When You Sin – Psalm 51


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Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

August 14, 2005


“When You Sin”

I. Introduction

What is the greatest problem in the world today? It is the same problem that has plagued mankind since Adam and Eve were forced from the Garden of Eden. The problem is sin – our disobedience of God. The problem is compounded more in a society such as ours that has an aversion to sin, not to the practice of sin, but to calling any practice, behavior or attitude “sin.” Sin is now called “human error,” mistakes, misunderstanding, and in many cases a “disease” for which the individual is supposedly not responsible. That perspective has also come into the church and is one of the reasons that Christianity in America is so weak. People do not want their sin pointed out. They want to be told they are okay and affirmed that they are good so that they have high self-esteem. The great concern of the church has shifted from the holiness of God and calling people to live in righteousness to what amounts to placating man’s pride. Euphemisms do not remove or excuse sin, and it is sin that keeps us from responding to both God and one another properly. If we are ever to live in a close walk with God or if we are to ever live joyously with one another, then sin must be dealt with according to God’s plan. Man simply cannot overcome sin on his own.

This morning I want to talk to you about sin and the response we should have to it. I have entitled the message, “When you sin,” because it is a simple fact that every person in this room has sinned, does sin, and will sin. It is not a matter of if, but when you will sin. We need to know how God wants us to deal with the sin in our lives. If I deal properly with my sin, then there will be joy, but if not, there will be great tragedy. What are some of the common ways people deal with their sin in the wrong way?.

(1) First, you could deny that you sin. But 1 John 1:10 says that makes you a liar and you accuse God of being a liar. The final result will be eternal torment in Hell (2 Thess 1:7-9). This is a typical response of the proud like the self-righteous pharisees. A friend at a Seminary in Canada heard a man say that he had not sinned in 5 years, Daryl told him “you just did.”

(2) Second, you could claim that your good enough to make it and your sins are not that bad. This position puts you in the same boat as the first person. Romans makes it very clear that no one will make it to heaven because they are good enough. There will be lots of “good” people in hell (Matt. 7:21-23). This will include “religious” people and many claiming to be Christians.

(3) Third, you can say, “so I sin, so what?” and keep on the same path you are on. According to Romans 1 that response puts you under the wrath of God, given over to the lusts of your heart, degrading passions, and a depraved mind. The end result will be eternal torment in hell (Rev. 20). This is a typical response of atheist, agnostics, occultists and those who say, “well, all my friends will be there anyway.” If your friends are there, Luke 16 makes it clear that they do not want you to join them. They want you to escape their torment.

(4) Fourth, you could give a false repentance. Saying your sorry but without any evidence of repentance. This is being sorry you were caught, not sorry for the sin. 2 Cor. 7:9,10 says, “I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to God, in order that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. for the sorrow that is according to God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” A classic case of this is Jimmy Swaggart. Another is former President Clinton. Both are public figures that showed emotional sorrow when they were finally caught and could not wiggle out of it again. Neither showed any sign of true repentance because both were defiant when it came to having to deal with the consequences of their sin.

King Saul is another example of a man who would not deal with his sin properly even after being confronted by the prophet/judge Samuel. We saw this last week, but turn again to 1 Samuel 15 to see Sauls’ response. Saul was told to utterly destroy Amalek. There were not to be any spoils of war. But Saul did bring back spoils of war and King Agag. Samuel confronts him about having brought back spoils (13,14 & 16-19). Saul first says that he did obey the Lord, but being confronted again he tries to pass the responsibility to the people (15 & vs 20,21). In verses 22-23 Samuel tells him that he will lose his kingdom as the consequences of his sin.

In verse 24,25 Saul’s makes a confession and plea. “I have sinned,: I have indeed transgressed the command of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and listened to their voice. Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me, that I may worship the LORD.” Sounds good, doesn’t it? But look at Saul’s reaction.

In verse 26 Samuel repeats God’s rejection of Saul as king. In verse 27 Saul grabs Samuel and tears his robe. That is not evidence of Godly sorrow. In verse 30 Saul’s make a second plea. “I have sinned, but please honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and go back with me, that I may worship the LORD your God.” How much of a confession of sin is it to confess and then still ask to be honored. Also note that Saul refers to the Lord as Samuel’s God. Is there no personal relationship between Saul and God?

Now these four wrong approaches to sin (deny, rationalize, disregard, sorrow without repentance) can be easily seen in people who are not Christians, and often in Christians who are young, or immature, but they also occur in Christians who are more mature. Except for the grace of God and following hard after Him, any one in this room is capable of committing any sin and then trying to rationalize it away given the right circumstances. How can I say that? Because it happened to a man whom God said, “is a man after my own heart” – David (1 Sam. 13:14, Acts 13:22).

