Create in Me a New Heart
A sermon based on Psalm 51:10-17
Sunday, June 8, 2014 – Pentecost A
There are a lot of songs written about broken hearts aren't there? The girl leaves the guy or the guy leaves the girl. They've found someone new, a new crush, a new love, a new infatuation, but someone's heart gets broken. And it makes for a sad bestseller of a song.
King David actually wrote a number of songs about a broken heart as well. In fact, the Psalm of the Day for the day of Pentecost is just such a song. But his songs about his broken heart were a bit different than most. You see, King David's heart was wasn't broken because he was dumped by a girl or because his wife left him. No. His heart was broken because of his sin. He broke his own heart. The header to Psalm 51 gives us the setting in which David wrote it. It says: When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
You remember the story. After sleeping with Bathsheba, David tried to cover up his sin. After he unsuccessfully tried pass off Bathsheba's baby as her husband, Uriah's, he finally had the man murdered so he could take Bathsheba as his own wife. And he thought he got away with it too, until God in his love sent the prophet Nathan to call him to repentance. And it worked! David confessed his sins before God and God forgave him. Go home and reread the story in 2 Samuel 11 and 12 and David's confession in the first half of Psalm 51.
But now in the second half of the Psalm, David described his new desire to serve God with renewed energy and zeal that came from the absolution that he had received. And God answers that prayer as well. When David came to God with his broken and contrite heart, God created a brand new heart in David—a pure heart.
And this morning as we celebrate the work of the Holy Spirit on this Day of Pentecost we see that God does the same for us. We pray with David that prayer we use so often in our liturgy and ask God to "Create in Me a New Heart." And even though our hearts are broken beyond repair, God does create new hearts within us. Listen now to the second half of Psalm 51, Psalm 51:10-17…
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. 14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
I. Our Hearts Are Broken Beyond Repair
How broken David was! And through the prophet, Nathan, he finally understood it. In verses 4 and 5 of this Psalm he confessed, "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me."
The reality of David's sin really sunk in. He knew he could never undo what he had done. He could never take it back. He could never fix it. Uriah was dead and with him, maybe even hundreds of soldiers who went to the front lines when David had the rest of the army withdraw to leave them defenseless. His own child, the son of Bathsheba, was also dead and nothing he could do could ever change those facts.
No amount of good that he would do in the future could ever make up for the sins he'd committed in the past. No matter how many orphans or widows he would help out, no matter how much of the royal treasury he donated to the poor. Not even the sacrifices that God had prescribed could remove his guilt and fix his corrupt and broken heart. David confessed, "You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings." He had sinned. He was less than perfect. Nothing could change that fact. How broken David was! And how powerless he was to do anything about it! His heart was broken beyond repair.
And friends, he's not the only one. We too are born broken. And the deformities we're born with aren't something that can be corrected by a simple surgery. The best surgeon in the country can't fix our hearts. They're too corrupt. They're too far gone. The waste that our hearts produce demonstrates how broken we are. Jesus said in Matthew 15:19, "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander."
He also said in Matthew 5(:21-22,27-28) " You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell," and, "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
I'm pretty certain that everyone here has at one point or another been angry with someone else when your selfish desires were denied. And so, even if we haven't killed anyone, we too are all murderers with King David. We too have had impure thoughts and so even if we haven't had sex outside of marriage, we too are sexually immoral adulterers. We haven't always worked our hardest at our jobs and so even if we haven't robbed any banks, we are thieves—stealing time and money from the company. And the list goes on and on. Out of our hearts come these evils. And by these evils we too, along with Peter's Pentecost audience have, "put [Jesus] to death by nailing him to the cross." (Acts 2:23b)
And there's nothing we can do to fix it. We are broken beyond repair. No amount of sacrifice on our part will make things right. Yet, that's what other religions and even our own broken hearts tell us. While they no longer tell us we need to sacrifice virgins to the gods, our world around us and our corrupt hearts within us suggest that if we sacrifice having a good time and have good intentions, if we do good deeds and give our money to church and to charities, these sacrifices will please God and he will be forced to love us. But these sacrifices are just as ineffective at making him happy. We remain adulterers and murderers. We remain broken beyond repair and there's nothing we can do to fix it.
