“A just man falleth seven times and riseth up again” (Proverbs 24:16).
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Some of us have lived unsavory, perhaps even sordid, lives prior to coming to Christ. As we grow in the Lord, the gravity of our sins becomes increasingly apparent. It can be a struggle to believe forgiveness truly applies to us. This can be especially true when we find ourselves, well into our Christian journey, still doing battle with our sinful tendencies. Perhaps, we had expected — or, at least hoped — that these inclinations would dissipate once we turned to Jesus. After all, do not the scriptures indicate that Jesus would heal us?
Therefore, we may continue to doubt our validity as true children of God and experience lingering sensations of guilt. If the sins we have committed are perceived to be of a more serious sort … sins perhaps, that have permanently harmed others, the guilt is often intensified.
This raises the questions: Once we are converted, is it wrong for us to continue to feel guilt? On the other hand, is it wrong if we do not continue to feel guilt? Either avenue of thought can be a source of much consternation to conscientious believers.
Answering a Dilemma
We have only one source where we can confidently find the answer to our dilemma: the Scriptures.
In the Scriptures, we find a notable man of God who also struggled under the burden of his own sinful nature: David.
As we read the Psalms, we find many instances in which David struggled. He not only fought with his human adversaries but often with his own unworthiness before God.
At times, he seemed to be in anguish, worrying if God were still hearing his pleas, and wondering if God was still caring for him. We find one example of this in Psalm 40.
Psalm 40:12 (NASB), “My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to see; They are more numerous than the hairs of my head; And my heart has failed me.
Here, David described his anguish at the depth of his own sinful nature.
Again, in Psalm 42:6, he exclaims, “O my God, my soul is in despair within me” (NASB).
In verse 9, he does not claim to be worthy of being considered by the Creator, though he desires to be remembered: “Why hast Thou forgotten me?” He adds in Psalm 43:2 (NAS77), “ why hast Thou rejected me?”
These thoughts plagued David, just as they may plague us. But, from other passages, we know the Lord continued to work with David and that he was much loved by the Lord. How did David manage to stay pleasing to the Lord, despite his doubt?
Could it be that David did not allow his thoughts to remain in that negative space?
He could have just given in to them, given up, and given away his trust in the LORD’s mercy. But David did not.
In Psalm 42:11 (NASB), we see how David worked to turn his thoughts around. We find David reprimanding his own heart attitude: “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me?”
Just like us, David knew his heart had the wrong attitude. Therefore, he determined to change his attitude.
In the New Living Translation of the Bible, we get the gist of his determination: “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again — my Savior and my God!”
We see from these scriptures that David chose to trust in God, in His mercy, although God had not yet provided the ransom sacrifice of our Lord Jesus to guarantee it.
But there is more. David realized his only hope would come from God, and David took the time to praise Him for this.
Perhaps, then, this is key! We must do what it takes to keep the goodness of God before our eyes, that we might praise Him.
David had experienced God’s goodness and determined to trust in it. He knew he did not merit God’s mercy, yet he believed in it.
We, too, have experienced God’s goodness and this should bolster our confidence! We have an understanding of the grace which has been provided for us through the blood of Jesus. We have the life of Jesus portrayed in the Gospels, through which the bountiful and beautiful nature of our Father is reflected. We have more reason to trust in the mercy of God than King David ever did!
Why, then, do doubts creep in?
Could it be that we do not always do what it takes, on our part, to keep the goodness of God before our eyes, on our foreheads, so to speak, that we may continually trust and praise Him?
Could it be that we forget we have a responsibility in the matter?
We have the instructions. Jesus told us what to do. We must remain in him, in his word. We must not neglect to turn to the scriptures or we will forget all that God has done for us! We will probably still know about it, in a knowledge-based way, but we may no longer have a heart appreciation of it, and therefore may doubt that his promises apply to us personally!
When we immerse ourselves in His word, His nature is revealed, and we become submerged into His heart. We cannot help but see His desire for us to succeed and for His willingness through Jesus, to not only forgive us when we admit our sins and ask for forgiveness but also to strengthen our wills to truly want to overcome our sinful tendencies and desires! Philippians 2:13 (NLT), “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”
Towards Transgressions Forgiven
In Psalm 32 we witness a transformation in David. It is an ideal chapter to go to when we are feeling spiritually depleted or inadequate because of our own failings. Here, we find why our despondencies overtake us!
In Verse 1 (NASB) we witness his joy at having discovered the unburdening of having his sins forgiven. He exclaims, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin
is covered!” The ultimate forgiveness would come from the ransom price to be paid by the sacrificial death of our Lord Jesus.
In Verse 2 he gives us the clue to the transformation: “How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit!”
We must first get rid of the deceit in our own thought patterns regarding our sins. We must recognize them for what they are and not make excuses for them!
We see this clue reiterated in verses 3 and 4. “When I kept silent about my sin, my body (margin: substance) wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night, Thy hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.” Is this not an apt description of depression?
Facing Squarely the Problem
It may take us years to really stop deceiving ourselves regarding the truth of our sins (thoughts, words, or deeds). In our fallen condition, these desires, attitudes, or actions may seem to be legitimate. This is one reason we still struggle with guilt. When we recognize our sins as such, we can finally admit they are wrong.
Verse 5, “I acknowledged my sin to Thee, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD; and Thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin.”
In verse 8 of this chapter, we see how the LORD responded to David. “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.
There is So Much in this Beautiful Message!
First, we sense how Jehovah God was just waiting for David to admit that what he was doing was really sin.
We also gain insight that God knows without His (God’s) instruction, David would not know how to live aright. Best of all, He tells David he is willing to teach him!
So, it is with us. God is waiting for us to stop making excuses for our sins, to admit them and make the effort to change our ways!
Here we have it. Simply put, confession and repentance. But we do not have to go it alone. We must depend on the Lord to show us the way out of our sinful behavior!
However, in verse 9 he forewarns us: “Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, otherwise they will not come near to you.”
In other words, as we sense the Lord guiding us in a certain way, we are not to resist. We should not pretend that we do not see His leadings. We should obey.
In verse 10, He predicts the inevitable outcome if we do not listen to Him. “Many are the sorrows of the wicked; But he who trusts in the LORD, loving kindness shall surround him.”
If we trust that He is leading us and we follow, we will appreciate God’s great kindness toward us.
The Way Out of Guilt
In verse 11 (NASB), “Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous ones, and shout for joy all you who are upright in heart.”
If we are striving to walk in His ways, depending upon the covering which He has provided us, and realizing that we still walk imperfectly, we are still reckoned righteous! We are “upright in heart” if we are striving and desire to do his will. We know Jesus’ blood will cover these sins if we admit them and ask for forgiveness. We should not ignore them!
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NASB).
It is in the neglect of following the scripture’s guidelines, that we risk “wallowing” in guilt.
If we do not “stay connected” to the Lord through the reading of His word, prayer, and confession, then we risk losing our confidence in Him. The word of God sanctifies. It has the power to take us and set us apart from what we have been. It is the most dominant method the Lord has of instructing us. It shows us where we are wrong and teaches us how to do right. It convinces us of His power and desire to help us make the needed changes. It comforts us in knowing He is understanding of our fallen nature. It encourages us in the promise of His forgiveness through His great gift of Jesus.
Without this continual input, we will dwell in, and therefore continually dwell on, our own inadequacies.
Apostle Paul sums it up in Romans 8:1 (NAS77), “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
We are guilty in ourselves, but through him, we are not.
Let us join with Brother Paul in praise, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ, our Lord!” (Romans 7:25 NASB).