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When you can't forgive yourself for what you've done

Back to all sermons The Life of David

Date: May 5, 2019

Speaker: Eric Stillman

Series: The Life of David

Scripture: Psalm 51:1–51:19

This morning, we are continuing through the life of David as recorded in the Old Testament books of 1 and 2 Samuel. Last week was a major turning point in David’s life, and if you were not here, I strongly encourage you to listen to it. Essentially, David has been king for a while, and as often happens when we find ourselves in positions of power and comfort, he begins to become complacent in his relationship with God. One evening while walking on the roof of his palace, he sees a woman bathing. He desires her, even when he finds out that she is the wife of one of his closest friends, a man named Uriah who happens to be off to war. He sleeps with her, impregnates her, and then to cover it up, David has her husband killed in battle. But God confronts David through Nathan the prophet about this. As part of his rebuke, he says:

 

2 Samuel 12:9-12 - Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.  10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.'  11 "This is what the LORD says: 'Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight.  12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.'"

 

God tells David that as a result of his sin, things are going to go badly for him and his family. Let me summarize the next few chapters. Chapter 13 begins with Amnon, one of David’s son, lusting after Tamar, his half-sister, David’s son by another woman. Remember that David, against God’s commands, had taken multiple wives and concubines. Polygamy never goes well in the Bible, and David’s case is no exception. Amnon deceives Tamar, rapes her, and his lust turns into intense hatred for her. David finds out about what Amnon has done and is angry, but does nothing about it, perhaps because his own infidelity and murder has left him unable to act with conviction towards others immorality.

 

Inevitably, Tamar’s brother Absalom finds out what has happened, and after two years of plotting, Absalom has his half-brother Amnon murdered. Out of fear for his life, Absalom flees from Jerusalem and stays in hiding for three years. Eventually David allows Absalom to return to Jerusalem, but King David will not allow Absalom to enter his presence or be forgiven. Eventually, out of his resentment, Absalom begins to steal the hearts of the people away from his father, and conspires to take the throne from him. Even David’s prophetic counsel, Ahithophel, leaves him for Absalom, but eventually kills himself when Absalom refuses to follow his advice. As a result, once again David has to flee from Jerusalem. Absalom and his armies chase after David, but in ch. 18, Absalom is killed. David is safe and can return to the throne, but he is devastated at the death of his son.

 

Just think about what came about as a result of David’s decision to commit adultery and murder: rape, incest, murder, suicide, betrayal, insurrection, war, and exile. Remember again what God said to David: 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.' 

 

There is a lot to learn in this passage about suffering. David suffers because of what he has done and because of what others have done, but most notably, others suffer because of the sins of David. David is humbled, and at times devastated by the suffering that has come about due to his sins:

 

2 Samuel 19:4 - The king covered his face and cried aloud, "O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!"

 

How do we handle the suffering that we cause to others? How do we deal with the guilt so that it does not crush us? Being a pastor’s family. Abortion, divorce, children, employees.

 

The closest we get to seeing how David handles it is Psalm 51, which he writes after being confronted by Nathan over his sins:

 

Psalm 51:1-19 - When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.  2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.  3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.  4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.  5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.  6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.  7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.  8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.  9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.  10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.  13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.  14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.  15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.  16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.  17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.  18 In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem.  19 Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar. 

 

  • Repent and receive the Lord’s forgiveness.

 

Psalm 51 begins with these lines: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.  2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

 

And further on, in v. 10-12:

 

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. 

 

In the passage we read last week, we see David’s repentance and God’s mercy towards him:

 

2 Samuel 12:13 - Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." Nathan replied, "The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.

 

Repentance is a churchy word, so let me define it for you:

 

Shubh (Heb) – A radical change in one’s attitude toward sin and God. It implies a conscious, moral separation, and a personal decision to forsake sin and to enter into fellowship with God.

 

Metamelomai (Grk) – To have a feeling of care, concern, or regret

 

Metanoeo (Grk) – To change the opinion or purpose with regard to sin; to turn one’s will from sin to God

 

You see here three aspects to repentance: emotion, mind, and will. Repentance involves sorrow for sin, a changing of mind as to sin and God, and a decision to turn from sin towards faith and obedience. And when we repent, God forgives:

 

1 John 1:9-10 - If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

 

The first way to deal with our guilt is repent and receive the Lord’s forgiveness.

