Sometimes smart people do dumb things, wise people do foolish things, and Godly people do sinful things. For some of us those things are a big, dark, ugly past. For others, it’s a secret we’ve never told anyone. Maybe it’s an abortion you had, or an affair, or you stole something.
Regardless of how we messed up, the one thing we all share in common is that we’ve all made mistakes. The Bible says “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23) Yet, many of us don’t know how to recover afterward.
So, how do we get right with God again after we’ve done something entirely wrong?
In the Bible, the story of David is one of the best examples of someone who blew it big time and then got his life right with God. David was one of the most Godly men in all of Scripture. He loved the Lord, yet in a weak moment he found himself committing adultery with Bathsheba and trying to cover it up by murdering her husband.
Psalm 51 gives us a snapshot of what’s going on inside of David’s heart after Nathan the prophet confronts David in his sin (2 Samuel 12). This Scripture also shows us the steps David took on his “road to spiritual recovery.”
Here are the Seven Steps that David took to get right with God:
Step 1: Come clean with God. Get honest and get your mistakes out in the open. Sometimes we’re afraid of losing our reputation or being publicly exposed. And sometimes we’re afraid of losing the security we got from indulging in our “favorite sin.” But the peace we get in return for coming clean will be worth it! We can trust that God’s ultimate outcome will be good.
Step 2: Ask God for forgiveness. We have to ask God to wash, cleanse and forgive us. Notice that David doesn’t try to negotiate a deal with God or minimize his sin. He says, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.” (Psalm 51:1)
Step 3: Own responsibility for your sin. We need to own our part in our mistake and also its consequences. “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” (v. 3-5)
Step 4: Accept God’s forgiveness and cleansing. Like David, once we confess that we messed up and tell God we want a restored relationship with Him, at that very moment we receive His grace and forgiveness. But in order to experience God’s forgiveness, we first need to believe that we are forgiven, accepted and loved unconditionally.
Step 5: Request a fresh work of grace. Have you ever been tempted and then found yourself saying, “I’ll go ahead and sin and then ask for grace later”? What we need is for God to create a fresh work in our hearts so that we don’t want anything to do with sin. Like David, we need to pray, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (v. 10)
Step 6: Resolve to use past failures for ministry. God wants to use the most difficult, sinful thing we’ve ever done and make us a trophy of His grace. God will use all of our sins to glorify Him, if we let Him. David tells God, when you do this new work in me “then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. Open my lips, Lord and my mouth will declare your praise. (v. 13, 15)
Step 7: Pray for limited fallout. Our sin never affects just us individually. But we can pray that in His grace, God will minimize the damage our sins might have had on those around us.
Over and over in Scripture we are reminded that we serve a God who, although doesn’t treat sin lightly, understands that we are mortal and struggle with sin. And out of His love for us, He wants to forgive us and take our very worst moments and claim them for Himself.
This week, we’re starting the series, Finding God When We Need Him Most. In it, we’ll learn how to find God in the midst of our most difficult moments: times of crisis, confusion and pain. It’s my prayer that God will use this teaching to help you move from just “knowing about Him” to powerfully experiencing His presence and power in your life … especially when you need Him the most.
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip