Jonathan took out his dad’s aftershave lotion and rubbed some on his face before leaving the bathroom. When his mother stepped into his room a little later, she sniffed the air. “What do I smell?” she asked.
“Jonathan used Dad’s aftershave lotion,” hollered Sophie from her room across the hall. She came to the doorway. “He didn’t take a shower again.”
Mom checked the bathroom. “His towel is damp,” she said.
“Check the soap,” said Sophie. “Lots of times when I shower after him it’s not even wet–he just wets his washcloth and towel and pretends he showered.”
“Is that true, Jonathan?” asked Mom. She went to the shower and picked up the bar of soap. It was bone dry, and she glared at him.
“I just don’t like getting all wet,” Jonathan said defensively.
“You’re so gross,” sputtered Sophie.
“Sh-h-h.” Mom held up a finger. “Jonathan, I’m sure you know that using this” she held up the aftershave, “doesn’t take the place of using soap. When you splash on cologne or lotion instead of washing, you may smell nice for a while, but the dirt remains. And pretty soon people can tell.”
“Yeah,” said Sophie. “That smelly lotion can’t cover up the fact that you’re still as dirty as a pig!”
Mom cast Sophie a warning glance before turning back to Jonathan. “Well, Jonathan is going to take his shower now,” said Mom. She sighed. “It’s important to keep our bodies clean, but we also need to think about something even more important. Just like our skin gets dirty, our lives and hearts and thoughts can get dirty– with sin. Things like pride or an unloving attitude fall into that category, Sophie. And so does deceiving your mother, Jonathan.”
Both Sophie and Jonathan looked at the floor as Mom continued. “We may sometimes try to cover up the wrong things we do and hide them from other people, but there is nothing we can hide from God. We need to confess our sin to Him. He’ll forgive us and wash us clean–as white as snow.”
God looks at our lives and measures them against a standard of perfect holiness. He does not overlook sins just because we think they are small or insignificant. If we treat sins casually, it will not be long before we find ourselves enslaved to them. If we bring them to the Lord in repentance, He will cleanse us and help us walk in freedom from them.
Psalm 51 is the experience of a sinning saint who comes back to full communion and service. The steps are:
- Sin thoroughly judged before God.
- Forgiveness and cleansing through the blood
- Spirit-filled for joy and power
- The restored saint in fellowship with God.
Cleansing in Scripture consists of three parts:
- Of a sinner from the guilt of sin
- Of a saint from the stain of sin
- Under grace the sinner is purged by the blood of Christ when he or she believes.
There is no renewal without pain. It may come in a moral crisis. It may come when life is broken by illness, economic reversal or broken relationships. It may come when we reflect on the pace with which life passes or upon our need for meaning in our lives. Our sins are extensions of our rebellion against God. All sin is against God and requires His forgiveness.
Sin is always painful. It doesn’t matter if the sin is public or private. Unless we deal with it, the pain will never go away. Integrity is often defined by what we do in secret. Are our actions the same in public as what we do behind closed doors?
When David confessed his sin with Bathsheba, something great and wonderful happened. The word “cleanse” is a technical term for the cleansing of a leper in the Old Testament. David was saying, “Lord, take the leprosy from my soul and make me clean again.”
Purging with hyssop was an Old Testament ritual-a cleansing prescribed in the law-and what an Israelite did after coming in contact with a dead body. Underlying the purging of verse 7 is the concept of sacrificial blood-for example, Jesus’ death on the cross. David’s request is for God to take away his sin. Verse 10 asks for a new self-heart and spirit. Only God can do that.
The deepest renewal is spiritual, and it has a moral base. God is holy and He has given us a conscience. We can’t be renewed until we deal with our moral failure. Psalm 51 is David’s cry for renewal. It was written after he committed adultery with Bathsheba. He asked God for mercy. He asked God to blot out his sin. God wants to change our hearts before He changes our circumstances.
When we take our sins to other people, we are often condemned. When we take our sins to God, there is absolute justice and absolute mercy. In man’s eyes David appeared flawed and foul-unfit for leadership. In God’s eyes David’s messed-up life had potential. Why? Because God sees us not as who we are but as who we can be.
Quite often people say they believe or disbelieve something to be socially acceptable, but when the moment of truth comes and the stark reality of eternity confronts a person, that person suddenly wants to know that God has forgiven him or her. We gloss over our shortcomings, the damage we have done to others and our world, often by accident. Our limited time means limited vision. We have polluted, discriminated, hoarded, degraded and abandoned because our own survival demanded it-or so we tell ourselves.
What God desires, He also provides. Wisdom is God’s gift to us. David committed adultery out of foolishness, but God brought him to repentance through the wisdom found in His Word.
We can never lose our salvation once we come to Christ in faith. but we can lose the joy of our salvation through our sin. Once we accept Christ’s saving work, we are no longer sinners. We are saints. We are heirs to God Himself. We aren’t about to be lost from God because of something so flimsy as our own capacity to lay all our sins before God.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p. 749)
- “The Smelly Coverup.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Schofield’s Notes. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
- Williams, D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 13: Psalms 1-72 (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1986; pp. 385-392)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
- Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010)
- Pastor Bobby Schuller, “Change My Heart.” Retrieved from www.hourofpower.org
- “The Redeemer as Restorer.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Os Hillman, “The Integrity Test.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Dr. Harold Sala, “Cleansing for All.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Catherine Malotky, “Psalm 51:1-12.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Alan Wright, “The Pure Heart Prayer.” Retrieved from www.sharingthelight.org
- Paul Chappell, “The Need for Thorough Cleansing.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org