How to Personally Experience God When You Pray

How to Personally Experience God When You Pray

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Prayer is More Than a Monologue

What if your times of praying could become so much more than reciting some memorized words or listing requests from a prayer list?  What if your prayers could transport you into a holy place of sensing God’s glorious presence in a very real way?  What if you began having personal encounters with God every time you prayed?  Do you think it would change your prayer life?  Remember, our God invites each of us to experience intimate communion with Him every time we come to Him in prayer— yes, every time.

In our culture, you can pray before meals, pray for healing, pray for guidance, pray before you turn out the lights and tuck in your kids, you can fire off a quick prayer in a moment of distress, or pray out of religious duty in church on Sunday.  You can even pray memorized, rote prayers out of habit rather than intentionally trying to connect with God.  But biblical prayer is so much more than throwing some words toward heaven and hoping they stick.  God designed prayer to be our lifeline of continual connection and communion with Him.  And prayer is something you can do every day, as often as you desire, for as long as you want.  The choice is always up to you.  God does not require you to set up an appointment before coming to Him in prayer.


Steps to Encountering God in Prayer

So, if all of that is true, how can we experience God when we pray?  How can we revolutionize our prayer life into something we’ve always dreamed it would be?  Are there any tips or steps we can try that others who have been far more successful in prayer than we have used in the past?  Is there anything we can do to connect with God when we pray?

And the answer, of course, is yes.  There are some steps on how to pray that others have used for centuries that are proven to help you experience God when you pray.  Let me list just five of these.

   1. Preparing Our Hearts

Jesus said in Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  Experiencing God’s presence starts with preparing our hearts before we rush in with our list of requests.  We must come to Him with clean hands and pure hearts (Psalm 24:3-4), having first surrendered any known sin in confession (1 John 1:9).  We must, for example, forgive others as He has forgiven us (Matt. 6:14-15, 18:21-35), which is often quite difficult— sometimes almost impossible.  But as we daily present ourselves as living sacrifices to Him (Rom. 12:1-2), the Holy Spirit transforms us and renews our minds to align more fully with God’s heart and priorities.  And when He does, the impossible becomes possible.  Try it for yourself.

   2. Entering His Presence

Next, as we come to God in prayer, we are to enter His presence by praising and worshipping Him (Psalm 100:4), focusing on His character, His mighty works, and His worthiness, no matter how uncomfortable this may make you feel.  We are to proclaim back to Him the truths about Him from Scripture as we exalt His name.  Then, we surrender control by getting our eyes off ourselves and onto Him.  And as we wait in stillness before Him, opening our spiritual ears in expectation of what He wants to say (Psalm 46:10, 62:1), He makes us keenly aware of His presence in a way that fills us with peace (Phil. 4:6-7), joy (Psalm 16:11), and spiritual strength to carry on, no matter our circumstances (Isaiah 40:31).  It’s like a breath of fresh air.

   3. Two-Way Conversation

After this, prayer then becomes an amazing two-way conversation.  We speak to Him, and we listen for His still, small voice in return (1 Kings 19:11-13)— although sometimes His voice is not so still and not so small.  He can, after all, communicate with us in any way He desires (think fire and smoke on Mount Sinai).

So we make our requests known to Him as our loving Father (Matt. 6:8, 7:7-11), while honestly expressing our thoughts and emotions to Him without fear (Psalm 62:8).  There is nothing we are going to tell God that He doesn’t already know, including how we feel at the moment.  We can ask questions about His Word or will and receive answers by the Spirit (John 16:13-15).  We wait patiently in His presence for impressions, revelations, scriptures, ideas, verbal words, or internal promptings as He speaks to our inner being about the concerns of our hearts in whatever way He chooses.  We just have to be patient and wait for Him to speak.  There is no rushing the Lord— He speaks when He is ready.

And then, when He does, we respond to what we’ve heard or sensed from Him, asking questions to make sure we understand fully, writing down what we never want to forget, and waiting again for more of His wisdom.  This two-way communion fuels our love for Him, and we learn to recognize His voice the more we spend time in His presence.  This experience with Him almost becomes addictive, which is not a bad thing.

   4. Jesus-Centered Petitions

After aligning our own hearts with the Father in worship and two-way conversation, we’re now ready to intercede for others.  As we lift people and circumstances by name, we base our petitions on Jesus’ finished work on the cross, and not on the worthiness, merit, or spiritual maturity of the ones we are praying for.  We ask in faith according to His will (1 John 5:14-15), with complete confidence in His compassion and power to always do what is best in every circumstance (Rom. 8:28).  We pray, knowing His Word always accomplishes His purposes (Isaiah 55:11), which allows us to come into agreement with what is on His heart for each person and situation (Matt. 18:19-20), rather than telling God what we think should happen and getting petty when it doesn’t work out the way we prayed.  Finally, and with great joy, we release each one into His hands for His perfect will to unfold in His perfect time.  We bring our concerns about others to Him, and leave them there.  This is what it means to pray to a sovereign God.

   5. Childlike Boldness

Jesus said He would answer prayers that were prayed, “in My name” (John 16:23-24).  To pray in Jesus’ name means to come before God with the full authority given to us as children of God and to pray according to His will, or to pray what Jesus would have prayed if He was still walking with us on earth (John 5:14-15).  Just as a child asks something of their loving father based on their relationship rather than on their merit, we can now boldly approach God’s throne of grace in full assurance of His love and acceptance as His children (Heb. 4:16), gaining confidence to ask Him for anything and everything on our hearts.

While God delights to give us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4), He also gives us what He knows is best when our desires don’t align with His greater plans— which, unfortunately, often happens, at least with me.  And as we learn to trust Him fully in childlike dependence, He fills us with supernatural peace and joy during every circumstance— whether it’s good, bad, or horrific.


Conclusion

Remember, God designed prayer for continual connection and communion with Him because He longs for an unbroken relationship with us, or for us to “abide” in Him (John 15:4).  As we learn to pray with a clean heart, enter His presence in worship, listen for His voice in a two-way conversation, intercede in Jesus’ name for others, and come to Him with childlike boldness, we will experience His presence in ways that transform our everyday lives.

God promises when we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us (James 4:8).  So why would we settle for anything less than experiencing His incredible presence whenever we pray?  Why, like Esau, are we content with a bowl of stew when we have the inheritance of the firstborn?  Determine today that you won’t just say distant prayers “about” God, but will earnestly seek Him through prayer until you encounter and experience Him personally.  And as you taste and see His goodness (Psalm 34:8), you’ll agree that time spent experiencing Him in conversation is the best time of your day— hands down.

So don’t waste another prayer.  Get started today.


