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Singing Psalm 51 to get clean within

“You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside…”

It’s easy to clean up on the outside. Soap, water, and nice clothing make you presentable to go before anyone out there in the world. But, like a once white dish towel, it’s impossible, in and of yourself, to get clean within.

“Truly, I was born in sin,

    Sinful when conceived within.

Surely You desire to find

    Faithfulness in heart and mind;

You will, deep within my heart,

    Wisdom unto me impart.” ~ Psalm 51:5-6

My inner world is a white dish towel that even from birth was never really white. I came with turmeric and wine stains that the best bleach and boiling processes won’t restore to new. But why? What makes us unclean on the inside? Sin.

Sin happens when a being separates himself from God, makes himself independent from God, and acts in ways that are contrary to his ways. Blessings are free gifts that come from God alone. Sin is choosing to be against him alone. Sin is is doing whatever is against God. Sin happens against God only.

Singing Psalm 51 to get clean within, no matter the past

“From my sins, O hide Your face;

    My iniquities erase.

O my God, renew my heart,

    And a spirit right impart.

Cast me not from You, I pray;

    Nor Your Holy Spirit take.” ~ Psalm 51:9-11

Sin is the wall between you and God that Jesus’ blood forgives for those who trust in him thus making them clean within. He reconciles his people to God and gives each one the gift of the Holy Spirit. If God isn’t intimately with us and does not desire an affectionate covenant relationship with each member of his church, his bride, he would not live with us. The Holy Spirit would not indwell us so there would be no need for David to ask him not to take his Holy Spirit from him. The good news is that God is not distant and far removed. He is near to each one of us, so close that he feels what you feel along with you and suffers the pain that you endure alongside you. Not only are you not alone, but you are with the author of life, the creator of all things, who delights to comfort you with his love. Nothing pleases him more than that you enjoy him and all that he is to you.

O Lord, help us all to see our sin and to be amazed at your willingness to forgive it all. Help us trust you that you will do just that.

Jesus redeems the fight or flight response in you and replaces it with rest. As you begin to grasp the magnitude and gravity of what you have been forgiven of, Jesus saves you and frees you from the disorienting threats of others. He causes you to want to forgive from the heart as he blankets you with the sense of safety that no one can threaten. He protects you from fearing those who have capitalized on your vulnerability to feel good about themselves and from being one who capitalizes on the vulnerability of others to feel good about yourself. He makes you clean within, then widens your capacity to replace fear with courage that opens you up to rise above on the inside from those who would oppress you. On the flip side, he, himself, is your redeeming strength who enables you to be patient with the righteous anger of those whom you might have oppressed in the past whether purposeful or not.

God promises to work together all things for the good of those who love him. Therefore, as the Lord gives you the gift of repentance to be clean within before him alone with a broken and contrite heart, those you have hurt will benefit from your repentance before God. May God bless our children’s lives in even richer ways than if we could have been flawless with them.

O Lord, you are the one with whom we must settle things, and by extension, things are settled with one another. You alone can get us clean within. Blot out our sin and restore relationships better than if they had never been broken, O God of endless compassion and grace!

Singing Psalm 51, you know that God sees to what happens when you are wronged, and that he doesn’t brush it under the carpet. At just the right time, he uses just the right means to delve into deep waters of the human heart to restore his people from their slavery to sin.

Forgiveness is not only difficult but impossible unless you are imitating from the heart the one from whose heart forgiveness originates. One thing God will never do is approach forgiveness with a “Yeah, yeah, let’s just get the thing over with so we could have a smooth, easy, happy life without much ado.” Of that, you can be sure. You will rightly wrestle with the tension that sits between your culpability and God’s forgiveness. Whether you are the one that needs forgiveness or needs to extend forgiveness, the journey will not be a cakewalk. You will have detours, and it will put you out. This does not surprise anyone who is following the master who stopped off at a cross to the death and a grave for three days on his way back to Paradise. And what was his heart as he did that? “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

If the holy God says you must forgive to get clean within when others trespass against you and you don’t, you are sinning against him. Since when I sin, I sin against him alone and others often suffer the fallout from that, I must have God’s forgiveness. If others won’t forgive you when you repent before them, that’s on them. Their problem is with God even though they are focused on how you failed them. Though you seek their forgiveness and want it, you don’t need their forgiveness to get clean within if God forgives you. After all, once you have done or said something that you were ashamed of, you cannot go back and undo it. Only God‘s beautiful power can restore you, redeem you, reconcile you to himself and to others. You and I are called to forgive others when they hurt us imitating our holy Father who forgives us in Christ. That said, your responsibility to obey God in treating others well and wanting their best is in no way diminished or minimized.