As a dad of four small boys, one of my jobs at home is to be Mr. Fix-It. The electric train that quit working after it "fell" into the bathtub was brought to me, "Daddy, can you fix it?" The Spiderman toy with arms ripped off… "Daddy, can you fix it?" The Wiimote nunchuck with the cord pulled out… "Dad, can you fix it?"
But more often than not, I'm not able to fix the toy. The glue won't hold, the part is broken, the technology a bit too advanced for my feeble mechanical skills. So often the answer to "Daddy, can you fix it?" is "No, buddy. I'm sorry. Daddy can't fix it." And the once loved toy is tossed in the trash.
Similarly, you and I need far more than a tune-up. Our hearts are so badly broken that we cannot fix them. But thankfully there's one who can. When we take our broken hearts to God in prayer with King David and ask, "Daddy, can you fix it?" he does one better. He creates brand new hearts within us…
II. God Creates New Hearts within Us
Finally, when the prophet Nathan came to David he realized he could no longer pretend he got away with his sin. The Holy Spirit working through the law the prophet proclaimed to David led him to realize how broken he was. He finally confessed, "I have sinned against the Lord." (2 Samuel 12:13). And that broken and contrite heart God would not despise. He would fix it. In fact, he would make David a new heart.
That word translated "create" in the NIV is a key word. In the Hebrew that word, barah, is used only of God's activity. It's something God initiates, something he brings into existence. When David did not have a pure heart but one that corrupted from within, God created a pure heart with him. As apostle Paul later wrote, "It is God who works in you to will and to act according to his purpose." (Philippians 2:13)
In the coming Messiah, every one of David's sins—his murder, his adultery, and all the rest—were completely forgiven. God changed him from within and declared him to be a pure, perfect and holy saint! And without any sin he was pure and holy and God, who cannot stand to be in the presence of sin, no longer had to cast David away from his presence or take his Holy Spirit from him. But God would remain in David's heart and make his home there.
And by that act the Holy Spirit transformed David's heart to one that could serve him in thanks. David couldn't help but respond. The work of the Holy Spirit, first leading him to repentance, then restoring to him the joy of God's salvation by grace from beginning to end, had its impact on him. He wrote, "Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. "
David no longer lived to serve himself in sin, but lived for God. He would share what God had done for him with others. He would sing of the righteousness that God had given him. He would declare the praises of him who saved him from his sin and the hell he deserved. And through the restored and renewed King David and through the words he's written the Holy Spirit still teaches transgressors the ways of God, and by these words he brings us back to him.
You see through these Words written by King David, spoken by me, read by you, the Holy Spirit works repentance in our hearts today leading us to realize how broken we are. Then, when we are contrite and grieving over our sin, he creates new hearts within us. Through the Gospel message in Word and in Sacrament, he proclaims to us, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off…"
Even though no amount of sacrifice on our part can make us right with God, there is one sacrifice that can: The perfect sacrifice and perfect obedience of Jesus. Jesus never thought or said anything unkind to anyone and so he never committed a murder. Jesus never had an impure thought and so never committed adultery. Jesus never committed a single sin and gave his perfect life to us. He took all of our sin on himself that we might be pure.
The Holy Spirit has enlightened us that we understand and believe that the cross of Jesus is what it's all about. And by that faith, new hearts are created within us—hearts that are perfect and pure in every way. And God doesn't have to cast us away from his presence. Instead we're guaranteed to be in God's presence for all of eternity in the glories of heaven. What joy is ours! The joy of our salvation is restored to us again and again each time we hear that gospel message!
And like King David, we can't help but share that message. We teach other sinners the ways of God. We share the joy of salvation that's ours in Christ. The God who saves us opens our lips that our mouths declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light. We can't help but sing of the righteousness he's won for us on the cross. As Martin Luther wrote about these verses, "When we have received God's favor and righteousness through faith in Christ, we can perform no greater work than to speak about it and proclaim it."
And through such simple means, words spoken by the mouths and tongues of forgiven sinners like you and me, the Holy Spirit continues to work in the hearts of other transgressors and sinners, creating new hearts within them.
Rejoice, dear friends, that though we were once broken beyond repair, by his grace God has sent his Spirit to create new hearts within us. And let the joy of God's salvation be restored in you as you teach others God's ways and as you sing of his righteousness and declare his praises to all who will listen. Let's now sing the words of this prayer, as they're written in Hymn #272…