Leaving Laodicea | The Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church

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588:  Be Encouraged by the Small Words in Scripture

588: Be Encouraged by the Small Words in Scripture

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Three Small Words from John 15

In John 15, Jesus lays out our position in Christ and the key or path to the Higher Christian Life in the story of a vine and its branches.  I mean, it really couldn’t be more clear.  This key is found in the simple word abide.   We are to abide in Him— which means “to rest, remain, dwell, to make our home.”  Or, literally, “to be united as one with Him in heart, mind, and will.”  It is the definition of a fully surrendered life.

Yet before we discover the concept of abiding in verse 5, we first must move through the first three verses of John 15, which often present a disturbing picture of God as our Father and is, more often than not, misinterpreted by well-meaning preachers and Bible scholars.  And by misunderstanding the definition of three key words— takes away, prunes, and clean— we can fail to find the amazing encouragement Jesus offers those who are not quite up to meeting His standard of faithfulness or righteousness.


Takes Away, Prunes, and Clean

So, let’s look at these three verses as they are found in our Bibles, compare them to what they say in Greek, and see if something is “lost in translation.”

“I am the true (real, genuine, one who cannot lie) vine, and My Father is the vinedresser (farmer, one who tills the earth or ground)” – John 15:1

This simply sets the stage and introduces the cast of characters:

God = Vinedresser
Jesus = Vine
We = Branches of the Vine (John 15:5)

He continues,

“Every (pás) branch (where) in Me (Christ, vine) that does not bear (to bring, carry, have) fruit He (Father, vinedresser) takes away (aírō – G142); and every (pás) branch (implied, in Me) that bears (to bring, carry, have) fruit He (Father, vinedresser) prunes (kathaírō G2508), (why) that it may bear (to bring, carry, have) more fruit” – John 15:2

We are now introduced to the first two of our three important words: aírō and kathaírō.  The third one, katharós, is found in verse 3.

“You are already clean (katharós – G2513) because of the word which I have spoken to you” – John 15:3


Three Key Words

We now have three Greek words that we need to define to see if our English translation does them justice.  And I think, after you see the definitions for yourself, you will see it does not.

From The New Testament Word Study Dictionary by Spiros Zodhaites:

“takes away” – (aírō – G142)

This word is translated as “takes away” in our English Bibles.  But that is not what it means.

prunes – (kathaírō G2508)

And this word is translated as “prunes” in our English Bibles.  And, yet again, that is not what it means in the Greek.

clean – (katharós – G2513)

Finally, this word is correctly translated as “clean.”   So now, what does this verse look like?


Vine and the Branches

The Vinedresser, our Father, no longer takes away unfruitful branches but lifts them up, supports them, and helps them once again become fruitful, just like a natural farmer would do to his crops.

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch (where) in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away (takes up, lifts up, elevates, to rise);

In a phrase, he builds a trellis to support the fallen branches of His vine.

But it gets better.

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch (where) in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away (takes up, lifts up, elevates, to rise); and every branch (implied, in Me) that bears fruit He prunes (to clean, make pure and unsoiled), that it may bear more fruit.  You are already clean (pure, clean, without stain or spot, to be cleansed from filth, to purify) because of the word which I have spoken to you.”

Now, verse three seems to make sense as the Vinedresser cleans the fruitful branches to make them more fruitful and then states His disciples do not need that form of cleaning since they are already clean by the words Christ has spoken to them.


Be Encouraged

There is so much more to these three words than we can reveal in this post.  To understand more fully, please listen to the podcast and follow along with the PowerPoint slides above.

And be encouraged, you who do not, nor have not, lived a perfect life.  God doesn’t take you away when you sin.  He lifts you up, strengthens you, and puts you in a better position not to sin and become fruitful once again.  I hope this has put a smile on your face, because I am still smiling… from ear to ear.

Isn’t this just like our Father?


Leaving Laodicea | The Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church

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587: The Purpose of the Christian Life – Experiencing God

587: The Purpose of the Christian Life – Experiencing God

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The Problem: Dry Ritual Without Relationship

For many believers, Christianity has become a religion of rules devoid of a relationship.  We know we should have a quiet time, serve in church, avoid sin, and so on.  But all this outward conformity easily lacks the inward reality of actually connecting with God.  We act spiritual, without ever experiencing the presence of the Spirit.  And that is a sad, yet common experience for many today.

How did this happen?  Partly because we’ve made faith all about knowledge over an encounter with God.  We prize book learning, doctrinal precision, and intellectual comprehension of Scripture— forgetting you can memorize the Bible and miss the Lord of the Bible.  Information in our heads doesn’t necessarily lead to transformation in our hearts.  Why?  Because head knowledge alone breeds pride, heart encounters with Christ breed authentic life change.


The Pattern: Experiencing God Transforms Us

Yet Scripture shows us a better way.  When Moses saw the burning bush, he experienced God’s awe-inspiring presence (Exodus 3).  After Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Lord, he walked with a limp— an everyday reminder of his personal encounter with God (Gen. 32:22-32).  And when Isaiah had a powerful vision of God on his throne, he was utterly transformed forever (Isaiah 6).

For early followers of Jesus, faith wasn’t a dead tradition, but a living, vibrant relationship.  Acts 2:42 says the early church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”  These early disciplines led to a powerful encounter with the Lord: “Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles” (v. 43).  Even repentance is meant to be an encounter, as we turn from sin and into the forgiving arms of Christ.


The Invitation: Taste and See Jesus

This is God’s invitation to us: not just to know about Him, but to experience Him— to taste His goodness and to know that He is good (Psalm 34:8).  And as we behold the Lord’s glory, we are transformed into His image (2 Cor 3:18), which is the goal of the Christian life.  The more we experience His presence and power, the more we reflect Christ to the world.

So, what areas of your faith have become dry rituals rather than genuine encounters with the Living God?  Consider these aspects of the Christian life that are meant to connect us with God:

Experiencing God’s Presence in Worship

Worship isn’t just singing songs or listening to a praise band— it’s meeting with the Lord, captivated by His beauty.  Through worship in Spirit and truth (John 4:24), we experience God’s presence in a life-changing way.

Experiencing God’s Power in Trials

Even our trials can lead us into deeper encounters with God’s peace (Phil. 4:6-7), comfort (2 Cor. 1:3-4), and strength that carries us through.  As we turn to Him, we experience His sustaining grace.

Experiencing God’s Character Through the Spirit

The fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) are not just moral qualities.  No, as we walk in step with the Spirit, He produces His fruit in our lives, whereby we experience His patience, joy, and kindness from the inside out.


The Invitation: Draw Near to God

God promises if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us (Jam. 4:8).  So the ball is in our court.  Will you accept His invitation?  Will you ask the Lord for fresh encounters with Him, pray daily to behold His beauty, and let your head knowledge fuel your pursuit of heart change through experiencing Jesus?

