The Discipline of Confession

Today’s Readings: Numbers 16-17; Psalm 51:1-7; 1 Corinthians 10:1-22

I don’t think anyone likes to confess. The next two posts I think will be about confession and why it is we must continue to practice confession.

In a lot of ways, confession is a discipline. It’s not just something you do when you have done something wrong. Confession is a practice that takes a lot of practice and discipline to continually do.

In Psalm 51, the title of the psalm gives the setting of it. David has committed adultery with Bathsheba (really it’s an abuse of his power, she had no option to say “no”) and murdered her husband Uriah. In 2 Samuel 14, we see how the prophet Nathan confronts David and opens his eyes to the depth of his sin.

So, presumably after everything has gone down and David has repented, David writes this poem to express what was going on within him.

Sometimes, after we go through something big in our lives, we are inspired to some type of creative expression. For David, he has experienced the highs and lows. The low of his sin, the depravity in his soul that spilled forth and caused death and brokenness to pour into the lives of other people who were helpless to do anything to counter it. The high of receiving God’s forgiveness.

I love the first line of this psalm, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.”

There is nothing David could ever do to merit God’s favor and get God to forgive him. It is solely upon the basis of God’s mercy, God’s love and God’s willingness to forgive him. God is the one who moves first, not David.

Often times when we do something wrong, we live as though we have to do something in order to get God to forgive us.

The truth of the matter is that we do this because that is how our human relationships work. We do something wrong and so we need to show how sorry we really are or we need to do something favorably in order to get someone else to forgive us. The concept of forgiveness in our culture is utter nonsense. Forgiveness means letting go of what was done wrong to you. Forgiveness means not holding on to bitterness and clearing the slate.

Our culture is all about making everything even. You wronged me, so I need to you make it up to me. You hurt me, so you need to make it even. Sometimes it even comes down to “you hurt me so I’ll hurt you.”

David recognizes his absolute inability to make it even with God. He can’t do anything that would make him worthy of God’s forgiveness. David is completely dependent upon God’s merciful act in forgiving him.

Later, in verse 4, David affirms “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.”

The reality of our sin, is that even as we sin against others, really the person we ultimately sin against is God. As a result of our sinning against Him, He is totally justified and blameless to judge us and to condemn us. God is the One who can define what is lawful and unlawful, what is life-giving and what is life-taking. That is His right as the King of the universe. So for us, we need to recognize that as we break God’s commands, we ultimately sin against Him and we are completely at His mercy.

So, how does confession come into play with all of this.

First, confession doesn’t get God to forgive us. There is nothing about us confessing that requires God to forgive us. There is nothing we can do to bend the will of God. That is His move to make, not our own.

Second, confession does not wash us clean. Sometimes people want to confess just so that they can get whatever it is off their chest and then they can go on living the way they have been living. Confession becomes a means to just clean their conscience even though there is nothing that has cleaned anything.

What confession is, is the conscious practice of admitting we are wrong and in need of God’s mercy. We have sinned against God and so we need Him to act on our behalf if we are going to be forgiven. There is nothing we can do to get God to give us forgiveness.

So confession is an admitting of wrongdoing and humbling ourselves to the reality of what consequences we deserve in light of God’s just character.

But assurance is what accompanies confession for those who have placed their faith in Jesus. Our next post will talk more about this second aspect of confession.

Monday’s Reading: Numbers 18-20; Psalm 51:8-19; 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:16


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