Saturday, November 12, 2016

When a Sin Remains

We serve a holy God.  Holiness has been called His greatest and most distinct attribute.  In looking in Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4 what the angels cry out three times is "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord our God."  When Moses approached the burning bush it was God who said, "Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground."  In Leviticus 10 the Lord said, "By those who come near Me, I will be treated as holy."  God cannot look upon sin, cannot tolerate sin, cannot abide with sin, and sin cannot enter His presence.

As His children, as part of His body, as partakers of the Divine nature, as those indwelled by the Holy Spirit, God has an expectation of our holiness.  In Leviticus and I Peter He tells those who are His, "You shall be holy for I am holy."  In II Corinthians 6:17 we are told to come out from the midst of the world and be separate.  In Hebrews 12 He tells us that we are disciplined by Him so that we can share His holiness.  In Ephesians 4 we learn that our new self has been made in God's likeness, and has been created in the holiness and righteousness of the truth.  In just these few verses, we see that God is zealous and jealous for our holiness, and that He has equipped us to deal with our sin, so as to have victory over our sin.

Yet, in spite of all of this, we still sin.  Romans 7Galatians 5, and James 1 tell us that there is an ongoing battle with temptation and sin in our life.  And, accordingly, God has made a provision for our forgiveness and cleansing, which we find in I John 1:9.

Understanding this gives us insight into Psalm 119:25-32.  At the first blush, when just reading through, it seems as if the Psalmist is just battling the blues.  But let's look a little deeper into it.  Why is his soul cleaving to the dust?  Why is his soul weeping?  Why does he need his heart enlarged? The answer is in this section, and we see it in verse 29.  It is because of sin, because of a particular sin he has called "the false way."  We now can see that the Psalmist is in a time of oppression, a time of grief, a time of a small and hard heart, because of sin.

Let's dig down into this section and see what is going on in each verse.

Verse 25-Oppression
"My soul cleaves to the dust; revive me according to Your word." Here we see the state of oppression that the Psalmist is in.  Look at how low his soul is.  It cleaves to the dust.  It is lower than a snake's belly.  It can't get any lower and it cannot escape this lowly state as it clings to his very soul.  What kind of sin would bring on this degree of oppression?  What kind of sin would cause this state of oppression in the life of a believer?

It is unrepentant sin!  In fact a particular unrepentant sin, a false way that has not been turned from. What type of sin, what kind of sin could this be.  Well, it is:
*an unconfessed sin
*a sin that is undealt with
*a settled sin, a steady sin
*a sin that ignores conviction
*a sin that disdains discipline
*a sin that despises correction
*a sin that resists reproof
*a sin that is entrenched in the mind
*a sin that is embedded as a habit of life
*a sin for which the believer has developed a bunker mentality so as to protect it
*a sin that makes excuses for itself
*a sin that rationalizes its continued existence
*a sin that has full knowledge that it is a sin
*a sin with which you do not struggle, but comply
*a sin that the greater the discipline, the tighter you hold on to it
*a sin that believes the lies of Satan, such as
     a. It doesn't matter
     b. No one is noticing
     c. It really doesn't hurt anyone
     d. It is only a small thing
     e. God really doesn't care
     f. God understands
     g. Me and God have an agreement

It is not a sin of impulse or a sin of the moment, but a sin that is deliberately held on to.  Therefore it is not an unknown sin, a sin of ignorance, but a deliberate sin.  This type of sin could be any sin.

God is jealous for the holiness of His people.  He takes our holiness more seriously than we do.  He sent His Son to die for that sin, that unrepentant sin, and He will do whatever He must do to drive it out and kill it.  So if we are not active in putting that sin to death (Romans 8:13), He will be.

Unconfessed, unrepentant sin in the life of a believer always brings about oppression. We usually think of spiritual warfare when we use this term, but there is a spiritual oppression, a spiritual lowliness that comes as a result of unrepentant sin in our life; and it comes from the Lord Himself.  Let's look at Psalm 32:3-4. 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.  Notice what is going on in Isaiah 30:18-20  Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.  for the Lord is a God of justice;  how blessed are all those who long for Him. O people in Zion, inhabitant in Jerusalem, you will weep no longer.  He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it He will answer you.  Although the Lord has given you the bread of privation and water of oppression, He, your Teacher, will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher.  Let's also look at Isaiah 64:7 There is no one who calls on Your name, who arouses himself to take hold of You; for You have hidden your face from us and have delivered us into the power of our iniquities.  

