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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Sorrow for Sin and Comfort from Christ
Text:Psalms 119:25-32 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ
 
Preached:2018
Added:2020-07-08
Updated:2020-10-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


 
Pastor Ted Gray
06/10/2018 - p.m.
“Sorrow for Sin and Comfort from Christ”
Psalm 119:25-32
 
You probably noticed the letter “Daleth” above this stanza. The Hebrew letter “Daleth” is equivalent to our “D.”  Each verse of these eight verses in the original Hebrew began with the letter Daleth, the letter “D.”  (Psalm 119 is an acrostic Psalm, that is, each stanza uses the same letter for the first line of each verse within that stanza).
 
It was Charles Haddon Spurgeon, in his commentary on the Psalms, The Treasury of David, who pointed out, “This portion has “D” for its alphabetical letter: It sings of Depression, in the spirit of Devotion, Determination, and Dependence.” That is a good way to outline this stanza: Depression, Devotion, Determination, and Dependence.   
 
The depression of the Psalmist is evident from the opening line. He writes: “I am laid low in the dust.” Admittedly, to be laid low in the dust is an unusual concept for us, but in the Mideast back in Old Testament times, it was customary to show your sorrow by covering yourself with dust. For instance, when Job’s friends saw him from a distance, after Job had lost everything he had and was afflicted with painful boils, Job 2:12 describes how “they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads.”            
 
What brought such deep sorrow on the human author of this Psalm? Without doubt it was sorrow over sin. For a true child of God nothing brings more sorrow than sorrow over sin. You might lose your job, and that hurts. But it may also bring you closer to the Lord as you lean on Him and are encouraged and helped by His people.  
 
You may lose your health and feel the pain of a failing body, and yet also be drawn closer to the Lord as you recount the promises of His Word to be with you to the very end, as He promises in Isaiah 46:4, “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you.”
 
You may lose a loved one to death and yet know the peace that surpasses all understanding as you rest in the care of the God of all comfort, the God of compassion who knows what it is like to weep at the tomb of a loved one.     
 
Those sorrows are a part of life and are painful and sharp. But there is no sorrow that brings a heavier heart to a Christian than sorrow over sin.  David wrote about that in Psalm 32:3-4:
 
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
    my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
 I acknowledged my sin to You,
    and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
    and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
 
It is that type of sorrow that the Psalmist is expressing here. He is truly sorry – depressed in the outline Spurgeon used – that he would transgress the laws of God, that he would grieve the Holy Spirit who dwells within, that he, by his sin, would take lightly the shed blood of his Savior – “the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world” (Rev. 13:8) – and trample on the grace of his heavenly Father.         
 
I trust that you and I know something of that sorrow ourselves. A mark of spiritual maturity is a greater grief over sin. As we mature spiritually we see more of our sinfulness. Augustine, the influential theologian of the early church, had the 32nd Psalm inscribed on the wall next to his bed before he died. As he approached death he wanted to mediate, to mull over in his mind and heart, this Psalm. He was especially attached to the Psalm because not only had he transgressed God’s law terribly, as we all have, but Augustine also lived by the premise, and I quote, that “the beginning of knowledge is to know oneself as a sinner.”
 
However, depression over sin, even though it is deep and discouraging, doesn’t stagnate; it doesn’t take over our life. Rather, it leads the true believer to devotion, specifically it leads the true Christian to pray. Perhaps you noticed how verses 25 to 29 encompass a prayer of the Psalmist. It is a prayer of deep devotion.
 
In this prayer of devotion, the Psalmist prayed first for forgiveness. His sorrow over sin led to a plea for forgiveness. That is always the case. When we grieve our sin with what 2 Corinthians 7:10 calls “godly sorrow,” not “worldly sorrow” then we will ask for forgiveness because “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
 
In fact, it has been pointed out that one measure of how sorry you are for sin is related to how quickly you ask for forgiveness. The Christian carpenter swings the hammer and hits his finger. He reacts with words totally inconsistent with his profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Is the prayer for forgiveness immediate? Or maybe just generalized at the end of the day, “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt. 6:12)? Or is that specific sin one of many sins that is never brought to the Lord with a plea for forgiveness?
 
Prayers for forgiveness should spring up within us as soon as we realize we have sinned. And they should be prayers of great confidence, based on the finished work of Christ and the promises of Scriptures such as 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 
 
A second request of the Psalmist in this prayer of devotion is for preservation. He prays, in verse 25b, “Preserve my life according to Your Word.” He realized that his sin was so grievous to God that God would have every right to do to him as He did to Nadab and Abihu; they used “unauthorized fire” in the tabernacle and were consumed with fire themselves (Lev. 10:1-2). Or consider Lot’s wife who looked back with longing eyes on Sodom and Gomorrah and was turned into a pillar of salt (Gen. 19:26). Or consider Ananias and Sapphira who lied to the Holy Spirit and were struck dead (Acts 5:1-11).   
        
