There are only Two Laws (The secret of the Penitential Psalms)


APRIL 9, 2014

Psalm 130

Out of the depths I cry to You,
O Lord, now hear my voice!
Let Your ears be attentive to
my cry for mercy voiced.

If You, O Lord, recorded sins,
Then who, O Lord, could stand?
But with You there forgiveness is –
Therefore, we fear Your hand.

I wait for God, my soul does wait;
His word’s my hope and stay;
My soul waits for the Lord more than
the watchmen wait for day.

Yes, more than watchmen wait for morn,
I wait for God above.
O Israel, put hope in Him,
In His unfailing love.

For with the Lord is steadfast love,
Redemption there will be;
For He will redeem Israel,
From all iniquity.


This morning before school I managed to find a few minutes to spend talking about the goodness of God with at least two of my five children. 2 out of 5 before 7am = a good day. Did I mention it was the two girls? I shared with them this bold assertion: There are only two basic rules or laws in the universe. 1. There’s the law of sin and death, and 2. There’s the law of the Spirit of Life. How did I decide on this, you ask? I typically open up the Bible app on my iPhone and under the “Today” tab it will always offer one Bible verse of the day. Today’s verse was Romans 8:1, which says

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”

I love the binary nature of texts like these. I shared with them the unfortunate news that because of Adam and Eve’s failure to “make better choices” (technical term used on behavior clip charts at school) we were all born into and under the law of sin and death. But– because of Jesus, who was a “Super Student” (technical term for the very top of the behavior clip chart at school) we were set free from the law of sin and death by the Law of the Spirit. In other words, just like we were born into the law of sin and death, we can be born a second time by the Law of the Spirit into Life, which is freedom from the law of sin and death. Just as it was because by no fault of our own that we were born into the law of sin and death, so it was by no act of our own that we could be born into the life giving law of the Spirit.

Don’t hear me wrong here. Just because we did nothing in and of ourselves to be born into the law of sin and death doesn’t mean that we haven’t earned the right to live there. Because we are subject to that law, we cannot help but live according to it. As I’ve said before here: We are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners. Confession is simply the act of coming to terms with the law of sin and death and becoming honest about all the bad outcomes it has led to in our life. That’s what these 7 Confession Songs (aka Penitential Psalms) do– they bring it all down to the only two laws.

Here’s the Gospel. The corollary of the law of sin and death is even more true. As we are subject to the life giving law of the Spirit, we cannot help but  live according to it.  In other words, sin has lost its power. These Confession Songs (aka penitential psalms), engaged over time, process us out of the law of sin and death and into the law of the Spirit of Life.

Go back and sing through Song #130 again, noting these realities. It’s a game changer. We are no longer looking at our clip chart on the chalkboard of life. We get to look at Jesus’ clip chart. His chart says, “No Condemnation!” I’m going to think through this clip chart thing a little bit more but I think I’m onto something.

PS- if you’re interested I have written two other posts of late on the 7 songs that make up the penitential psalms. Here I describe them as  chemo-therapy for the cancer of the soul and here I speak of them as the counter-insurgency field manual against sin.

So if you are having trouble singing, how about just turning on the music and just reading the words aloud in time with the song. It will make a difference.  CLICK HERE.

J.D. Walt writes daily for Seedbed’s Daily Text. He serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief. Follow him @jdwalt on Twitter or email him at

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