************ Sermon on Psalm 38:4 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 4, 2004
"My Guilt Has Overwhelmed Me"
There are two ways to deal with sin and guilt: confession and repentance or denial and belligerence. All too often we see the second route being taken.
A couple of years ago Ryan Smith, a cycling friend of mine, was knifed to death in Sacramento. I had the sad job of conducting his funeral. The young man accused of killing him never once admitted his sin or his guilt. In fact, he tried to blame Ryan for what happened. This past week his trial finally ended and he faces a minimum of 18 years to life in prison. But he still won't admit his sin or his guilt.
A couple of months ago we heard voice recordings of Enron executives on the news. They were laughing about and boasting to one another about taking advantage of consumers and little, old grandmas in California. Yet, they admit no guilt and deny they have done anything wrong.
A decade ago, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, the organization that promotes campus ministries, sent out a news release that shows how Christians can and should deal with sin in a God-honoring way. According to the news release, Gordon MacDonald, President of Inter-Varsity at that time, had been "involved in an adulterous relationship in late 1984 and early 1985." Mr. MacDonald saw the error of his ways and took "the biblically defined steps that call for confession, repentance and restoration." He described his marriage relationship as being "solid and growing." And, to avoid hurting the ministry of Inter-Varsity, MacDonald resigned his position.
These actions of Gordon MacDonald and Inter-Varsity impressed me. It impressed me because, as the news release pointed out, they were following the biblically defined steps in dealing with sin. Notice, once the sin was known, Inter-Varsity did not attempt any cover-up; they did not try to hide or deny a sin that could have hurt the ministry. And, instead of talking of slander and law-suits, Gordon MacDonald confessed, repented, and resigned his position.
Inter-Varsity and Gordon MacDonald handled sin the way we see David handling his sin in Psalm 38. In this psalm, David clearly portrays the manner, words, acts, thoughts, and gestures of a truly penitent sinner.
On this Preparatory Sunday for the Lord's Supper, David's attitude ought to be our attitude. Realizing the guilt of our sin we, like David, ought to confess our sin and turn to God for our salvation.
I The Guilt and Burden of Sin
A We are not sure what sin in David's life triggered the outpouring of Psalm 38. The only clue David gives us – in verse 5 – is that it was an act of "sinful folly." He had ruined and wasted a good part of his life through an act of extreme foolishness.
B Whatever the sin may be, David is now suffering its consequences. Arrows of the Almighty's anger have pierced him, and God's powerful hand has struck him down – all on account of his sin (vs 2). Even his body is affected. Because of God's anger against his sin he is ill and sickly (vs 3a), his muscles and bones are weak and unable to support his frame (vs 3b), his wounds are infected (vs 5), his back is filled with searing pain (vs 7), his heart pounds (vs 10), his eyes have lost their brightness (vs 10), he has become hard of hearing and his tongue is not able to form words (vs 13,14).
David uses a dramatic metaphor to describe his awful state. "My guilt has overwhelmed me," says David, "like a burden too heavy to bear" (vs 4). Think of a drowning person who is being pulled down by the undertow and beat upon by angry waves. Or, think of a person tottering along under a burden too heavy to bear – he is slowly being forced to his knees. The guilt of David's sin has this kind of affect on his life. His foolish sins are pulling him down.
To make matters worse, even his friends and family have given up on him: "My friends and companions avoid me ... my neighbors stay far away" (vs 11). And his enemies, they "set their traps" and "plot deception" (vs 12).
David presents a picture of himself as being despised by heaven and cast off by earth, all on account of some sinful folly.
Frequently, but not always, there are easily visible consequences to sins we commit too. For instance, AIDS is an all too real a consequence of homosexual behavior today; drunk driving often leads to manslaughter and a prison term; adultery can poison a marriage relationship and often contributes to its breakdown; lies and deceit destroy trust and create suspicion; a violent temper can foster hate instead of love.
C The consequences of sin are meant to open our eyes to our spiritual plight. They certainly did in David's case. He got down on his knees before the Lord: "I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin" (vs 18).
I dare say that many today – even within the church – would consider David to have a hang-up about sin. You see, the word "sin" is no longer a part of the general vocabulary. A poll taken in France showed that the majority of Frenchmen believe in God, in Jesus, in Mary; but less than 10% accept the traditional concept of sin.