Haven’t we all lied before?  And hasn’t each one of us looked toward the allurements of the world with longing eyes? And haven’t we all, at many times, failed to worship God properly, as He commands in His Word? You see, we deserve the same judgment as Nadab and Abihu, Lot’s wife, and Ananias and Sapphira. We deserve to be cut off from the Lord because of our sin. Realizing this, the Psalmist prays, “Preserve my life according to Your Word.”         
 
The Psalmist also prayed that the Lord would preserve him from deceitful ways. He prayed,  “Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me and teach me Your law” (29). That prayer request is akin to praying, “Lord, keep me from myself. Guard me from my own sinful nature. Enable me to turn from sin and to walk according to Your Word.” As Psalm 141:4 puts it, “Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with sinful deeds…”
 
Third, he prayed for spiritual growth; in verses 26-27 he writes, “I recounted my ways and You answered me; teach me Your decrees. Cause me to understand the way of Your precepts, that I may meditate on Your wonderful deeds.”
 
Anyone who is truly sorry for their sin will want to grow spiritually so that they are better equipped to resist temptation and fight against sin. If someone has a deep hole in their yard, perhaps from an old well drilled years ago, and they fall into it because it was left uncovered and unfilled, more than likely, when they get out of the hole they will fill it in or cover it up so that they don’t fall in again.
 
The same is true spiritually. If we fall into a sinful habit, if we fall into that hole of sin, our desire must be to grow spiritually so that by God’s grace and Spirit’s power we turn from falling repeatedly into that same sinful habit. Yet, because of our sinful nature, we never escape the deep hole of sin in this life; our sanctification is only complete in the life to come. We remain sinners until our last breath on earth, yet the desire and determination to be godly will be in our heart. That is why the Psalmist prays for spiritual growth there in verse 26 and 27.
 
Fourth, the Psalmist prayed for strength, “My soul is weary – melts away – with sorrow; strengthen me according to Your Word” (v. 28).
 
God’s Word is always a source of great strength. In the uncertainty of a weak economy we are reminded that the same God who feeds the birds of the air will feed us, as we are blood bought children of our gracious heavenly Father (Matthew 6:25-34). In the face of great trial and even terminal illness we have the confidence that the Lord is with us, even in “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4).  In the heartbreak of a loved one’s death we have comfort from “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor 1:3-4). And in the heat of temptation, we have the promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
 
No matter what trial we face, no matter how weak we may feel within, God promises, “As your days, so shall your strength be” (Deut. 33:25). And He promises, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you (Heb. 13:5); “I will be with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). 
 
After Devotion, Spurgeon would say, comes Determination. The response of a Christian, as he or she sorrows over sin, is to confirm the choice God has enabled us to make to follow Him. The Psalmist expresses his determination by writing, “I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws” (30).
 
As Christians who are Reformed to the truths of the Bible, we tend to emphasize God’s sovereign grace more than we emphasize personal choice in salvation. Theologically we understand that we did not choose God, but “He chose us in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved.” (Eph. 1:4-6). As Jesus Himself declared in John 15:16, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.”
 
We also understand that unless God works within us, none of us could choose to follow Jesus. Philippians 2:12-13 describes how you and I are to “continue to work out (our) salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”
 
Yet sometimes, as we emphasize God’s sovereign choice in election, we overlook the need for human responsibility. Our salvation is all of God. Apart from His enabling work none of us could “choose Christ”, something our Arminian brothers do not understand. But God’s sovereignty never takes away our human responsibility. We are called to choose which path we will take in life. In verse 30 the Psalmist expresses his determination to choose. He writes, “I have chosen the way of truth.”
 
There are only two paths in life: The way of God’s truth and the deceit of Satan’s lies. You and I are on one of two roads: The broad road that Jesus warned leads to destruction, or the narrow path that leads to life. There is no third road. It is one or another. Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14).
 
When we stumble and fall on the way of truth, as all believers do, then we must have that time of Devotion – a time of prayer for forgiveness, preservation, spiritual growth and strength. But then also we need to recommit ourselves to the “way of truth” and say as the Psalmist says in verse 30, “I have chosen the way of truth.”
 
The determination to “chose the way of truth” leads to a new commitment of obedience. Did you notice the three personal pronouns of commitment that follow the declaration, “I have chosen the way of truth.”?  Verse 30b: “I have set my heart on Your law.” Verse 31: “I hold fast to Your statutes.” Verse 32: “I run in the path of Your commands.”
 