Notice in the emboldened words above that it was the Lord who had given Israel the bread of privation and the water of oppression because of their sin, that it was His hand that was heavy upon them, and that it was the Lord who had cut off fellowship with them and delivered them over to their sin.  So, for us as believers, when we sin and don't confess it and don't turn from it, we can expect the hand of the Lord to be heavy upon us, to oppress us, so that we will turn from our sin. He is serious about dealing with our sin, especially unconfessed and unrepentant sin that is deliberately held on to.

So, what must we do when we are experiencing His heavy hand upon us because of our stubborn unrepentance?  We see what our response should be in the remaining verses in Psalm 119:25-32.

"Revive me according to your word."
We must bring ourselves back under the authority of His word.  When we sin, we rebel against His word, we act in opposition to His word (which is His revealed will), so the beginning of repentance is to submit ourselves again to His word.  As Samuel told Saul, to obey is better than sacrifice.

"I have told of my ways, and you have answered me."
 Notice here what happens when we confess...God answers.  And His answer always begins with forgiveness.  True confession of our sins begins with viewing our sin the way God views it, and therefore saying the same thing about it that God says (See Psalm 51).  When we truly confess our sins He truly forgives our sins.
(Psalm 32:5-7, Psalm 86:5, Isaiah 55:7, I John 1:9)

"Teach me your statutes."
Not only do we confess, we ask for guidance in living according to how He would have us live. Again, we know this prayer will be answered, for we know that when we ask anything according to His will He hears us and grants that request.  (Psalm 25:4-5, Psalm 86:11)

"Make me understand the way of Your precepts, so I will meditate on Your wonders."
Not only does the Psalmist ask to know what the word of God says, he also wants to know what it means.  He is asking for spiritual understanding and spiritual insight into the word of God so as to thoughtfully and properly apply it.  (I Corinthians 2: 6-14, Ephesians 1:17)

"My soul weeps because of grief."
Knowing, understanding, and applying the word of God to his life has caused the Psalmist to be broken-hearted over his sin.  The very same soul that was rebelling against God, after comparing itself to the standard of the word of God, cries out, "O, what have I done."  These are not the crocodile tears of insincerity, but tears of true sorrow and repentance.  (II Corinthians 7:9-10, Psalm 51:17, Isaiah 57:15)

"Strengthen me according to Your word."
Here the Psalmist acknowledges his own weakness and asks for strength, the strength that the word gives, the strength to combat sin and its accompanying temptations; so that he will not fall back into this sin again.  This is the true hallmark of repentance and contrition, the zealous desire not to sin that sin again, and the accompanying desire for holiness in all of life.  (Matthew 6:13; 26:41, Psalm 119:133, Ephesians 3:16, 20)

"Remove the false way from me, and graciously grant me Your law."
The Psalmist asks the Lord to give him complete victory over this sin, and to restore their fellowship back to where it was.  Sin does not destroy our relationship with God as we will always belong to Him, but it does impede and impair our relationship with Him.  (Isaiah 59:2, Hosea 5:15, James 4:6-10)

"I have chosen the faithful way; I have placed Your ordinances before me."
After asking the Lord to remove the false way, the Psalmist announces his decision to fully follow the Lord.  It is a decision of a destination, a decision to follow the word of God and let it lead him, wherever that may be.  Following the Lord is a choice, and here the Psalmist chooses to get back on the faithful path, the narrow path that leads to life.  (Psalm 85:13, Isaiah 31:21, Psalm 101:2-4; 119:103)

"I cling to Your testimonies."
The Psalmist is determined to not let go, to remain faithful to the word of God.  This is the commitment that is required to life a godly life, to fully follow the Lord.  Decision and determination go hand in hand.
(Philippians 3:12-14, II Timothy 4:7)

"I shall run the way of Your commandments."
The Psalmist knows where the word of God will take him...ultimately to God Himself, in His presence for eternity.  It is the path of life, the path of joy, the path of fellowship with God, the path of blessing.  Even though it narrow, it is well marked, as it has been marked out by the resurrection of Christ.  (John 14:6)

"For you will enlarge my heart."
Sin shrinks and hardens the heart.  It hardens the heart to the things of God, the ways of God, the will of God, the work of God, and the love of God.  When we walk in the faithful way and cling to His testimonies, the Lord enlarges our heart and gives us a greater capacity so as to love Him all the more; and the greater our love for Him the greater our obedience will be, and the greater our walk will be before Him.

In the response of the Psalmist we see a picture of repentance.  This is the result that the Lord wanted to achieve and there is a cleansing of the soul and a corresponding peace when repentance takes place. How blessed we are that the Lord takes our relationship with him so seriously, so personally, that He deals with the sin that impedes and impairs that very relationship.

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