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Psalm 51: Something Bigger

  • Paul David Tripp Author
  • Updated Jul 24, 2012
Psalm 51: Something Bigger

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is an excerpt from Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp (Crossway).

Chapter Ten: Something Bigger

Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. (Psalm 51:13)

I have a confession to make. My confession is that I think I went for years as a Christian and didn't really understand confession. I think there's a subtle, yet significant, difference between the admission of wrong and true heart confession. Let me give you an example. Let's just say (and you know this would never happen in my marriage) that in a moment of busyness and irritation, I speak unkindly to my wife. And let's imagine that a friend overhears what I've said and comes to me and confronts me with this wrong. Now I've been caught. He heard my words; there's no way of escaping it. And so with him watching and Luella listening, I say, "You're right; I shouldn't have spoken that way. Luella, please forgive me." Now this doesn't sound so bad on the surface, but it bears examining.

I've admitted that what I said was wrong, and that's a good thing, but there are two potential flaws in this confession. The first is it could be that the only reason I admitted to this wrong was that I was caught red handed. I may not have been grieved at all by what I'd said. I may have confessed simply because I was in trouble. The second flaw could be that the confession was only a confession of the behavior (and that's a good thing as far as it goes) but not a confession from the heart that's behind the behavior. Here's the point. It's only when I'm grieved by my sin and acknowledge that this sin is heart deep that my confession will be followed by the turning of repentance. You see, I speak unkindly to my wife not because my schedule is busy or because she's less than perfect, but because there are things that I want (such as success, control, approval) and when she gets in the way of these things, I'm immediately irritated.

When David, in Psalm 51, prays for a pure heart and a steadfast spirit (vv. 10-11), he's acknowledging that his struggle with sin runs deeper than just behavior. He's not only confessing to the physical acts of adultery and murder, but also to the reality of a heart that's corrupt; that is, it loves personal pleasure more than it loves the Lord. When he talks of God's desire for a truthful and wise heart (v. 6), he's confessing to a heart that's craved what's impure and that's loved what's foolish.

What results when you confess because you're deeply grieved by what you've done? What happens when you acknowledge that your physical sin is caused by a heart that's run amuck? The result is that you turn, really turn. What do I mean? I mean that you don't just turn away from the physical sin pattern, but your heart turns to God in new and deeper ways. What does this mean? It means that rather than being driven by the craving for the delivery of your little kingdom desires by the people and circumstances around you, your heart begins to be motivated by big kingdom purposes. True confession always results in living for something bigger.

And so David, once obsessed with the temporary and impure pleasures of his claustrophobic little kingdom of one, now becomes excited with and engaged in the transcendent purposes of God's big sky kingdom. So he says:

Then will I teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness,
O God, the God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise. (vv. 13-15)

A truly broken and contrite heart will always turn to live for something bigger. Is your confession leading you there?

Take a Moment

1. Do the things you confess tend to be limited to wrong words and wrong actions, or do you confess to the wrong thoughts and desires that lie behind the behavior or words?

2. Does your confession result in an excitement with living for something bigger than your own wants, needs, and feelings?


Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy

Copyright © by Paul David Tripp
Published by Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers
1300 Crescent Street Wheaton, Illinois 60187

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher, except as provided for by USA copyright law.