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Summary: When you're in misery, call out to God for mercy.

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When You Feel Like a Failure

Psalm 51

Rev. Brian Bill

August 8-9, 2015

Confession didn’t come all that easy for me when I was growing up. I think it was because I was expected to spill my sins to our priest in a confessional booth. This was difficult because he and my parents were close friends. I didn’t think he’d squeal on me but I played it safe anyway. There was a curtain between us to protect the penitent’s identity but somehow he always called me by name when I got in there. I still remember my default confession: “Bless me father for I have sinned. I wasn’t nice to my sisters last week.” He’d ask if there was anything else and I always assured him that this was the only sin I had going on. I was then given a bunch of prayers to pray as penance for being a menace to my sisters.

Repentance was also something that I resisted. One memory stands out. After messing around in church one Sunday (I was probably irritating my sisters) and receiving several nasty looks from my mom, on our way home I was told that my punishment was to kneel in front of a statue of Mary until I was ready to repent and change my ways. While my sisters were munching on lunch and no doubt enjoying my pain, I devised a plan. The Mary statue was located on top of our TV in the living room. When my family started eating I realized the Packers were playing so decided to catch the score. I had forgotten that our TV, which was an old black and white model, made quite a bit of noise when the tubes heated up. My mom came in the room just as Bart Starr was throwing another touchdown against the Bears. Let’s just say I never saw the replay!

My guess is that confession and repentance don’t come all that easy for you either. In fact, these two concepts are not very popular in the evangelical church today. I recently came across a phrase that captures what many Christians ascribe to – moralistic therapeutic deism, which was popularized in a book called Soul Searching. Here are the main tenets:

• The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.

• God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.

• Good people go to heaven when they die.

In contrast to this anemic contemporary understanding of the holiness of God and the depravity of mankind, stands Psalm 51. Let’s look at the heading because it sets the context for us: “To the Choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone into Bathsheba.”

Once again we see that this psalm is designed to be sung and is written by King David. About nine months after David committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband Uriah, God sent the prophet Nathan to help him see the immensity of his sin so that he would confess and repent. We won’t take the time to read 2 Samuel 11 but I encourage you to do so in order to learn more about David’s deliberate sin and subsequent cover-up. David thought he had gotten away with murder (literally) and adultery, but the final verse of this chapter tells us the truth: “But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.”


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