Sermon Four - The Blessedness of Forgiveness

Perhaps God has used the sermon that follows around the world more than any sermon I have preached.  This version of the sermon was preached at First Baptist Church, Bayonne, New Jersey on Sunday, August 9, 1981, and is transcribed from a cassette recording.

Text:    Psalm 32:1-2

"Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.   Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile."
Psalm 32:1-2

The biblical text for the message today is composed of Psalm 51 and Psalm 32.  These are companion psalms that have to do with the effects of sin in David's life and his renewal.  In one psalm, the consequences of his triple sin are accounted and, in the other psalm, the result of restored joy.  
There's joy in the presence of the angels of God—not when a person gives an offering, or when a believer moves into a new community and moves his membership—but when sinners are converted.

Psalm 51
David said he would witness and sinners would be converted if the joy of God's salvation was restored in his life:  "Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free spirit.  Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto Thee" (Psalm 51:12-13).  He then goes on to tell us what God is looking for here in the church this morning as we gather for worship: "For Thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it; Thou delightest not in burnt offering.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise" (Psalm 51:16-17).  Here is what God is looking for--a broken spirit.
Do any of us qualify?  We are not broken.  We come to church strutting like peacocks so very often.  God is looking for broken spirits, old-time conviction.  "A broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise."
Now, I see you are with me.  I'm watching you.  Let's pray.

"Father, bless us through Your word.  And may Heaven rejoice because of the decisions made here this morning. In Jesus' name. Amen."

Be seated, please, and turn to Psalm 32.

Psalm 32
There is something unusual and powerful in Psalm 32 for every Christian.  A man in history, who lived long ago, was known as St. Augustine.  He was converted out a life of deep sin.  God used him in very unusual ways.  In his early life, he ran from God.  His mother prayed for him long and hard and faithfully.  One day he was gloriously saved.
It was said that when Augustine, after his conversion read Psalm 32, he wept.  There is something amazing about this Psalm.  Then when he was lying on what proved to be his death bed, he had the psalm written on the wall opposite his bed so that he could read it at will and derive strength from it.  There is something powerful about this psalm which will strengthen you as a Christian. 

You need a grasp of the teaching of this psalm.
 It is generally accepted that David wrote the psalm after he was rebuked by Nathan the Prophet for the sin he had committed.
"Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.  Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth no iniquity and in whose spirit is no guile" (vv 1-2).

The first word you need to understand is the word "blessed"--which could be an English translation of one of two Hebrew words.  One is the bestowing of a benefit as in "he blessed him."  The other is the very opposite of this.  It deals with being the recipient of the bestowing of the benefit as "he was blessed."  The latter is used in our text.  Something had happened outside David which resulted in his having the joy of God's salvation returned.
David had a benefit bestowed which caused him to make some expressions to describe his joy.  "Blessed" actually is best translated with "O, the happiness of!"  It is not enough to just say happy.  That is not strong enough.  It needs to be said, "O, the happiness of" the person is.
You read the passage and sense thrill and jubilation. David, who was so miserable for almost one year after his sins and heavily weighed down by the guilt, has the guilt and heaviness lifted and removed.  David was demonstrative in nature. You can almost see him leaping and shouting for joy.
There is a gushing forth here that cannot be captured in a simple declarative statement.   He is too full to empty himself with a simple statement. Instead, David uses a remarkable accumulation of phrases to describe what happened to him.
If you will listen carefully and prayerfully, you, will see what he was talking about and understand what is needed for one's joy to be full.

