(Humor) When we attend the House of Worship each Sunday there are typically three sets of Christians in attendance.
• First, there are Christians here today that were raised in a Christian home and attended church every Sunday. Let’s call you the “First Cousins of Jesus.” Your legacy is that you cut your teeth on church pews, your diapers were changed in a musty church bathroom, and the worst thing you did was shoot spitballs during Sunday School.
• Then there is a second group of Christians here today. This is the group that attended church three times a year: Easter, Christmas Eve, and whenever there was a funeral. You weren’t in that “First Cousins” group because you did some pretty wild stuff. “Stuff” that would have given the world a lifetime of entertainment should Youtube have caught your actions. (I can see some of you hiding behind the person in front of you now! If you were in that group, you know it! Remember, this is all in humor.) Let’s identify this group as “Third Cousins of Jesus, twice removed.”
• Then there’s a third group of Christians here today. You were Born Again just after the FBI and CIA had arrested you for acting like the Nephilim of Noah’s day. Perhaps the kindest characterization of your past would be the word “Reprobate” or “Infidel.” You never went to church—it didn’t matter if it was your grandmother’s funeral—you didn’t darken the doors. You robbed banks, sang in nightclubs, and gambled away fortunes and nobody thought you would ever become a Christian. But at the last fleeting moment you somehow slipped into the Kingdom of God even when Saint Peter wasn’t sure grace could reach you. This group of Christians are the ones you hear giving their testimony on Christian television.
I don’t know which group you once occupied (And I’m certainly not going to admit the camp that I belonged to!) but I suppose you’re wondering what point I’ll make from this introduction. Let’s investigate that: When it comes to salvation, Christians don’t always comprehend how fortunate they are to have received the “riches of Christ’s grace” and be pardoned from sin. And the most difficult group to comprehend God’s mercy is that “First Cousins” group—people that were raised in church. But if you were in one of the other two groups you’re probably more aware of how wonderful God’s grace and pardon are.
(Transition) Regardless of which group you came from everyone here has a common past—we were all sinners! Isaiah 53:6 says: “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way (NASU). The Bible says, everyone here was “born in sin and conceived in iniquity” (PSA 51:5). But that’s what makes Psalm 32 so wonderful. This is one of my favorite Psalms because David proclaims the blessedness of the one whose sins are forgiven. And he does this in a unique way. He uses three expressions for sin and then employs three expressions of God’s pardon for sin. Here’s what I mean:
David called one category of sins transgressions, which indicates “rebellion against God”; another he simply called sin, which describes “knowingly missing the mark”; and the third category he called iniquity, which speaks of a “vile perversion.” Those terms cover the entire gamut of our sinfulness—major and minor. But then after showing us three categories of sin he uses three expressions to show how God pardons our sins:
First David says God “forgives” our sins. That means He lifts and removes the burden of our sins. And he lifts and removes them “as far as the east is from the west” (PSA 103:12).
Then David says God “covers” our sins. And that means God “shrouds the evidence of our sins to where they cannot be seen by His eyes.”
Thirdly, David says God treats our confessed sins as being “cancelled.” That means God annuls the charges against us. Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross wipes out our sins! Imagine that. God wipes out the incriminating evidence against us!
Our transgressions, sins, and iniquities are forgiven, covered, and cancelled! No wonder David said: “Blessed is the man whose sins are forgiven.”
(Transition) To really understand how blessed Christ’s pardon from sin is, we need to understand the consequences of sin. Adam’s disobedience instantly affected man in four ways:
1. Sin defiled man. God created Adam morally and physically perfect—he was flawless. But when Adam sinned every part of his being was polluted. Theology calls this “total depravity.” That doesn’t mean man is as wicked as possible, it means nothing about us is left untouched from sin. We were corrupted body, soul, mind, and spirit. I know secular men don’t consider themselves to be morally polluted. They think they’re basically good. But God says in Romans 3:10: “there’s none righteous, not even one.”
2. Secondly, sin severed our unbroken fellowship with God. Adam had the incredible opportunity to walk with God daily. I can’t imagine what it was like to converse with the Creator and discuss the secrets of the universe, but that’s what Adam did. Unfortunately, sin has temporarily robbed us of that unbroken fellowship.
3. Thirdly, sin incurs God’s wrath. Because God is holy He hates sin. And His holiness won’t let Him ignore it. God warned Adam before he sinned: “In the day you eat you shall surely die.” And that’s precisely what happened. Sin brought God’s judgment of sickness, pain, evil, and death. And eternal death awaits those that remain in sin.
4. And fourthly, sin incurs shame and guilt. The conscience of all men convicts them of their sinful nature. The Holy Spirit does not allow men to feel good about injuring others, slandering people, stealing, lying or shameful acts. Sin never leaves you with a good feeling. It brings shame and guilt.