Each one of these commitments is made in dependence on God’s Word and Spirit. The Psalmist had prayed, in verse 26 and 27, that God would teach him His decrees and precepts. And then he trusted that God, in response to his prayer, would impart wisdom to him through the application of the Word by the Holy Spirit. 
 
And now, in verse 30 to 32 he expresses his determination to depend – not on himself – but on God’s work through the application of His statutes and commands. The confidence of true believers is not in themselves, but in God. The same Holy Spirit who inspired the Bible to be written has also promised to apply the truths of His Word to the life of everyone who confesses their sins and trusts with saving faith in Jesus Christ.
 
Some of these verses, with their personal pronouns of commitment, may sound self-righteous until we realize that the author of the Psalm trusted not in his own strength to live a godly life. Instead, he trusted in the strength that God promises to graciously supply in answer to devoted prayer. As verse 32 (in the ESV) puts it, “I will run in the way of Your commandments when You enlarge my heart!”
 
Comfort from Christ
 
There is no greater sorrow in life for the mature Christian, than sorrow over sin. We should all be able to relate to Peter’s reaction after the rooster crowed the third time; Peter realized he had denied his Lord, even with curses, and “he went out and wept bitterly” (Matt. 26:75b). Yet, by further application, as we grieve our sins we find great comfort in God’s forgiveness. Repentance and saving faith go hand in hand; together they equal conversion and lead to restoration. Just as Peter was forgiven and restored to a right relationship with the Lord, so are all who repent of their sin with godly sorrow and trust in the forgiveness that comes through faith in Christ alone for salvation.
 
In the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 5:4, Jesus says: “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.” What type of mourning is Jesus speaking of?  It is mourning over the sin and evil that we all struggle with. The comfort from mourning our sin comes as we realize that no matter what is in your background or in mine, it can be forgiven as we come to Christ and find His cleansing blood to be more than sufficient for all our sin.  
 
The comforting promises of Christ to forgive our sins also includes the promise of imputation. Not only are we forgiven of our sin, but we are also credited – imputed – with the righteousness of Christ. That double aspect of Christ’s redeeming work is crucial because no matter how much determination we have, we will still fall short of the righteousness, obedience, and perfection that God requires. But Jesus never fell short, and He never will. And His perfection is freely given to us through saving faith in Him alone. The Heidelberg Catechism points that out in its answer to question 60, "How are you made right with God?"
 
Answer:
     Only by true faith in Jesus Christ.
Even though my conscience accuses me
     of having grievously sinned against all God's commandments
     and of never having kept any of them,
and even though I am still inclined toward all evil,
nevertheless,
     without my deserving it at all,
     out of sheer grace,
God grants and credits to me
the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ,
    as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner,
    as if I had been as perfectly obedient
        as Christ was obedient for me.
   All I need to do
       is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart.
                                                                   
 
The most important question put before us is: Have you and I accepted the gift of God with a believing heart? Have you confessed your sin to the Lord with heartfelt and humble repentance? And do you and I, by God’s grace and Spirit, have true saving faith in Jesus Christ alone?
 
* * *
 
That the Psalmist was depressed by his sin is evident from the opening line. He writes: “I am laid low in the dust.” Have your sins, by the conviction of the Holy Spirit, caused you to feel as though you are “laid low in the dust”? I hope so, because such sorrow over sin leads to the comfort of Christ and His redeeming work.
 
Although we are to have a proper “depression” – sadness – over our sin, we are to take our sorrow over sin to the Lord in devoted prayer. And then determine to go forward in obedience, depending on our gracious God to sanctify us as we have chosen, by God’s grace and enabling Spirit, to walk joyfully in the Way of Truth! Amen.
 
 
                                       - bulletin outline -
 
      “I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to Your Word...”- Psalm 119:25
 
      “...Blessed are those who mourn; for they will be comforted.” - Matthew 5:4
 
             “Sorrow Over Sin and Comfort from Christ”
                                Psalm 119:25-32
 
I.  When we truly recognize our sin (25a), we will:     
     1) Pray for forgiveness (25a), preservation (25b, 29),
          spiritual growth (26-27) and strength (28)
 
 
 
 
 
 
     2) Confirm the choice God has enabled us to make, to follow Him (30) 
 
 
 
 
 
 
      3) Renew our commitment to obedience (30b-32)
 
 
 
 
 
 
II. Application: Those who mourn, confessing their sin to God, will be
     strengthened and comforted (28; Psalm 32:1-2; Matthew 5:4, 11:28-30)
 
 
 
 
 
 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2018, Rev. Ted Gray

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