What To Remember When You Sin
This morning I want to bring up the rather touchy subject of sin.
I read about a young preacher pastoring his first church: a small congregation in a town where everyone worked for the lumber yard. It so happens this mill was in fierce competition with a mill just upstream. One day the preacher chanced to see some of the members of his congregation pulling logs branded for the other mill out of the stream, cutting off the branded ends, and running them through their own mill. They were stealing logs that didn’t belong to them.
That Sunday he got up and preached his sermon entitled "Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Property." After the sermon everyone told him just how much they loved his preaching. "You really moved me preacher" and "Best sermon I ever heard." were some of the remarks. But next Monday morning it was business as usual. They were still stealing logs. So the next Sunday the preacher delivered a real "pulpit pounder" called "Thou Shalt Not Steal." "Fantastic!" the people told him. "Wonderful!" they cried. But Monday morning the other company's logs were still being swiped by the town mill. So next Sunday his message was entitled "Thou Shalt Not Cut the Branded Ends Off Someone Else's Logs!" They ran that preacher out of town![i]
Sin can be a rather touchy subject when it gets personal.
For instance, it’s hard for a preacher to admit he still has a problem with sin. But I can’t deny it: I am a recovering sinner. No, I’m not cheating on my wife, or secretly doing drugs or alcohol, but I’m still far from sinless.
But having said all this, I believe God can use even a recovering sinner like me to call us to confession, repentance, and forgiveness of our sins through Christ. In fact, the Scripture we’ll be reading from was penned by one of the most notorious sinners in the Bible. Yet God uses the words to a song he wrote in Psalm 18 to give us some thing to remember when we sin.
To begin with, I want you to please notice the title of this psalm. It was written by David, the man after God’s own heart, slayer of giants, greatest King of Israel, great man of God.
The same King David, who coveted another man’s wife, committed adultery with her, had her husband killed, and tried to cover the whole thing up. David is a man deeply in love with God, and yet David also stands as a guilty sinner before God. In this psalm, both these truths stand in tension.
Please also notice the title: To Bring to Remembrance. Some scholars say this is the name of the tune for this psalm. Maybe Bring to Remembrance was a Top 40 tune in David’s day.
The tune didn’t survive, but this phrase did, and I don’t believe that’s accidental.
I believe David is telling us he writes the lyrics not only as a song, or even a prayer, but as a reminder of some important truths he didn’t want to forget whenever he sinned. So what are these things we need to remember when we sin?
First of all, we need to remember God takes sin seriously.
The late president Calvin Coolidge was known as a man of few words. It is said he returned home from attending church early one Sunday afternoon. His wife had been unable to attend, so she asked Calvin what the preacher’s sermon was about. Coolidge responded, “Sin.” She pressed him for a few words of explanation—what did the preacher say about sin? Coolidge responded, “He was against it.” [ii]
I’m not sure all preachers are against sin, but I do know one thing: God is. David’s first request in vs. 1-2 describes God’s reaction to sin with words like . …wrath…hot displeasure…--emotions of outrage, fury, extreme anger. Don’t try to water down the words. David’s sin, my sin, your sin, all sin makes God angry.
Psalm 7:11 God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day.
Sin puts us at odds with God’s holiness and goodness. David’s words in vs. 2 picture God as an Enemy, firing arrows and pressing hard against David. When you sin, David says you are standing against God as His enemy.
This is why David pleads for God’s mercy. Lord, I know I deserve Your punishment. I know You have a right to be angry. But please temper Your anger with mercy!
Habakkuk 3:2 …In wrath remember mercy.
What do you need to remember when you sin? You need to remember God takes your sin seriously—even when you and I don’t.
We take the sins of other people seriously. We shake our heads and gossip about unwed teen mothers, and husbands and wives cheating on one another, and businessmen robbing their employees and murderers on death row. How can they be so evil?
But how seriously do you take your sins? We have a little problem with our temper, but it’s not really that serious. I’m not really stubborn or prideful—I’m just certain of my convictions. So what if we dress up the truth a little now and then, just to stay out of trouble? I’m not really gossiping if what I say is true! God knows how I am, and He makes allowances for me. Besides, I can always ask for forgiveness.
