Summary: The great theologian Augustine said that the beginning of knowledge is to know oneself to be a sinner. In order to be reminded of his depraved sinfulness and God’s gracious forgiveness, he had this psalm engraved on his bedroom wall as he lay dying in h
The Fruit of Forgiveness
In this award winning film called “The Mission,” Robert DeNiro plays a mercenary who has taken asylum in the local church after killing his brother in a fit of jealous rage. He eventually leaves the church and heads to a mission post located above the waterfalls in a South American jungle. Because of what he has done, and how bad he feels, he ties himself to a several-hundred pound net of items that represents his sinful life. He feels compelled to drag this sack of sin around with him as a way to do penance for what he has done.
As you watch this clip you’ll see him slip under the burden of his past, with the rope choking the very life out of him. He feels terrible and yet doesn’t know what to do with his sin and the shame that comes with it.
Have you ever felt like that? I suspect that some of you are tethered to some transgressions this morning. Others of you are gasping under the guilt of things you did several years ago. What do you do when you realize that you’ve messed up? How do you stabilize your life when you experience more ups and downs than the stock market? Where do you go when you’ve failed? Where do you turn when you’ve hurt those closest to you? Do you grab some rope and hitch it up to your sin pile and start dragging? Or, is there something better?
Before we look at Psalm 32 this morning, let me list a few things that guilt does to us (these insights are from a sermon by Jeff Seaman, as found on sermoncentral.com).
1. Guilt destroys our confidence. Guilt can make us feel insecure because we’re always worried that someone is going to find out what we’re really like, or what we’ve really done. Many years ago, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the Sherlock Holmes novels, played a prank on five of the most prominent men in England. He sent an anonymous note to each one that simply said this, “All is found out, flee at once.” Within 24 hours all five men had left the country. That’s exactly the picture described in Proverbs 28:1: “The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” Is guilt destroying your confidence today?
2. Guilt damages our relationships. When we live with unconfessed sin we can respond to people in wrong ways. Are you impatient with others? Do you find yourself reacting in anger? Are you pulling back from those you love? If so, there may be some guilt in your gut somewhere.
3. Guilt keeps us stuck in the past. Do you continuously replay your sins over and over and over in your mind? Someone has said, “Guilt cannot change the past just like worry cannot change the future. But it can make you miserable today.” Have you ever noticed how your stomach keeps score when you swallow your sins?
While many of us wrestle with false guilt, too few of us take our real guilt seriously. Instead of confessing our sins, we often bury them or just try to ignore them. The Bible calls us back to the truth that we are sinners who have missed the mark of God’s perfection. Our own death warrants have been written into our birth certificates. In short, we struggle with guilt because we’re guilty. Ecclesiastes 7:20: “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.”
Please turn in your Bibles to Psalm 32. The great theologian Augustine said that the beginning of knowledge is to know oneself to be a sinner. In order to be reminded of his depraved sinfulness and God’s gracious forgiveness, he had this psalm engraved on his bedroom wall as he lay dying in his bed. He read it all the time and when he was too sick, he instructed others to recite it for him.
Before we jump into the text, let’s focus on a few background truths.
David is the author. While he was a great king and walked with God for much of his life, we also know that he committed adultery and murder. When David speaks, he does so as a sinner who has been forgiven. The particular sin that David refers to is not important because there are plenty to choose from. He wrote this psalm to help us know that we can be fully restored and completely forgiven no matter what we’ve done.
This psalm is one of the seven psalms of forgiveness, which include Psalm 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143.
Psalm 32 has also been referred to as one of “Paul’s Psalms” because it is quoted extensively in Romans 4:6-8 to help establish that we are declared righteous not because of what we’ve done, but because of what Christ has done on the Cross.