Now, notice
Four nouns for sin
A.    The first noun is TRANSGRESSION.  The word "transgression" is often found in the Bible.  Do you know what it means?  It means to break deliberately the known law of God.  To transgress is to break deliberately a known law.  David was guilty of a triple sin--coveteousness related to Bathsheba, adultery, and perpetrating the murder of Uriah, the Hittite, the husband of Bathsheba.  David knew God's teachings in each of these areas and he deliberately broke the known law of God. When God sets a line and a person deliberately crosses over the line, he is guilty of transgression.
B.    The second noun is SIN, a New Testament word which is most commonly used.  You are aware of Romans 3:22-23 which says there is no difference in people for "all have sinned and have come short of the glory of God."  The word "sin" means to miss the mark.  It is to aim sincerely at an object intending to hit it, but missing the mark. In Judges 20:16, there is a similar use of this word when one hits the mark.  Among the Benjamites were seven-hundred left-handed men.  Each could sling stones at a hair-breath and not miss. But sin is aiming and missing the mark.  This is the nature of us all.
C.    The third noun is INIQUITY.  It is descriptive of men and women because of Adam's sin. That word is suggesting a crookedness, a perversity, twisted, distorted.  Let me illustrate.  Suppose you have a straight yard stick and then you have a crooked stick.  You lay the crooked stick along beside the yard stick.  The crooked stick will hit the yard stick at some points, but not at every point because it is crooked.  Because of Adam's fall, every person who has ever lived is crooked.  He has iniquity because of that.
D.    The fourth noun is GUILE which provides a cap for the other nouns.  It means a spirit of deceit.  It is in this sense that a person says, "I am going to do it"--when all along he knows he is not going to do it.  I don't have trouble understanding this after having been a pastor many, many years--over 1400 Sundays as well as an educator.  There are countless individuals who come to church on Sunday with the attitude: "Pastor, tell us exactly what God wants us to hear and we will do it" when they know they are not going to it.  How pervasive guile is.  It is in us all.  We really are guilty before God.

The nouns did not make you happy.  I watched your faces.  Neither did it make David happy.  But when you put the verbs with the nouns, you can see why he is happy.

Four Verbs
A.    The first verb is with the noun transgression--forgiven.  What does the word forgiven mean?  It simply means to lift off and carry away.  It is in the sense that a person is carrying a heavy load and all of a sudden, it is lifted off and taken away.  Did you ever carry a load like that?  Maybe even emotionally you were carrying a load.  It just about had you down.  All of a sudden you woke up one morning and that weight was lifted.
David knew about his transgression.  It was weighing him down.  Then all of a sudden it is lifted.

B.    The second verb goes with the word sin.  The thing that happened to the sin--it was covered.
In order to understand this passage, it will be helpful to review the rituals related to the annual Day of Atonement recorded in Leviticus 16. Two animals were used.  One became known as the scape goat.  That goat was brought to the priest who laid his hand on the head of that goat symbolizing that the sins of the people were placed upon the goat and then the goat was taken out into the wilderness.  The picture was a carrying away of that which caused them to be unacceptable to God.
But there was a second goat which wasn't treated like the first goat.  This second goat was a foreglimpse of Someone coming from Heaven one day known as the Lamb of God.  The second goat was slain and the blood was taken into the tabernacle and sprinkled on the mercy seat in the tabernacle in the Holy of Holies.  The picture was a covering of sins because the blood was covering.  In Leviticus 17:11, it points out so plainly, "The life of the flesh is in the blood and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an  atonement for your souls."  The writer of the New Testament said, "Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins" (Hebrews 9:22).  
We sing, "Saved by the Blood of the Crucified One."  You see the thing that really cleanses us of our sins and makes us acceptable to God is the Blood of Jesus.  Don't you like to hear that?  That is the way it is.  We don't sing, "There is a fountain filled with water drawn from the city main, and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stain."  Instead, we sing and we preach and we teach, "There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel's veins and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains."  No wonder David is happy.  His sins, which were weighing him down, were lifted and carried away.  His sins were covered by the blood.
Are you a happy person today?  Do you have the joy of the Lord?
Now, what happened to the iniquity?
C.    Going with the third noun is a verb construction--"computeth not."  The picture is a ledger with a sheet of paper for each of us.  On the page are all our sins, properly recorded and accurately depicted.  All of a sudden, the page is clean and there is nothing on the record any more.
When you come to the Cross, when you are born again, the record that was there was expunged, erased, eradicated.  Although you look at yourself in the eyes of one who is still guilty--because you know what you've done and how displeasing you were with God--but in God's sight all is cleansed and cleared.  Your record is erased.  Isn't that wonderful?
Now, what happened to the sense of guile?

