Read Psalm 51: (Read 2nd Samuel 11 and 12) — A Psalm of David after the prophet Nathan confronted him about taking Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, and deceptively arranging the death of Uriah. Though there were temporal consequences, David acknowledged his sin and found comfort and healing in the mercy and grace of God.
Read Psalm 30: (Read 2nd Samuel 24) — A song of David at the dedication of the temple of David. It was perhaps written after God’s anger had been aroused against David who took a census of the people without God’s permission. God punished him severely. David acknowledged his sin. God forgave David and lifted him up from his despair. The greatest rejoicing is when God in His grace forgives our sin.
Read Luke 22:55-62: Peter’s denial and repentance. Unlike Judas wo betrayed Jesus and felt remorse but lacked faith in God’s mercy, Peter repented of his sin and wept in acknowledgement of it, as well as at the contemplation of the mercy of God. (We could speak of Adam and Eve, Moses, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Zacharias, and Paul who described himself as “chief of sinners”).
They did not commit their sin in their pre-conversion state. Both David and Peter were men of God. David was declared a man of God; he was chosen of God, a servant of God, an ancestor of the incarnate Christ. Peter was chosen of the Lord to be a disciple and an apostle; he sat at the feet of Jesus and walked with Jesus. Both were among those of whom the Lord spoke through the prophet Isaiah, “I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine” (Isaiah 43:1).
Yet they, as all humans born on earth since Adam, were sinners who had to say and who demonstrated the truth of the apostle’s admission, “ For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice” (Romans 7:18-19).
In the tug of war between the old man (the flesh) and the new man (born of the Spirit) they succumbed to the flesh. If there is anyone (and we are not speaking of the unbeliever who is of the flesh and not of the Spirit) who reads this who will not admit to the same affliction of sin, he is unarguably a liar.
As children of God being born anew through Baptism and thus in Christ dead to sin, it is not possible to blithely excuse sin. No child of God can say, “The devil made me do it.” As those in whom the new man dwells, albeit in this body of flesh, we know better. Thus the believer in the flesh and because of the flesh needs the preaching of the law lest he try to excuse sin or become secure in it. The Lord calls us to repentance. Luther in the first of the 95 theses said, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” In the 3rd he wrote, “Yet it does not mean solely inner repentance; such inner repentance is worthless unless it produces various outward mortification of the flesh.” In other words, repentance is not simply an internal feeling of remorse. It will manifest fruits of repentance, fighting against and earnestly trying to put away the sin.
True repentance does not include thinking one can sin because the Lord forgives sin. A Christ-believer does not sin because he knows the Lord is gracious. Luther said in a Maundy Thursday sermon in 1518, “To probe and ponder how bad you have been is not enough if you do not ponder and probe much more how good you desire to become (What Luther Says, Vol. III, para. 3869).
However, a penitent sinner cannot overcome sin by exercise of his will. He prays for the forgiveness of his sins as well as for the Spirit to impart and work through the Gospel the will and strength to overcome and to separate oneself from the sin. A child of God says with Paul, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24-25)!
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 3:9). The blessing of daily confession of sin before the Lord lies in the absolution. To us He says, “ Son (Daughter), be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you” (Matthew 9:2). He means it. He died to atone for our sins. That He did is confirmed by His resurrection from the dead.
This is the promise that David believed. Yes, there were temporal consequences in David’s life as there may be in ours. Yet we can join with David in confidence of faith in the Lord. “A broken and a contrite heart—these O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). It was this grace which moved Peter to tears, and which upon his restoration to office made him a bold confessor of His Savior until he died.
Forgiven! But do you think either of them forgot their fall? They did not live in doubt or despair. It is unlikely that they forgot their sin. David said in His penitential Psalm 51 “For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you only have I sinned and done this evil in Your sight…” (Psalm 51:3-4). Do you think Peter ever forgot how he had denied his Lord? There is benefit in not forgetting!
Certain sins frequently stick in our memory and haunt us. Temporal consequences of a sin jog our memory and remind us. However, inability of the penitent to forget does not mean one doubts forgiveness. God’s grace is greater than the accusing conscience (1 John 3:20). Further, by the Word of God reject any suggestion of Satan that you are not forgiven: “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13), for “In Him [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7). “… and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
O, the depth of the love our God has for us in Christ. While David and Peter and the patriarchs may not have been able to forget (nor can we), God does not remember our sins. They are as if they were not. Amazing, incomprehensible, but true. For the sake of His Son, to our eternal blessing, our gracious Father no longer remembers them!
Hark back to the promise and blessings of Baptism. “Be baptized and wash away your sins” (Acts 22:16).
How far is the east from the west? “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12)
How deep is the ocean? “You will cast all our sins into the depths of the seas” (Micah 7:19).
“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake and I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25).
“None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him…”(Ezekiel 18: 22).
“…then He adds, ‘Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more’” (Hebrews 10:17).
“For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:34).
The Father, for Jesus’ sake, forgives and blots our sins from His memory. To do less would have meant that He rejected the atonement made by Jesus Who died to take away the sins of the world. The Christ-believer finds comfort in the truth that with God there is no double jeopardy. When He says our sins are gone from memory, they are! Again, they are as though they were not.
In fullness of joy join in the paean of the Psalmist : “Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities…Who redeems your life from destruction” (Psalm 103:1-3).
“… And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more’” (John 8:11). “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).
“THANKS BE TO GOD WHO GIVES US THE VICTORY THROUGH OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST” (1 Corinthians 15:57).