab put Uriah in the most dangerous part of the fighting so that he’ll be killed. David committed adultery. David then tried to cover up his sin by getting Uriah drunk. Then David arraigns Uriah’s death. David sinned. David also sinned when his son Amnon raped his half-sister Tamar and did nothing. David also sinned when he took a census in violation of God’s law. David was a sinner. Most of 2 Samuel deals with the consequences of David’s sin. We don’t know if David wrote this psalm in response to one of those sins or another sin that isn’t detailed in Scripture.

Like a good and loving father, God disciplines his children when they sin. Proverbs 3:11, 12 says, My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, 12 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” God has disciplined David for his sin. What God has done is he has allowed David to feel some of the temporal effects of his sin.

He has allowed David to feel the weight of his sin in his soul. “My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long?” Whatever sin David committed, he feels the consequences of it deep in his soul. Soul means inner self. We might say conscience. David feels the weight of his sin in his inner self. He knows that he has violated God’s holy law.

God has also allowed David to feel the separation his sin has caused. “How long, Lord, how long?” He knows that his sin has caused a separation between him and God. And he feels that separation. He has a sense that God’s presence is not with him for the time being. David feels separated from God because of his sin.

God still disciplines us when we sin. He might allow us to feel the temporal effects of our sin. If you’re a liar and you’re caught in a lie, you lose the trust of your friends, family, and colleagues. God allows you to feel the temporal effects of your sin. Or maybe you are known to gossip and tell secrets. God may allow you to feel the temporal consequence of your sin by having people keep not trust you with their secrets or deepest desires.

God disciplines us by allowing us to feel the weight of our sin. Have you ever felt deep down in your soul the weight of your sin? Martin Luther, that great Reformer, felt the weight of his. He drove his confessor crazy. Luther would spend hours every day confessing his sin. He would confess have coveted a brother’s piece of chicken because it might be 7oz while his was 6. He felt the weight of each and every sin deep down in his soul. Have you ever felt the weight of your sin deep down in your soul? God often allows us to feel the weight of our sin to discipline us.

Sometimes God disciplines us by removing a sense of his presence from us. The Westminster Confession of Faith puts it like this. It says:

The assurance true believers have of their salvation may be shaken, lessened, or interrupted for various reasons: from neglecting to preserve it; from committing some particular sin, which wounds the conscience and grieves the Spirit; from some sudden or strong temptation; or from God’s withdrawing the sense of his presence and allowing them to walk in darkness.[3]

God allows us to feel separation from him when we sin as a form of discipline.

In some cases, God may discipline us by allowing our hearts to harden to our sin. Isaiah 63:17 says, “Why, Lord, do you make us wander from your ways and harden our hearts so we do not revere you? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes that are your inheritance.” He might allow you for a season to sin and fail to recognize its consequences and effects. He might allow your heart to become hardened to your sin.

In some cases of extreme sin, God may discipline us with physical illness. That’s exactly what Paul says in 1 Cor. 11. The church in Corinth was affected by many sins, some even pretty grievous. And as a form of discipline, God permitted that some of them would become, weak, ill, and even some would die. God may discipline us with physical illness.

Why does God discipline us like this? God disciplines us so that we might repent of our sin. David says, “I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes”. David is repentant for sin. He is heartbroken over his sin. He hates himself for having sinned and broken God’s law. He hates how his sin has affected others. So he weeps. Charles Spurgeon says that weeping “is the eloquence of sorrow”.[4]

God disciplines believers, his beloved children, so that we will repent of our sin. God doesn’t discipline believers because he’s some mean angry god and needs to take his anger out on someone. No. God disciplines believers so that we will repent of our sin.

Many of us are parents and know this. That’s why we discipline our kids and our grandkids. We love them. And when they do something that is wrong or something that is dangerous, we discipline them so that they’ll repent of it and stop. When I coach, sometimes the kids on my team act up or don’t do as their told. And I have to discipline them. I discipline them because I want to correct their bad behavior so that they’ll repent of it and act more in line with what is appropriate for a soccer player.

Is repentance flippantly saying, “I guess I messed up. I won’t do it again”? No. That is not real repentance. Real repentance is feeling the weight of having broken God’s holy law. It is recognizing the damning nature of sin. It is knowing you have hurt others and feeling the consequences deep inside. True repentance is weeping and flooding your bed with tears over your sin. That is true repentance. That is why God disciplines believers.

The Shorter Catechism defines repentance like this. It says, Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.”[5]

Have you repented of your sin? Are you broken hearted over having sinned, violated God’s holy law and hurt others? Do you weep over your sin knowing that it leads to damnation? Have you flooded your bed with tears because you have sinned? Do you hate your sin? That is repentance. And that is why God disciplines us so that we will repent of our sin.

God Saves His People By Grace Alone

In repentance, our eyes are opened to our sin and see just how sinful we are and how we need God to graciously save us. David writes, “Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praises you from the grave?

God’s discipline has led David to a place where he repents and knows that salvation from his sin will only happen through God’s grace. He says “save me because of your unfailing love”. Unfailing love could be translated as covenantal love. He is saying, “God save me because of your covenant”.[6]

David is not saying, “God save me because more often than not I have been good”. No. He isn’t saying that. He knows he can’t say that. He is saying, “God save me because of your covenant. Save me because you are good”. He is asking for God’s unmerited favor to him.