 

As the recovery movement puts it, undertake a fearless moral inventory of yourself:

 

Psalm 139:23-24 - Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting

 

  • Find your identity in the Lord

 

5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.  6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.  7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 

 

You may have heard, or said to yourself, “I can’t forgive myself for what I’ve done.” You can repent but still not feel forgiven. There is lots of noise in therapeutic circles about forgiving yourself, about showing yourself self-compassion. That idea is close, but not accurate. The Bible doesn’t talk about forgiving yourself. A better way to phrase it would be “believing that you are forgiven.” Struggling to believe that you are forgiven brings to mind this passage:

 

2 Corinthians 7:8-10 - Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it-- I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while--  9 yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us.  10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

 

There is godly sorrow that leads to repentance and life, and worldly sorrow that leads to death. Godly sorrow leads us to confess, repent, and receive God’s forgiveness, and we may end up better for it because of our experience of His grace. Worldly sorrow, on the other hand, does not bring life to us. We can’t receive forgiveness. We can’t get over our disappointment at not being better than we are. We can’t get past the pain we have caused to others. Paul knew something of this:

 

Romans 7:15-25 - I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do-- this I keep on doing.  20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.  21 So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  22 For in my inner being I delight in God's law;  23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.  24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?  25 Thanks be to God-- through Jesus Christ our Lord!

 

He didn’t understand his inability to overcome his sin, but in the end he trusted in Christ’s forgiveness. The world tells you to show yourself compassion. You’re human. You’re not perfect. You make mistakes. I think there’s a better way. In the end, the best place to be is not to rely on your own judgment of yourself. You may judge or condemn yourself. Or you may be compassionate towards yourself, but others may judge or condemn you. A better place to be is resting in how God sees you:

 

1 Corinthians 4:3-4 -  I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.  4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.

 

Look at Paul – it’s not about my judgment of myself or anyone else’s. It’s about His judgment. And when you are forgiven by God, this is how He sees you:

 

Romans 8:1-4 - Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,  2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.  3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man,  4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

 

No condemnation.

 

2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

 

A new creation. That is the safest place to be, to rest in His view of you. A sinner saved by grace. His adopted, beloved child.

 

The answer is not in forgiving yourself but in repenting and then believing in God’s forgiveness of you.

 

  • Apologize to those you have wronged

 

Make amends to those we have wronged. We don’t have record of David making amends. But we do have Jesus’ words:

 

Matthew 5:23-24 - "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,  24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

 

Before you go to worship, get right with those you have wronged. They may not forgive you, but if you are resting in how God sees you, then you can be okay. If you’ve received the Lord’s forgiveness and are resting in His appraisal of you, then you are at a better place to apologize, because you don’t need to defend yourself or argue, and your identity won’t depend upon whether or not they forgive you.

 

How do you apologize? Here are the Seven A’s of confession by Ken Sande:

 

1) Address everyone involved – confess to God first, then anyone involved and affected by the sin

 

2) Avoid if, but and maybe – no qualifiers.  They erase every other word, and it becomes blame-shifting.  “I’m sorry if you were offended” is not an apology.  Nor is “I’m sorry I said those mean words, but you really pushed me to it.”

 

3) Admit specifically – sorry about what?  Not just actions but also attitudes.  This shows that you understand where the other person is coming from and how you have hurt them.

 

4) Accept the consequences – you may be forgiven, but there may also still be consequences to your actions.

 

5) Alter your behavior – make a commitment to change your behavior.  We will not be perfect, but we will show the sincerity of our confession by being earnest about changing our behavior.  You can even list the actions you will take to remedy the offense

 

6) Ask forgiveness – don’t just say I’m sorry, but ask for forgiveness.

 

7) Allow time – God forgives immediately.  Humans do not.  Allow the offended person time.  I can not demand that someone forgive me.

 

James 5:16 - Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

 

  • Trust that God can bring good out of all of it

 

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.  14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.  15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.

 

Amazingly, with as awful as David’s sins were, by the end of this Psalm he has received God’s forgiveness and is ready to praise him and use what has happened to teach others the ways of the Lord. If you have a hard time forgiving yourself or receiving the Lord’s forgiveness, remember that it is not the end of the story. God can use even the terrible things we have done to others as part of our testimony or instruction to others.

 

Romans 8:28-29 - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

 

In David’s case, the next baby born to him and Bathsheba is Solomon, the next king and the one through whom Jesus will eventually come. And there are others whose sins or mistakes caused others to suffer but for whom God worked good out of it. Peter denied Jesus but eventually became the leader of the church. Paul persecutes Christians but eventually becomes the foremost evangelist. Trust in the Lord and believe that he can bring good out of anything you have done.