It is one of the most difficult times in the life of a Christian. It is hard to deal with in your own life. It is hard to deal with in the lives of those you lead. What do you do when caught in sin? I am talking about those life-altering sins. The sins that endanger your family, your career, and your reputation. We have seen them so many times: adultery, pornography, financial improprieties, alcohol or substance abuse. And I am talking about faithful Christians who deeply want to follow God and have gotten ensnared by Satan.
What do we as leaders say when we have the opportunity to speak into the life of someone who is devastated by their sin? What can we share from God’s Word that is appropriate and helpful? I do believe these are situations where we must speak truth. For some time, I have used Psalm 51 in these situations. It contains David’s reflections after his life-altering sin with Bathsheba. I use this psalm to show three things I believe are true—three things that faithful sinners must hear.
- Repentance. David uses language that resonates: I know what my sin is and it is always with me, I have sinned against you, I did evil, I am so bad I must have been evil even before I was born. My heart is broken and I am sorry. This is an accurate reflection of how sinners feel and an honest cry of confession. David ask for a pure heart and a renewed spirit. He pleads with God not to remove his Holy Spirit. It is an acknowledgement of sin, but also a commitment to change.
- Forgiveness. Psalm 51 has forgiveness language. Have mercy, loving God. Wash away my sin so I am whiter than snow. Save me and let me know the joy of that salvation. These are reminders of God’s grace. That repentance does lead to forgiveness. That sin does not win. That guilt does not have the final say.
- Restoration. There is a future after our sin. God still has a purpose for us. David will sing of God’s righteousness. He will praise God, and he will tell sinners the way God acts so they too can be forgiven. Sinners worship. Sinners tell of God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness. Usefulness in God’s Kingdom is not ended because of our sin. Worship, praise, evangelism, helping others through their times of painful sin—these are things that restored sinners do.
Satan would have our worst sins define us and destroy us. God does not want that. Life-altering sins will happen. Perhaps even to you, and certainly in your family—whether physical or spiritual. Three things you must know and share: repentance, forgiveness, and restoration.
I know. I have been there. Psalm 51 speaks into my life, and I have used it to speak into the lives of many others who were desperate to know that God hears their cry of repentance, that he really forgives, and that he will use them in his service.
Steve loves to tell the story of Jesus. He is the Director of Ministry for Hope for Life, a Herald of Truth Ministry, and serves as an elder at the Southern Hills church of Christ in Abilene, TX. He is a popular speaker for Lectureships, seminars, and retreats, and his latest book is “Can I Tell You a Story?” He and his wife Marsha have two children and five grandchildren.