If we’re honest, we tend to treat our own sins much less serious than everybody else’s. And why not? Why should we make a big deal out of our little sins?
Because sin is a big deal with God.
How many of you moms and dads here love your kids? All of us. You didn’t know you could love somebody that much until you brought that little bundle of joy home. You’d do almost anything to provide for and protect them.
But let me also ask you: how many of you have ever gotten angry at your kids? Ever been tempted to just shake some sense into them? You don’t get angry at them because you hate them; you got angry because you love them. You want them to make wise choices, to live happy lives, and you know that some of their wrong choices will end up hurting them.
In a far deeper, stronger way, that’s how God loves you. His love for you means He takes your sin seriously. Your sin angers Him, because it disrespects Him and alienates you from Him. David’s plea for mercy reminds us that because God takes your sin seriously, you ought to take your sin seriously.
Do you take your sins seriously? When you sin, it’s no time to play cover-up, no time to ignore the seriousness of what you’ve done. When we sin, we need to remember it is a serious thing to God, and it ought to be serious to us, too.
One reason why sin is so serious is because your sin always carries a high price tag. David never pinpoints precisely what his sin is, but he does list some of the consequences of his sin in vs. 3-20. I group these under 3 headings: physical consequences, emotional consequences, and social consequences.
Your sin will often have physical consequences. David paints this hideous picture of the physical effects of his sin. His body is sick and his bones ache …because of my sin… (v. 3). He is covered with wounds that fester and stink …because of my foolishness… (v. 4). V. 7 says his …loins [side, back, or loins] are full of inflammation… [fever?] His heart races, yet his strength ebbs away, and his eyesight is failing (v. 10.) Some have tried to diagnose David’s condition or illness, but David connects all of these symptoms to his sin. He is reminding himself that sin can have physical consequences.
Your sin will often have emotional consequences. Adding to David’s physical torment is his emotional pain. David feels like he is drowning in his guilt, that it is like a burden too heavy for him to carry in vs. 4. He is depressed (v.6) and broken hearted, groaning in his emotional pain (v. 8). A psychiatrist or psychologist might offer a diagnosis for David’s emotional pain, but David connects this depression and dysfunction with his sin. He is reminding himself that sin carries a high emotional price-tag.
Your sin will often have social consequences. Sin affects our relationship with other people. Vs. 11 tells us David’s sin alienates him from his friends and family. So often your sin will affect the lives of the people you love the most. Adultery or drinking can tear families apart, and leave scars that never fully heal this side of heaven.
Worse than this, vs. 12 says his enemies are ready to take advantage of his fall. They’ve been waiting for the chance to bring David down, and now David opens the door for their attack. They are strong and ready, he says in vs. 19, and David is vulnerable.
They hate him vs. 20 says, because he has tried to live right, and now they are like predators, waiting to pounce on their helpless prey. David wants to always remember how his sin has alienates him from those who loves him, and places him at the mercy of those who hate him.
The devil always tries to hide the price tag for our sins.
Watch those beer commercials on TV, and you see smiling faces, good friends, beautiful girls. You never see the families torn apart, the innocent people killed by drunk drivers, the man or woman lying in the hospital waiting to die because of their drinking. Keep the young people dying from AIDS out of sight. Ignore the single mom whose boyfriend dumps her because of the baby. Forget the children lying awake crying because daddy left mom for somebody else—keep all of that hidden, because if you see that, you might have to face up to the cost of your sin.
Sin always has a price, and you and I will always pay a price for our sin.
It may be a physical price. Every sickness is not a sign of God’s judgment, but sometimes the two are connected. Many innocent people have suffered from AIDS or some other STD, but you have to wonder: how long it would take to eradicate the disease if you eradicated the sinful behavior linked to them? Some health problems can be traced back to sinful choices in a person’s past. Not all sickness, but some sickness is tied to our sins.
It may be an emotional price. According to recent statistics, more than half of us could be classified as “emotionally unhealthy.” What is causing all of this emotional pain?
