God Breathes When My Character Fails

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 5/24/2020

I wonder how many of you would agree. . . Once upon a time, we used to be

shocked by character failure. News about a person’s failure would literally take our

breath away. We’d feel sick to our stomach for days. We’d wring our hands about

what affect some news would have on society, or future generations.

But then lost character, lost its shock value. No matter how depraved some

community leader, religious leader, business person, superstar athlete, Hollywood

icon, or politician was revealed to be… somewhere along the way we stopped

being so shocked. In fact, we’ve come to assume, and even expect, bad character.

One of the most well-known stories in Scripture is King David’s affair with

Bathsheba. Instead of fulfilling his kingly obligation of leading the armies of Israel

at war, he remained home, enjoying the pampered luxuries of palace life. One

night while he was walking around his rooftop. As he looked down across the city,

a beautiful woman caught his eye. It was Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of

David’s “mighty men,” who was off at war. She was bathing in plain sight of roof.

There is no suggestion in the Bible that Bathsheba was a seductress, or

somehow inviting the king’s attention. The reason that probably wasn’t the case

is: (A) She was actually obeying God’s law, ceremonially washing herself, to make

herself clean, after her monthly cycle. (B) The text tells us that the King’s men

“took” her to David. There is no indication of a consensual relationship. Hollywood

has always portrayed is as an illicit affair, but the Bible implies it was rape. (C)

What was even worse, is that after Bathsheba found herself pregnant, King David

had her husband killed, to cover his sin, and to take her legally as his wife.

Do you think David’s sin took people’s breath away in Israel? David wasn’t

just one of the greatest kings of Israel, he was one of the greatest heroes in all of

Israel’s history! Young children played in the streets, drinking Gatorade just

dreaming, singing, “David, if I could be like David. Be like David. Like David. If I

could be like David. Be like David. like David. . .” But now King David had shown

himself to be a voyeur, a kidnapper, an adulterer, a rapist, a plotting, conspiring

murderer, a killer in the first degree. Remember how Nathan the prophet

confronted David with those famous words, “You’re the man!”

I’ll tell you whose breath David’s sin definitely took away… it was his own!

Perhaps nobody was more surprised by David’s sin than himself. And isn’t that true

of us as well. When we sin, nobody is more surprised than ourselves. When David

sinned, he had nowhere left to run and nowhere to hide. . . and neither do we.

Nothing is more difficult than facing the reality of our sin and failures.

Let me ask. If you got caught being a voyeur, a peeping Tom. If you ordered a

woman taken by force from her home. If your adulterous behavior was publicly

unmasked. If you were found to be a rapist, a sick/depraved predator. If it were

you who plotted, conspired, and murdered a man in the first degree to cover up your

sin. Would such knowledge not crush every bone in your body? Would it not take

your breath away? Would it not leave you buried in guilt and shame and self-hate

and self-condemnation? How would you move forward? How would you even get

out of bed? How would you cope with the humiliation, or public rage of others?

In John 16:8 Jesus taught how the Holy Spirit would come and convict the

world in regard to sin, righteousness, and judgement. There is a huge theological

debate about how the Holy Spirit may have been at work in Old Testament times.

Did the Holy Spirit bring people under conviction of sin only after Christ ascended

to heaven? My view is this… We know that the Holy Spirit moved, inspired, and

stirred the prophets of old to speak. Nathan the Prophet didn’t directly witness

David’s sin, it was revealed to him by God. We know that every letter of Scripture,

and the Law, is inspired. It’s not hard to draw a clear line between David and the

Holy Spirit’s activity. The spirit-inspired testimony of the Law and God’s Prophet

Nathan came bearing down on David convicting him.

In college, us guys were horsing around in the dorm. One of the guys was

the goalie of the soccer team. He was one of the largest/strongest guys on

campus, and a wrestler. The dude put me in a choke hold, threw me face down to

the ground, and laid on top of me! I don’t know what he weighed, but he squeezed

all the air out of my lungs. I couldn’t gasp, scream, yell, move. Had he not

relented, I would have passed out. That’s the portrait the Bible paints of David. If

not for the mercy of God, his sin would have crushed him, took his breath away.

But in Psalm 51:1-9 David cried out to God and prays in the most

remarkable, audacious way, imaginable. Not how we expect. “Be gracious to me,

God, according to your faithful love; according to your abundant compassion, blot out

my rebellion. 2 Completely wash away my guilt and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I am

conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you—you alone—I

have sinned and done this evil in your sight. So you are right when you pass sentence;

you are blameless when you judge. 5 Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful

when my mother conceived me. 6 Surely you desire integrity in the inner self, and you

teach me wisdom deep within. 7 Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me,

and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have

crushed rejoice. 9 Turn your face away from my sins and blot out all my guilt.”

When I read Psalm 51 I realize that though our sin may take our breath away

(or take other people’s breath away)… it doesn’t take God’s breath away. Yes,

God’s Spirit breathes even when we our character fails.