When Jesus spoke pointedly with compassion to the woman who was caught along with a man in the act of adultery, and to the woman who had five husbands and was now living with a man, did he address the sins of the one he was talking with or the sins of the others who were involved? When he speaks with you to make you clean within, will he talk with you about the sins of those around you or your own? “Your sins have been forgiven. Go and sin no more.”

When you realize that the holy one’s eyes have witnessed for himself your sin, you know that you have sinned against him only. Others suffer from your sin against the great and tender one from the fallout but as a residual effect.

When it’s clear to you with every sin of your heart, hands, mind, and body, that you have dragged the Holy Spirit through it all, you beg for the Father not to take the Holy Spirit from you nor to cast you away from his presence. Because of God, the Son, Jesus, he will not ever do either of those things. All praise, honor and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ forever!

If in your pursuit for happiness and comfort, you find yourself rebelling against “The Establishment,” be sure that in so doing, you are not opposing God. He is someone to be reckoned with and not to be treated lightly. Notice David said after he had a broken and contrite heart and fell before the Lord seeking his mercy and relying on his love, “then I will offer sacrifices.” He had the right order. First seek God’s mercy, then live your life as a living sacrifice to God. You do not have the right order if you attempt to justify yourself with good works in order to earn your way to God’s favor. If that were possible, Jesus would never have had to come to live a perfect life on the earth and die on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins. You could’ve just good-worked your way wiping out each sin you did with a good work to counter each sin, self-atoning, having no need for Christ to get clean within. Yet not even the blood of bulls and goats could forgive sins. Only the blood of Jesus can erase your sins. Turn to God, come to Jesus, earnestly requesting that he blot out your sins, slay your independence from him, and infuse the desire within you to fully depend on him. You were created to function under God‘s rule. How happy and clean within you will be when you submit to his rule alone!

Sometimes when you erase, you still see a faint rendition of pencil marks. Or you might use whiteout to cover up your error. When God wipes out your sin by the blood of Jesus, it is gone without a trace.

“O with hyssop sprinkle me,

    And from sin I clean will be;

Wash me from its stain, and so,

    I’ll be whiter than the snow.

Make me hear joy’s cheering voice,

    Let the bones You crushed rejoice.” ~ Psalm 51:7-8

Singing Psalm 51 to get clean within in the present moments

You avoid putting things in the wrong order by um placing things in the right order. God wants first for your heart to enjoy him, and then for your obedience to honor him. First reconcile with God, and then be reconciled with others. First God saves you from your sin, and then, in gratitude, you put away sin. God does not want you striving to obey him in craven fear as if he is an unjust master looking to reap what he has not sown. He wants your obedience to flow out from a pure heart in reverent fear.

God makes his people clean within and then, as the director of relationships, teaches us to ask for the stuff it takes to have genuine relationships. He frees you to stop assuming, expecting, and demanding them.

O give us listening ears to discern how to please you as we approach engaging one another. Help us to learn as much as we possibly can learn about you while we also learn about one another. It is your Holy Spirit who pours his love into our hearts so that we can get clean within and make every effort to give, meet needs, encourage, and comfort one another. So first let us give thanks, worship, and adore you. Let us settle for nothing less.

“For my sins before me rise,

    Always present to my eyes.

I have sinned ‘gainst You alone,

    In your sight, I’ve evil done;

So Your words are proven true,

    Righteous are Your judgments, too.” ~ Psalm 51:3-4

The sins of some are obvious and go before them. The sins of others less so and trail behind them. Singing Psalm 51 helps you determine how yours manifest.

It seems natural to care more what others think of you than what God thinks of you but David gets things in the right order acknowledging that although he certainly sinned and violated others, his sin was against God only. He violated God’s ways in his heart, thoughts, plans, and actions. As a result of misunderstanding and disobeying God’s heart and acting on that confusion, others are affected. Deeply. Sometimes unto death.

David knew what it was like to delight himself in the Lord. He missed that relationship and wanted it restored. He sought reconciliation from God first asking the Holy Spirit to restore to him the joy of his salvation, to renew a steadfast spirit in him, so that he could then, and only then, teach transgressors the ways of the Lord that they would return to him. Singing Psalm 51, your lips sing of God’s salvation, your restoration to him.

