Does the Bible confuse you at times? One puzzling verse for me has always been Psalm 51:4, when David says to the Lord, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” (ESV)
That doesn’t make sense to me, because remember, David wrote this passage of Scripture after he was confronted by Nathan for taking Bathsheba to bed and murdering her husband, Uriah. So why does David only confess to God? Shouldn’t he confess his evil deeds to others?
Let’s clear something up – David isn’t ignorant of the consequences of his actions, nor is he minimizing what he’s done to Bathsheba, Uriah, the families involved, and the nation of Israel. Rather, he’s admitting that vertical sin (against God) occurred first, which then paved the way for destructive horizontal sin (against others).
This is an important principle for you to remember, especially as we consider the topic of personal change: every sin is first vertical, no matter how thunderous the horizontal implications of it are.
In other words, every act of human wickedness committed against another human being starts with the breaking of intimate, vertical relationship with God. Every horizontal sin forgets his presence; every sin quests for his throne; every sin replaces the Creator with some created idol.
David was able to take Bathsheba to bed because, in that moment, he didn’t care about the presence of God. David was able to order the murder of Uriah because, in that moment, he believed he was the ruler of all things. David was able bring unspeakable pain to other families because, in that moment, his idol of pleasure was more important than the people to whom he was called to protect.
Likewise, because you and I are always breaking vertical relationship with God, we’re always creating a mess in the situations, locations, and relationships of everyday life. I don’t want that to be my legacy - I want to change. So, if every sin is vertical before it’s horizontal, then the following must be true: personal change must take place vertically before it ever takes place horizontally.
If you want to see lasting change in your earthly situations, locations, and relationships, you have to start by seeking change in your Heavenly relationship. Today, confess that you’re not always aware of God's presence. Today, confess that you don’t joyfully submit to his lordship. Today, confess that you regularly pursue your idols more than your Savior.
In the midst of your confession, take heart. Because your sin is the result of a broken relationship, your hope for change is only found in a restored relationship. That’s why Jesus was crucified. It’s only through the gift of adoption into a restored relationship that we find what we need to experience life transformation.
To experience victory over sin, we need a greater love for him than we have for ourselves, and his divine grace is the only thing that has the power to produce that kind of love in us. It will be a slow and arduous process, but God is patient with us even when we refuse to love him, and his faithfulness extends to the clouds! (Psalm 36:5)
Paul David Tripp
- Where did you ignore the presence of God in your life this week?
- What would happen to your words and actions if you lived with a moment-by-moment awareness of God's presence?
- Why would you treat people and possessions differently if you submitted to Christ's lordship?
- What idols have been more desirable than Christ in the past month?
- How has God been patient and faithful to you in the past? Where have you experienced personal transformation in the last few years?