This past Lord’s Day I preached from Psalm 51 on the subject of confession. The message was based on Psalm 51:16, “The sacrifices of God are a broken heart, a broken and contrite spirit, O God, you will not despise.” My emphasis was how the Lord wants us to offer our broken hearts and sin to him as we worship, not as a precondition to worship.
Toward the end of the message, I was calling the congregation to look afresh at Christ’s work on the cross. I urged them to see his love and mercy for them, and seek the deep heart washing David yearns for in the psalm. At that moment I mentioned doing this with “besetting sins.”
Afterward, in the customary handshaking after the service, a wise, older gentleman greeted me. He then expressed respectfully to me a desire. He said he wished that I would have gone on to address the question as to what those with ongoing struggles with besetting sins should do. My message could have been interpreted that there is an easy fix to a deeply-rooted problem.
I have been meditating on that wish further, as it was a good question. How would I encourage the believer with a besetting sin? Since I do not have a rewind button, I thought I would give this short P.S. below to my message in audio and written form in case it might be of help to someone.
And friend, what do you do with your besetting sin? You might say to me, “I have looked at Jesus with new love. I have openly brought this sin to him. I have even experienced periods of freedom from it. Yet I have fallen again into it. What do I do?” You feel defeated. Your shame keeps you away. You do not feel as you can go yet one more time to Christ with this sin.
But, friend, it is to Christ that you must go. Keep lingering over the cross work of Christ. Feel its weight and significance, as we have just urged. Yet as you do bring this further thought of your Savior to mind.
The one to whom you are coming was asked by his own disciples how many times they should forgive their brother. He said to them to forgive “seventy times seventy” times. Innumerable times! Would your Savior expect something from you that he was unwilling to do himself? Would he who hung for you on Calvary’s cross not be willing and able to forgive you for the multitude of your sins? Whether those sins are a thousand different ones or one sin committed a thousand times, will he not grant mercy to you if you come seeking it once again? Know that he surely will!
You may wish for your hardened heart to be struck once by the lightening of his grace, bringing a repentance and confession that will mean never being under bondage to this sin again. The Lord can do that, and perhaps that is what we are seeing in this psalm. Yet he never fails to receive a broken heart, even when it comes by the gentle, repeated rains of his grace. Some he sets free from a particular sin all at once, to the glory of his power. Others he sets free over long periods, to the glory of his longsuffering.
Do not despise this. He does not.