Do Protestants Have the "Fullness of the Faith"?
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Do Protestants Have the "Fullness of the Faith"?

Songs to Sing: God, Be Merciful to Me

Posted July 1, 2020

God, be merciful to me,
on thy grace I rest my plea;
plenteous in compassion thou,
blot out my transgressions now
wash me, make me pure within,
cleanse, O cleanse me from my sin.

My transgression I confess,
grief and guilt my soul oppress;
I have sinned again thy grace
and provoked thee to thy face;
I confess thy judgement just,
speechless, I thy mercy trust.

I am evil, born in sin:
thou desirest truth within.
Thou alone my Savior art,
teach thy wisdom to my heart;
make me pure, thy grace bestow,
Wash me whiter than the snow.

Broken, humbled to the dust
by thy wrath and judgment just
let my contrite heart rejoice
and in gladness hear thy voice;
from my sins O hide thy face,
blot them out in boundless grace.

Gracious God, my heart renew,
Make my spirit right and true;

cast me not away from thee,
let thy Spirit dwell in me;
thy salvation’s joy impart,
steadfast make my willing heart.

Sinners then shall learn from me
and return, O God, to thee;
Savior, all my guilt remove,
and my tongue shall sing thy love;
touch my silent lips, O Lord,

and my mouth shall praise accord.

“Sorry.” My son shrugged his shoulders and glibly recited a quick apology lacking even the tiniest hint of remorse. My other child wasn’t fooled for a minute. Even from the other end of the house, I could hear him take a deep breath to shout, “Mommy!!!” I sighed as I headed down the hallway to dispense justice. My son defiantly stared me down and retorted, “I said I’m sorry.” His two-year-old brother looked up at me with tears streaming down his chubby cheeks and declared, “Heee’s Naht Sohwy!” Even my toddler could tell that this attitude was definitely not repentance and that his brother’s words were empty.

The longer I parent, the more I realize that showing our children how to repent and rightly apologize is one of the hardest lessons we will ever teach them. Maybe part of this is due to the fact that in order to teach, one must model the instructed behavior as well.

How many of you struggle to apologize to your children while also trying to maintain an authoritative posture of respect? Do you show your children regularly what it looks like to sincerely apologize? Do your children trust you not to repeat your behavior once you’ve apologized for it? Nothing makes our apology seem emptier than when our actions do not follow it up; our children begin to learn that apologies are merely words, socially acceptable niceties spoken to diffuse a tense situation. If you’re beginning to squirm in your seat, let me make you even more uncomfortable by asking if your pleas for God’s mercy are ever accompanied by true repentance? Do we use God as a magic sin eraser, only to carry on in our behavior unchanged, unaffected, and unbothered? As I write this, I am squirming in my seat along with you. But sometimes uncomfortable soul-searching is necessary for lasting spiritual growth. And God has provided us with examples of how to apologize; we need look no further than the Psalms.

This song is a paraphrase of Psalm 51, and is traditionally set to the tune, “Redhead.” David wrote this psalm after he was confronted by the prophet Nathan over his sexual sin with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah. Do you remember the passage? It has always stood out to me as one of the most vivid depictions of guilt in the Bible.

And the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And hebrought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” (2 Sam. 12:1–7)

You can feel the heavy pit in your stomach, the nauseating realization of what David has done, and the dread of what he deserves. Our sin is no different. We may not have committed physical murder or adultery this week, but I’m sure many of us are guilty of hatred towards our fellow man, of calling one another “fool” and murdering them in our minds (Matt 5:22), or of lusting with our eyes, coveting a spouse who is not ours, and committing adultery with them in our hearts (Matt 5:28). We are a wretched people: who shall deliver us from our bodies of death? “God, be merciful to me, on thy grace I rest my plea.” We must turn only to the grace of God. There is no other way. “Plenteous in compassion thou, blot out my transgressions now.” Send my sin as far as the east is from the west. Banish it to eternity. “Wash me, make me pure within, cleanse, O cleanse me from my sin.” Don’t leave me as I am. Change me, cleanse me, wash me whiter than snow. Burn away the dross like a refiner’s fire. Use this pain to remove my impurities; put back together the shattered pieces of my conscience.

Let your eyes glance over the remaining stanzas. Does anything stand out to you? One particular phrase has always stuck with me: “I confess thy judgement just, speechless, I thy mercy trust.” I struggle reconciling David’s acceptance of God’s perfect judgement and wrath towards his sin with David’s complete assurance that God’s mercy will nonetheless be applied to him. Isn’t this the pendulum on which we all swing back and forth? Either judgement or mercy? Not both simultaneously. When I think about God’s judgement, I don’t naturally expect his mercy. And when I expect his mercy, I tend to downplay my own sin and his anger over it. Christian, this is not so. You belong to a holy God who cannot abide sin, whose wrath towards the wicked is terrifying, and who will punish those who continue in their rebellion with everlasting torment. You must then ask, “What is your only comfort in life and death?” And you MUST then respond with all blessed confidence: “That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil.”

He is more willing to save us than we are to be saved. He is more willing to forgive us than we are to ask for forgiveness. Cry out to your Savior: “Be of sin the double cure, cleanse me from its guilt and power.” Repent, and he will deliver you. “He breaks the power of reigning sin, he sets the prisoner free.”With joyful relief and assurance, lift your voice to your maker: “Let my contrite heart rejoice, and in gladness hear thy voice.”

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Sarah Morris

Sarah Morris has been happily married to her husband, Sean, for 12 years and is a mother to four crazy, hilarious, and adorable children. She graduated from Grove City College with a degree in music. She and her family live in Oak Ridge, TN where her husband is a pastor in the PCA. In between homeschooling duties, toddlers, and babies, Sarah enjoys writing, cooking, podcasting, napping, and making fun of her ridiculously pathetic dog.