SI:† Weíre spending the rest of the summer in the Psalms.
I donít have any particular order, but Iím choosing Psalms that are unfamiliar to us.†
†† Psalms we donít know well and tend to skip over.
The great benefit of the Psalms is that they show us the truth
†† worked out in a believing heart and mind.
Dr. Robert Rayburn, who Iím leaning on heavily, put it this way:†
†† ďThe Psalms are a repository of doctrine, but doctrine processed through the heart and turned
†† into prayeróthe best kind of doctrine there is!
Iím calling this series:† The Christian Mind.† My focus is going to be:
†† How the Psalms help us think and feel rightly about the big things.
†† How they enable us to develop a Christian mind, a Christian worldview.
For example, last week, Psalm 6 was about how a believer should
†† think and feel about tears and suffering.†
Letís look at Psalm 26.† This is very interesting.†
†† Itís about how a Christian should think and feel about himself
†† and then turn that self-image into prayer.
INTRO:† I will never forget the day Allison called me at work and said:
†† Andrew, I think Adrienne just said her first word!† I couldnít wait to get home.
When I walked in I said:† What is it?† Mama?† Dada? †I hope itís Dada.
Allison said:† I think sheís saying ďcookie.Ē† She was looking at the tin where
†† I keep the cookies and she was saying, ďthuch-thuch.Ē†
So I waved a cookie in front of her and sure enough, she said it: ďthuch-thuch.Ē
†† Yes, two syllablesócoo-kie.† And itís guttural.† Sheís making the k sound.
†† And we were right.† Her sounds became more clear as the weeks passed.†
I loved the language acquisition stage of my childrenís development.
†† It was fascinating to hear them learning to talk,
†† just by hearing us talk to each other and to other adults.
Has it ever occurred to you that you learned to pray the same way?
By hearing older Christians pray.† Whether it was your parents, if you grew up
†† in a Christian home, or your Christian friends and church members, if didnít.
You learned what to say, how to say it.
What requests are proper to bring before God.†
†† The sorts of things you ought to say to him.† And the things you donít say.
Thatís what makes this Psalm so unusual.† The Psalms are a model for prayer.
And yet David prays in a way in this Psalm that I donít think any of us would pray.
†† He says things to God that sound wrong.† They sound presumptuous.
†† Who of us would dare to pray the way David prays in this Psalm?
Look at the first verse again:†
†† ďVindicate me, O LORD, for I have led a blameless life.Ē
The King James version says:
†† ďJudge me, O LORD, for I have walked in mine integrity.Ē
Then he repeats it at the end of the Psalm, as a kind of bookend:
†† Other people are sinners, ďBut I lead a blameless life.Ē
And in between, he not only says that he has led a blameless life, but that he will
†† continue to do so.† It sounds boastful.† It sounds presumptuous.
†† It sounds like David had a very shallow view of himself.
What about his many sins?† What about his daily failures to love God and neighbor?
†† What about the sinfulness of his heart?
But thatís really not the most perplexing thing about Davidís prayeró
†† that he says he is blameless and living a blameless life of integrity.
The most perplexing thing is that he appeals to God on the basis of his integrity.
†† He appeals to God on the strength of the goodness, faithfulness,
†† and righteousness of his life.†
And if you have any sensitivity to the Gospel and to grace, you canít help having
†† red flags go up.† Is this how we are to appeal to God?† On our own integrity?
†† What about grace?† What about the work of Christ?
Suppose you were in a prayer meeting, in Covenant Group, or Sunday school,
†† and heard someone pray this way:†
Lord, I have lived a blameless life.† Judge for yourself, Lord, and you will find
†† Iíve been faithful, Iíve been true, I havenít planned evil, I havenít associated with
†† evil people, I love to go to church.† And Iím going to keep living a blameless life.
So hear me, answer me, defend me in this time of trouble.
You would think:† This brother is sincere, but doesnít get it!† Heís very immature.
†† You arenít blameless, Jesus is blameless.† You arenít faithful, Jesus is faithful.
†† Youíve thought and done evil more times than you can count and even the good
†† things you do are so tainted that even those have to be cleansed by Christ.†
So when you pray, donít appeal to yourself, appeal to Jesus.†
†† God, hear me for Jesus sake.† I deserve nothing from you.
Thatís how many commentators explain this Psalm.† They say that when David
†† speaks of his blameless life, what he is really referring to is the life of Christ.
Heís speaking of his justification, the imputation of Christís perfect righteousness.
†† Christ was blameless for me.† Iím appealing to his blamelessness in me.
†† Thatís certainly true in the sense that David is a foreshadowing and type of Christ.
