Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God

by Mike Ratliff

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10 ESV)

Perhaps the number one teaching missing in the Compromised Church is that of how horrible sin is in the eyes of God. The Gospel is Good News only if it includes how our sin is rebellion against God which separates us from Him. This separation is eternal. No one is born righteous. There is no one who does enough good works to be declared righteous by God. There is not one thing men can do to save themselves from God’s Judgment against all sin. His wrath burns against it. The Gospel is the good news that God has provided a way for people to be saved from His wrath. He has provided His own sacrificial lamb whose death was sufficient to cover the sins of those whom He will save. Those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ are saved by God. This belief is by the grace of God through the faith He gives those whom He saves. As they believe they repent of their sins, they turn from them and, therefore, God declares them righteous. He justifies them. Did you see that the gospel is the good news that our sin can be forgiven and taken away? Isn’t it given to those who believe and repent?

When God saves a person they are not perfect, but are a new creations and now have the ability to obey God because of their regenerate heart that is indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God. They are spiritual whereas before their salvation they were fleshly. The problem for most of us is that we still struggle with our obedience. We still sin. What is the solution for us?

King David was a man after God’s own Heart. What made him different from other men that God would express that truth about him? David was far from perfect. In fact, he was a murderer and an adulterer. He had an affair with the wife of one of his loyal soldiers who was away at war. When the wife found that she was with child she told David. David attempted to cover it up by bringing her husband home from the war so he could be with his wife and then assume that the child was his. The husband showed his loyalty to his fellow soldiers and his king by refusing to go home to be with his wife. David then sent a message via the husband back to Joab who was General of the Army. The message told Joab to put the husband in the heat of the battle and withdraw from him so that he would be killed. Joab obeyed David. After the wife mourned for her husband, David took her as his wife and she delivered a male child to him. (2 Samuel 11)

27 And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord. (2 Samuel 11:27 ESV)

If we look deeply into this sorry story we can see God’s providential hand throughout it in which He gave David ways to do what is right, to turn and repent . First, David was told whose wife Bathsheba was. Uriah the Hittite is listed as one of David’s Mighty Men. He was a loyal soldier. David knew this. That information should have been enough to keep him from taking the step into adultery. When Uriah was sent to David his noble character should have broken David’s heart, but he hardened his resolve to cover his sin instead of dealing with it. He didn’t have to have Uriah killed, but he did.

In the next chapter of 2 Samuel, we see that God sent the prophet Nathan to David to confront him. Nathan told David a made up story about a person who had only one lamb while a rich neighbor had more than enough. However, when the rich neighbor had guests, instead of taking from his own flock, he had his people steal the poor man’s lamb to feed them. David erupted in righteous indignation against this and demanded restitution. Nathan then told him something that put his own life at risk.

7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. 8 And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. (2 Samuel 12:7-9 ESV)

Nathan then told David that the consequences of his sins were going to be horrible, but that God was not going to kill him. David’s response to this is a model for us when our eyes are opened to our sin by the Holy Spirit. When we are in our sin it is as if we are wearing a spiritual blindfold and spiritual ear plugs. When we are in this mode, we are controlled by our flesh and it is loving it. However, if we are in Christ, we have the Holy Spirit. Our hearts are regenerate and are able to hear from God, to understand scripture, to pray, and repent. When God opens our eyes and ears it is as if we ‘Come to ourselves.’ This is what David did. He suddenly saw the fallacy of trying to cover his sins and what a horrible thing he had done. First, David begged God for forgiveness

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! (Psalm 51:1-2 ESV)

I find myself in the middle of this act far more than I would like. We have had a long dry spell with God. We are in our sin and it is as if our perceptions of God and His ways are dulled. Then God opens our eyes and ears. We see and hear the truth and that means we respond in brokenness before our Lord. We cry out, “O my Lord God, have mercy on me! Please forgive me.” Notice that David asks God to forgive him based upon God’s mercy not his own standing before God. This is one of the markers that made David a man after God’s own heart. He appealed to God’s mercy. He not only pleaded for forgiveness, he asked that God cleanse him from his sin. The Apostle John wrote his own version of this for us.

9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 ESV)

God knows that we cannot be perfect. He knows that we are going to sin. He deliberately left us with our flesh  intact. Why? He uses our struggles with it to humble us. We hate our sin if we have been regenerated. We hate what God hates and love what God loves. Therefore, we must never be at peace with our sin. Part of our repentance from sin is confession.

