You all have a story like this one. One cold winter day I was dressing my five and two-year-old boys to go to a birthday party. I set the little one in his high chair for a minute, and gave him a few goldfish crackers to occupy him while I ran upstairs to get jackets. I gave the five-year old strict orders not to eat his little brother’s snack (pilfering snacks was an ongoing issue) and raced upstairs. In the two minutes I was gone, the highchair tray was cleared, only the big brother was covered ear-to-ear in goldfish crumbs and baby brother was sucking quietly on one soggy goldfish. I led big brother to the mirror and asked him to explain the crumbs all over his face. He was no help: he had NO CLUE how those sticky goldfish crumbs had found a way to his chubby cheeks! Busted...
Unfortunately, as we get older, the stakes get a little higher than a few goldfish crackers. You know the story: David stays home from the traditional wartime season, but has a case of spring fever anyway. He spies lovely Bathsheba bathing on a rooftop and brings her to bed. When she discovers she is pregnant, David traps her honorable husband Uriah into an untimely death on the battlefield (where Uriah was doing David was supposed to be doing, fighting for Israel). But the ploy is successful- no one discovers what David has done, and he marries Bathsheba. David looks like a hero for protecting his dead general’s wife, but in reality he’s covering his tracks and no one suspects the truth.
No one except, of course, God. David spends a year ducking his close relationship with his Father, but God seeks to restore their fellowship and sends Nathan to confront David. David’s conviction and remorse are genuine; he makes no excuses, but confesses immediately, almost with a tone of relief. Although he suffers dire consequences for his sin, including the loss of the son from the adulterous pregnancy, David returns immediately to a lifestyle of prayer, worship and praise. In His mercy, God restores their relationship so completely that He gives David and Bathsheba another son who has two names: Solomon, meaning “peaceful,” and Jedidiah, “beloved of the Lord.”
Pastor Carl Haak says that “sin exposed is grace revealed.” Psalm 51, which David wrote about his experience, is a testament to the peace and freedom that comes after we receive God’s grace for exposed sin. The psalm begins with an anguished plea for mercy, as David acknowledges both his sin and his inability to get himself right with God. But he knows Who God is, and relies on God’s love and power. David’s repentance gives him a cleaned –up conscience (peace, v. 10), deep gratitude for God’s mercy (joy, v. 8), and a restoration of fellowship (worship, v. 14). In His marvelous economy, God even gives David a new testimony to His faithfulness: “I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.” (v.13)
Conviction becomes a gift when I put it to good use. When God confronts me with my sin, my reaction makes all the difference. I can deny, rationalize, or excuse sin. I can allow guilt to consume me, as if my sin were so great it could outweigh God’s grace. Or, I can view that conviction as an invitation to repentance and renewed fellowship with God. Just think of the Father, waiting on the front porch for His prodigal child to return. Perhaps conviction is exactly that: the invitation to come home.
In the story of David, Nathan brings the invitation, acting as an agent of divine grace. As a prophet approaching a king to accuse him of murder and adultery, Nathan risks his life to deliver God’s message. He speaks boldly, refusing to sugarcoat what David has done, and David, to his credit, doesn’t shoot the messenger. Nathan must have been a very humble man for God to entrust him with the task of wounding another man’s numbed conscience.
Sometimes we have a similar role, confronting someone with wrongdoing, but much more often we have the delicate task of speaking truth into complicated situations. It takes deep love to refrain from interfering with God’s conviction and helping a friend make excuses for sin. It takes great faith to thank God when your child gets caught red-handed, to recognize that exposure is often His protection. “For whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a Father the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:12)
I know it sounds like asking for trouble, but here’s the challenge: pray for conviction. Let’s ask God to expose our hearts so He can clean them up and set us back on paths of righteousness. We are also going to pray for our loved ones to get caught, asking for wisdom in our responses. We can only do this if we determine to trust Him; it’s a bold and dangerous way to pray, but so very much safer than remaining in sin.
Father, it’s a wonderful and difficult truth, but You do not see as man sees. Man looks at the outward appearance, but You see straight into my heart. Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness. Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. I acknowledge my transgressions; against You I have sinned… Wash me, that I may be whiter than snow, and make me to hear joy and gladness. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit in me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. 1 Samuel 16:7, Psalm 51
Lord, help me to remember that he who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses them and forsakes them will have mercy. Proverbs 28:13
Father, teach me to fear You and keep Your commands, for You will judge everything I do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad. I cannot even judge my own heart, but one day You will both bring to light the hidden things of the darkness and reveal the counsels of my heart. In that day, Father, I pray You will find something to praise within me. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, 1 Corinthians 4:5
Lord, how many are my iniquities and sins? Make me to know my transgressions. I know that when I disobey You, my sins are sure to find me out. My sins give Your enemies great opportunity to blaspheme; forgive me, Father. Job 13:23, Numbers 32:23, 2 Samuel 12:14
O Lord, You have searched me and known me… You understand my thoughts, You comprehend my path, and You are acquainted with all my ways… Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way within me. Please, Father, lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139: 1-3, 23-24
Fill in the blanks as you pray for someone:
Lord, I know that you can see ______’s heart, and I can only see his outward appearance. I ask that You have mercy on _____ because of Your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of his sins. Wash _____ clean from his guilt, and purify him from his sin. I pray that _____ will recognize his rebellion, and that it will haunt him day and night until he brings it to You. Wash him, and he will be whiter than snow. Give him back his joy again, Lord; when You have broken him, then let him rejoice. Create in _____ a clean heart, and renew a loyal spirit within him. Do not banish ______ from Your presence, or take Your Spirit from him; instead, please restore to him the joy of Your salvation, and make him willing to obey You. Then ______ can teach Your ways to other rebels, and they will return to You too. 1 Samuel 16:7, Psalm 51 NLT
Father. I pray your will not let _____ whitewash her sins and get away with them; teach her that she will find Your mercy by admitting her sins and leaving them behind. Proverbs 28:13 MSG
Lord, I pray that _____ will fear You and do what You tell him, because eventually You will bring everything we do out in the open and judge our actions according to our hidden intentions, whether good or evil. Don’t let ______ try to get ahead of You, Father, jumping to conclusions about the condition of his own heart. When You come, You will bring out in the open and place in evidence all kinds of things we never dreamed of- inner motives and purposes and prayers. I pray that in that day ______ will get to hear a “well done!” from You. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 MSG, 1 Corinthians 4:5
Lord, You have examined _____’s heart, and You know everything about her. You know everything she does; You know everything she is going to say before she says it. You go before her and You follow her, placing Your hand of blessing on her head. I thank You, Father, that she can never get away from Your Spirit. Whether she makes her bed in heaven or in hell, You are there with her. Search _____, Lord, and know her heart. Test her, and know her anxieties. Show her anything that offends You, and Father, I pray, lead her in the way everlasting. Psalm 139: 1, 2, 4, 5, 7-8, 23-24 NLT