Psalms: Preparing for the Judgment of God – Cleanse
Paul’s words to the Ephesians continue to have an urgency in this season of ministry.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25-27
As Christ cleanses His Church (like a bright and shining bride) of stains and imperfections, do we have responsibilities in the process of being holy and without blemish? 2 timothy 2:20-26
20 Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
- We are to cleanse ourselves from what is dishonorable. Vs. 21
- Set apart as holy
- Useful to the master of the house
- Ready for every good work.
- Cleanse ourselves of youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith love and peace, along with all the other people who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Vs. 22
- Cleanse ourselves of foolish, ignorant controversies. Vs. 23
- Cleanse ourselves of quarrelsomeness. Vs. 24, 25
- Kind to everyone
- Able to teach
- Patiently enduring evil
- Correcting opponents with gentleness
Look at Paul’s hope for these opponents of Christ.
God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:25, 26
Both of these passages feature cleansing. In Ephesians 5, Christ is doing the cleansing. In 2 Timothy 2, we are doing the cleansing.
What do the Psalmists bring to a conversation about cleansing? Repentance.
Catherine Parks, in Real: The Surprising Secret to Deeper Relationships (The Good Book Company, 2018), is insightful on repentance in Psalm 51. The following is from Eight Steps for Real Repentance from Psalm 51. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/steps-repentance-psalm-51/
So how do we grow in a joy-giving habit of repentance? Here are eight steps.
1. Define the sin.
The first step to meaningful confession is understanding what sin is. David uses three different words for it in Psalm 51: “iniquity,” “sin,” and “transgressions” (vv. 1–3). Each term has been deliberately chosen for its unique meaning. “Transgression” is rebellion against God’s authority and law, “iniquity” is a distortion of what should be, and “sin” is missing the mark. David also says his sin is deep—there is no minimizing or excusing it.
2. Appeal to God’s mercy.
The psalm begins: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love” (v. 1). Here, David appeals for forgiveness based on what he knows about God’s character: that he is merciful. David knows God is committed to him in a relationship of “unfailing love”—and when we come before God in repentance, we do so because of his covenant with us through Christ.
3. Avoid defensiveness and see God rightly.
David’s sin hurt multiple people. He committed adultery, orchestrated a murder, and tried to cover it all up. And yet he says to God, “against you, you only, have I sinned” (v. 4). How can that be? Sin is missing the mark—God’s mark. Our sin does hurt others, and we must seek forgiveness from them, but all sin is ultimately against God.
4. Look to Jesus.
David writes, “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean” (v. 7). He knows hyssop signifies purification with blood (see Ex. 24), and he knows that blood alone can make him clean. What he doesn’t know is exactly how this will be done. But we do. We have the full revelation of Jesus, who “has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26).
5. Ask God to break and heal you.
David prays, “Let the bones you have crushed rejoice” (v. 8). When God reveals our sin to us, it’s painful. It’s never pleasant to confront just how unholy we are. But like a doctor resetting a fractured bone, it is God who breaks, God who sets, and God who heals.
6. Be comforted by the Spirit.
Next David prays, “Do not . . . take your Holy Spirit from me” (v. 11). But the fact that David is grieved over his sin is a sign that the Spirit is at work in him. Have you ever been so discouraged by your sin that you’ve wondered, How can God love me? Surely I’m not really a Christian. Take comfort in knowing that the grief you’re experiencing is a sign that you have the Holy Spirit working in you, causing you to hate what God hates.
7. Rejoice and proclaim truth.
In verses 12–15, David asks God to make him so joyful about his salvation that he can’t help but proclaim the gospel to others: “Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.” This is important, because so often we do the opposite—we wallow in our sin and draw back from serving others because we think we’re unworthy. But the joy of forgiveness should compel us to share the good news with friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors.
8. Resolve to obey.
We can do all the steps above, but if we’re planning to sin in the same way again, then grace isn’t truly taking root. What God desires is the mark of true repentance—a heart that is “broken” by sin and truly “contrite.”
As Puritan pastor Thomas Watson wrote, “‘Til sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.” If we come to God with a heart set on obedience, he “will not despise” it because of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf (v. 17).