Despite all our best efforts, despite all our knowledge, we still sin. Despite the Lord Jesus dying on the cross to condemn sin in the flesh (Rom. 8:3), we still sin. Even despite meditating on God's Word and on His love for us, and despite our cultivating a love for the Lord, we still sin. So then what?
Psalm 6 describes someone in this situation, and we can be encouraged by it.
1: O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath.
(First, a distinction by observation in this verse: anger is expressed in a rebuke by words; wrath is expressed in discipline, probably some circumstantial happenings.)
O Lord, please don't treat me as I deserve for my sin. I deserve rebuke and discipline, and I confess your right to discipline because I confess my sin as sin against you.
2: Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.
Instead of harsh treatment, please be gracious to me! Let me off the hook, O Lord, for I am weak and losing heart. I want the same end of purity that you want for me, but I am so weak. My sins already have troubled my strength. I have lost my buttressing against the force of sin in my life. I am near to being destroyed by it. I am near to giving up. I languish. My bones are troubled. If you would rebuke me or discipline me, will I not break completely? Let the bones you have broken rejoice. Do not quench a poorly-burning wick nor break an already bruised reed! (Psalm 51:8, Isaiah 42:3)
My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord—how long?
It is very distressing to me that I can't stay away from sin. I try and I try and I try, but my ability is gone. Will you cast off one who doesn't have the ability to obey your will of holiness? How long will this situation persist in my soul? How long will I languish in my weakness toward sin? O Lord, will you deliver me? How long till I see such a deliverance?
4: Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love.
Instead of wrath, please turn and be gracious. Deliver me, I pray! May my life be used to praise you. Save me from this path. Surely you will, because you are love, right? You don't delight in the death of the wicked, but that all should turn from their sins and be saved. May I please see that in my life, according to your steadfast love?
5: For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?
Because, Lord, if I am not delivered, I will just continue worse and worse in sins. Deadness will grow in my soul and then what praise will I ever be able to offer you? If I am wallowing in my sins, I will never think to lift up praise to you. The sinful world doesn't praise you, and if I am left alone or not delivered, neither will I think of you.
6: I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.
I am so tired of my sins. Every time I sin I moan with despair. Why should I fall again, after you had saved me? Why should I continue in sin, seeing I am dead to it? This causes me frustration and grief. Tears flood my eyes as I think of how hopeless my situation is. At night I am ashamed of how I behaved during the day. Even during waking hours I remember how sinfully I have behaved. Is there no help? I am weary of this repeated pattern of sins!
7: My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.
My singularity of purpose toward you is compromised. Like a cataract, my sins cloud my vision of you. Where once I purposed to set my eyes on you, I am now distracted. As grief fills me because of my wayward behavior, I am appalled and seem only to see my sinful self now, which only causes me more despair. Any resolve I once had to seek you alone is weak, like a distant memory. Now in my current state it seems there's no way out. My own effort has left me defeated, and I feel overwhelmed, stupid, and worthless.
8: Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
O that the part of me that works evil would be gone. Depart from me, sin which dwells in me! I don't want any of your influence in my life any more! (Romans 7:20) But this is not just a vain wish. I can have every confidence to command this, because the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
Even when I don't have words to say, when my heart just pours out in bitter tears; even when I feel like God doesn't hear, as though my heart cry is stopped by the ceiling—the Lord hears the sound of my weeping. He hears the sobs of grief, frustration, and hopelessness.
9: The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer.
I did not only weep, I pled my cause to the King. If God doesn't just respond to my weeping, can I put into words what I want Him to do? I am desperate enough to importune Him. I addressed Him in prayer, asking urgently for favor.
He did not stop his ears, nor turn his back to me. He did not reject my desires nor cut me off. He didn't avoid or belittle me, nor discount my need. He didn't ignore me. He wasn't insensitive to my need, nor unsupportive. I was not rejected. The Lord accepted
my prayer. It was enough to communicate to Him my need and the cry of my heart, and he accepts it. That is good enough for Him to act. I don't have to be perfect, I don't have to clean up my act first. He wants to be asked, and then He says, "What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?" (Luke 18:41)
All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.
Sin left me ashamed. I could not lift my eyes to heaven. I could not praise God. The guilt of sinning, all the while knowing to do better, left me only ashamed of myself. I was greatly troubled in my soul about this state. Who would deliver me? I felt I was turning back from following God. I was put to shame by my sinful behavior. How could God ever love me? How could anyone ever love me?
My enemy seemed to be myself. I could not do the good that I truly wanted to do (Rom 7:19). The world also is arrayed as my enemy. It's values are paraded before me in advertisements, television, shopping malls, and conversations. Every sight and sound speaks seducingly to the sinful bent within me. And when I feel I may be doing okay, it seems out of nowhere negative thoughts arise, or reminders and memories of past sins, again tempting me. Satan, as a roaring lion, seeks to devour my soul.
But all these enemies will experience the feelings they made me feel. They shall be ashamed. For God rebukes them for troubling me. He has accepted me into His victory over them and they shall be ashamed they ever bothered me. More than that they shall be greatly troubled, for God will discipline them in His wrath. The tempter-accuser, Satan, will be vanquished forever (Rev 20:10). The world and its works shall be burned up (2 Peter 3:9, 1 John 2:17). But what about the enemy within me? How is my sinful bent turned back and put to shame?
- God condemned sin in my flesh by Jesus' death on the cross. There is a death sentence on the sinfulness within me.
- Being baptized into Christ Jesus, I have been united with Him in his death and resurrection. Identification with His death has set me free from sin which enslaved me. Identification with His resurrection means I now have the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit at work in me so that I can be enslaved to righteousness instead.
- Now it's to some measure up to me: what will I set my mind upon and whose service will I yield my body to? Be careful that you don't yield to sin, or you will find a kind of enslavement to it again. (Romans 6:3-18, 8:10-11, Ephesians 1:19)
How gracious is God, that our groanings matter to him, and he collects every one of our tears in a bottle, as it were, recording our miseries
(Psalm 56:8). He has promised to continually work on us to make us like
Christ, therefore we can bank on his steadfast love, deliverance from
sin in our lives, and increased sanctification!