Sometimes we have this mistaken belief that in the Old Testament believers were saved by keeping the law. That is about as far from true as you can get. Salvation has always been by God’s grace alone through faith alone to the glory of God alone. There is a golden thread running from Genesis to Revelation that makes clear God saves his people by grace. When Adam and Eve sinned, God promised to save them by his grace. By his grace, God called Abraham to himself and promised him a people and a land. By his grace, God redeemed Israel out of bondage in Egypt. Salvation was never by keeping the law.

God leads believers to a place where they know they are sinners, they know they deserve damnation for their sin and hate their sin. He leads us there so that he can make crystal clear that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone to the glory of God alone.

You contribute absolutely nothing to salvation. As Jonathan Edwards says, the only thing you contribute to salvation is the sin that required salvation. You contribute nothing. No you contribute less than nothing to your salvation.

Salvation is not if you do a little bit, then God does the rest. Salvation is not if you’re heart is in the right place then God will save you. Salvation is not, “Well I said some magical words when I was a kid so God has to take me”. Salvation was and is that God saves sinners in spite of their sin by his grace through faith. Faith is “receiving and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life”.[7] Or as Paul will say about a thousand years after David, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).

God’s disciplining of our sin leads us to repentance. And it leads us to a sure knowledge that salvation is by God’s grace alone through faith alone all to the glory of God alone. God graciously planned and arraigned the salvation of his Church. He planned that even though his Church would fall into sin, he would redeem them through the life, death, and resurrection of God the Son. On the cross, Jesus bore the sins of his Church.

The psalm ends with David confident that God has heard his cry of repentance. He say, “The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.”

Charles Spurgeon says, “The Holy Spirit had wrought into the psalmist’s mind the confidence that his prayer was heard. This is frequently the privilege of the saints. Praying the prayer of faith, they are often infallibly assured that they have prevailed with God… Assured confidence is no idle dream, for when the Holy Spirit bestows it upon us, we know its reality”.[8]

We can take heart that God has heard our cry of repentance and that he has saved us by his grace. When we go to Christ in prayer, he intercedes for us. He goes before God the Father and says, “I bore his sin. Do not count it against him.” He says, “Father, I have borne her sin. Look upon her with loving kindness”. The Holy Spirit will work in us assurance of God’s grace and our salvation.

Once God has led us to a place where we know salvation is by grace alone, our response is praise. David says, “Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praises you from the grave?” David knows that his response to God’s gracious salvation is praise.

Our response to God’s saving grace is praise. We are to praise him for how he has redeemed us from our sin. We are to be explicit and praise God for redeeming us through the life, death, and resurrection of his Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our salvation was accomplished on the cross. There Jesus Christ bore the sins of his Church. There he suffered the hell each and every believer deserves to suffer so that we could be given his righteousness. And we are to praise God for that.

Application

Maybe this morning, you feel God’s fatherly discipline for your sin. Maybe you are feeling the temporal effects of your sin. Maybe you feel the weight of your sins deep down in your soul and the burden is too heavy. Maybe you feel far from God. Repent. We are to be repentant of sin in general and seek to repent of specific sins that we commit. Jesus calls his followers to repent and believe the good news (Mark 1:15). Repent of sin in general, and repent of specific sins you commit.

When you confess your sins, be specific. Name the sins that you know you have committed and repent of them individually. And be repentant of sin generally.

Maybe you’re thinking, “If Jesus has died for all of my sins, why do I need to continually repent? Isn’t once good enough?” Repentance means turning around. If we are truly repentant of our sins, we will turn from them and instead turn to God. That means repentance is a daily thing. It is something that we are to do each and every day.

Maybe you’re thinking, “What if I don’t have anything to repent of?” Pray what the psalmist prays in Psalm 139, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”. Pray that. The Holy Spirit will illuminate your heart and mind. He will reveal your sin to you as he gradually sanctifies you.

Maybe you’re thinking, “I know I sin. But I don’t feel bad about it”. If that’s the case, pray that God softens your heart. Pray that he enables you to feel the weight of your sin and that your heart breaks because you have violated God’s holy law. Pray that you weep over having rebelled against God.

If God has led you to a place where you feel the weight of your sin and are heartbroken over having sinned against God, then trust that God has graciously saved you. Rest in Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross has completely and utterly accomplished redemption for all who believe.

If God has led you to a place where you know that God has heard your cry of repentance, praise him. Praise him for his gracious salvation. Sing of it in the halls. Shout about it from the mountain tops. Praise God for his gracious salvation found only in Christ Jesus.

God disciplines his Church because he loves her. He loves each and every believer because he has adopted them as his children. And as a loving father, he disciplines us when we sin so that we will repent and know salvation is by God’s grace alone.

[1] The New International Version. (2011). (Ps 6). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of Psalms (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1979), vol. 1, xxxvi-xxxvii.

[3] Westminster Confession of Faith, 18.iv

[4] Charles Spurgeon, Psalms Vol. 1 (Illinois; Crossway, 1993), 19.

[5] Westminster Shorter Catechism Q/A 87

[6] Tremper Longman III, Psalms (Illinois; InterVarsity Press, 2014), 74.

[7] Westminster Confession of Faith, 14.ii

[8] Spurgeon, 19.