“I’ll never be who God is wanting me to be.”
It’s easy to set standards for ourselves and live up to them. It’s also easy to accept God’s standards and pretend that we are living up to them. What is not easy is accepting God’s standards for holy living while recognizing how often we fall short of fulfilling them.
It’s gut-wrenching to know in your heart how much God has done (and is doing) to ensure your complete success and then see all we do to confound His will.
I’m not one who effortlessly produces excuses for my failures in measuring up to holiness. I know better. My sins are not God’s fault. Nor are they my wife’s fault. Nor are they my kids’ fault or my parents’ fault or my employer’s fault or the liberals’ fault or the world’s fault. They’re mine and only mine.
But I do have some Adam in me. I blame God indirectly (even though I know that He knows it is really a direct accusation). Do you remember Adam’s response when confronted with his sin? “The woman whom you gave to be with me…” (Genesis 3:12). It is so easy to revert to this when I fail and say, “The standard you have set for me is too incredibly high! I’m certainly not Jesus and I’m not on the level of the apostles or martyrs. I’m not a Martin Luther, a John Wesley, or a Billy Graham. How can you expect me not just to strive for holiness but to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48)? I just want to cry out when I sin “Well, what did you expect!?” Then comes the self-abasement as I wonder which ring in Dante’s Inferno I will be assigned to when I die.
And that is when, invariably, I think of King David.
He is one of my favorite characters in the entire Bible. It’s not because I think I am as important to my nation as he was to his. I’ve never slain a giant (proverbial or otherwise), cannot play a musical instrument of any kind, and couldn’t even get a couple of rural churches with flagging attendance to merge into a single healthy congregation, much less unite two kingdoms like David did.
I don’t seem to have much in common with King David at all. Then why look up to him and endeavor to be like him?
To begin with, when Samuel told Saul that his unlawful sacrifice would cost him the kingdom he followed it up with,
But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be prince over his people…(1Samuel 13:14).
That “man” turned out to be David who had not done anything notable at that point. Yet God saw in him “a man after his own heart.” Obviously, God saw greatness in David. To the point that His own Son would often be referred to as “son of David” (18 times in the New Testament). But God’s omniscience also saw all of David’s foibles and faults. Those include lust, immorality, adultery, conspiracy, and murder. How could that kind of man be said to have a heart that impressed God?
Probably because when confronted with his sin(s) rather than deny them or excuse them or attempt to justify them (as his predecessor King Saul did) David responded to his accuser Nathan the prophet,
I have sinned against the LORD (2 Samuel 12:13).
Kings are not supposed to be harassed about their behavior. Kings are supposed to get what they want when they want, and from whom they want…without question or hesitation. Yet this king didn’t seem to pause for a second in acknowledging his sin(s). He didn’t blame Bathsheba, her husband Uriah, or his general Joab. He unhesitatingly took full responsibility for what he had done and to whom it was done.
Maybe that is what it means to have a heart after God.
Scholars tell us that Psalm 51 was written by David shortly after his encounter with Nathan and subsequent confession. I urge you to read it in its entirety (it is only 19 verses). Look at his confession:
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me (v.3)…
[I have] done what is evil in your sight (v.4)
Where has this gone in the body of Christ? I have counseled many people over my 36 years in the ministry who were guilty of some of the things David was. I cannot remember a single time when the guilty took full responsibility for their sin(s). “My husband wasn’t paying enough attention to me.” “My wife was always tired and moody.” “I figured God was okay with it since we first met in church and my spouse was living for the devil anyway. At least now I’ve got someone who goes to church.”
I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Look in the psalm at how David acknowledges being tainted and stained by his willful sin:
[B]lot out my transgressions (v.1).
Wash me…and cleanse me from my sin! (v.2)
Purge me…wash me (v.7).
Finally, look at what he craves from God. It’s not understanding or even acceptance. Quite frankly, it’s gut-wrenching:
Have mercy on me, O God (v.1).
Hide your face from my sins (v.9).
Create in me a clean heart (v. 10).
Cast me not away from your presence (v.11).
Restore to me the joy of your salvation (v. 12).
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness (v.14).
Here was a man who spoke to God as he knew God saw him.
This is why I love reading about David. He didn’t use his achievements as a buffer between himself and God. Nor did he allow himself to be deluded by all the people who lauded and praised him (“Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands” 1 Samuel 18:7). When that prophet stuck his finger in David’s face saying, “Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight?” (2 Samuel 12:9), David didn’t run from it, excuse it, or politicize it. He simply agreed: “I have sinned against the LORD.”
David gives me hope. If someone of his status and proverbial stature could own his sins and after confessing and repenting could keep moving on…then maybe I can. Maybe you can. Maybe we all can.
I’m not a king, or a giant slayer, or a great uniter. I’m just me. But “just me” already has vastly more than David could even dream of. I have the finished work of Jesus Christ on my behalf. I have access to Pentecost. I have the testimony of the apostles in the New Testament. I have the living and ongoing witness of century after century of Christian martyrs and theologians and saints who refused to let Satan claim this world and its people as his own.
If David, with all his foibles and faults, could keep chugging along with God by virtue of his brutally honest introspection and confession(s) then I can too. If a king can be honest about his sins then so can a peasant. Me.
We seem to be losing the culture war and there is no good reason for it. Men and women are bowing out in droves because they failed. They failed themselves. They failed God. Maybe they failed their spouses and/or their children. Rather than admitting their sins and crying out to God for a clean heart and a renewed spirit and moving forward like David, they quit. And Satan cheers and the world grows darker.
Stop looking out the window at the consequence of your sins and start looking inside so that God can clean this mess up. Confess your sins. Appeal to God’s mercy and ask Him to cleanse you (Psalm 51: 2; 7; 14 & 1John 1:9). And then get back in the fight. That’s what it means to be a man (or woman) after God’s own heart!