You might have read or heard of the infamous story of David and Bathesheba. David committed adultery with Bathsheba, and as if that was not enough, he had her husband killed at the war front! He has shed innocent blood in an attempt to cover up his adulterous sin. For a while it appeared as if all was well. But was it really? The prophet Nathan, sent by God, confronts David with his sins(2Samuel 11-12:1-15). Alas, he has been found out, and there’s no hiding place. Overcome with guilt, the man after God’s own heart owns up to his acts. He has missed the mark! He has committed sin.
The Bible uses a number of terms to describe sin. Sin means to miss the mark; God’s perfect, righteous standard. It means to deviate from the right way or to depart from an appointed pathway. The Bible also describes sin as a deliberate breaking of a covenant and a positive transgression of law. Yet other terms used in the Bible for sin are guilt, unfaithfulness, rebellion, vanity and a perversion of nature.
Now, David, agonizing over what he had done, and pleading to God for forgiveness, wrote the 51st Psalm. In his prayers are embedded many valuable lessons about how believers wrestle with sin.
Sin, A Contrast To The Believer’s New Nature
By reason of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, believers have received the life of God implanted in their souls; disposing them to do the things that please God (good works, see Eph. 2:10). Living in sin therefore goes against the nature of the believer; the seed of God planted in them. Because of this, when a believer sins, it produces guilt and agony of soul. That said, the Bible does acknowledge that believers are not sinless — meaning though saved, we still struggle with a residue of sin however we don’t make sin a habit (1John 1:8; 2:9). David in his prayer, graphically expresses this agony:
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.(v.3).
This verse speaks of the accusation of the conscience; as a result of transgressing God’s holy commands. Contrary to the erroneous claims of some today that confession of sins has no place in the life of the believer, the New Testament actually teaches that agonizing over our sins is a vital part of our fellowship with God, and of prayer. Our Lord taught us to pray for forgiveness, as John also affirms in his first epistle. The author of Hebrews in the 10th chapter, vv.21-22 speaks of an evil conscience in connection to prayer. He says to approach God in prayer with a “heart that is clean from an evil conscience”.
When we have unconfessed and unrepented sins in our lives, our conscience condemns us. David rightly cries out to God in his anguish: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow… Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
David not only laments over his sin, but he acknowledges what is true of all human beings. He was born with a sin problem. David acknowledges there is something fundamentally wrong with his nature, as indeed is the case with all humans born by natural conception. We inherited the consequence of the fall of Adam.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. (v.5)
In Romans 7, Paul also narrates his battle with the pollution of sin. It is only a regenerate soul who knows the agony of the flesh’s conflict with their spiritual nature. Despite our fallen nature, God still “delights in truth in the inward being…” So how does one deal with this conflict between the old self and the regenerated self?
There Must Be An Exchange
Romans 6 makes us understand that if any man is in Christ, he is no longer in Adam; he is a new creature (Cf 2Corinthians 5:17). Paul wrote to the Ephesian Christians to put off their old way of life (“the old man”, KJV), to renew their minds, and to put on the new. To “put off” here means to forsake, to renounce and to lay aside completely. This “old man” or sin nature is the same in every one of us, and is as old as Adam; because we all inherited it from Adam. As David said, we are all by birth depraved, sinful and evil. But here’s the interesting part.
Romans 6 further tells us our old nature was crucified with Christ at our regeneration and union with Christ. How do we put off someone that has already been crucified?
Here’s the answer: the very fact that the old man is dead, crucified with Christ is the very reason we can put him off! But it is not going to be without a fight. The old nature will always seek to gain entry again into our new life. This is why Paul reminds us to renew our minds, and to put on the new man. Renewing our minds practically involves “considering ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” and “not letting sin therefore reign in our mortal body…” (Romans 6:11-12).
We must give up the habits of the old man and not do any of the things it used to do, because he’s dead! Rather, we are called to be the new man that we are in Christ. This is a daily discipline of renewing our minds with the truth of God’s word. Scripture abounds with teachings on the means we can do this – namely the spiritual disciplines.