You sing Psalm 51 to get clean within – for healing, for what pleases God – a broken spirit, a pure, broken, and contrite heart.

It is God who brings about in you a broken, contrite heart so that, in his mercy, you turn from what displeases him, and move toward what pleases him. David Powlison called it the constructive displeasure of mercy. He uses different means to bring about restoration to make you clean within. He becomes your most important relationship, the one you are most saddened and crushed over when you displease him.

“Sacrifice You will not take,

    Or the off’ring I would make.

Off’rings burnt bring no delight,

    But a broken heart, contrite,

God’s accepted sacrifice,

    You, O God, will not despise.” ~ Psalm 51:16–17

The Spirit departed from Saul because he did not internalize his relationship with God as David did. Saul was sorrowful only because of the consequences of his sin. David was sorrowful at the relationship that was broken with God over his sin. Saul rendered his garments, so to speak. David rendered his heart.

Singing Psalm 51, you are moved to aspire not to resist or grieve the Holy Spirit. You make it your aim to welcome and work with him and ask with David that he is never taken away from you.

The overarching goal is to be like David when his heart and mind were fixed on the Lord and to be resolute to give your heart and mind no relief or distraction from that continual state. Be afraid of this one thing only: to loosen your desperate grip with might and main on the Father, the Lord Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in your thoughts and affections. He is worth whatever it takes to be locked into him with reckless abandon. Nothing or no one else is worthy of this level of allegiance and devotion.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” ~ Matthew 5:8

David’s faith increased throughout his life. He eventually came to the point where he believed that whatever God did is good. You see him angry with God after the death of Uzzah. But he doesn’t stay angry with God. Instead, he studies him and learns that he is infinitely holy, and at the same time, infinitely merciful. In our finiteness, we tend to see God as either holy or merciful, but with God, those characteristics are not mutually exclusive.

In the movie, iRobot, the professor knew that the only way to expose the lie that would destroy civilization was for him to be killed. Sonny trusted his maker, whom he called his father, and in spite of it being excruciatingly difficult, obeyed his word. You can’t help but recognize the allusion to Jesus and his Father working together in a most counter cultural, counter intuitive way to defeat the deceptive work of the devil in the world.

The Lord uses death as a first step in restoration. He did not take the life of the first son of Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, and David to punish that child for David’s sin. That child was simply brought home. That David did not get to enjoy a full life with that child was a consequence of David’s sin. David wrote and sang Psalm 51 as a plea for mercy and as a tribute to the Lord for providing consolation. David was comforted by the Lord himself. He would no longer worry but experience vorfreude as he waited in anticipation looking forward to the joyful time appointed by God that he would no longer be able to sin. He awaits the time when he too would die and be with God in new life and see that child again for eternity.

I am increasingly trusting that his grace is sufficient for me, that his power is made perfect in my weaknesses, not in my strengths. May my children benefit in times whenever they might fail, to know that their mother grasps onto this truth such that her broken heart rejoices even as it is breaking. God more than anyone knows the ugliness of my sins and the good he intends to use them to produce. As I seek him to get clean within, to help me mortify, to crucify my sins, he does that and one better: he brings new meaning to the hurts that we have internalized. He transforms them.

God is the creator, King, director, and owner of my life. Any time I fail to think, say, or do what he commands or think, say, or do what is opposed to his commands, I am sorry for whomever I have hurt in the crossfire, but my guns are pointed at God. “Against you and you only have I sinned.” This love is what constrains me to love and follow him. He moves me to unload the bullets of anger, resentment, and bitterness toward him and load up my enjoyment of him so much so that the guns are no longer something I want to use against God for whatever difficulties he brings in my life. In spite of those trials that are from him, I know now with Job that he is good and can only do good. I know now with David that it pleases him when he is enjoyed as the good God he is and no longer hated for being righteous.

Likewise, if someone hurts me, it helps to remember that they had the guns pointed at God and what hit me was a residual effect. In this case, I was caught in the crossfire, but it was no surprise to God who intends to use that very hurt to do much good, good that lasts through eternity. May he be glorified!

It is hard to handle the hurt, but God can handle both the gunfire and at the same time he asks me to cast all my anxieties, all my hurts, onto him. He is big enough, strong enough, tough enough, and tender enough to handle whatever anyone throws at him.

“God, be merciful to me;

    On your love I rest my plea.