Remember, God invites us into an intimate walk with Him, where we encounter His presence daily through prayer, worship, Scripture, and simply seeking Him.  As we taste and see His goodness, we are transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory.  So, let’s shed religious rule-keeping and wholeheartedly pursue a relationship with Him.  Let’s draw near to Jesus today, and every day, expecting divine encounters that change our hearts, fuel our worship, compel us to share about Him, and ultimately fulfill our deepest purpose— which is to know and experience God through Christ our Lord.

So what are you waiting for?


Leaving Laodicea | The Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church

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586:  Experiencing True Repentance from Psalm 51

586: Experiencing True Repentance from Psalm 51

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How to Experience God Through Repentance

In our quest for a deeper relationship with the Lord, we have been talking about what genuine repentance looks like in real-time.  And we found ourselves in the middle of Psalm 51, examining six key words in David’s prayer of repentance that show us how to not only receive forgiveness from the Lord, but how to experience His presence in the process.  And, as a reminder, the six key words found in Psalm 51:10-12 are as follows:

Please DoCreate in me a clean heart, O God, and
Please Dorenew a steadfast spirit within me.
Please Don’tDo not cast me away from Your presence, and
Please Don’tdo not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Please DoRestore to me the joy of Your salvation, and
Please Douphold me by Your generous Spirit.

But what do these words mean?  And how do they point us to a deeper Christian life of experiencing His presence when we come to Him in repentance?


(You, God) Create in Me a Clean Heart

After being confronted by the prophet Nathan, David pleads,

“(You) Create (bārāʾ – to bring into existence, to create out of nothing, ex nihilo) in me (personal) a clean (ṭāhôr – clean, pure, genuine, free from moral impurity) heart (lēḇ – the immaterial part of man, the seat of a person’s mind, will, knowledge, volition, and emotions), O God (ʾelōhiym – the One True God, the Creator and Sustainer, the Sovereign One).”

He understood that he couldn’t make himself righteous through willpower alone.  No, David needed God to create something completely new in Him that he couldn’t do by himself.  The word “create” means to make something out of nothing, just as God created the universe by His word.

Likewise, we need the Lord to give us a pure, undefiled heart when we come to Him in repentance.  On our own, we can’t clean up the mess inside us.  God must perform heart surgery, transforming us from the inside out as we yield ourselves to Him.


(You, God) Renew a Steadfast Spirit Within Me

David also prays,

and (You) renew (ḥāḏaš – to restore, reestablish on a new or improved basis, to revitalize and make new or like new) a steadfast (kûn – to be marked by firm determination or resolution, to be unshakeable, to stand upright) spirit (rûaḥ) within me (personal).”

Though God cleansed David’s heart previously, he lost that wonderful experience through sin.  Now David asks God to restore what was lost, to “renew” and reestablish the steadfast spirit he once had.  David now understands he needs help staying firmly rooted in his commitment to the Lord because, left on his own, he will once again fail.

When we walk in sin and disobedience, we become spiritually unstable, often losing our zeal for God’s kingdom.  But through repentance, God renews our spirit, revitalizing our passion for Christ and His righteousness.


(You, God) Do Not Cast Me Away From Your Presence

Haunted by his grievous offenses, David worries about losing fellowship with God.  So he implores the Lord to,

“(You) Do not cast (šālaḵ – to throw, fling, to toss casually away, to dispose of) me (personal) away from Your (God) presence (pāniym – face, being before or in front of someone, proximity), and (You) do not take (lāqaḥ – grasp, seize, take away) Your Holy (qōḏeš – sacred, sanctified, set apart and consecrated to God) Spirit (rûaḥ) from me (personal).”

David fears being flung from God’s presence like worthless garbage because of his sin.  And we too, like David, must zealously guard our relationship with the Holy Spirit, who now permanently indwells believers under the new covenant.  Through Him, God makes His home in our hearts.  Sin still grieves and quenches the Spirit today, distancing us from intimate fellowship with God.  Thus, we must continually rely on Christ’s blood to cleanse our conscience and keep our access to the Father through the Spirit open and unhindered.


Restore to Me the Joy

David also prays,

“(You) Restore (šûḇ – to turn, return, to back, do again, to bring back into original existence, use, function or position) to me (personal) the joy (śāśôn – exultation, gladness, rejoicing, jubilation, an emotion of great happiness and pleasure) of Your (God’s) salvation (yēšaʿ – deliverance, rescue, help, preservation, the act of delivering from sin or saving from evil),”

David isn’t worried about losing his salvation.  Rather, he wants the delight and gladness that should flow from his salvation by God to overflow again.  He remembers the exuberance that once accompanied his walk with the Lord, but now, his tank feels empty.  He longs for that joy to bubble up afresh to energize his pursuit of Christ.

Many of us need to plead David’s prayer in our own life.  Do you “rejoice with exultation” over the salvation graciously extended to you in Christ (1 Peter 1:6, 8-9)?  Does your heart swell when reflecting on the wonder of being delivered by God from sin and condemnation?  If not, cry out to Him as David did.  Ask God to “restore to me the joy of Your salvation!”  Ask Him to unclog anything hindering the river of joy that should water your soul.


Uphold Me by Your Spirit

Finally, after begging for inner cleansing and transformation, David requests the Spirit’s ongoing sustaining grace:

and (You) uphold (sāmaḵ – sustain, support, bear up, establish, to supply with everything needed) me (personal) by (what) Your (God’s) generous (nāḏiyḇ – willing, noble, an attitude of heart that consents or agrees, magnanimous, is disposed or inclined towards, gladly willing) Spirit (rûaḥ).”

Even with a renewed heart, David knows he will stumble again without the Spirit’s help.  He needs the Holy Spirit to strengthen and guide him to live faithfully before God and walk uprightly according to God’s truth.

And like David, you and I desperately require the Spirit’s daily empowerment to put sin to death and mirror Christ in our lives.  As Paul explains, “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).  So make it your continual prayer to depend completely on Him to uphold and steer you along righteous paths for God’s glory.


The Pathway to Restoration

We all need times of intensive spiritual repair and revival to realign our affections with Christ.  And God uses genuine repentance to bring us back to Himself.  But true repentance requires ruthless honesty, not superficial lip service.  So follow David’s example.  Pour out your heart before God.  Confess ways your love has grown cold.  Ask the Spirit to cleanse, renew, and uphold you afresh through His indwelling power.  Then, walk forward in newness of life and joy.

And go tell someone what God has done in your life.


Leaving Laodicea | The Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church

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The Agony of Losing God’s Presence in Your Life

The Agony of Losing God’s Presence in Your Life

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Repentance — What it Is and What it Ain’t – Part Three

In Psalm 51:11, David pleads with God, saying, “Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.”  This one-sentence prayer, part of David’s prayer of repentance to God, reveals a sobering spiritual reality we need to understand, namely, it is possible for God to remove His blessed presence from our lives.  Let that sink in for a moment.  It is possible to no longer experience the intimate relationship, deep friendship, and even family closeness with God that we once knew.  And to lose the close fellowship of God’s Spirit is to lose His guidance, empowerment, and the joy of His salvation working mightily within us.