That’s the penalty of sin; and it’s terrible. But that’s where the wonder of Psalm 32 emerges. When we accept God’s pardon He takes our transgressions, sins, and iniquities and forgives, covers, and cancels them! And that’s the greatest miracle that happens today.
(Transition) But in order to receive that miracle of mercy it’s necessary to let God deal with our sins. Let’s talk about that. How do you respond when you “miss the mark” and disobey God? How do you deal with sin?
Unless an angel has slipped in among us, everyone here is guilty of sin. Occasionally, everyone “misses the mark” and falls short of God’s commands. That’s why 1 John 1:8 says: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Since that’s the case, how do you respond after moments of impure thoughts or occasions of speaking unkindly or knowingly committing sin—regardless of how insignificant or egregious it is? While we often try to ignore or conceal our actions, the Bible supplies the strategy for handling sin and it’s important that to follow its instruction.
Solomon said in Proverbs 28:13: “He that conceals his sins shall not prosper.” When you try to conceal, ignore, or devise a plan to deal with your sins you cannot prosper! Sin can’t be disposed of by ignoring it and assuming God will eventually forget about it. Let me assure you God doesn’t do that. This is why David wrote Psalm 32. He wanted us to understand the consequences of unconfessed sins.
It’s likely that David wrote this Psalm as it concerned his adultery with Bathsheba and the murdering of her husband Uriah. You would think this man “after God’s heart” would immediately repent, but he didn’t. Scholars say David waited nearly a year before he confessed his iniquity. And look how his dereliction affected him. David said in verse three: “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. (4) For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer” (NASU).
David was miserable as long as he concealed his sin. And look at the extent of his misery. It wasn’t just his soul that suffered, his body wasted away, his emotions were besieged, and this warrior that slew a lion, bear, and giant was drained of his energy. He suffered spiritually, emotionally, and physically! David’s misery wasn’t coincidental. The press and pain of God’s hand was directly responsible for creating David’s discomfort. Look again at verse four. David said: “day and night Your hand was heavy upon me.”
There’s a reason God gets personally involved with our sin: Romans 5:12 says, “sin brings forth death”; Romans 6:16 says, “sin brings forth death”; and Romans 6:23 says, “sin brings forth death.” To state it another way: “The wages of sin is death!” The consequence of sin is not neutral or benign. It is a destructive force that never stops attacking. You can’t outwit or outmaneuver its effects! Alcohol, drugs, sensual flirtations, pornography, and stealing can ruin you beyond imagination. Sin can destroy your health, wreck your thinking, ruin your finances, and completely overpower you. Nobody but you may know your sins, but if you conceal or ignore them long enough they will destroy you! “He that conceals his sin shall not prosper.”
(Quote) Some years ago a physician said: “Half my patients don’t need medical treatment, what they need is the forgiveness of sins.” The noted psychiatrist Karl Menninger once said if he “could convince the patients in psychiatric hospitals that their sins were forgiven, 75% of them could walk out the next day.”
(Transition) When we fail God, He wants us to be honest with Him and confess our sins. Jesus took our place on the Cross as the penalty for sin and He’s waiting for us to repent and accept His pardon for whatever we’ve done. And what will Christ do with your transgressions, sins, and iniquity? He forgives, covers, and cancels!
It’s amazing that so many people know how to master various parts of life but they don’t know how to handle their spiritual life. They’re able to invest with Wall Street or manage corporations or program computers or even design master plans for cities, but they don’t know how to handle sin. They believe living a good moral life and helping others is enough to gain God’s favor. Perhaps they subscribe to that Unitarian belief that teaches there are many ways that lead to God or maybe they are self-proclaimed atheists and don’t believe anything exists after death.
There’s a really frightening passage in Proverbs 14:12 that says: “There is a way that seems right to a man but its end leads to death.” Can you imagine living by a standard you honestly thought would lead you to heaven, only to discover you were wrong? You assumed you were heading the right way only to discover it terminated with eternal death? That’s what happens when people ignore the Bible. Man doesn’t set the rules or prescribe the path of righteousness. That’s God’s duty. And He’s presented everything in the Bible that prescribes the path to Heaven.
Do you know how Solomon characterizes people that make themselves as God and dispute the Bible’s claims? Proverbs 26:12 says: “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (NASU). The Bible defines a man “wise in his own eyes” as somebody that is convinced his understanding is indisputable. He sees himself as right and everyone else as wrong—including the words of Scripture. Solomon left clear instructions as to how we should handle the advice of people that contradict God’s Word. Proverbs 14:7 says: “Leave the presence of a fool, or you [too] will not discern words of knowledge” (NASU).