But the problem with that interpretation alone is simply that it doesnít hold up in the
†† rest of the Psalm.† Over and over again David says, I, I, I, me, me, me.
†† He leaves no doubt that it is his own life he is describing.
The Psalm is a description, with specifics, of a life lived in Christian integrity.
†† And he wants the Lord to judge him.† He is sure he will stand in the judgment.
You must learn to do the very same thing.
As a Christian, you must learn to pray as David prayed.†
†† ďVindicate me, O LORD, for I have led a blameless life.Ē
You might feel that your life is not worthy of Godís vindication.
You might feel that you canít make that claim of blamelessness.
†† But you should and you can.† Itís understanding your true identity and living in it.
What is a blameless life for a Christian?† What is walking in your integrity?
†† Those are the questions we need to ask.† Two points.† Credit to Dr. Rayburn.
MP#1† A blameless life is not a sinless life.
When David says he walked in his integrity and lived a blameless life,
†† he was not saying that he was sinless.† Not at all.
Davidís life is recorded in great detail in the books of 1 and 2 Samuel,
†† and he committed lots of sinsóas a father, as a husband, as a leader of men.
Furthermore, there are many places where David admits his sins and his sinfulness.
Psalm 38, ďThere is no health in my bones because of my sin.† For my iniquities have gone over
†† my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.Ē
He didnít treat his sins lightly.† He didnít blow them off. †They weighed on him.
†† He wasnít one of these people who says:† Well I know Iím not perfect, but . . .
†† And then excuses things heís done.
Psalm 40, ďMy iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of
†† my head; my heart fails me.Ē
When we think of Davidís sin, we usually just think of Bathsheba.†
†† But he was conscious of many more sins, just as every believer is.†
Psalm 143, ďEnter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before
David understood that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
†† He had a very complex theology of sin.
So when David spoke of leading a blameless life and walking in his integrity,
†† and appealing to the Lord on the basis of his integrity, he was at the same time
†† very conscious of his own sinfulness.†
And he did not see this as a contradictionóto know his deep sinfulness
†† and many sins, and at the same time to claim a blameless life of integrity.
How did he work this out in his mind?
Before we answer that question, letís look at a few more examples.
I want you to see that this is not an anomaly in the Scripture.†
†† This is not a kind of Old Testament way of looking at the life of faith.
If there was ever a Christian who knew his own sinfulness it was the Apostle Paul.
His descriptions of himself as a sinner and of his struggles with sin are profound.
†† Remember the way he describes it in Romans 7?
†† ďWhat I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.Ē
He calls himself a bondslave to sin.† And, you may know that Bible scholars have
†† debated Paulís perspective in Romans 7.† Is he describing a person before
†† conversion or is he describing a Christianís continued struggle with sin?
Iím convinced itís the latter.† And one thing that convinces me is that Paul describes
†† exactly what Iíve experiencedóthat tremendous struggle to do right, and the
†† discouragement that comes from doing the very things I hate.
Furthermore, there is Paulís description of himself as the chief of sinners.
†† Paul was not being dramatic.† That was not false modesty or a rhetorical flair.
†† That was Paulís true view of himself and his sinful nature.†
But then we have 2 Timothy 4, and Paulís assessment of his life:
†† ďI have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
†† Now there is in store for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge,
†† will award to me on that day.Ē
Isnít that interesting?† It sounds like Psalm 26.† Paul is looking over his life and his
†† own judgment of his life is that he has fought and run and believed with integrity.
†† Heís confident that on the judgment day he will be rewarded by the Lord.
So Paul could speak of himself as a man walking in his integrity, blamelessó
†† and at the same time recognize his deep sinfulness.†
One more example, from the Apostle Johnís first letter.
†† ďIf we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.Ē
Thatís crystal clear.† Heís addressing believers.† You have sin in your life.
†† Donít even think about denying it.
But then a little bit later John writes:
†† ďNo one who abides in Christ keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen ††
†† him or known him.† Little children, let no one deceive you.† Whoever practices righteousness
†† is righteous, as he is righteous.† Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil.Ē†
That description of the true Christian life sounds like Psalm 26.
†† Blamelessness.† A complete contrast with sinners.
John says it with a daring lack of qualifications and yet he clearly doesnít mean
†† a sinless life, because heís just said, donít say you are without sin.
So John can speak of a life characterized by practicing righteousness and
†† not practicing sinóand at the same time, affirm that we do sin.
Iím emphasizing this point because there is much to be gained from this Psalm,
†† and from learning to pray as David prays.†
And to get there, you have to see that this is the way the Bible describes you as a
†† believeróboth as a sinner, and as one capable of leading a blameless life.
It seems to me that different denominations and different doctrinal systems
†† tend to overemphasize one or the other.
