“Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 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. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me…Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” ~ Psalm 51:1-12
There is a quality that all humanity has in common. We are, all of us, born into sin (Rom 3:23). It is in our nature. Since the Fall, Adam’s transgression has continued to infect mankind like a disease passed down from generation to generation (Rom 5). This disease poisons every heart with unholy, idolatrous desires that spring forth into rebellious motives, thoughts and behaviors against a holy God. All fall short.
There is a quality that all humanity has in common. We are, all of us, born into sin (Rom 3:23).
In an undeserved miracle, the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of the elect to the sickness consuming our bodies and souls. In His mercy, He reveals our guilt and displays our only cure - Christ. Conviction and godly sorrow overcome us. Desires change. We become like the Tax Collector in Jesus’ parable - not daring to lift our eyes to heaven, beating our breast and crying, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!”. (Luke 18:13) These words demonstrate the gift of Divinely-inspired confession, one of the greatest acts of humility. True confession says, “I take sole responsibility for the wrong done in opposition to God’s glory. I am without excuse, there is nothing or no one to blame but myself”.
The Holy Spirit gives us the supernatural power to confess, repent, and believe; and, in our initial moment of salvation, we become wholly forgiven of our sin - past, present and future. All of it having been dealt with on the cross. Not yet fully glorified, not yet fully sanctified but now we are covered in Christ’s white robes of righteousness. This union with Him allows God to look upon us, no longer as filthy, but as clean. Now hidden in our Savior, we are encouraged to come boldly to the throne of grace for mercy and help (Heb 4:16).
This means that the Church is made up of saints still in tension with sin. We are absolutely dependent on the grace of God for every victory, every gift, every good thing. As the saved, we grieve this continued struggle, but like the Apostle Paul in Romans 7, we grieve with joy. “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
This is our earthly condition. It makes me wonder, should sin within the local church be a surprise? Won’t we often look weak and even distasteful at times? Rather than perfect, shouldn’t the local church be a place where the struggle with sin is recognized and real? How else are we to point one another to the healing balm of the gospel? Ultimately, shouldn’t we be a people where humble confession is unusually common?
Ultimately, shouldn’t we be a people where humble confession is unusually common?
Psalm 51 gives us an example of authentic vulnerability. David wrote this psalm after unspeakable sins - lust, adultery and murder that ended with the death of his infant son. Hoping to keep his transgressions secret, David didn’t take into account the God in which “no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed before His eyes” (Heb 4:13). God saw everything and yet He graciously pursued. Through the prophet Nathan, God confronted David and the encounter left him broken. With no more room for pride or pretense, David poured forth his prayer of confession.
There is such a beautiful awareness of who God is in Psalm 51. God is David’s compassionate, faithfully-loving, all-powerful Father; and, David was the one who insulted Him. Acutely aware of his guilt and unable to relieve his burden, David groans, “my sin is ever before me” (Ps 51:3) - it haunted him. You can hear the agony in his words, the destructive nature of sin heavy on his soul.
David ran to the only One who could rescue him, the only One with the ability to deal with his erring heart. God alone could provide forgiveness and healing. And because of this, David could cry his confession to the Lord with hope. Spurgeon said of the Christian’s confession of sin,
God alone could provide forgiveness and healing.
“I want you to indulge yourselves in this most rare delight of sorrow at the feet of Jesus, not sorrow for unpardoned sin, but sorrow for pardoned sin, sorrow for that which is done with, sorrow for that which is forgiven, sorrow for that which will never condemn you, for it was laid on Christ long ago, and is put away for ever. It is this sweet sorrow that I want you to indulge.”
When we, as Christians, bring our sin to God - we enter the presence of our pardoning God as ones already forgiven (Romans 8:1). This is almost too wonderful to comprehend. There is no reason to hide or sit alone in shame or pretend or defend. Instead, there is every reason to first take the log out of our own eye (Mt 7:5). For certain, our sin-bent nature will put up a challenge but we need to fight these urges with gospel truth.
When we, as Christians, bring our sin to God - we enter the presence of our pardoning God as ones already forgiven (Romans 8:1).
Can you imagine the reconciliation, forgiveness, unity, growth, and encouragement this kind of humility would bring into a church body? We need to, like David, model wise hope-filled confession to those around us, especially as mentors and leaders. We confess with the sure hope that “God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Every discovered sin has already been covered by Christ.
Every discovered sin has already been covered by Christ.
“Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” ~ Psalm 51:13-17