No one who once knew God wants to reach a point where they can no longer feel His presence or hear His voice— and, I mean, no one.


What Does Losing God’s Presence Mean?

To be out of God’s presence means to no longer have His spiritual fellowship and blessing over our lives.  It means we have forfeited any intimate communion with Him and can no longer experience the comfort, direction, purpose, and power that comes from His Spirit dwelling richly within us.  And it’s a lonely, dark, miserable, and depressing place to be.

Tragically, in the book of Judges, we see this described in Samson’s life.  Though freakishly strong, Samson lost the blessing of God’s presence and power to work through him as a leader over Israel because of his lust and sin.  And his lack of obedience to God’s standards of holiness, along with his blatant disregard for God’s purpose in his life, resulted in his tragic public downfall.

Samson’s sad example warns us not to presume upon God’s abiding presence to always be with us, irrespective of how we choose to walk before Him.  Remember, sin and disobedience have consequences, both in this life and in the life to come.  And our unrepented and persistent sin and rebellion can, and will, easily quench and grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30), putting a great gulf between us and joyful fellowship with God (1 Thess. 5:19).  I mean, why should we expect to relish in the joy of His approval and presence when our actions show our complete rejection of His standards and ways?  It just doesn’t work that way.

Let me give you a few examples to prove this point.


Biblical Examples of Losing God’s Presence

Scripture contains several sobering examples of God’s people forfeiting His blessed presence for a season because of their sin and rebellion against Him.

•   Israel’s refusal to enter the Promised Land because of fear and unbelief resulted in 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

•   King Solomon’s turning to idol worship because of his many foreign wives led to God’s promise to tear the kingdom away from his descendants.

•   Saul’s pride, envy, and independence from God’s word resulted in losing the kingdom and his reign as king over Israel to David.

•   And even David lost the joy of his salvation after his sin against Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah.  Yet He found forgiveness and restoration only after fully repenting, without excuses (Psalm 51).

Through these accounts and others, we learn how unchecked, besetting sins can earn God’s discipline and the chastisement of withdrawing His presence from those He loves in order to bring them back into a relationship with Him.


The Agony of Divine Abandonment

To grasp the gravity of this loss of His presence, consider the very first biblical example: Adam and Eve being banished from Eden and God’s presence after their sin and rebellion.  We see their heartbreaking exile from God’s presence in Genesis 3:23-24: “Therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden.  So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.”

Now, no longer able to walk with God “in the garden in the cool of the day” (Gen. 3:8), Adam and Eve, and all humanity after them, faced toil, pain, hardship, and death outside of God’s protective presence.  Similarly, Cain faced wandering and fear as a “fugitive and vagabond on the earth” after murdering his brother Abel (Gen. 4:12).  The loss of the safety and security of God’s intimate presence left him isolated and alone, which was not God’s original plan for their lives, and not a good place to be— ever.


What Life is Like Without God’s Presence

Losing the fellowship of God’s Spirit dramatically affects every area of life.  We may struggle with feelings of isolation, anxiety, aimlessness, despair, and debilitating guilt.  Without access to God’s wisdom and perspective, we fall victim to poor decision-making, with moral confusion not far behind.  Our spiritual vitality evaporates, leaving behind deadness, dryness, and powerlessness in its wake.  We become just a living shell of what we once were when we could experience the presence of God in our lives.

Indeed, shutting ourselves off from the Source of life has tragic consequences that touch every aspect of our lives.  So, we must carefully guard against anything that could earn the removal of such an infinitely precious gift.


Restoring God’s Abiding Presence

The good news is that Scripture offers hope for restoration through genuine repentance.  Just as “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5), so God promises that if we draw near to Him, He will forgive, forget, and graciously reciprocate and draw near to us once again (James 4:8).  No matter how far we have strayed through our disobedience, it is not too far nor too late to reclaim the blessings of His abiding presence.

But how is this done?  How can we experience God once again?

By examining the accounts of divine forgiveness and restoration in Scripture, we can uncover some spiritual principles to apply in reclaiming God’s manifest presence:

Examine Your Heart Before God:  Invite His searching gaze to reveal any areas of offense that may be hindering close fellowship, such as unforgiveness, pride, or secret sins (Psalm 139:23-24).

Confess Everything Completely:  Hold nothing back from God (like He doesn’t know already?).  Agree with Him about the true ugliness of your sins, calling them what Scripture calls them, “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight” (Psalm 51:4, 1 John 1:9, 1 Samuel 15:23).

Repent Thoroughly and Honestly:  Turn away from all that offends God and turn wholeheartedly towards Him in submission and obedience to His complete Lordship over every area in your life.  Again, hold nothing back from God, give Him everything (John 14:15, Romans 8:13).

Walk Accountably:  Surround yourself with wise, merciful companions who will help you persevere in living uprightly and fruitfully before God (Hebrews 10:24-25).  Don’t try to go it alone.  After all, it didn’t work the first time, did it?

By applying these biblical strategies, you can find healing, hope, and restoration in your walk with Christ.  And by His astonishing grace (which I still can’t comprehend), He invites us to come freely and find the refreshing rivers of His presence flowing freely once again in the wastelands of our lives.


Standing Ready to Welcome Us Home

Never forget that we serve an incredibly merciful and compassionate God who stands ready to lavish His presence abundantly upon all who seek Him.  He yearns for reconciliation even more than we do.  Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son reminds us that the Father is constantly looking expectantly down that road for signs of His wayward child returning home.  And when He catches sight of us finally turning back, He runs to embrace us, fully restoring all that was lost in that painful absence (Luke 15:11-32).

What wondrous love is this— that our God never gives up on us, regardless of how far we stray?  He graciously disciplines those He loves to spur our return to Him freely and wholeheartedly (Revelation 3:19).  And understanding both the blessings of walking in God’s presence and the agony of losing that gift, He offers us a powerful motivation to pursue intimate fellowship with God above all else.

By His grace, may we fervently guard our hearts against anything that could earn separation from the One who is Life itself— the loving Lord Jesus Christ.


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Our Prayer of Repentance and Restoration — Renew

Our Prayer of Repentance and Restoration — Renew

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Repentance — What it Is and What it Ain’t – Part Two

In Psalm 51, often considered one of the greatest examples of a prayer of repentance in all of literature, David pours out his heart after his grievous sins of adultery and murder.  He pleads to God for mercy, forgiveness, restoration, and cleansing, acknowledging the depth of his iniquity and sinfulness.  And the key to discovering what David discovered— that God graciously forgives and restores even the vilest sin, is found in the middle of the prayer in verses 10-12.  Here, David makes six requests to God and appeals to His merciful nature and lovingkindness, begging God to blot out his transgression and create him anew once again, just like in the beginning (Psalm. 51:1).