There have always been branches of the church that overemphasize blamelessness.
†† Some of them drift into the error of perfectionism.
†† Thatís the belief that you can come to a point where you no longer sin.
I think Iíve told you about the time I was teaching the Inquirers Class years agoó
†† I read the first membership vow:
† †ďDo you believe you are a sinner in the sight of God, justly deserving his
†† displeasure, and without hope, save in his sovereign mercy?Ē
And a couple in the class said:† No, we donít believe that.
†† We donít believe we are sinners.†
†† Weíve come to a point in our Christian perfection where we donít sin.†
I wonít bother addressing that, because thatís not our problem.†
†† Presbyterians donít fall off the wall on that side.
I think that our tendency, this is probably a tendency of Calvinists,
†† is to emphasize our continuing sinfulness at the expense of these descriptions
†† of the Christian life as one of blamelessness and integrity.
The Puritans, for example, wrote some magnificent confessions of sin
†† for use in private devotions and for corporate worship.† Many of them they
†† specifically asked God to forgive them of the good things they had done.
In my Christian walk I am still in rags:
my best prayers are stained with sin,
my penitential tears are impure,
my confessions aggravate my sin.
I need to repent of my repentance.
I need my tears to be washed.
Thatís true.† Our motives are mixed and even our good deeds are tainted.
†† But my point is simply that this is one side of the way the Bible describes,
†† this Psalm shows us another way.†
There are probably some of you who are so sensitive to your sins and moral failures
†† that you automatically think this Psalm not for you.
I canít pray this prayer.† I canít say this about myself.† My sins disqualify me.
Not at all.† You need to take your sensitivity to your sinfulness,
†† and your painful memories of your past sins and moral failures and not
†† do away with them, but add to them this perspective of David.
That brings us to the second point, and the real point of the Psalm.
MP#2† A blameless life is a life in covenant with God.
Psalm 26 is a covenantal Psalm.† The blameless life it describes only makes sense
†† as an expression of life in covenant with God.†
What is the covenant?† What does it mean to be in covenant with God?
†† The Bible uses the term ďcovenantĒ 300 times.
†† Itís the primary way God describes his connection with us.
As American Christians we have a phrase that we like to use.
†† We like to talk about ďa personal relationship with Jesus Christ.Ē
That terminology is not in the Bible.† Iím not saying itís wrong to use it.
†† There are lots of good terms that are not in the Bible but they are helpful
†† to describe things in the Bibleólike the word Trinity, or incarnation.
But sometimes itís good to examine the Bibleís way of describing things.
The fundamental way it describes our connection to God is in terms of a covenant.
†† We are in covenant with God through Jesus Christ.
So what is a covenant?† It is a relationship, itís a bond between two or more people.†
†† There is a personal, intimate aspect to it and there is also a formal aspect.
†† It defines and sets the boundaries and expectations of a new life together.
Let me give you an example.†
If a man said:† ďIím in a personal relationship with that womanĒ you wouldnít
†† know what that meant.† Are they dating?† Engaged?† Shacking up?
But if he said:† ďIím married to that woman.Ē† Then you would know exactly.
†† They are intimately, personally connected.† And at the same time they are
†† formally bound to each other with vows of love and loyalty.
There are promises, expectations, and requirements.†
Thatís what it means to be in covenant with God.† He is bound to you, you are
†† bound to him.† That relationship is personal, it is intimateóand at the same time,
†† itís formal.† There are promises the Lord has made to youóI will forgive you
†† and keep you and save you.† And he summons you to a life of obedience and
†† service.† He requires you to live and abide by the terms of the covenant.
So the blameless life that David is claiming for himself is within Godís covenant.†
A huge part of covenant living is how you respond to your sins.
†† Itís seeking and securing forgiveness in the way God has told you to do so.
In verse 6 and 7, David describes himself at the sanctuary.†
†† Heís participating in the worship of the altar.† He mentions washing his hands.
Thatís a reference to the laver, a large basin of water that stood between the
†† altar and the sanctuary.† The priests would use the water in the laver to wash
†† their hands and feet before going to the altar or into the sanctuary.
David himself would not have done that.† The water was for the priests only.
†† But he is using this poetically to describe his own concern for purity before Lord.
That purity came first through the atonement made on the altar and through the
†† other aspects of worship that pointed to Jesus Christ.†
Blameless living is availing yourself of that altar and that atonement.
Continuing into verse 8, David describes his love for the house of the Lordó
†† which is another way of saying his love for worship and the means of grace.
He comes back to that in verse 12, describes himself standing in worship,
†† with the whole congregation, praising the Lord.
Point is that a significant aspect of a blameless life and walking in integrity
†† is availing yourself of the blessings that the Lord has given through worship.