Folks, there are many “reasonable sounding” voices in the world. There are voices that say “this is the way” or “this is the answer” or “this is the antidote for your situation.” But just because a statement has measure of truth doesn’t mean it’s totally true! The Bible contains the whole counsel of truth! God calls men to calculate the consequences of their choices. That’s Proverbs 14:15 means when it says, “The naive believes everything, but the sensible man considers his steps” (NASU). The word “step” symbolizes the smallest unit of life. And Solomon says that a wise man will calculate the outcome of every choice—even the most insignificant one—because choices have consequences.
Let me ask you once again: How do you handle sin? Do you conceal them or confess them? Do you excuse them or admit them? God has provided a way for the forgiveness of sins and it’s simple: repent and accept God’s pardon!
(Illustration) During the presidency of Andrew Jackson, George Wilson robbed money from a train and killed the security guard. The court sentenced him to death. Several years later President Jackson intervened with a pardon but, amazingly, Wilson refused the pardon! Because this had never happened the Supreme Court ruled on whether someone could refuse a presidential pardon. Chief Justice John Marshall handed down the court’s decision: “A pardon is a parchment whose only value must be determined by the receiver of the pardon. It has no value apart from that which the receiver gives to it. George Wilson has refused to accept the pardon . . . We cannot conceive why he would do so, but he has. Therefore, George Wilson must die.” (Author unknown.)
Do you see the spiritual application of this story? Sin places the sentence of death upon all mankind. But despite our guilt, Christ intervenes with a pardon. But our pardon from death is not automatic! Man must accept Christ’s offer of mercy from the Cross. And we do that by placing faith in Christ.
(Transition) And there is incredible peace and joy that come when you confess your sins and realize Christ has removed them “as far as the east is from the west.”
Do you remember the misery and despair David’s unconfessed sin brought him? He was an emotional wreck! But David’s confession of sin brought a rush of relief and river of joy. Verse five says: “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” (NASU). David’s repentance brought instant forgiveness. The Lord exonerated the record of his sins and they were forgiven, covered, and cancelled! “Deserved?” No! “Purged?” Yes!
That’s why David could say: “blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! (2) How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (NASU). Confessing your sins to God liberates the deepest depths of your soul. And there’s no greater feeling than the joy of knowing your sins are forgiven and your heart is right with God. There’s nothing more comforting than living with the peace that God’s pardon supplies.
I want you to notice something special about Psalm 32. The last time David began a Psalm with the word “blessed” was Psalm 1 when he said: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! (2) But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night (NASU).
Psalm 1 says the man that avoids wickedness, evil, and the path of sinners is “blessed”! But Psalm 32 identifies the “blessed” ones from a different perspective. David said the sinful, transgressing, iniquitous man that repents and finds God’s pardon is also “blessed”! And when you combine Psalm 1 with Psalm 32, you discover there’s “blessing” when we obey and there’s pardon when we stray. Praise God for grace!
(Illustration) Go back with me to 1995 and what has been called the “Trial of the Century.” We know this as the O. J. Simpson trial. This was a courtroom drama better than Hollywood could have ever scripted. The prosecutors extracted Simpson’s blood from the crime scene, from his white Bronco, and from his master bedroom back home. They produced a glove that forensic experts said was smeared with the blood of Nicole Brown, Ron Goldman and Simpson himself. Prosecutors lifted Simpson’s hair from Ron Goldman’s shirt and a cap left at the crime scene. The evidence appeared incriminating! But then the defense team made its case. If you followed that trial you probably remember exactly where you were when the jury returned its verdict and Simpson was declared: “Not Guilty” of killing his wife Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman. “Not Guilty!” What powerful words! Besides those two exonerating words from the jury, the most famous statement echoing from that courtroom came from defense attorney Johnny Cochran. After Simpson tried to stuff his hand into that bloody glove Cochran said: “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”
This is how America’s justice system operates, but it’s not how God’s courtroom operates. In fact, no one stands before God innocent of sin. Nobody stands before God “Not Guilty.” Romans 3 says “the whole world is guilty before God.” We’re all convicted of sin and charged with the sentence of death. In other words, “the glove of sin fits.”
So what’s the answer when we stand before God at His Judgment Seat? Is it a slick lawyer to manipulate the evidence or a stacked jury to furnish a convenient verdict? No, this doesn’t exist in God’s courtroom. In fact, there’s no lawyer at God’s Judgment Seat. It’s just you, God, and the unfiltered facts of your life. There is a scribing angel that has kept meticulous and precise records of your every thought, utterance, and action. And you’ll answer for them. That means you can’t wait until you’re in God’s courtroom to make your case. You need to prepare in advance—now! Allow the Psalmist David to be your lawyer for the moment and offer advice: “When you make a mess, you must confess!” That’s what Psalm 32 is all about. “When you make a mess, you must confess.” Repent and accept God’s pardon.
I love what the prophet Isaiah said in Isaiah 55:7. “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the LORD, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (NASU).
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