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.
Restore to me the joy of YOUR salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
This Psalm has meant so much to me in so many different ways, at so many different seasons of life, for so many years. I was in high school back in the late 90's when my youth pastor, Garfield Green, challenged our youth group to memorize part of this Psalm (thanks Gar!). It always struck me that David asked God to restore to me the joy of YOUR salvation. It's such a sweet and necessary reminder that there is a Savior and I'm not him! In the good times and the hard I so often think about me, pray about me, and focus on me. In reality, all hope, joy, life and peace is not, thankfully, found in me. Such a humbling and powerful truth.
This week I'm leaning into this passage for 2 specific reasons: discouragement & purpose.
Discouragement: Those of you who know me best know that it has been a hard 6 months... spiritually & emotionally. Just hard. While some of the hard has been a result of frustrating and messy situations, circumstances, and relationships, some of it has just been the result of that scary, intimidating, 4-letter word... life. In the last 6 months (and I'm estimating here), we've seen more people leave our church due to sin, relational issues, and other disagreements, than ever before. I know this is a part of life and ministry, but I refuse to accept it. God has hard wired me to care about people and to want for them what they often don't even want for themselves. Reconciliation, spiritual growth, humility, repentance, and more... much more.
My heart aches for those who were unable to find those things as a part of The Pathway church. I trust Jesus with each and everyone of these situations, but I'd be lying if I said they didn't affect me personally. I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel a strong sense of personal responsibility and pastoral failure every time someone walks away from our church. This along with many changes in my world... going from a 4 person staff to a 2 person staff, having a brand new baby enter our world, seeing many of our long-term partnerships begin (necessarily so) to come to an end, and on and on the list could go... I've just been experiencing some significant discouragement. Thankfully not depression... but discouragement none-the-less.
But there's hope! I'm so thankful for the hope of the gospel. That's where David's Psalm comes into play. David had screwed up royally (the whole Bathsheba incident) and had every reason to be discouraged. But his prayer was this ...renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation... Those are the words, that is the prayer, I'm leaning into during this hopefully short-time of discouragement. Why? Because God was faithful to David and because God has always been faithful to me. When I am weak, he makes me strong (2 Corinthians 12:10)! Truer words have never been written!
Purpose. This passage of Scripture has also been helping me remember my purpose and the process that often precedes the accomplishment of the purpose. My entire existence is wrapped up in my relationship with Christ. I exist by him, through him, and for him. I believe that with everything I am and I am incredibly thankful for that reality.
Our church's mission statement reflects my own... We exist to reflect God's glory by reproducing disciples. That's what I want to do more than anything else in the world. I want to reflect the glory of my creator and reproduce followers of Jesus. That's it. Everything in my life is wrapped up in those 2 purposes. Our family is on mission for the glory of God. Kelli and I are discipling our kids for the glory of God. We spend time in christian community and in our local community for the glory of God and the purpose of making disciples. So when that doesn't happen, it's incredibly difficult.
This year The Pathway has baptized 6 people and you better believe I praise God for each and everyone of the six. But 6 is not enough. If my purpose as a disciple is to make more disciples. If our purpose as a church is to make more disciples. If I really believe making more disciples is what reflects God's glory in the greatest possible way, then 6 isn't enough! We can't be satisfied with six. We just can't. I just can't.
And that's when I have to preach to myself the truth of Psalm 51. After David cries out to the Lord to restore to me the joy of your salvation... he then proclaims the inevitable result of that restoration of joy. Then I will teach transgressors your ways and sinners will return to you.
God doesn't operate off of a formula. It's not as simple as a+b=c. If it was, I'd have it mastered. But David was a man after God's heart according to the Scriptures and David's prayer indicates that a restoration of joy from God's salvation can lead to effective disciple-making. When joy is restored, sinner's are converted.
That's my prayer this week. Lord Jesus, restore to me the joy of YOUR salvation... Then I will teach transgressors YOUR ways, and sinners will be converted to YOU.