The Heart You Know and the Heart You Don't
But who can discern his errors? Clear thou me from hidden faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
As we prepare to eat the Lord's Supper this morning, I want to ask this question: How do you deal with sin in your life if you love God? You can hear my assumption, can't you—namely, that those of us who love God, and delight in his ways and love his Word and cherish his fellowship and stand in awe of his greatness and rest in his kindness—we still sin, and we must deal with it? That's what this text is about, and that's what the Lord's Supper is about.
We Still Sin and We Must Deal with It
The reason I think that's what this text is about is that David tells us how much he loves God's Word before he tells us how he deals with sin in his life. In verses 9b–10 he says, "The ordinances of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb." David loves God. He loves him so much that when God speaks to him, even when he speaks commands and ordinances, David feels like a man who hears the news that he has just inherited millions of dollars' worth of gold, much fine gold. He feels like he is tasting something sweeter than the sweetest thing he could think of, sweeter than honey and drippings from the honeycomb. This is no mere intellectual kind of commitment to the Bible; this is a love affair with God: to hear him feels better than honeydew melon and hot corn on the cob with butter and salt and Italian sausage pizza and Butterfinger Blizzards. David loves God with all his heart and soul and mind and strength.
But that does not mean there is no sin in his life. Instead it means that he must—and we must—find a way to deal with the sin that remains and the sin that threatens. So I am going to speak to you this morning as people who love God. And I want to try to show you from verses 12 and 13 a framework for dealing with sin in your life.
Everyone who belongs to Christ needs to understand two things. First, we need to understand that loving God is the evidence that he has called us into his family, and that he is working everything in our lives together for good. Romans 8:28—"God works all things together for good for those who love him and who are called according to his purpose." Know this: your love for God shows that you have been called powerfully into his family, and therefore God is working everything together for your good.
The other thing we all need to understand is that loving God like this, and being called, and having him work all things for our good does not mean there is no longer sin to deal with in our lives. We must know how to deal with sin, even though we are called, and we love him, and he is at work in us for our good all the time. If we don't learn this, we will be much more vulnerable to Satan's accusations and to our own despairing tendencies.
Two Ways of Sinning
What David says in verses 12 and 13 is that there are two ways of sinning. And he shows us his primary way of dealing with each of these two ways of sinning.
The First Way of Sinning
The first way to sin is described in verse 12, "Who can discern his errors? Clear thou me from hidden faults." This way of sinning has two characteristics. First, it's baffling. That's what David means when he says, "Who can discern his errors?" Who can get to the bottom of his own sinning? Who can fathom the tangled web of self-deceit? There is a way of sinning that simply baffles us. We look at ourselves in the mirror and we say, "I don't know you. You baffle me."
And the second characteristic of this first way of sinning in verse 12 is that the sinfulness of it is often hidden from us. "Who can discern his errors? Clear thou me of hidden faults." Hidden. This doesn't mean hidden from others, like some secret lie or lust or theft that you know full well but others don't. That's not the point. The point is signaled by, "Who can discern his errors?" Our errors are often hidden from ourselves. NOT in the sense that we don't know the action we did, but we don't feel the sinfulness of it. We just don't see our sin as sin. We know what we said. We know what we did. But we are blind to the sinfulness of it. We puff our own selves up; we hurt others; and we detract from the Lord's glory. And we are often oblivious—at least for a while.
There are different reasons why this might be the case for different people or different sins.
One is that we simply may not yet have been taught clearly from Scripture that what we are doing is wrong. But when we are shown how inconsistent it is with faith in Christ, we recognize it and start to fight it.
Another reason may be that we have acted or spoken in a sinful pattern so long and so successfully that even when someone shows us from Scripture that it's wrong, we just can't see it. It is too much a part of us. The sinfulness is hidden by a sense of naturalness and at-homeness with sin.
Or, perhaps most common among those who love God, is the situation where you know an act or an attitude or a way of communicating is sinful, but it has become so much a part of you over the years that it comes out before you realize it and it may be a moment or an hour or a day or a week before the Holy Spirit pricks your conscience so that you say remorsefully with Paul, "I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do." And you are broken and contrite before the Lord seeking his mercy.
