To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
(Psalms 51:1-3 KJV)
Many Christians default to a chapter like this one when they’ve messed up and feel a strong conviction to get right with God again. I was there. Psalm 51 was one of my favourites, especially at New Year’s when I was recommitting myself to God and promising to do better, try harder and live right. Back then I was extremely sin-conscious (focused) and the anthem of legalism, “repent, recommit, do better, try harder, repeat”, was my theme song.
As I read Psalm 51 this morning I was overwhelmed with thankfulness for the glorious gospel which has set me free. Thank God for Jesus! Thank God that in Christ these verses are fulfilled and established! I don’t have to ask God to have mercy on me, He did through Jesus. I don’t have to plead with Him to blot out my transgressions (rebellion or wilful sun), He did through Jesus. When I fail and make a mistake I don’t have to beg Him to “wash me and cleanse me” or make me holy, He did through Jesus!
We are not living in the same covenant as King David (who wrote this Psalm). It was appropriate for him to pray it or sing it, but it is 100% inappropriate for a Christian to do so.
“For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.” (Hebrews 10:1-3 KJV)
The old system required sacrifices but they did not deal with the sin problem, they only covered it up – they appeased God but did not please or satisfy Him. This verse also bring out the fact that once the sacrifice did make a worshipper holy, any further sacrifices would cease (no longer be necessary) and the worshipper should have no more conscience (awareness or focus) of sin.
“Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:9-10 KJV)
Jesus came to establish a new way of relating to God; a better way (Hebrews 8:6). Sadly, many Christians attempt to have relationship with God in the New Covenant under Old Covenant principles. That’s like putting new wine into old wine skins – it’s going to cause problems! Under the New Covenant there is no begging God to make us holy, cleanse us and forgive us… We have been sanctified (made holy) through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all. It was done before you ever thought of it. Jesus made you holy. Even when you make a mistake and sin, in your spirit you are still perfect because Jesus’ sacrifice has washed you white as snow and now you stay clean forever. You cannot out-sin your salvation, you can reject it, but sin wont contaminate your spirit. It will harden your heart to God and the things of God, and sin does cause death and destruction – sin is stupid – but you’re still holy. God still sees you as holy.
As believers we should not be sin-focused but Jesus-focused; righteous-focused. We should not be trying to become something that Jesus has already made us. We cannot become righteous. We are righteous.
"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Corinthians 5:21 KJV)
“Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17 KJV)
As Jesus is right now, so are you. Right now you are as righteous (right with God) as Jesus is. This is an offensive thought to the legalistic mind: the righteousness you have is 100% equal to that of Jesus', because it's His righteousness that He has given to you.
If you want to see holiness in your actions and thoughts stop being sin-focused and start focusing on who you are in Christ. Focus on the truth of your new nature which is loving, holy, patient and full of Jesus!
“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” (Proverbs 23:7 KJV)
The way you think determines the way you are. Your perception becomes your reality.
For some great teaching on your new nature and identity in Christ check out my Ephesians audio series here.