D.    There is a double negative in the Hebrew participle here which simply means that even the sense of guile is gone.  It is a strong expression that the sense of guile and deceit has gone away.
Now, how did David get like this?  How did he get his joy back?  I know, from my own experience and from working with others, it is so easy for believers to get to the place where there is no longer the joy of the Lord flowing.  Therefore, a believer doesn't worship well, walk well, work well, witness well, or war well.  His position is that of defeat because he doesn't understand what David knew by his experience.
A person is saved and excited.  I was at Kearney NJ sometime ago.  A keen, intellectual young man had gotten saved and was so excited he was bringing others to the church services.  You see when you first come to Christ there is a joy.  Then, so very frequently, we let things come into our lives which rob us of our joy.  There are a lot of services where there is no joy. 
Many are much like the service a little boy was in sitting with his mother on Sunday morning.  The service was drab and he was doing his best to be still.  He colored everything there was to color in the bulletin, but he became restless because it was boring.  In that particular church, there were three flags on display.  As he looked around, the little boy knew two of them—the U. S. flag and the Christian flag.  The third flag was small with stars in it and he didn't know what it was.  Finally, he ventured to ask his mother, "Mom, what's that flag over there?"  Admonishing him to be quiet and listen, she told him it was the service flag.  He thought that over a moment and said, "What's a service flag?"  Again, she whispered for him to pay attention to the sermon as she said, "That's in memory of those who died in the service."  He couldn't refrain because his mind was active now as he quickly said, "Mom, was that the morning service or evening service?"  Too many of our services begin at eleven o'clock sharp and end at twelve o'clock dull.  There is no joy.
God doesn't want it like that!  He wants it thrilling and exciting so that the very moment you get on the premises you can sense the power of God moving.  I've come long to believe that everybody who comes to a service ought to get a charge or a shock depending on his need.  But, how did David get the joy of the Lord.
Note,  verses three and four deals with steps taken by David.  The value in learning what he did is to be able to emulate his steps when we need to have the joy of God's salvation restored.

Four Admissions
David faced himself and admitted four things which helped him.

A.    He admitted, first, that he had kept silent about his sins.  One of the tendencies all of us have is to keep silent about our sins.  There is no doubt that David, the sweet singer of Israel and the man after God's own heart, went on to the tabernacle, played his harp artistically, and sang beautifully.  One can almost hear the worshipers saying, "Listen to our King sing.  No one sings or plays his harp like David."  But all along, David was miserable.  He knew he wasn't right with God.  He just kept silent about it.
B.    Second, he admitted that his body hurt--which is universally true. When God's child walks out of fellowship with God, he doesn't feel well.  In the area of psychology and counseling, frequently the results of guilt are manifested physically.  Some even become physically ill with no organic cause.
C.    Then, third, David admitted that God's hand was heavy on him day and night.   If you are a Christian and you get in a shape like David, God will not let you be satisfied.  He chastises us as he did David
D.    Fourth, the moisture dried up in his mouth.  His mouth felt like cotton.
There is little possibility of having joy restored until we are willing to face our condition head on.  It is then that we can do something about our sins. 
We can ask, "David, what did you do to get your joy back?" and the answer is in verse five.

