Paul Tripp

President of Paul Tripp Ministries

Psalm 51: Sermon on the Mount (vs 6, 10)

Confession results in deeper personal insight. Further confession leads to greater insight. This is one of the graces of confession. You see this spiritual dynamic operating in the life of David in Psalm 51. This man, who was so completely blinded by his own lust, that he wasn't only able to use his God-given position of political power to take another man's wife, but also able to put a contract out on her husband and have him killed, is now not only able to see his behavioral wrongs, but the heart behind them as well. Whenever anyone is able to see himself with this level of clarity, you know that God's grace is operating in his life.

Hear David's words, "Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place." David is recognizing a new awareness. He is acknowledging a new sightedness. He understands what God is working on.

You and I will only ever be holy by God's definition, if we put the moral fences where God puts them. We tend to put the fences at the boundary of behavior. For example, rather than telling our children the importance of a respectful heart and the issues of heart that cause us to not respect others as we should, we instruct our children to use titles of respect when they're relating to others. Now there's nothing wrong with this as far as it goes. The problem is that enforcing certain behaviors won't create a spirit of respectfulness. A child, who's mad at his teacher for an assignment she's given may say, "Whatever you say Mrs. Smith!" in a tone that's anything but respectful. The teacher immediately knows that the child has used a title of respect to tell her that he doesn't respect her at all, but to tell her that in a way that won't get him into trouble!

This is where Christ's teaching, from the "Sermon on the Mount," is so helpful. Christ draws the fences in much closer. He calls for us to fence our hearts because he knows that it's only when we fence the heart that we'll willingly and successfully stay inside God-appointed behavioral fences. So he says, "You have heard that it was said, "You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matthew 5:27, 28)

Consider the importance of what Christ does here. He isn't adding to the Seventh Commandment. No, he's interpreting it for us. He's telling us what the intention and extent of the command has always been. The commandments all address fundamental issues of the heart, or as David says, "the inmost place." The commandments not only depict God's claim over our behavior, but more fundamentally God's ownership over our hearts. But there's something else of importance here. God knows what lust lusts for. Lust doesn't lust for more lust. Lust lusts for the physical experience of the thing that's the object of the lust. A heart controlled by sexual lust won't be satisfied with better and more graphic fantasies. No, a lustful heart craves the actual experience and will only be satisfied when it's actually experienced the thing for which it lusts. This is why it never works to put the fences at the boundary of behavior. Even if I've placed clear fences there, I'll cut through them or climb over them if I haven't first fenced my heart.

Now again David speaks for all of us and his words are so echoed by Christ that it almost appears as if Christ was thinking of David and Bathsheba when he spoke these words.

Have you fenced your heart? Have you tried to stay inside of behavioral boundaries only to have climbed over them again and again? Go and read the wisdom of the "Sermon on the Mount" (found in Matthew 5-7) and ask God to "teach you wisdom in the inmost place." By God's grace, determine to fight the battle of thought and desire, knowing full well that it's only when you win this battle that you can be successful in the battle of behavior. And rest assured that when you fight this battle you aren't fighting alone, but your Lord wages war on your behalf. 

" This article is a resource of Paul Tripp Ministries. For more information visit"


About Paul Tripp

Paul Tripp is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries, a nonprofit organization whose mission statement is "Connecting the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life." Tripp is also professor of pastoral life and care at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, Texas, and executive director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care in Fort Worth, Texas. Tripp has written many books on Christian living that are read and distributed internationally. He has been married for many years to Luella, and they have four grown children. For more information, visit

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