There are six words that summarize the roadmap to full restoration and forgiveness David found in his prayer to His Lord.  Four of them are positive, asking God to do something new in David (create, renew, restore, uphold).  And two are asking God not to let him suffer the consequences of his sins (do not cast, do not take), especially regarding his relationship with the Lord.


Our Roadmap: Six Simple Words

Let’s look at these a bit closer.

Please DoCreate in me a clean heart, O God,
Please Do:  and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Please Don’tDo not cast me away from Your presence,
Please Don’t:  and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Please DoRestore to me the joy of Your salvation,
Please Do:  and uphold me by Your generous Spirit (Psalm 51:10-12)

David has already asked the Lord to “Create in me a clean heart, O God,” which speaks of doing something in David he could not do himself.  The word “create’ is bārāʾ, the same word used in Genesis 1:1 for God creating something out of nothing, ex nihilo.  And “clean” (ṭāhōr) refers to what is “pure, genuine, and free from moral impurity.”  In essence, David is asking the Lord to wipe the slate clean and start over— which is exactly what God does.


The Power of a Renewed Spirit

But now, David realizes his inability to live according to the new, clean nature God has infused in him.  Like each of us who knows Christ, he has the presence of the Holy Spirit living in him (the operative word is “Holy”), yet he still struggles with how to “walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).  The power to resist sin and live righteously is available to David, but he is also keenly aware of his innate bent towards sin and pride and independence that plagues his life.

And this recognition of his fallen, weak, and unfaithful nature led David to pray the second of the six key words, renew:

And renew a steadfast spirit within me – Psalm 51:10b.

David prays, “God, I need You to give me once again what I had before, and renew a steadfast, determined, resolute spirit deep within me so I can run with endurance the race You have set before me, keeping my eyes only on You” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Digging deeper, the Hebrew word for “renew” (ḥāḏaš) means “to restore, to reestablish on a new or improved basis, to revitalize and make new or like new.”  David’s request is for God to restore him to the best he has ever been (remember the 1 to 10 metric), and then help him forge ahead into new and uncharted spiritual waters.  And “steadfast” (kûn) has the meaning of “being marked by a firm determination or resolution, to be unshakeable and upright” in spirit.  It implies firmness, stability, and unwavering commitment to something greater than yourself.  David was praying for God to create in him a heart that is new and undefiled, and then give him the internal discipline, drive, and fortitude required to keep it that way by staying focused on God and God alone.

So, what can we learn from David’s prayer of repentance and restoration that we can apply when we find ourselves guilty and full of shame because of our sins?


Context is King

In order to understand the significance of “and renew a steadfast spirit within me,” we must first examine the condition of David’s heart before he prayed this prayer.  Prior to being confronted by Nathan, David let his guard down and allowed himself to become apathetic and complacent in his relationship with God.  He had grown comfortable in his position as king and had taken advantage of the power and privilege that came with it.  It seems being the King of Israel was no longer a privilege and blessing he received from God, but a right he felt he somehow merited as an end unto itself.

So, David’s actions before his sin with Bathsheba were not only sinful but also hypocritical.  Remember, he had previously written songs praising God’s goodness and faithfulness and extolling the virtues of having a relationship with the Lord above all else.  And then, after Bathsheba, his fall from grace serves as a stark reminder that even those who are closest to God can stray if they let their guard down and their heart wanders.  This is a painful lesson that often comes with lifelong consequences.

To his credit, David recognized his transgressions were not just against Bathsheba and Uriah, but ultimately against God Himself (Psalm 51:4).  He understood true repentance requires more than mere sorrow or regret; it demands a complete transformation of his heart and mind, which involves both God’s action and David’s willingness.

And this is where the phrase “renew a steadfast spirit within me” comes into play.

David clearly understood in order to turn away from his sinful ways, he needed a new infusion of divine strength and resolve, something he was lacking in himself.  So he yearned for a spirit that would remain steadfast in its allegiance to God, faithful to Him above all else, regardless of the challenges or temptations he might face.

And so, David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).  By using the word “create,” David acknowledged that such a transformation could only come from God.  And by praying “and renew a steadfast spirit within me,” he realized that his own efforts would never be enough to change his heart and restore his relationship with God, let alone keep it that way.


Renewal is Possible, But the Process is Painful

As believers in Christ, we can also experience this kind of spiritual renewal.  When we confess our sins and turn away from them, God is faithful to “forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).  However, this process often involves pain and struggle, as we must confront the areas of our lives where we have fallen short— which requires humility, often brutal self-examination, and a willingness to let go of our pride and selfish desires.  But the result is a deeper intimacy with God and a greater capacity to love and serve others than we have ever experienced before.

It is important to note that renewing a steadfast spirit does not mean that we will never falter, fail, or succumb to temptation again— far from it.  Even after experiencing profound spiritual transformations, we may still encounter setbacks and failures.  However, when we maintain a steadfast spirit, we are better equipped to rise from the ashes, learn from our mistakes, turn our face into the wind, and continue moving forward in our journey toward holiness.

So make David’s prayer your own today.  Ask the Lord to create in you something brand new so you will no longer be saddled by the weight of your sin and guilt.  And then ask Him to renew in you a spirit of determination, resolution, and grit to see this journey with Him to the end, longing to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

Oh, and do it today.


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585:  Our Identity — Stop Striving, Start Abiding

585: Our Identity — Stop Striving, Start Abiding

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Embracing Who We Really Are

D.L. Moody, while on his European crusade in 1873, was so inspired by a conversation he had with British revivalist Henry Varley that he prayed:

“The world has yet to see what God can do with, and for, and through, and in a man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him.  By God’s help, I am to be that man.”

This is the essence of the desire to be all God created you to be— to be “all in for Him,” as they say.   The problem is, after we conjure up the desire, we come face-to-face with the “how to.”  In other words, how do I surrender my life to the Lord?  How do I yield everything to him?  And how do I live a truly sanctified, higher Christian life?

In any other endeavor, we would find someone who is where we want to be and model our lives after them.  But we live in the Laodicean church age, and sold-out Believers are few, especially in the West.  So what are we to do?  What’s the next step?  And is there anything we can learn about surrender from even the obscure passages in Scripture that point us in the right direction?


What Does it Mean to be God’s Servant?

After God gave David rest from all his enemies and after he consolidated the kingdom to himself, David made what he thought was a pretty good request from the Lord.  After all, he reasoned, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells inside tent curtains” (2 Sam. 7:2), and we can’t have that.   So he decided, after receiving less than stellar advice from the prophet Nathan, to take it upon himself to build a dwelling place for God, or more specifically, for the Ark of the Covenant.  And, on the surface, it seemed like a good idea, even somewhat noble.