God rejected king Saul, because Saul would not follow God. God chose David because he was a man who had a heart after God. Yet, that did not keep David from committing great sins. 2 Samuel 11 gives the background for Psalm 51.


In 2 Samuel 11, David commits at least 7 sins.

1) vs.1 – David neglects his duty

2) vs.2 – David entertains lustful thoughts

3) vs 3 & 4 – David acts upon his lust and commits adul

4) vs 7-13 – David seeks to cover up his sin

5) vs 14-15 – David conspires to commit murder

6) vs 25 – David covers up the nature of Uriah’s death

7) vs 24 – David steals the wife of another.

How could this be a man after God’s own heart??? You may think, well, he confessed all of this right away and got things straightened out with God. No he did not! David hid this sin between nine months and a year before he was confronted about it by Nathan the prophet. What was life like during all that time? David describes it in Ps 32 which was probably written shortly after Psalm 51. David describes the period before he was confronted by Nathan as follows.

Ps. 32:3 “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. (4) For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.”

David was utterly miserable, but that did not bring him to confess the sins. This man after God’s own heart did not repent until forcefully confronted. Do you think you or I are better than David?

It is not a question of IF you sin, it is a question of WHEN you sin. How will you respond? Let’s contrast David’s response with that of Saul when he was rebuked. Then we will look at Psalm 51 and see David’s heart and how true repentance can lead to joy.

2 Samuel 12

vs. 1-6. Nathan’s story – “you are the man”

vs 7-8. Nathan tells David all God has done for him

vs 9. Nathan confronts David with the specific sins

vs 10-12. The results of David’s Sin

1. The sword against his house – 10. (War with surrounding nations)

2. Evil against his house – 11. (Rebellion of Absolom)

3. Secret sin in the open – 12. (Absolom’s defilement of David’s concubines, 2 Sam 16:15ff)

vs 13: “Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has taken away your sin; you shall not die. 14 However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die.”

David simply confessed his sin. He did not make excuses. He did not blame someone else. He did not try to get out of the consequences. He did not seek anything for himself. It was a simple and humble confession of his sin against God. What a contrast between David and Saul. This is why David was a man after God’s own heart, and Saul was not. In Psalm 51 we find more of David’s heart and more of the elements of Godly sorrow that leads to true repentance.

Only godly sorrow leads to true repentance which brings restoration and joy out of the tragedy of sin. For the non-Christian Godly sorrow will lead to salvation. Without it there is only eternal punishment in hell (Matt 25:41). For the Christian, Godly sorrow results in a restored fellowship with God, without it, there will be chastisement (Heb 12:7). Only true repentance brings joy

Psalm 51 displays the elements of true repentance.


The preamble says, “For the choir director. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” Even here David does not hide his sin but lets it be exposed so that God can be glorified and others can learn from what God had done for David.

Verses 1-6: Confession

Verses 7-12: Petition

Verses 13-19: Results

1 Be gracious to me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Thy compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me. 4 Against Thee, Thee only, I have sinned, And done what is evil in Thy sight, So that Thou art justified when Thou dost speak, And blameless when Thou dost judge. 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. 6 Behold, Thou dost desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part Thou wilt make me know wisdom

The first part of true repentance is seen in the recognition of the need for God’s grace and mercy because of our sin. David begins this Psalm with a plea for God’s grace and compassion to cleanse him from his sin. David could ask for this because he already knew that God had great loving-kindness and compassion. All through David’s life, from being chosen as king while a young teen until his dying day, he marveled at God’s favor upon him. When God established His eternal covenant with David in 2 Samuel 7, David’s response was, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that Thou hast brought me this far?” David does not demand things from God. He humbly and simply pleas for them. A reminder Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.”

v.3 David’s requests come from a heart that fully acknowledges its sin. Notice he says transgressions, plural. He has broken many of God’s commandments. In this case specifically #s 6, 7, 8 & 10. He had murdered, committed adultery, stolen, and coveted. The fact that he had not lived up to God’s standard was ever before him. No wonder he reports in Ps. 32 that his body was wasting away and his vitality was draining away during this time.

v.4 David also recognized something very important in true repentance. He saw that the sins he committed were primarily against God. True, he committed evil against Bathsheba, against Uriah, against the baby that died, and all the others that suffered in the wars and in the rebellion of Absolom that resulted from his sin, but the primary sin was against God. God is the offended party and we must get right with Him first.