By Your vast abounding grace,

    My transgressions all erase.

From the stain of every sin,

    Wash, and make me clean within.” ~ Psalm 51:1-2

David could’ve just stopped at the second line of Psalm 51. He asks God for mercy and rests his plea on God’s love. In what follows of Psalm 51, David makes the case for how God’s love plays out in his life.

At some point, David took his eyes off God and stopped relying on the joy of the Lord as his strength. Singing Psalm 51, you see how desperately he wanted the God who saved him back as his joy. The man after God’s own heart desperately wanted to once again be clean within.

I began my walk with God attempting to do what only he can do: wash myself and others of what keeps us separate from God. It was the great self-laundering project that was doomed to fail from the start. Words meant to encourage like “You can do it!” kept me scrubbing at the washboard. The Lord cares so much to release that burden with the only thing that could make us clean within: his blood. The anxiety I once placed on myself and others to get clean within, I am now incrementally striving to cast onto God more and more with each passing moment. I continually ask the Lord to make us clean within, to know what it means that his power is made perfect in weakness and that his grace is sufficient for us. Only he can handle the pressure to get his people clean within.

Singing Psalm 51 can therefore help you map out true displays of God’s love in your life. Singing Psalm 51 can also help fellow members of God’s household address how God’s love plays out in each other’s lives.

You and I are to obey God presently. When he commands us to always treat one another with gentleness and kindness, and then I don’t do that, I am sinning against God only who is the master of relationships, the director of his play. On that high level, it is even clearer that sin is only against God because he’s the one that said to do it that way. God is the only director with whom each of us have to do.

Singing Psalm 51 to get clean within for the future that never ends

Whether or not you ever master the skill of a consistently clean kitchen, bedroom, office, bathroom, closets, garage, or attic, whether or not your files, drawers, shelves, hutches, boxes, and bins are clean within, and even if you never quite figure out how to have a clean, put together look, the Lord is willing to make you clean within. He will put a new heart in you, broken and contrite, removing your heart of stone, and replacing it with a heart of flesh. Keeping the Lord as your audience of one will prevent you from blaming anyone else for your misfortunes or giving credit to anyone else for your blessings. Singing Psalm 51, you experience first hand the transformation from your very bones being crushed to a foundation of rejoicing at becoming dependent upon God once again.

Imagine sporting events In the new heavens and the new earth. The losing team rejoices for those that won. The winning team points out all the good things that the losing team did. There is no sadness. There are no tears. There is no pain, no envy, no insincerity, no sin.

How wonderful, Lord, in the new world, when we won’t be wondering if we have done enough to humble ourselves to have broken hearts or to share what you have given us so freely. We won’t need to grapple with whether or not we communicate well enough. It takes effort now. Then it will be effortless. Bring us to you when we don’t honor you even though that is what we want to do. You don’t want us to second-guess ourselves. You want us to enjoy you and to think about all that you have given us in Christ, to be thankful, and to rejoice that we get to be gentle and lowly, we get to learn how to be wise from Jesus as you have promised for him to be with us always, and for your Holy Spirit to indwell us as your people, Father. Help us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, and not on our accomplishments, performances, nor even on our own hearts that often can condemn us and can clearly be heard from the overflow of our mouths. May we think of your mercy and your grace that is sufficient for us. Thank you, thank you, thank you that your power is made perfect in our weakness. How surprising that you use our very weakness as the means to show us your grace. Our weakness is not a waste but is what moves your heart to draw us near and to propel us to seek you who are strong.

While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. ~ Luke 5:12-13

Jesus wipes away your sin as the Holy Spirit applies his blood to make you clean within. He makes a plea for you, as one infected with the leprosy of sin, to come to him. “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” You rest your plea on his love in return. Jesus responds to that with, “I am willing. Be clean.” He breaks down the walls of unforgiveness as he reshapes your memories and builds bridges of connection. His covenant love replaces your shame with hope. He rejoices over you with singing, and your lips will sing of his righteousness.

“Give salvation’s joy again,

    And a willing mind sustain.

Then Your perfect ways I’ll show

    That transgressors may them know;

Sinners are converted then,

    Turning back to You again.

“From bloodguiltiness, O God

    Set me free, my Savior God

Then my tongue will joy express,

    Singing of Your righteousness.

Open now my lips, O Lord;

    From my mouth will praise be poured.” ~ Psalm 51:12-15

August 21, 2022 – April 26, 2024


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