But God was not amused, for neither David nor Nathan had sought the Lord in this matter.

In fact, God rebuked David twice for forgetting who he was as God’s servant, or “slave” (doúlos)— which, by definition, makes God the Lord and Master of all, including David.  So, in response to God’s stinging censure, David humbled himself profoundly before God’s rebuke.  He owned his true identity as a “servant” or “slave” (doúlos), and acknowledged it ten times in his brief exchange with God (vv. 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29).  That’s ten times in just eleven verses.

So, what transformed David’s perspective?  He simply recognized his true identity before God— not as a self-made king, but as a submitted servant or faithful slave (doúlos) to the Lord.

David’s example highlights that discipleship stems from knowing we belong wholly to God.  As Paul wrote, “You are not your own… you were bought at a price” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).  Have we grasped this liberating truth?  We cannot experience God’s depths while still stubbornly clinging to personal rights and claims over our lives.  True freedom, paradoxically, comes through bonding ourselves permanently to our Master as His faithful servant, longing for Him to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant (doúlos)” (Matt. 25:21).  Remember, God did not save us to be independent contractors employed in His service.  He has something much greater in mind.

Just like assuming a new family name changes the way we view ourselves, likewise, our core identity in Christ transforms how we approach life.  Living “all-in” starts by accepting that we now belong to Another— to Someone far greater than we can imagine.


Time to Re-Calibrate Your Identity

Perhaps it’s time to let Him recalibrate your identity like He did David.  His Word invites us to “present your bodies a living sacrifice… and be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:1-2).  When we grasp God’s complete right to direct us, surrendering fully becomes the only reasonable response.  It is a natural outflow from the identity we now embrace— a faithful slave to the Most High King.

Let God begin the transformation of your identity today.


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Our Prayer of Repentance and Restoration — Create

Our Prayer of Repentance and Restoration — Create

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Cut to the Heart, and I’m to Blame

In Psalm 51, David cries out to the Lord in anguish and shame for the sins he has committed against Bathsheba, Uriah, his infant son, the nation of Israel, and just about everyone else he has come into contact with.  The list was long.  But most importantly, David sinned against the Lord, the One who chose him out of obscurity and elevated him to the place of being King over all Israel and one known as a “man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14).  At least, at one time.

But sin had robbed David of his intimacy with the Lord and kept his eyes downcast, burdened with guilt and shame.  Therefore, after Nathan confronted David with the chilling words, “You are the man!” (2 Sam. 12:7), David knew the gig was up, he was exposed, and the all-knowing and always-present God had called him to account.  And for David, like many of us, he was found lacking.

So this Psalm, these nineteen verses, are David’s cry of confession, repentance, and his longing for the restoration of all his sins had cost him.  It is a model of true repentance, one that we would do well to learn from today.


Six Key Words

In the middle of this Psalm, David crystalizes his prayer to his Lord by using six key words, four of which are positive, and two less than positive.  They are the same six words we should utter when we come face to face with our Holy God and realize we, like King David, and Adam and Eve in the garden, have nothing to hide us from our shame.  The King, as they say, “has no clothes.”

We find these six words in Psalm 51:10-12.  First, the positive ones: create, renew, restore, and uphold.  These are David’s requests to the Lord, asking God to do something only He can do as a prayer of restoration.  But he also asks God not to do some things because of his sin.  These are the not-so-positive words: do not cast, and do not take.

Let’s look at these in detail.

PositiveCreate in me a clean heart, O God,
Positive:  and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
NegativeDo not cast me away from Your presence,
Negative:  and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
PositiveRestore to me the joy of Your salvation,
Positive:  and uphold me by Your generous Spirit (Psalm 51:10-12)

So what can we learn from David’s prayer of repentance and restoration, which God obviously granted, that we can apply when we are found guilty and full of shame because of our sins?


What Was David Asking of God? — Create

Let’s look at this request a little closer.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me (Psalm 51:10).

David realized he was beyond repair.  After everything God had given him, even the kingdom, it seemed it wasn’t enough to satisfy David’s lust for pleasure.  So, recognizing there is nothing good in him (Rom. 7:18), David asks God to “create” in him a new heart, a clean heart, since he was deceitfully wicked (Jer.17:9) and had been so since his birth (Ps. 51:5).  Note, he doesn’t ask God to make his wicked heart better, but to give him a brand new heart, created fresh and new— much like the new birth that brings us into a relationship with God as our Father (John 3:16).

It is interesting that the Hebrew word for “create” (bārāʾ) in Psalm 51 is the same word used in Genesis 1, which means to create out of nothing, ex nihilo.  David is asking God to do a miracle, something only He can do, and create out of nothing in David a new heart and soul that will “pant” for Him (Ps. 42:1).

In essence, David is asking God to clear the slate and start over.  Only this time, David realizes there is nothing in him worthy of God to work with, so he begs God to create in him a heart that is clean (ṭāhōr), which means “pure, genuine, free from moral impurity” — which seems to be what got him into this mess in the first place.  David recognizes his moral impurity and his helplessness to fight against it and asks God to make it easier to serve Him and live righteously by removing what doesn’t work and creating in him something that does— almost like being “conformed to the image of Christ” (Rom. 8:29).

And note the context of David’s prayer.  These are requests David makes of God for God to do in him, and not to give David more power to better himself and live a life free from his besetting sins.  David is not asking God to help him overcome his lust and ungratefulness for the blessings of God in his life.  He is not asking God to help his innate determination or self-discipline or internal fortitude grow in strength so he, by his own power, can “quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one” (Eph. 6:16).  No, David recognizes his total helplessness and dependency on God and simply asks His Father to make him into the kind of man “after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22).  And, because of the “multitude of Your (God’s) tender mercies” (Ps. 51:1), God does just that. He makes David new, on the inside, where it counts— just like He did for you and me.


Time to Pray

So, let that last sentence sink in for a moment.  What David asked of God, we can also ask and expect to receive the same answer from Him.  Why?  Because God does not show favoritism or partiality (Rom. 2:11), granting some requests while denying others because of the intrinsic worth of some and lack in others.  That’s what we do to each other— but not God.  He is not like that.

Also, God promises to answer prayers that are prayed according to His will (1 Jn. 5:15).  And being humble and dependent on God and asking Him to create a new heart in you that is clean and undefiled is exactly what the new birth is all about.  It is a prayer for regeneration, the desire and ability to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Rom. 12:1), so we will live and act and think with the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16).  This prayer is exactly what God wants for His children and is according to His will.  If you doubt, just ask David.

Remember, the Christian life is one of “abiding in Him” like a branch does to a vine (Jn. 15).  It should not be one of struggle and self-doubt because we are expecting our old heart to act like a new heart without asking God to create something new in us.  Jesus did not come to make us better.  He came to make us new.  And He does that by changing us from the inside out.  It’s called the “new birth” or being “born again.”