David also acknowledges his sin when he says, “Thou art justified when Thou doest speak, and blameless when Thou dost judge.” In other words, David accepts God’s justice. He pleads guilty in God’s court. Most people try to rationalize their sin, saying “I was forced to do it,” “everyone else is doing it,” “I could not help myself,” etc. etc. That was the way Saul tried to deal with it, but not David. God is just, and when He convicts you of sin, He is absolutely correct that you alone are responsible. The only thing that all those who are on the broad road that leads to destruction will be able to say when God casts them into hell is that God is absolutely just and blameless for doing so.

v.5 David also recognizes that his sin was not an isolated case. It was in agreement with his very nature that had always been sinful. This is why the petitions David makes in the next section rely totally upon God’s graciousness, loving-kindness and compassion.

v. 6 David also agrees with God that what is needed is truth. Truth that is down deep in the inward parts. Truth that penetrates the soul and reveals itself in the life. Too often even when we are confronted or confront someone with sin we stop only at the outward manifestations. Stopping the sinful actions seems to be the only important thing to do. But David recognizes that it is from within a man that the outward actions come. Jesus said in Mark 7:20-23 “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man“.

Truth must proceed from within if it is going to be real. It is from this perspective that David also recognizes that truth in the innermost being is going to have to come from God.

Verses 7-12 bring out David’s petitions. And please note that these are not demands but the pleas of a heart broken over sin.

7 Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which Thou hast broken rejoice. 9 Hide Thy face from my si
ns, And blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me away from Thy presence, And do not take Thy Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, And sustain me with a willing spirit

v. 7 Hyssop is a shrub that grows in Israel. It was used to spread the blood of the first passover lambs upon the door frames so that the children of Israel would be passed over by the death angel and delivered from the bondage of Egypt. It was later used in two different cleansing ceremonies. First, in Lev. 14 it was used in a ceremony that took away the uncleanliness of a leper who had been healed. Second, it was used in Numbers 19 in a cleansing ceremony for those who had touched a dead body and had thus become unclean. In both cases the ceremony was to cleanse the person so that they would no longer be cut off from the assembly of worship. It should also be mentioned that the Hyssop was used by another person to sprinkle either blood or water on the unclean person. A person could not do it to himself. It is in this sense of cleansing that David is using it here. David acknowledges the uncleanliness of the sin that has cut him off from the proper worship of God and asks God Himself to cleanse him from that uncleanliness.

David goes further to ask for real cleansing, not just ceremonial. He desired to be completely clean, not just ceremonially. He knew that only God could make him white as snow. White snow symbolizes purity.

v. 8 Sin brings great sorrow, and the only way to have joy and gladness again is for restoration to take place. David describes his very bones as being broken or crushed. This was the depth of the sorrow he had over his sins, and he requests that sorrow be turned to joy and gladness. This broken man wanted to be brought back to rejoicing, and only God would be able to accomplish that great task, for that can only be done when restoration had taken place, so in the next verse he requests that something be done about the factors that are keeping that restoration from taking place.

v.9 The soul that recognizes its sin is ashamed of them and desires that God would not look at them, but rather to blot those evil deeds out of existence if possible. It is a marvelous truth that God in his great mercy will not only cleanse the repentant soul, but remove those sins and blot out their rememberence. Psalm 103 describes this as follows: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” This is David’s repeated petition from verse one to have his transgressions blotted out, but note in this verse he adds “all” to his request.

v.10-12 David not only desires cleansing, but he also desires the relationship with God. In verse 10 He asks God to create a clean heart. The present condition is dirty. He wants a heart suitable to the cleansing he asked for in verse 7. But David also recognizes that he is vulnerable to falling again. Like a child whom you might bathe and clean up after he has been playing in the mud, that cleansing will only last until he gets outside and gets in the mud again unless you change the child’s spirit. David desires that God renew in him a right spirit to follow hard after God. Create a clean heart where there is not one now. Renew a spirit that is feeble and weak so that it become steadfast and strong.

v. 11 David’s great fear was to be cast away from the presence of the Lord and for the Holy Spirit to be removed from him. You may recall that David saw God reject Saul for his sins. David saw God remove His spirit from Saul (1 Sam 16:14), and David did not want the same to happen to him. On this side of the cross, the ministry of the Holy Spirit is different than it was for David. The Holy Spirit will not depart from a believer, but we can grieve Him (Eph 4:30). God will not cast the true Christian away in the sense he did Saul, but God will chastise the believer and if needed, He will even give him/her over to the buffeting of Satan (1 Cor. 5:5).

v.12 David’s fear was to have the same punishment as Saul. His great desire was to be restored to God and have the joy of a reconciled relationship with God. He also desired to remain within that relationship, so he asks for something he has seen in himself to be weak. He wants a willing spirit. God will take us just as we are when we acknowledge that. David knew his spirit was not as willing as it should be, so he asks God to produce in him a willing spirit. Like the father of the demon possessed boy who responded to Jesus’ call for him to believe by saying, “I do believe; help my unbelief” (Mk 9:23), we rely on God’s strength and not on our own.