Itís in worship that David confesses and receives assurance of pardon.
†† Itís in worship that he is reminded of Godís goodness and hears the Word,
†† and is challenged in his faith and obedience.†
Itís in worship that he eats a ceremonial meal and is reminded of the amazing
†† grace of God, that he would stoop to welcome sinful people into fellowship.
This admission of need and worship of God for his grace is just as much a part
†† of blameless living as obedience to his other commands.†
Itís just as important as the other things David mentions, like separating himself
†† from sinful men, refusing to give or take bribes, and not practicing deception.
Verse 11 is a magnificent summary of life in covenant with God.
David repeats his claim that he will lead a blameless life, and then in the same
†† breath he asked the Lord to redeem him and be gracious to him.
This is not a man who is depending on himself, or bragging on his good life
†† and determination.† This is a man who is living in Godís gracious covenant.
†† Heís walking with God has a faithful man.
Still sinful?† Of course.† But really faithful?† Absolutely.
Whatís David saying?† Whatís his claim?† That he is loyal to Godís covenant.
†† This is his life.† This is his choice.† His identity is with the Lord and his people.
†† He finds strength in the worship of God.†
David asks the Lord to test him.† Itís the same word for testing the purity of metals.
†† God, put me through the fire, and what you will find is my covenant faithfulness
†† expressing itself in all the right ways.
Lord, you will find in my heart and life conviction of sin, a desire for righteousness,†††
†† real obedience and faithfulness (even if it is imperfect), love for Godís house and
†† worship, confidence in the Lordís redemption and mercy.
There was an article in the Olympic Preview edition of Sports Illustrated.
†† Highlighted two American women gymnastsóGabby Douglas, Jordyn Weiber.† Of course, you know by now that Gabby Douglas won womenís gold.
†† But I want to read to you what SI said about Jordyn Weiber.
ďOnto the four-inch-wide plank Weiber goes at her home gym.† Back tuck with a full twist?† Nope, didnít like it.† Try again.† Another imperfection?† Another leap.† Her scowl suggests she just air-balled a free throw, although the errors are imperceptible to the unseasoned observer.† ĎIíve seen other kids with her talent,í says John Geddert, who has coached Wieber for 14 years, Ďbut Jordynís hunger to work separates her.í† At age one, Wieber startled her father, David, one morning at their home in DeWitt, Michigan, by standing on one foot and trying to dress herself.† ĎLike a pelican,í recalls David.† Jordyn soon caught the eye of Geddertís wife and fellow coach, Kathy.† ĎJordyn was a three-year-old with muscles,í Kathy recalls.† ĎMost kids that age canít focus; sheíd stare at you waiting for directions.í† By age 12, Weiber was routinely nailing double-twisting round-off vaults that were beyond Mary Lou Rettonís repertoire when she earned gold in 1984.† Weiber is explosive and purposeful rather than balleticóbut she has added 90 minutes of dance a week to try to become more limber and expressive.Ē
Isnít that a wonderful description of what ought to be true in the Christian life?
†† You donít ignore the errors (and there are lots of them), you try to fix them.
And you can because of Godís grace and the Holy Spirit and the Word of Godó
†† that not only gives you a blueprint for your life, but the power as well.
And when you fall off the balance beam or botch a routine, you think, frown at self,
†† pray, and try again.† But there is always concentration on the task.†
†† Always focus on being faithful to God.† Thatís a blameless life.
Thatís David in Psalm 26.† He stumbles, and heís not shy about admitting that.
†† But because he is living in covenant with the Lord, those stumbles are errors to
†† be repented of and fixed.† He goes to the laver and the altar, to ask forgiveness
†† and clear his head, and then he start again.
Thatís how the Christian life is to be lived in this world.† Thatís how it grows.
Dr. Rayburn says:† ďThe great characteristic of the Christian life is intention.† The desire to be Godís man or Godís woman, a desire that directs our steps both when we do what we should and when we fail.Ē
You should get the same encouragement, the same confidence from this Psalm
†† that David had when he wrote it.†
Of course you are a screw-up.† Of course you are a sinner.†
†† Who ever learned to be Olympic gymnast without making thousands of mistakes?†
But you are also a saint.† And your trips around the altar and your washing in the
†† laver, and your love for worship and your fight against temptation are forming
†† Christ in you.
Are you are concentrating?† Are you are focusing on your routines?
†† Are you aiming higher?† Are trying to become more consistent and graceful?
If so, then be encouraged, you are a man or woman of integrity.
†† And the Olympic gold medal is nothing less than Jesus being formed in youó
†† a Christ-like life.†
Press on, fight the good fight, finish the raceó
†† and there will be in store for you a crown of righteousness.†