David acknowledges that sin has been pervasive his entire life, even from

infancy. He acknowledges the character, integrity, and righteousness… the kind of

holy life God truly desires. He acknowledges his guilt, and the righteousness of

God’s judgement against sin. He acknowledges how His sin has robbed him of joy,

of gladness. He acknowledges how his sin is like a crushing weight, bearing down

upon him, smashing his bones.

But David’s prayer always acknowledges God’s mercy and grace. God is

gracious, faithful, and loving, abundantly compassionate. God has the power to

change in David what David has not been able to change in Himself. God can turn

his face away from David’s sin, blot out David’s rebellious spirit, wash away David’s

guilt, cleanse him of sin, purify him from all unrighteousness, make him whiter

than snow, restore David’s joy/gladness and soul. Though God would certainly be

blameless, to allow David’s sin to crush him, David understands God’s inclination

to relent and show mercy!

It’s this point we can highlight the difference between the ministry of the

Holy Spirit and the Devil himself. What we often attribute to our “conscience” is

in reality, the voice of the Holy Spirit. Whereas Satan condemns, accuses, and

seeks to drive us from God’s presence. . . The Holy Spirit convicts, confronts, and

calls us repentance. The Holy Spirit invites us, despite our failure, to come back

into God’s presence, to be restored, to be redeemed, to be washed/forgiven, to

seek mercy, to find in God what we couldn’t find in ourselves!

This is so powerful. In Psalm 51:10-12 David prays, “God, create a clean heart

for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not banish me from your presence

or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and sustain

me by giving me a willing spirit.”

I’ve reflected long and hard on David’s prayer. While its true that our sin can

grieve/quench God’s Holy Spirit. It’s also true, that if we’d repent… it could just as

well be the moment God’s Holy Spirit breathes most powerfully, and becomes

most real, in our life. Look at these powerful verbs: CREATE! RENEW! RESTORE!

SUSTAIN! Do not banish. Do not take your Holy Spirit from me. Our impulse when

our character fails is to run “from” God, but instead it should be to run “to” God.

In Psalm 51:16-17 David says something profound. He prays, “You do not

want a sacrifice, or I would give it; you are not pleased with a burnt offering. The

sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. You will not despite a broken and humbled

heart, God.” The Devil is saying, “You piece of trash. You piece of human waste. You

poor excuse for a human being. You sinning, failing, despicable sinner. . .You voyeur.

You kidnapper. You adultery. You rapist. You murderer. You liar… how dare you darken

God’s presence…” The Holy Spirit is saying, “No, let me create. Let me renew. Let me

restore. Let me sustain. Let me heal. Let me wash, cleanse, purify, redeem…” Remember

Romans 8? The Holy Spirit is saying, “It would be God’s delight to welcome you, prosper

you… for you to call Him Abba, Father… for you to be adopted… for you to no longer be a

slave of fear… for you to be his sons/daughters… heirs of God and coheirs with Christ.”

I want to encourage you to invite God to breathe when your character fails.

Consider 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. The Devil likes to tell half-truths. Here is a half-truth.

Paul says, “Don’t know you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s

kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, males

who have sex with males, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive

people, or swindlers will inherit God’s Kingdom.” Not only does Satan want your sin

(failures) to define, label you forever… Satan wants you to be forever cutoff,

banished from God’s presence, just as these verses warn.

But here is what Satan really wants us to miss… its 1 Corinthians 6:11. Paul

continues, “And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were

sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of

our God.” Your worst point of failure doesn’t have to be the final chapter. God

would much rather wash, sanctify, justify… create, renew, restore, sustain…

Consider Ezekiel 36. In Ezekiel 36:23 God promises, “I will honor the holiness

of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations—the name you have

profaned among them. The nations will know that I am the Lord—this is the declaration

of the Lord God—when *I* demonstrate *my* holiness *through* you in their sight.”

What a profound promise. God demonstrating his holiness thru us? How?

Ezekiel 36:25-27 God says, “I will also sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be

clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols. 26 I will give you a

new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give

you a heart of flesh. 27 I will place my Spirit within you and cause you to follow my

statutes and carefully observe my ordinances.” Our failure can define us. Or, our failure

can be that pivotal moment when God’s demonstrates his own power and holiness and

glory through us. The Spirit is the difference maker! Holy Spirit breathe on us! Not in

spite of our failure, but for the sake of your glory. Spirit Breathe!

[PRAY PSALM 51:1-12]

Scripture Verses

Psalm 51, John 16:8, I Corinthians 6:9-11, Ezekiel 36:23-27

Worship Playlist

King of Glory by Passion

Desert Song by Hillsong

O Praise the Name by Hillsong

Build My Life by Passion

Study Questions

  1. A person’s character is engraved through choices, often repeated choices over time. Do you think David’s failure was sudden or gradual?
  2. Describe some other Biblical characters God used for His Kingdom purposes despite character flaws.
  3. Thinking of your own character history, what are some specific ways the Holy Spirit brings hope?
  4. If you decide to allow God to transform your character, what will your cooperation with the Spirit look like?

Apply It!