Psalm 51:13 says: “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.”
What an outrageous thought—a person who just pled guilty to first degree murder, along with other noncriminal offenses such as deception, lust and adultery suddenly becomes qualified to teach others about sin! What more crazy, unpredictable, insane direction could Psalm 51 take us now? Seriously, shouldn’t David’s days of teaching sinners be the last thing he thought about after God confronted him with his sin? How did coming face to face with the reality of his sin bring him to the conclusion that he would be the person to teach other sinners about God’s ways?
I heard J.I. Packer once explain that it’s not so much that people fall from faith, rather, it’s just that some people have not been deeply converted in the context of reality. He also said that we need to help people into real repentance as much as real faith. Most people do not make a deep enough decision for Christ because they do not face the sheer reality of their personal sin.
Psalm 51 shows us that David did not fall away from his faith and utter trust in God even after being confronted with his sin and feelings sin’s immediate consequence in the loss of a child. His faith in God was deepened through his painful experience. He does not deny his personal depravity—in fact, he flatly says that he is a sinner from his mother’s womb. Rather, David’s total transformation from convicted sinner to teacher of other sinners is because of his deep faith in the God who confronted him with his sin. He knew full well that God was not treating him as his sins deserved. He fully grasped God’s intolerance of sin, yet unfailing love of sinners.
David isn’t the only one. We even see the boldness of one sinner teaching another sinner at the cross of Christ. Talk about a sinner—one nameless thief had committed a crime or crimes so reprehensible that the Roman government deemed that he deserved a death that was as humiliating and painful as his crimes. That sinner was fully aware that he deserved his punishment. Still, he rebuked a fellow sinner when the other thief on the cross mocked Jesus. But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” (Luke 23:40-41).
That thief taught truth about God even before receiving the grace and mercy from Jesus. This thief’s wisdom shows in that he too, asked Jesus for mercy. Luke 23:42-43: Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Sinners who have faith in God realize that repentance is the only remedy.
Do you qualify as a teacher of sinners? Do you understand your utter depravity in the context of the goodness of God? Have you so completely repented of your sins that you comprehend your complete need for mercy and the great, great goodness of God even if you face consequences of your own sins or the sins of others in this fallen world? Then I would say that you area ready to teach other sinners God’s way—regardless of your past.