Most of what we do in life is performance based. When I was in school, my grades were not based on my intentions, but on the quality of the work I did. Each year at my job I have a meeting with my boss to go over a performance appraisal. We look at the work I’ve done and the impact it’s had. The more boxes I check off on that form, the greater my raise. Since we were born, others have evaluated our performance and decided our worth. It’s something that has been ingrained in us since day one. That’s why it’s often a shock to us that God doesn’t give us salvation because of our performance.
In Psalm 51, you will find one of the greatest prayers in the Bible. David had just gotten a married woman pregnant, then had her husband killed and married her to cover it up. God sent the prophet Nathan to confront David regarding his sin. Instead of getting defensive or making excuses, David wept and begged God for forgiveness. In verses 16-17 he prayed, “For the source of your pleasure is not in my performance or the sacrifices I might offer to you. The fountain of your pleasure is found in the sacrifice of my shattered heart before you” (TPT).
If we were tasked with swimming from the US to the UK, some of us wouldn’t make it very far. Other might make it a few miles, but none of us would make it across. Our performance will never bridge the gap between our sin and God’s holiness. The only way to cross over is to have a repentant heart. Jesus is in the boat of salvation waiting to pick us up and take us across, but we have to understand it’s not about our performance. It’s about His grace. There’s nothing you or I can do to make Him love us more or less. There’s nothing we can do to earn salvation. It’s a free gift that comes from confessing our sins and trusting in His kindness.
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One of the most beautiful sinner’s prayers is found in Psalm 51. David, the man after God’s own heart, is praying in response to having committed adultery with Bathsheba and consequently murdering her husband when she got pregnant. His sin reminds us that none of us are above sinning, no matter how close we are to God. His prayer shows us that we can be made right with God, no matter how far away we feel we are.
In verse 3, he started out, “I recognize my faults; I am always conscious of my sins” (GNT). Each one of us knows ourselves better than anyone. If we are honest with ourselves, we can point out our own faults and know where we are broken inside. Too many of us spend a lifetime trying to cover those up and pretending like we’re fine. When we forget or hide those things, we open ourselves up to walking into sin and failure.
Verse 7 says, “Remove my sin, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” None of us are capable of removing our own sin or healing our brokenness. David trusted God’s forgiveness to be absolute, and we should too. When God forgives us, our sin is gone. We too should let it go and quit living in the shame of our past failures. The stain of our sin is gone. If God has forgiven you, you should forgive yourself too. Your freedom is found in forgiveness from God and self.
My favorite part of this prayer comes from verse 10. David prayed, “Create a pure heart in me, O God, and put a new and loyal spirit in me.” David didn’t like his brokenness. Instead of trying to live with it and defeat it over and over again, he prayed God would heal it. God is more than able to heal our brokenness and create something new in us. Remember, when Jesus forgives us, our old life passes away and all things become new, including our heart. Trust the work that God has done in your life and live in the freedom He gave you.
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