Action Taken
We are now ready to deal with the action David took, which is quite clear, which brought him joy with the heavy load of guilt lifted.  Let's look at what he said very carefully: "I acknowledged my sin unto Thee; mine iniquity have I not hid.  I said I would confess my transgressions unto the Lord.  Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin."
Do you see what David did?  He acknowledged his sin.  That is very, very important.  This came after he faced himself and admitted the four things.  He acknowledged his sin unto the Lord--He is the one we have to do business with.  David confessed.
Now what does the word confessed mean?  Listen carefully, because many can quote 1 John 1:9 who do not know what it means to confess.  "If we confess our sins."  Confess means literally to say the same thing that God has said about our sins, to agree with God.  If there is something in your life and your personality which is not right and you confess--you say, "God I agree that this should not be in my life"
What about gossiping?  One lady came to Uncle Bud Robinson's service--the old Nazarene preacher of bygone days whom God used to build that denomination.  Uncle Bud had preached and God has blessed his message and people were responding.  She came to say to Uncle Bud" "I've come to put my tongue on the altar."  Those present said that he didn't say anything immediately, but looked to the right and to the left in deep thought.  He had a little speech impediment and did not talk too plain.  He said, "Praise the Lord, Sister.  You've done the right thing to bring your tongue to lay on the altar.  Now the altar is only eighteen foot wide, but you put as much as you can on it."   You see a lot of God's people are using their tongues wrongly.  That's sin.  Gossiping.  Taking care of everyone else's business, but one's own.
What about habits?  What you see, what you do, what you put into your body.  I always tell people that I know God did not intend for anybody to smoke cigarettes, cigars, pot, pipe.  If He had wanted our nostrils to have been stovepipes, He would have turned them up the other way.  That's plain, isn't it?  The old mountain preacher down in East Tennessee told his folks, "When you come into the meeting house, leave your tobacco and snuff on the steps.  I guarantee you neither hogs nor dogs will bother it."
Now some of you felt good because you don't have a tobacco problem, but what about overeating?  What about failing to witness, to pray, to read the Bible, and to give?
One by one--as the Holy Spirit brings things you are doing and things you are not doing that you should be doing--confession takes place.  Confession means that you agree with God.  Repentance means you change your mind and do the opposite.  You turn and go in another direction.  That is what David did.
Now, what were the consequences of this?  David tells us in verses seven and eleven.

Evidences of Joy
David shared that he was surrounded with songs of deliverance and that he shouted for joy.  The joy bells were ringing in his soul.  "Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance."   Let me ask you about your walk with the Lord.  If you want to whistle a song, what do you whistle.  David said, "You surrounded me with songs of deliverance."  Songs of salvation!  Then in verse eleven, he said, "Be glad in the Lord.  Rejoice you righteous and shout for joy."  David had the joy of the Lord.

Three Promises   
Then, God said, "David, now that you are clean and have the joy of the Lord, I am going to do some things for you.  I'm going to do three things for you."  This is in verse eight.

    1.    The first thing God said was, "I will instruct thee."  Now that word instruct means simply this--"I will enable you to behave yourself wisely."  The Hebrew word instruct is in the sense of giving the information you need to behave yourself wisely.  Do you ever need to know how to behave yourself wisely--mothers, fathers, young people, children?
    2.    Second, He said, "I'll teach thee in the way you ought to go."  The word teach can mean, and I believe it means it here, POINT OUT WITH MY FINGER the way you ought to go.  Do you ever come to a crossroads or a fork in the road and you want to know which direction to go?  God says, "You keep your sins taken care of and I will point out with My finger the way you ought to go."
    3.    The third thing is really precious:  "I'll guide you with My eye."  In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God says, "If My people--the ones who are called by My name--shall humble themselves and pray and SEEK MY FACE."  You can be so close to the Lord that the Lord says, "I'll just guide you with my eye."  You'll sense the direction that God wants you to go.
Down in the South is a family which enjoys having guests in their home.  There are two teen-age daughters who wait on the table while their mother sits at the table.  These girls are so good at waiting on the table that when hot rolls are needed, they are there with the hot rolls.  When the beverage needs to be replenished, they are there.  People marvel and wonder how they do it.  The secret is simple.  They just practiced following their mother's eyes and she guides them with her eyes.  The Lord said, "Look, if you are in a position to have nothing between you and Me in the way of sin, I will even guide you with My eyes."