We all recognize, I am sure, that we live in an age of moral relativity. What used to be known and recognized as sin is now smoothed over and covered up with acceptable language. Abortion, for instance, is no longer murder; rather, it is pro-choice. Extramarital sex is no longer adultery; rather, it is the fulfillment of one's needs. Homosexuality in no longer unchastity; rather it is an alternative lifestyle. Dirty pictures and X-rated movies are no longer pornography; rather, they are freedom of expression. Falsehoods stated by politicians are no longer lies; rather, they are misstatements, misquotes, errors of judgment, or whatever.
Our modern world and even our modern church can take a lesson from David. He knew and recognized sin in his life for the horror it really was. He knew that sin was an act of disobedience against God. He knew that his sin defaced the majesty and name of God. He knew and experienced the wrath of God against his sin. So David makes no excuses for his sin. He doesn't attempt to cover it up. He doesn't attempt to minimize what he has done. Rather, he confesses his sin and he cries to God because of it.
That's the proper order. David wept because of his sin, not because of the result of his sin. That's what you and I usually do. We turn the order around. We don't weep for sin; we weep when we are caught, when the results demonstrate themselves. Only then do we repent.
This week, we are all to "examine our lives and, considering our own sin and the wrath of God on it, be sure that we humble ourselves in repentance before God" (P.H. pg 978). This means more than just appending to some prayer, "Lord, forgive me, a sinner." Spend some time this week considering specific sins you struggle with in your life. Spend some time considering the anger of God against that sin. And then humble yourself in repentance before God.
As David knew first hand, sin is a serious matter. We ignore it only at great personal cost to ourselves.
Topic: SinSomething similar happens to those Christians who ignore or neglect the sin in their own life, who don't really confess and repent of the evil they do.
In Saint Louis in 1984, an unemployed cleaning woman noticed a few bees buzzing around the attic of her home. Since there were only a few, she made no effort to deal with them. Over the summer the bees continued to fly in and out the attic vent while the woman remained unconcerned, unaware of the growing city of bees.
The whole attic became a hive, and the ceiling of the second-floor bedroom finally caved in under the weight of hundreds of pounds of honey and thousands of angry bees. While the woman escaped serious injury, she was unable to repair the damage of her accumulated neglect.
II God, the Savior From Sin
A There sits David, despised by heaven, cast off by earth, sobbing, "O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath" (vs 1).
Whenever one of our children cry, we inevitably ask, "What's wrong? Let daddy see. Show mommy." A hug, a kiss, a band-aid, sometimes a stitch or two, and it is all better. However, it isn't that easy or that simple to deal with the problem of sin. But David knows where to go for help:
(Ps 38:15) I wait for you, O LORD; you will answer, O Lord my God.
(Ps 38:21-22) O LORD, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God. (22) Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior.
David is a man of God who realizes that his angry Accuser is also the only One Who can possibly save him. His words are the words of a true and strong faith which lets go of everything and clings to the Word and grace of God.
B When we, like David, are burdened with the guilt of sin, we know the only possible solution is God and Christ. Remember what Jesus said:
(Mt 11:28-30) "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (29) Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (30) For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." We can come to Jesus with the burden of our sin, our guilt, our misery. Only He can provide rest for our souls.
To come to Jesus is to accept Him as Savior, to bow before Him as Lord, to trust Him as Master. It means a wholehearted trust and faith in Christ; it means giving Him my whole being. Many, I'm afraid, are scared to do that.
Topic: BurdensThat's the way many Christian are. They are burdened with sin, misery, and guilt. Relief is present in the person and work of Christ. Yet, they stubbornly cling to their burdens instead of dumping them on the Savior.
Title: Resting in Christ
The story is told of the driver of a wagon in the Philippines who was on his way to the market. He overtook an old man carrying a heavy load. Taking compassion on him, the driver invited the old man to ride in the wagon. Gratefully the old man accepted. After a few minutes the driver turned around to see how the old man was doing. To his surprise, he found him still straining under the heavy weight, for he had not take the burden off his shoulders.
In preparation for the Lord's Supper during this coming week, each one of us is to "examine our hearts to be sure that we trust in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation, and that we believe our sins are forgiven wholly by grace, for the sake of our Lord's sacrifice on the cross" (P.H. pg 978). We are not to carry our own burdens, the weight and guilt of our sins; the Lord's Supper reminds that they are carried by the Lord.
David, burdened with guilt, confessed his sin, repented of his sin, earnestly resolved to do what is good (vs 20), and, despairing of himself, cried for salvation.
We, like David, are burdened with the guilt of sin. What David needed, and what we need, no man can provide. That's why David cried, "Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior."
Is that your cry too? Will that be your cry as you prepare for the Lord's Supper?
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