So what say ye?  Are you ready to surrender all to Him and ask Him to create in you something you couldn’t create yourself?  Are you ready for the restoration and reconciliation that comes from a life of dependence on Him and not independence and self-will that is centered on you and your desires?

Then pray, like David, for God to “create” in you a new, clean, pure, undefiled heart— and watch how your love and devotion for Him will grow.  Surrender your old heart to Him and begin to embrace a life of abiding, and not striving.

And remember, the best is yet to come.

Note:  Next, we will look at the second of these six words: renew.


Note:  Next, we will look at the second of these six words: renew.

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584:  “Uh, My Bad,” Doesn’t Really Cut It Anymore

584: “Uh, My Bad,” Doesn’t Really Cut It Anymore

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Ten Aspects of True Repentance that Gets God’s Attention

Giving God a flippant “my bad” when we mess up just won’t cut it, no matter how hard we try to make it work.  Too often, we deal with our sin through superficial apologies, not grasping the gravity of how our choices offend our Creator and grieve His Spirit.

But in Psalm 51, David shows us a better way.  His raw, honest prayer of remorse models how genuine repentance can thoroughly transform us and restore our fellowship with God.  In his plea to God, David holds nothing back.  He pours out his grief and hope with both humility and longing, providing a template for the kind of confession that gets God’s attention and purifies us deep down.

David’s prayer reveals that repentance goes far beyond crisis management or trying to mitigate the consequences of our sins.  Instead, David walks through an intense spiritual restoration, launching him into greater intimacy with God and a commitment to remain faithful to his first love.  David finds joy and wholeness on the other side through his uncompromising honesty and hunger for spiritual renewal.

As we walk through ten key truths David models regarding repentance, may his prayer challenge each of us to put into practice what we will learn.  We, like David, cannot experience God’s full forgiveness and empowerment while still clinging to our besetting sins and flimsy excuses.  So, let’s look at these ten truths in the hope they will compel us toward the kind of soul-changing repentance that revives our passion for Christ and allows us to experience His presence.


One, David Owned Up to His Sin and Made No Excuses

The first step of repentance is openly admitting our wrong actions or attitudes without making excuses to justify ourselves.  David begins his prayer with raw honesty, saying, “For I acknowledge (yāḏaʿ) my transgressions, and my sin (singular) is always before (present) me” (v. 3).  He does not try rationalizing adultery and murder or to come up with some excuse for his actions.  David faces his evil deeds head-on, keeping no sin hidden from his awareness or accountability before God.  We display genuine repentance by owning where we have fallen short, without downplaying or explaining away our sin, or blaming someone else for our own actions.  The devil didn’t make you do it, you did.


Two, David Understood Who He had Sinned Against

Though David’s actions horribly wronged Bathsheba and Uriah, he confesses, “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight” (v. 4).  Even when our sin affects others, we must recognize that all transgression violates God’s holy standard first, which is the greater sin— because all sin repels His glory.  So, by focusing on the root issue of offending God’s righteousness through sin, we gain a proper perspective of the evil of our actions, leading to our repentance.  Our sin grieves the very heart of God, and to Him first, we must repent before any others.


Three, True Repentance Comes from a Broken Spirit

David says a broken spirit and a contrite (crushed) heart reveal genuine humility (v. 17).  Religious sacrifices alone don’t move God’s forgiveness— contrition does.  Repentance requires altogether abandoning stubborn pride or entitlement or clinging to our self-justification and supposed “rightness” by honestly coming to terms with the gravity of our sin.  We must approach God, broken and shattered over the arrogance and self-centeredness corrupting our hearts, crying out for Him to create purity within us once again.


Four, Restoration From the One Offended

Though wracked with guilt, David focuses his hope on God’s power and willingness to “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and (You) renew a steadfast spirit within me” (v. 10).  He seeks inner renewal from the very Person his sin grievously hurt.  David’s hope of forgiveness and restoration rests securely in God’s compassion and drives out his guilt and shame by trusting that God wants to redeem this failure in his life— which, of course, He does.  Note: This doesn’t mean you can skate on asking others you have hurt for their forgiveness.  No, that will come, but only after you have first repented before God.  Restoration from Him is your first priority.  Restoration from others will follow in time.


Five, True Repentance Demands a Commitment to Change

Part of David’s appeal says, “Then (afterward) I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You” (v. 13).  He knows receiving such lavish grace now compels him into a life radically different from what he was before.  True repentance marries confession with an action plan to live differently by God’s standard.  We will inevitably slide backward if we only feel sorry but never address root heart issues.  Repentance demands embracing personal transformation and then allowing God to bring glory to Himself through His redeemed child.


Six, Repentance Means Trusting in God’s Overflowing Mercy and Love

Though David feels that the abundant mercy of God may seem inadequate for the wickedness of his actions (v. 1), he nevertheless rests entirely in God’s divine compassion, remembering God forgives even the chief of sinners.  He calls out, hope against hope, trusting God’s unmatched lovingkindness to triumph over the evil in his life.  So, no matter how far we have fallen, crying out in repentance means believing God can redeem anyone who comes with authentic humility— especially you and me.


Seven, We Must Walk in Freedom from Condemning Shame

David now begs for joy and gladness to replace his sorrow, asking God to uphold him by the Holy Spirit (v. 12).  He understands wallowing in self-hatred after forgiveness solves nothing and is an insult to the promises and nature of God.  Experiencing true repentance frees us from the paralyzing grip of guilt and shame.  Though sin’s consequences remain, and rightly so, we must embrace the healing God provides as no longer condemned sinners, but cleansed children of His.  And we glorify His mercy by walking forward in renewed peace and purpose.


Eight, We Must Use Our Restored Life to Bless Others

Forgiveness launches David into a new ministry, as it should each of us— as David now pledges his tongue will sing of God’s righteousness and teach others His truth (vv. 13-14).  Genuine repentance multiplies the ministry of redemption.  Like David, sharing our testimony offers fellow strugglers empathy, proving God patiently awaits every prodigal.  Our renewed lives remind others of how His mercy triumphs over the judgment of our sins.


Nine, We Should Desire Growth in His Wisdom and Character

Beyond removing sin’s burden, David urgently pursues deeper depth in his spiritual life by asking God to nurture truth and integrity and teach him wisdom within (v. 6).  Repentance sparks a revived appetite for the Word, prayer, and worship with others.  Remember, repentance is not about crisis management, but a launching pad for lifelong growth in understanding God and His character.


Ten, We Can Now Rejoice in His Complete Restoration

Even though the consequences of his sin remain, David ultimately sees past them to embrace the joy of full redemption his repentance provides.  He cries for God to “Make me hear joy and gladness, (why) that the bones You have broken may rejoice” (v. 8).  Repentance stands on God’s commitment that confession leads to a renewed relationship as our Father waits, ready to turn our mess into a message of hope for others.