The Warning
Well, then, there is a warning here in verse nine.  Having come out of the mountains, I find that Christians I know need to have the warning.  "Don't you be like the horse or like the mule which have no understanding, whose mouth must be held in with bit or bridle." 
If you belong to the Lord, don't be like the horse which rushes its own way impulsively or don't be like the  mule and be stubborn with what God is wanting to do in your life.  Don't force God to put the bit and bridle on you.  Do the will of  God.
What is the will of God?  Paul tells us in Ephesians 5, and he uses the analogy of the horse and mule-the dumb animals.  He tells us in verses sixteen and seventeen, that we can know what the will of God is.  Then in verse eighteen, he tells us what the will of God is: "Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit."  The question is what is the filling of the Spirit.
There are some people who will tell you that you speak in tongues.  That is not the teaching of the Word of God.  What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit?
The analogy is between a drunk person and a Spirit-filled person.  What does the drink do  to the person?  It controls him.  His speech changes.  His walk changes.  He is under the influence of the strong drink.  What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit?  It means to be controlled by the Spirit.
How do you get into a position to be controlled by the Spirit?  You have got to deal with the sins that are in your life.  Let me suggest how to do that.
As soon as you have your sins forgiven and cleansed, put the Holy Spirit--who came in you the very moment you were saved--in the driver's seat of your life.  That's the will of God--not to have the Holy Spirit merely resident, but to have Him president, on the control seat.  Every life has a control seat.  Doesn't the Holy Spirit sit there all the time?  No, indeed He doesn't. 
Billy Graham, Bill Bright, Bertha Smith and a host of godly leaders and speakers have concluded that ninety-five out of one hundred born-again Christians are carnal with self in control, not the Holy Spirit.  Self is in control.  How about you today?  Do you have that joy of the Lord?  Could it be that you have allowed self to dominate?  Could it be that is your position today?  Therefore, you don't have happiness.  You don't have joy.  But you would like to have the joy.  You would like to go out of the house knowing that God has met with you today.
Just bow your heart and let me ask you two questions.  Can you raise your hand and say to me that you understood the message?  Is He dealing with you personally?  Has He spoken to you directly?  Will you commit yourself to walk in the Spirit and not the flesh? 
I was on WFME Prayer Time this week.  One of the saddest things I have ever seen was a 3 x 5 card.  Someone had typed in red and put an exclamation point at the end of the sentence.  This is what the person said:  "I hate life."  Oh, how sad.
You see our Lord wants to make a change in us all.  He said, "I have come that you might have abundant life."  Why don't you just go to Him today.  If the Holy Spirit has convicted you of things in your life that are not right, why don't you confess them to the Lord this morning and go out of this house letting the Holy Spirit sit in the driver's seat.
If you are here and you are not a Christian, you can't be happy--like I have been talking about--because there is a God-shaped vacuum in your personality that only God can fill.  Why don't you let God come into your life today by acknowledging Jesus Christ as your Savior by an act of faith?

Make your decision today.  Rededicate your life or receive Jesus as your Savior.

Let us pray. 

"Now, Father, through Jesus, we come before you to ask you to move in such a way that this message can  be meaningful to every reader.  If there is someone who is unsaved, let him know that a person who is unsaved is in a dangerous position because You have said that we don't even have a promise of tomorrow.  I know that this time could be the difference in Heaven or Hell for somebody.  O God, please take this time and through the Holy Spirit's conviction, let those who need to be saved be conscious of You and what You have done.  I pray that each will be willing to say, "Lord, I trust You as my Savior.  I am accepting You and will share with someone else what I am doing.  If someone asks me if I am a Christian, I can say, Yes, because I have accepted Jesus.  Lord, whatever it is that needs to be done, may it be done.  In Jesus' Name. Amen."

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