Paul Carlisle, professor of counseling and pastoral care at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary writes, “Emotional unhealth is the result of being disconnected from God and from other people."[iii]
God created you to enjoy a deep, close relationship with him. But your sin makes that impossible. Not all depression is connected with sin, I wonder how much of it could be traced back to our feelings of alienation from God?
Sin may cost you in your relationships. I’ve seen it over and over again as a pastor—a person who decides to turn from God to sin cuts off their relationships with their closest friends and families to find their own freedom. It usually takes some time before they realize their new “friends” don’t really care about them at all, and they end up in trouble they cannot get themselves out of.
Sin always carries a high price tag.
The late pastor Adrian Rogers writes: Years ago, a country preacher took me aside and said, "Adrian, I want to tell you something about sin. Sin will take you further than you want to go. Sin will keep you longer than you want to stay. And sin will cost you more than you want to pay."[iv]
You can learn that lesson when you’re young, and you will save yourself a lot of physical, emotional, and social pain. Or you can reject that message, and learn it after you’ve been so hurt and brokenhearted you cannot deny it. David writes the words of this psalm to remind us it’s true. Your sin will always have a high price tag.
But as serious as costly as it can be, David still holds out hope to all of us sinners. His words tell us to always remember when we sin our only hope is in God’s mercy.
The first glimmer of hope comes from the fact when David sins, he doesn’t turn away from God—he turns back to God. David acknowledges God’s right to be angry and to punish him, but he also understands his only hope for forgiveness and cleansing is the mercy of this angry God. In vs. 9, 15 he writes Lord, you see how I’m hurting! You hear my cries! He is confident God is still paying attention. You will hear [and answer] O Lord my God! (v. 15).
David goes farther by confessing his sin. (read vs. 18). David reminds himself of the importance of confession = agreement with God that he’s done wrong and deserves to be condemned.
Psalm 32:5 I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.
Along with confession David also reminds himself of the importance of his faith in the Lord in vs. 21-22 (read.)
These are the words of a desperate man. He is drowning, crying out for life preserver, a crying out for a hand to hold, a lonely man crying out please don’t leave me! Don’t abandon me! Save me! His desperate words are an expression of faith- Lord, I call on You because I know you won’t abandon me! I call out to You because I know you will save me!
My friends, David reminds himself his only hope is God’s mercy, which sinners receive only when they confess their sin and trust in the Lord to save them. That’s what you need to remember to do when you sin.
Are you there yet? Are you ready to confess your sin to God, to admit He is right and you are wrong? Or are you still trying to excuse your sin, ignore your sin, hold on to your sin?
Have you realized that there is nothing you can do to erase your guilt, no amount of good deeds you can do to atone for your sin, that you stand before God with no plea but for His mercy, no hope but for His mercy and grace?
Maybe you think you’ve gone too far to come back to Christ. You’ve done what you know was wrong, you’ve crossed one too many lines, ran too far to turn back. David reminds you: it’s not too late. As long as you have life, you have hope. Jesus won’t abandon you. He will save you, if you will confess your sin and call out to Him in faith.
Ps 103:11-12 11For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; 12As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
An old legend says that the great Reformer Martin Luther had a dream in which he stood on the Day of Judgment before God Himself--and Satan was there to accuse him. When Satan opened his books full of accusations, he pointed to transgression after transgression of which Luther was guilty. As the proceedings went on, Luther's heart sunk in despair. He knew he stood guilty before a holy God, helpless to answer the charges of the devil.
But suddenly, Luther looked up and his face lit up like the sun, as Luther interrupted the devil, and said, “Everything you have said is true. But there is one thing you have forgotten!”
The devil looked down with contempt and said, “And just what would that be?”
The smiling sinner said, You have forgotten the word of God which says
1 Jn 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.[v]
My aim this morning is not to beat you down with condemnation, but to point you upward to the Savior. He wants to forgive you and cleanse you from all your sins. He will do this—if you will come to Him.
[i] James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 353.
[ii]Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy
[iii] Baptist Press
[iv] Adrian Rogers
[v] James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 67-68.