Conclusion

David leaves no aspect of genuine repentance unaddressed through this raw, honest prayer for repentance.  He shows us exactly how to tear down stubborn strongholds and find complete redemption in Him.  Through brutal honesty, a desire for inner wisdom, commitment to change, and a firm trust in God’s mercy, David finds his supernatural restoration that is the byproduct of true repentance— and so can we.

David’s journey must now become our own.  We cannot run from pockets of willful sin or spiritual blindness, thinking God will fully use compromised vessels.  So, like David, we must do the hard part and plead for His Spirit to inspect every hidden corner in our lives— because shortcuts will not produce the deep spiritual health and wholeness we long for.  But as we fully open our lives to His correction, true forgiveness and restoration wait on the other side.

David discovered firsthand that true repentance opens the floodgates to renewed joy and purpose.  There is simply no better place to be than fully surrendered at the feet of Jesus.  In Psalm 51, David guides us step-by-step through confession, cleansing, and revival, which is critical for walking in new life.  I pray David’s bold prayer softens and strengthens us to experience the fullness of Christ’s promises to those who confess and forsake their sin.

If you need renewal and restoration because of your sins, no matter how small you may think them to be, follow David’s example.

And do it today.


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What Does it Mean to Truly Repent— David Style?

What Does it Mean to Truly Repent— David Style?

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Repentance from Psalm 51

There are some four-letter words that will transform your entire life once you understand their meaning.  “Love” is one of those words.  In our culture, you can love so many different things— your family, your job, your hobbies, your possessions, pizza, and the list goes on.  But what does it really mean to love?

In the Bible, the word “repent” is like that too.  We toss the word around, but what does true Biblical repentance actually entail?

David wrote Psalm 51 after he committed adultery with Bathsheba and orchestrated her husband Uriah’s murder— probably not one of his best moments.  So, in raw honesty before God, David models what true repentance looks like.  He shows us that repentance is not just feeling sorry or guilty for our sins.  It’s a radical heart transformation before the Lord and leads to a changed way of life.


Humbly Admitting Our Sin

David begins his prayer of repentance by crying out, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions” (Ps. 51:1).  He doesn’t barge into God’s throne room demanding forgiveness as if it’s owed to him.  Nor does he try to rationalize or downplay the severity of his sexual immorality and murder.  No, David appeals to God based completely on His mercy and love, not on David’s own perceived merits.

It’s easy to minimize our own sins, often comparing them to “bigger” sins committed by others.  For example, when Richard looks lustfully at images on his phone and imagines sexual scenarios in his mind involving women other than his wife, he casually brushes it off since he’s “not actually having an affair.”  Or, when Trent cheats on his expense reports at work, padding numbers here and there for meals and transportation, he excuses it because “the company expects us to wine and dine the vendors anyway.  So, it’s really no big deal.”  But, in God’s eyes, it is.

Biblically speaking, all sins utterly violate God’s holy standard and make us guilty before Him.  As John Calvin said, “No sin is trivial, since any sin serves to galvanize the whole person in opposition to God.”¹  True repentance requires freely admitting our guilt before a holy God, without any excuses or comparisons.  We must own the full weight of even what we consider “small” sins in order to be truly forgiven and cleansed.


The Cleansing Blood of Christ

After humbly admitting his guilt, David cries out:

“Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.  Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:2, 7).

David understands that while he committed evil against Bathsheba and Uriah, all sin at its root is rebellion against God.  So he cries, “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight” (Ps. 51:4).  As offensive as our sins are horizontally toward others, they are ultimately a vertical affront against our Creator.  And it is far worse to sin against God than to transgress others.  David understood that distinction.

True repentance requires coming spiritually naked before the Lord, allowing Him to scrub away the layers of guilt and shame until our souls are laid bare before Him and us.  Only the cleansing blood of Christ can atone for our sins before a holy God.  No amount of good behavior or penance could ever remove David’s guilty stains.  His only hope is to be covered in Jesus’ redeeming sacrifice.

As believers today, we don’t have to conjure up feelings of sorrow or punishment for our sins.  Our part is simply to agree with what God says about our sins, receive His forgiveness through Christ, and move forward in a new life found only in Him.


Crying Out for Heart Transformation

After pleading for God’s mercy and cleansing, David continues his prayer:

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit” (Psalm 51:10,12).

David understands it’s not enough just to feel sorry for his actions.  Sincere repentance means inviting God to continue the transformative work in our hearts until we experience real spiritual renewal.  The fruit of genuine repentance is not wallowing in condemnation about our past failures, but gratefully receiving fresh empowerment to walk in new obedience to Him and His Word.

For Macy, this means acknowledging not just her harsh words to her son, but asking God to soften her heart toward him.  And for Caleb, it involves confessing his selfish spending habits and inviting God to renew his generosity.  Their heart-level transformation will then fruitfully lead to changes in their attitudes, words, and actions by the power of the Spirit, who lives to sanctify them.  And true repentance, for the essence of our sins and not just their consequences, unlocks all of this wonder in our lives.


Enjoying Restored Relationship

Finally, after appealing for inner heart cleansing, David asks the Lord to “restore to me the joy of Your salvation” (Ps. 51:12).  He understands that while his sins have broken his fellowship with God, repentance opens the door for their relationship to be renewed and repaired through His mercy.

The fruit of genuine repentance is not groveling condemnation— but grateful restoration.  We get to experience afresh the undeserved grace that saves us, sanctifies us, satisfies us, and keeps us steadfast in Christ.  Through repentance, God draws His children close again to enjoy intimate friendship with Himself.  What should have permanently banished us because of our sins, Christ’s sacrifice welcomes us home as beloved sons and daughters.  No lingering guilt.  No striving to make up for our failures.  Just free grace and abounding joy in the presence of the God who loves us to the uttermost.


Conclusion

The world offers cheap repentance— feeling bad about getting caught or just going through the religious motions.  But Psalm 51 shows us true repentance starts with godly sorrow that leads us to forsake our sin at the foot of the cross.  When we freely admit our guilt and submit to Christ’s lordship in our lives, we find joy in pursuing intimacy with God.  This kind of whole-life repentance brings radical transformation into the believer’s heart.

If this has not been your experience of repentance to God, it is freely offered to anyone who humbly approaches God with a “broken spirit and a contrite heart” (Ps. 51:17).

Don’t put it off another day.  Renewed intimacy and fellowship with your Creator are just a prayer away.  What are you waiting for?


Notes

1. Calvin, J. (1559/1997). Institutes of the Christian Religion (Vol. 1, p. 79). Translated by F.L. Battles. Westminster John Knox Press.

Leaving Laodicea | The Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church

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