Study 3 WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A CHRISTIAN SINS?
HOLDING OUT THE WORD OF LIFE
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: Psalm 51:1-19)
Do Christians sin? Unfortunately they do, and in Psalm 51 we have a solemn reminder. This is one of the penitential psalms written by David about twelve months after his tragic involvement with Bathsheba. We need to read the story of David’s fall in 2 Samuel 11, and also the opening part of 2 Samuel 12 where we have the account of David’s confession and recovery. How solemn that a believer and a man of such prominence should commit the sins of adultery, deception and murder! – yet Christians do fall into sin, though not necessarily the same sin as David fell into. What happens when a Christian sins? Does God cast him out? Does he cease to be a Christian? No, thank God! When a Christian sins, relationship is not altered but fellowship is broken. This was David’s trouble – still God’s child but out of fellowship with Him for a whole year. Notice what sin does to us when we fail to confess it:-
- 1. It soils the soul. Verses 1,2,7,10 emphasise that sin is dirty and polluting.
- 2. It fills the mind. The last part of verse 3 indicates this fact; David’s sin was all the time prominent in his thoughts.
- 3. It stings the conscience. This surely is the significance of the opening words in verse 4 – compare Luke 15:18-19.
- 4. It depresses the heart. The opening words in verse 8 tell us that because of his sin David had lost his joy and he was depressed.
- 5. It affects the body. The end of verse 8 reminds us that when we are out of fellowship with God we are out of harmony within ourselves. Sin can also incur God’s corrective treatment (1 Corinthians 11:28-32).
- 6. It sours the spirit. Verse 10 makes it clear that David was conscious that his spirit had been all wrong.
- 7. It seals the lips. Verses 14 and 15 tell us that because of his sin David had no testimony to give to others and no praise to offer to the Lord.
Poor David – and poor you, if this is your condition and if you are living out of fellowship with the Lord each day! What should we do when sin breaks fellowship with God? How should we seek to get that fellowship restored?
1. We must assure ourselves of God’s unfailing love and compassion
Now it is important to see that this is the very first thing David did (verse 1). What a tremendous appeal there is here! David appealed to God’s unfailing love and compassion. God hates our sin but He loves us with an everlasting love. The Lord is not hard as we sometimes make Him out to be; He weeps over us and waits to forgive us when we return to Him in penitence.
2. We must acknowledge our sin and confess it openly to the Lord
David did this (verses 1-6). Notice verses 3 and 4 in particular. This acknowledgement and confession must be sincere and full – compare verse 6 with Psalm 139:23-24. Notice how David described his sin:-
- 1. “my transgressions” (verse 1). The idea is of rebellion, lawlessness.
- 2. “my iniquity” (verse 2). The meaning is perverse, twisted.
- 3. “my sin” (verse 3). Sin is ‘missing the mark’ – compare Romans 3:23.
- 4. “evil” (verse 4). Notice how careful David is to pinpoint the nature of his sin – not to generalise; and notice his use of the personal pronoun “my”.
3. We must ask for and receive by faith forgiveness and cleansing from sin
Look at the end of verse 1, and verses 2 and 7 and the beginning of verse 10. David’s words of confession tie up beautifully with 1 John 1:9. It is important to notice the words “blot out” in verse 1 of Psalm 51, because these words remind us that God not only forgives but He forgets our sin when He forgives it – compare Isaiah 44:22 with Colossians 2:14.
4. We must seek afresh the infilling and the empowering of the Holy Spirit
Be quite clear that when we sin the Holy Spirit does not leave us, but He is grieved (Ephesians 4:30). We do not need to pray today, therefore, David’s prayer in the last part of verse 11, because Jesus said – look up John 14:16, and notice the last five words of this verse. What we do need to pray, however, is the prayer recorded in the last part of verse 12 (Psalm 51), referring to the Holy Spirit – look up and compare 2 Corinthians 3:17. Only as the Holy Spirit fills us and empowers us will we be kept from falling again into sin.
5. We must rejoice in the blessing of renewed and fruitful service for the Lord
No service can be effective while sin is harboured and until it has been confessed and forsaken; but as soon as we have acknowledged our sin, have confessed it to the Lord and received His forgiveness and cleansing and the infilling of the Holy Spirit, then we are ready once again to be used in His service, to be made fruitful for His glory. This will be:
- 1. The service of soul-winning (see verse 13). Notice the word ‘then’.
- 2. The service of thanksgiving (verse 15). There is no praise to God while sin is in the heart and the life, but once there has been confession, the cleansing of His precious blood and the infilling of the Holy Spirit, then the heart is filled again with praise and worship.
- 3. The service of prayer (verse 18). What a prayer this is! Prayer is vain until sin has been confessed, as Psalm 66:18 makes clear.
Thank God that a sinning saint, a believer who has fallen and grieved the Lord, may get back into full fellowship with Him! If you are in this position He waits to receive you back if you will come to Him in penitence and humble faith.