Brokenness – Psalm 51:1-19

What is the deepest and truest thing about you?  I have observed that part of my family in Christ believes they are, in their essential make up, wonderful. The other part believes they are wretched. Welcome to the bi-polar Body of Christ.

Whether we are wonderful or depraved is not typically found in the print of a group’s doctrinal statement. However, it is easily found in the believer’s heart. If you listen carefully to the conversations and to the music, you can hear what we think of ourselves. One group sings, “My heart is prone to wander.” The other sings, “God makes beautiful things”. How well I understand.

For three decades I was wholeheartedly committed to the idea that I had a Jeremiah 17:9 – heart – one that is deceitful, desperately sick and beyond understanding. I thought, “Thank God my heart was like David’s, whose sin (like mine) was ever before me! Thank God my heart was like Paul’s – wretched (Romans 7:14-25)!” Then, there were the two confirming witnesses; my thought life and my behavior – they were always ready with their affirmations of my depravity. Even though I was dying inside, I was proud that I was mastering Psalm 51– brokenness and contrition, which God so loved.  Spiritually speaking, I was flying pretty high but in a very low sort of way.

The assumptions I was making about my nature drove me with an intensity, similar, I believed, to my hero David – that man after God’s own heart. If you could have listened in on my heart-to- heart conversation with God, it would have sounded like this:

“Oh Lord, my sin, which naturally springs up from my heart, is ever before me. My heart is not clean, and believe me,know! Oh God, create in me a clean heart, renew a steadfast spirit within me! and please, please, please, do not take your holy spirit from me!”

If I would have had ears to hear, I would have heard God’s response to my dirge, “Oh Rob, I did create in you a clean heart and furthermore I have no intention of taking my Spirit from you. Oh Rob, stop praying this. OK?”

However, being dull, yet zealous of heart, I believed if I could adequately establish this lifestyle of brokenness, if I could just repent deeply enough, if I could just seek him with more discipline, then I could finally know him and I would not be such a perpetual problem child. (Note; if you would like to construct a religious treadmill; this paragraph should provide a pretty good blueprint.)

I was being driven by an “if-then” legalistic caveat. I was not being drawn by a loving being.  Where was all my intensity and desperation coming from? My sense of depravity was producing mega-wattege of shame and guilt driven energy. I was dead serious about God. I was perfecting the dark night of the soul as a lifestyle. I was so zealous I thought God might just snatch me up in my own personal rapture like Enoch. My family would say, “Rob was…..and then he was not”. (I am only barely exaggerating). God’s reply? “Oh Rob.”

In the midst of my dead reckoning approach toward God, some events transpired that served to modify my identity – how I viewed myself. Today, as I read Psalm 51, I see a snapshot of David’s thinking in the midst of a season of deep repentance. It was taken after he had taken ownership of his actions as a murderer and adulterer. I don’t believe a moving picture of David’s heart would reveal that Psalm 51 characterized his lifestyle any more than I believe Romans 7:14-21 characterized Paul’s.

When I read Psalm 51 today, I am at peace that God has cleansed me of my sin therefore it is not continually before me. He has purified me and washed me whiter than snow. He has made me to hear joy and gladness. He has not hidden his face from me. He is not threatening to take his Holy Spirit from me. He has restored to me the joy of my salvation. I don’t believe a dirge about my old nature is the song  I was destined to sing. A dirge coming from a new creation is not music to God’s ears.

As the beneficiaries and heirs of a new covenant, we can sing songs of rejoicing which acknowledge our newness in Christ. Our deepest reality is that Christ lives in us and we are temples of the Holy Spirit. The deepest and truest thing about us is that we have been grafted into the Vine. We are rooted permanently into God through Christ. Exclusively, by God’s scandalous grace, we are in a wonderful place. God thinks we are wonderful and I find that I am agreeing with him on this point more and more.

David has reminded us that we were conceived in iniquity – so there is a depravity component to us. Even though we have been buried in Christ and raised up with Him, this aspect of us seeks expression. But, are these impulses proof positive that our fallen natures define us? Isn’t it plausible that giving our fallen natures so much credit empowers them to have more influence than they should?

When I get caught in a cross-fire within our divided family, I just tell my story. I now believe there are littlet truths, and there are big-T truths. Our fallen nature is a  “little t” truth. It is not as large as the big-T truth, our new identities are built upon. Welcome to the New Covenant.

This is my story. This is now my song. I am praising my Savior, now, more than ever, all the day long.

Father, may Your opinion and big-T truths prevail. Help us to renew our minds with  your opinions about us. Restore to us our identities as children of light, truth, joy and freedom. Cause us to be those whose songs and behavior validate, not contradict, the Good News you came to bring. Amen.


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