Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. – Psalm 51:10-11 ESV
Dependence upon God. It’s a good thing. It’s a necessary thing. Most of us don’t like being dependent, but God created us to have a healthy dependence on Him. He created us, but He also sustains us. “In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:10 ESV). Not only do we need God for life, but we need Him in order to experience abundance of life. Since the moment sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, mankind has suffered from a broken relationship with God. Our hearts were damaged as a result of the fall, resulting in an internal disease that manifests itself in our outward behavior. The prophet Jeremiah gives us the sobering diagnosis: “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jeremiah 17:9 NLT). Years later, Jesus would confirm Jeremiah’s diagnosis. “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:21-23 ESV). Mankind suffers from a deadly heart disease. The external sins we commit, as listed by Jesus, are simply the symptoms of a much greater problem going on inside. And David was well aware that his real issue was worse than even his sin with Bathsheba. He desperately desired a healed heart. He knew he would never stop himself from sinning unless God did something drastic. What he needed was soul surgery, a radical realignment of his very nature, something only God could do. While David was fully capable of confessing his sins, only God could cleanse and renew him. Only God could take care of the source of the problem, David’s sin-saturated heart. While David could admit that he had done wrong, he had no capacity within himself to stop it from happening again. He needed a clean heart and a renewed spirit. His natural inclination was to drift away from God. His heart was prone to give in to his sin nature, feeding his passions and desires, even when they were contrary to the will of God. Paul described this dilemma well. “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:17 ESV). It’s interesting to note that David begs God, “take not your Holy Spirit from me.” He knew that God’s indwelling presence was essential for him to be able to experience true heart change. Without the Spirit’s help, David would be left to give in to the inclinations of his flesh, which, according to Paul, would result in a less-than-ideal outcome. “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Galatians 5:19-21 ESV). David had just experienced the truth of Paul’s claim. Now he needed cleansing and renewal. He needed God to do what only He could do.
Admission of guilt does not eliminate responsibility or remove condemnation. It simply paves the way for God to perform the miracle of extending His grace, mercy, forgiveness and love. When we come to Him with a heart broken by our sin and shamed by our disobedience toward Him, He offers us cleansing and renewal. In the words of the apostle John, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 ESV). We confess, God cleanses. We repent, God renews.
While our sin deserves God’s rejection and righteous retribution, He offers us restoration and renewal. David’s greatest fear was a loss of fellowship with God. He knew just how dependent he was upon God. He was nothing without God. That is why he prayed, “Cast me not away from your presence.” Alienation from God was a scary thing to David. Earlier in his life, long before he had become a powerful king, David had spent years living in exile, with a bounty on his head. He had known what it was like to feel alone and seemingly abandoned by God. In one of his earlier Psalms he had written, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest” (Psalm 22:1-2 ESV). He had cried out to God, “Be not far from me” and “do not be far off!” During those bleak times of his life, when he had been surrounded by external enemies and threats on his life, he had learned to depend upon and turn to God for help. And now that his life was threatened by an eternal enemy: his own heart, he turned to God again. He knew that unless God helped him, he was helpless and hopeless. But David knew the words of the Lord, spoken as the people of Israel stood on the edge of the Promised Land facing the enemies who lived there. “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV). God would not abandon him or leave him to fight his internal battles alone. Our battle with sin is not ours to fight. If we try to defeat sin alone, we will fail. But if we recognize our need for God’s help and dependence upon His Spirit’s strength, we can experience victory. We can know what it means to be cleansed and renewed, from the inside out.