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. 6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. (Psalm 51:3-6 ESV)

Another part of David’s character that marked him as a man after God’s own heart was that he confessed that his sin was against God alone. He knew that sin was rebellion against God. In v5 David reveals that he understands that his sin was the work of his flesh. V5 and v6 are contrasts to what happens in our hearts when our flesh in control with when we we are Spirit-led. When we are walking before our Lord with a cleansed heart and are actively doing battle with our flesh by denying ourselves and taking up our crosses then God’s truth is apparent to our hearts and we learn his wisdom. When we are in our sin our consciences are calloused over. When God cleanses us, that callousness is circumcised away. Our hearts are circumcised. In this mode, we delight in the laws of God, we see things His way. We turn from our iniquity an walk in repentance. On the other hand, when we are in our sin, none of things are apparent to our hearts. We are spiritually blind and deaf. Only God can draw us from this as He did with David using the word of truth from Nathan the Prophet.

Our repentance will also mature our character more unto completion. What I mean by that is, as we repent, God grants us repentance and this actually changes our character. This is what David asks for in v7-12.

7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:7-12 ESV)

David is asking God to fix what is broken. He has been crushed by the Holy Spirit with His conviction. Now, David is asking God to repair him by changing Him. He desperately wants God to give him a clean new heart. The nagging guilt of his sin followed by the crushing conviction of what he has done has left him in a state of misery that only God can fix. He has lost the joy of the Lord’s salvation. How often have we done that and it seems as if God is million miles away and we are stuck in our misery? Well, we have sinned. We are mired in our own flesh with no sense of God. Our conscience has been blaming us, but we have ignored it for so long that the callous over it has removed any sense of the joy of our salvation. Only God can cut that away. When He does, then we again will have His joy and in that, we have spiritual strength to be moral and pure before our Lord.

God uses those who have been delivered from horrible sins to be teachers to others who are dealing with the same thing. For instance, a former drug addict whom God has saved can help others who are battling addiction far better than I could ever do. David tells God that if He will deliver him, change him, cleanse him, then he will help others see God’s truths.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. 14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:13-17 ESV)

In this passage we see that David knew that religiosity is not what God is after from His people. Instead, He is developing in His people an understanding that our walk before Him should be one of repentance that is centered in a broken spirit and a broken and contrite heart. This is the heart condition of one who lives in the center of repentance. God’s people should be known to all as penitent. That is, they walk in repentance with a contrite heart. They know that within any other attitude or mode they are walking according their flesh and that cannot please God.

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6 thoughts on “Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God

  1. Mike,

    This is really good. When I grew up in a legalistic false religion, I never could comprehend David and his heart for God in contrast with the legalism that we were taught.

    My friend Danny who also left this false system used to tell me before I was saved about the closer we got to God the more we were aware of our sin. Before I was saved it just seemed like an interesting thought he was conveying. As I grow in the Lord it seems that I see more and more of my nature that I hate, which brings me back to repentance and to continue placing my only hope in Christ and his finished work.

    I agree that the much of the church has concentrated on one attribute of God (LOVE) so much that they no longer see is Holiness and Wrath against our sin and rebellion. It is as if we have created our own god who is not just and he can just sweep over our sins like bad parents would with a spoiled child.

    Thank you for the encouragement and God bless you and your family.

    In Christ alone,



  2. Todd,

    Our journey into the truth can be quite painful. Yours obviously was, but you are on the right track brother and I rejoice that you have found it. Thank you for the encouragement.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  3. A good post, Mike. The pathology of sin is far more savage than we can know and that the church even desires to know. Rebellion against God is a serious business and we sometimes rate sin with a horizontal comparison. It will be glorious to one day be removed from even the presence of sin and worship the sin bearer!!


  4. Rick,

    Yes, it will be glorious to behold our saviour. I’m not sure we can know what that will be like to be totally free from any influence by sin, but I can only imagine that it will be beyond our comprehension right now.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  5. Thanks so much for this article, Mike. It speaks volumes to my situation today, here and now, on my bed as I prepare to go to sleep. I’ve been trying to have a conversation all day today in my head and I keep getting distracted and sucked back into my surroundings. I’ve been on the verge of commiting sin and I’ve been talking to God in my heart about it and the temptation has re-surfaced again and again and again. And finally, after all these internal struggles, I am weak and am nearly giving in, when I find this wonderful word. That chastises me and reminds me that God still does hate sin, whether I hear it everyday or not. And that God still is just. And also that he loves a contrite heart. Thanks, Mike for allowing God use you to speak to me.


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