The result of David’s confession of his sins and his petitions to God is an anticipation of God’s forgiveness. Thus he responds as he does in these verses.

13. Then I will teach transgressors Thy ways, and sinners will be converted to Thee.

As God sustains me with a steadfast spirit and being filled with the renewed joy of my salvation I will go boldly to teach others who have transgressed as I have, so that they may turn from their evil ways. Knowing what God has done for me, my desire is to go and tell others that they may receive the same forgiveness and joy.

14. Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, Thou God of my salvation; then my tongue will joyfully sing of Thy righteousness.

David acknowledges again the specific of his sin which was murder. He had blood on his hands and only the Lord could deliver him from the guilt of it, but as God would do that, David would sing joyfully of God’s righteousness.

15. O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Thy praise.

16. For Thou dost not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; Thou art not pleased with burnt offering. 17. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.

David learned well the lesson that Saul never learned. The sacrificial system of the Old Testament was not a pleasing thing to God. God was not interested in the blood of bulls and goats. God was interested in the heart of the man worshiping Him by means of the sacrifices. God rebuked the nation of Israel often because they failed to understand this. God does not want your outward actions of sacrifices of time, money, talent or whatever else unless it comes with a pure heart. A heart broken over sin and in a state of repentance is what is pleasing to God. He is not interested in your efforts to “buy him off” with sacrifices of good works. What God wants is you.

David closes the Psalm with asking God to continue with the promises he has made to glorify His name in Zion. David was not interested in himself, but in God.

18. By Thy favor do good to Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem.

19. Then Thou wilt delight in righteous sacrifices, in burnt offering and whole burnt offering; then young bulls will be offered on Thine altar.

How have you dealt with your sins in the past, and in the present. David’s response to his sin tells us the elements of true repentance that God is looking for. It is only with true repentance that the joy of reconciliation and restoration can occur. True repentance is seen in

1. Full Acknowledgment of sin (Not trying to hide it)

2. Humility. (Not pride and trying to pass the buck)

3. Acceptance of the consequences. (Not trying to get out of them)

4. Godly sorrow. (Sorrow for the sin, not just sorrow for getting caught)

5. Desire for God’s will (not desire for own benefit)

6. Desire for cleansing from the sin(s)

7. Desire for a pure heart

8. Desire to warn others of sin

9. Desire to praise the Lord for His righteousness.


The result of true repentance is the joy of forgiveness as seen so well in Psalm 32. The result of no repentance or false repentance is only continued tragedy as seen in the life of King Saul

As we close I would like us to spend a few minutes in silent prayer, then I will pray and then
we will sing Hymn 657 “Cleanse me” as a prayer of response to the sermon and preparation for communion. If you are here today without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, please talk to me, or one of our church leaders. We would love to introduce you to Christ so that you can know the joy of forgiveness.

If your a Christian and your relationship with the Lord has been messed up because of sin, then it is time for the kind of repentance David demonstrated. But please don’t feel you are in this alone, share that with one of the many Godly people here in this church and let us pray with you and encourage you back into the joy of a relationship with God .


Sermon Study Sheets


Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help.

Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up. 2) Count how many times “sin” is said and how many different sins are mentioned. Talk with your parents about how you should deal with your sin.


Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.

What is man’s greatest problem? Why? How do people wrongly deal with their sin? What about you? What was King Saul’s failure? What sins did David commit in 2 Samuel 11? Read Psalm 32 and describes David’s state because of his sins. What was David’s response to Nathan’s rebuke in 2 Samuel 12? What characterizes David’s confessions in Psalm 51:1-6 in general and in specific? How does your confession of sin compare with David’s? Discuss the significance of each of David’s petitions in verses 7-12. Can the Holy Spirit be taken away from the Christian? Why or why not? What can the Christian do to the Holy Spirit? How does your heart compare with David’s in your petitions of God? What does David promise to do as a result of God’s cleansing of him? What is your response toward God when He forgives your sins? What are the characteristics of true repentance? What is the result? On what basis can you be forgiven your sins against God? Has He forgiven you?

Sermon Notes – 8/14/05 a.m.

When You Sin – Psalm 51



Wrong Ways of Dealing with Sin




False Repentance

King Saul – 1 Samuel 15

Background – 2 Samuel 11 & 12

David’s Sins – 2 Samuel 11


Nathan Rebukes David – 2 Samuel 12

Psalm 51

Confession (vs. 1-6)


Petitions (vs. 7-12)


Results (vs. 13-19)