Sunday, November 28, 2010

Grace That Hides

Thoughts from my reading in Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp. My thoughts are in red.

Hide your face from my sins.
Psalm 51:9

It seems like the last thing you would want to pray. It seems like it would be the thing that you'd fear the most. Who would want God to "hide his face?" God "shining the light of his face" on us is a picture of acceptance and blessing. The darkest moment of suffering for Christ was when God turned his back on him in those final moments on the cross. In a horrible moment of grief Christ cried out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). Yet, as David stands before God as a humble repenting man, he does what seems to be unthinkable; he asks God to hide his face. What is it that David is pleading with God to do?

Sin causes us to hide from God. It may be a closing of our heart towards Him or dropping out of church or staying away from godly friends. Would we want Him to hide His face so He doesn’t see what we are doing or have done?

On the other side of lust, adultery, and murder, David is filled with the sense of the enormity of his sin. The weight of what he's carrying isn't just about how he used his God-given position to take a woman who wasn't his and use her for his pleasure. The weight on him wasn't just about how he plotted the death of Uriah, Bathsheba's husband. The weight had to do with his understanding of the extent of his problem with sin. David acknowledges the fact that he came into the world with this profound moral problem (Psalm 51:5). He scans back across his life and can't recognize a point where sin wasn't with him. But there's an even deeper awareness that sits on David's heart like a lead weight. He's come to understand that his sin was directly and personally against God. What he did, he did in the face of God. He rejected God's authority and made himself his own master. He rejected God's wisdom and acted as if he knew better. He rejected God's call and decided to do what pleased him rather than what pleased God. In the middle of the outrageousness of his rebellion, how could David ever stand before a holy God?

I think ultimate repentance is when we recognize and admit that our sin is against God, that it hurts Him and others and that it ceases being about us such as when we are sorry for having been caught or that we are now suffering some consequence. But why was David asking God to hide His face?

This confusing request actually demonstrates that David gets it right. He understands the comprehensiveness and the directness of the rebellion of his sin. He understands that as a sinner he can't stand in the presence of a holy God. What David doesn't understand is that when he prays for God to hide his face, he's praying for the cross. Something needs to come between God's holiness and my sin. Something needs to happen so that sinners, like David, can stand in God's presence and be completely unafraid. David couldn't possibly have known where the story of redemption was going, so he asks the only thing that makes sense to him: "Lord, won't you please hide your face from my sin, because if you don't, I am doomed."

Knowing what was accomplished on the cross gives us a completely different perspective than what David had but sometimes we don’t live with that understanding. We may hide or want God to hide or feel there is something we need to do to help take care of our sin. Maybe we need to beat ourselves up for awhile to show we are really sorry?

The cross was what David was pleading for. The cross provides our covering. The cross provides our cleansing. The cross makes it possible for God to accept us fully without compromising his holiness. The cross allows us to be accepted, not based on what we've done but based on what Christ has done. The cross allows sinners to be declared righteous! Christ covers us, so that as God looks on us he sees the perfect righteousness of Christ that's been given to our account.

So because of the cross we can admit our sin in confession and then be forgiven and cleansed; that is the reality. But everything in us fights against such an idea.

Isn't it amazing that the life, death, and resurrection of Christ mean that sinners no longer have to be afraid of God's face? Christ has answered David's prayer. He took the Father's rejection so that we'd be able to stand in the Father's presence and be unafraid. We don't have to ask God to hide his face, and we don't have to search for ways to hide from God. Jesus has made it possible for sinners to stand before a holy God and rest until the sin inside those sinners is no more.

This is amazing grace. It’s not about me cleaning up me, or perfecting me. It’s all about what God has done and the power now available in me through Him.

A question from the meditation:

Have you embraced the fact that your acceptance with God is not based on your position or performance but on the righteousness of Christ that has been given over to your account?

I have but it can still be a battle. Will I ever get completely away from the idea that there is something I should do; something from me that I can add to what Jesus did? That I somehow have to say I’m sorry more that once to show I really mean it.

Philip

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