That's the first way of sinning: you are baffled by it and the act or attitude or word sneaks up on you because its sinfulness is somehow hidden from the eyes of your heart for a time.
The Second Way of Sinning
The second way of sinning comes out in verse 13. "Keep back your servant from presumptuous sins." So David sees a difference between, on the one hand, sins that we commit because they baffle us and sneak up on us, and on the other hand, sins that we commit because we presume to know better than God or presume that sin is no big deal. The point is not that there is a special category of extra-bad sins, like murder, rape, treason, etc. The point is that there is a special category of sinning—namely, sinning in arrogant defiance of a known law. It's not so much what you do that puts sinning in this category as whether you do it with forethought and defiance and rebellion. This is what David calls presumptuous sins. They are fully intentional, with our eyes open, and with a heart that says, "I know God says this is wrong and harmful, but I just don't care what God thinks; I'm going to do it anyway."
How Do We Deal with These Kinds of Sinning?
I think we all know the difference between these two kinds of sinning. Now the question is, How do people who love God deal with sins like this?
The Key in the Way David Prays
The way David prays here is the clue to how we deal with these two kinds of sinning. He prays about the first kind by saying in verse 12, "Clear thou me from hidden faults." The word "clear" means "acquit me, render me guiltless, forgive me." Or, as the apostle Paul would say, "Justify me, reckon me righteous, do not impute my baffling, hidden sinfulness to me, cancel it out, let it go."
But he prays differently about the second kind of sinning. He prays in verse 13, "Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me." This is not a prayer for forgiveness and acquittal of baffling sins already committed; it's a prayer for power not to commit the presumptuous sin.
Praying for Pardon and Power
Remember the difference with two "p's": the first prayer is a prayer for pardon; the second a prayer for power. Pardon for sins committed, and power not to commit sins. Or remember the difference with two "f's": forgiveness and fullness. Forgiveness for sins committed, and fullness of strength and resolve and joy not to sin.
Now let's be very careful with the text. I want to avoid a misunderstanding of what I have said. The text does not say that we shouldn't pray for power over baffling sins and hidden faults. And the text does not say that we shouldn't pray for pardon for a presumptuous sin we commit and later feel remorse for. We know that we should pray for power over the baffling hiddenness of our remaining sinfulness. And we know that we should pray for pardon if we have passed through a time of rebellion and presumption and now feel broken and contrite.
Two Things David Is Telling Us in Praying This Way
So I am not saying that you only pray for pardon for baffling, hidden sinfulness that sneaks up on you; and I am not saying that you only pray for power over presumptuous sins. But I think David is telling us something about ourselves in focusing pardon on the hidden faults and power on the presumptuous sins. And here is what I think he is telling us. Two things:
First, he is saying that as long as we live, the old sinful nature (that has been crucified with Christ and should be reckoned dead) is going to continue to baffle us and at times frustrate us and anger us by sneaking up on us and causing us to do things and say things and feel things that we don't really mean and don't plan and hate as soon as we recognize them. Therefore pardon is utterly indispensable for a life of joy and hope and peace. We must believe that these sins are covered and forgiven when we pray, "Clear thou me of hidden faults."
Second, he is saying that we must and we can get victory over presumptuous sins, even while we go on wrestling with baffling corruption. Therefore the focus here is on praying for power: "Keep back your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me." I believe we can experience complete triumph over presumptuous sin, and that presumptuous sinning must cease to be the characteristic of our lives. God calls us to this. He gives us the power for it through the Holy Spirit.
What the Lord's Supper Is All About
He purchased both the pardon and the power by the shedding of his Son's blood. That is what the Lord's Supper is all about, and to that we turn. And as we do, I invite you to pray together by singing hymn 425, verses 1 and 2.
Search me, O God, and know my heart today;
I praise Thee, Lord, for cleansing me from sin;
Try me, O Savior, know my thoughts, I pray.
Fulfill thy Word and make me pure within.
See if there be some wicked way in me;
Fill me with fire, where once I burned with shame;
Cleanse me from every sin, and set me free.
(Cleanse Me, by Edwin Orr)