How can I grow in joy in my Christian life? How can I know deep assurance of God’s forgiveness and acceptance? How can I know His transforming power? A key answer the Bible gives to all those questions is the practice of Biblical confession- coming to God to admit our sin and asking for forgiveness.
Unfortunately talk of confession conjures up all sorts of unhelpful images. Guilt-wracked souls plunged into ever deeper despair by an ever-growing list of faults. Anonymous admissions whispered to a priest in a confession booth- “Father, I have sinned.” The rushed repetition of a rote-learned prayer of confession Sunday by Sunday, droned monotonously without thought or feeling. Confession looks like an unpromising path to joy, assurance and transformation.
That is why it is vital that we discover Biblical confession. It would be tragic to let graceless counterfeits rob us of its life-giving power. So this week we are going to journey through Psalm 51, a prayer by King David, to discover five surprising truths about Biblical confession.
Psalm 51 v 1–2:
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
Biblical confession is based on God’s loyal love.
David is helpless. Forgiveness isn’t his right. He doesn’t point to his past track record to balance out his failure. He doesn’t sell his future potential. His sins are a mark that only God can blot out. They are a stain only God can remove. God’s forgiveness is pure mercy.
And yet David prays boldly. He confesses with confidence, because his prayer is based on God’s loyal love. The phrase “unfailing love” is used time and again to speak about how God keeps His covenants- the sworn agreements and promises he made with His people and with individuals. David is asking God to keep his covenant promise that He would not abandon David and his royal family.
And we today have even better reason to confess with confidence. The night before he died Jesus told his disciples about the New Covenant made in his blood. God was committing to forgive His people because of the death Jesus was about to die for them.
We don’t confess to win forgiveness from an unwilling God. We don’t come like candidates on the Apprentice in the board room, summoning the self-confidence to persuade Lord Sugar to give us one last chance. We are asking God to do what He has already promised.
When you feel unworthy to come back to God, rely on His loyal love.
When you feel like you need make up for what you have done first, rely on His loyal love.
When you feel uncertain whether He has heard and forgives, rely on His loyal love.
If we confess, He has promised to listen and forgive. Will you trust that loyal love and confess to Him today?
Putting it into Practice:
- Take a moment to remember some of the ways God has been loyal to His people all through history and in Jesus in particular. Remember ways He has been personally faithful to you. If it helps, write them down. Then go through them one-by-one and praise Him for His unfailing love.
- Take a moment to think of specific things you want to ask His forgiveness for. Remind yourself again of His loyal love and pray those words that David prayed: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love.” Then pray and thank Him for His forgiveness.