To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. 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.Psalms 51:1-5 ESV
Having contemplated on God’s perfection, holiness, and greatness in adoration, it is only logical to lament and confess our imperfections, sinfulness, and finiteness.
Confession means ownership, we own and admit our sins before God. We take sides with God and admit that His judgment is right against us. It “basically means agreeing with God in his view of sin; you see it the way He sees it.” We acknowledge that we deserve His judgment and do not deserve anything good, even God’s mercy. We deserve His burning wrath against our rebellion, unbelief, and hostility against the daily shower of God’s goodness. We confess because we see the darkness, sinfulness, and detestable nature of sin.
And I said, “O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned.Nehemiah 1:5-6 ESV
Now we ask, why is it necessary to confess our sins before God? I think, to even ask this means that we have a very high view of ourselves and a low view of God. God is Holy and we sin daily. Benjamin Palmer (1818-1902) writes, “Sin, disobeying God’s holy law, makes you guilty in the sigh of God. You may not feel guilty, but you are. It’s an objective moral fact. As a guilty sinner, it is your duty to confess your sin to God.“
Nevertheless, there is a great blessing when we confess our sins. Here they are:
It humbles us before God
I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps.
Genesis 32:10 ESV
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
James 4:10 ESV
To be humbled before God is a blessing. The proud in heart will be destroyed. The LORD doesn’t hear the prayer of the proud. He won’t listen when we cherish iniquity in our hearts (Psalm 66:18). When we enter His presence, the proper response is humility. If we are not humble, we won’t see His greatness and beauty. So we pray that God may open our eyes that we may behold His beauty and that God may wound our hearts.
Saying: “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens.
Ezra 9:6 ESV
Ezra was ashamed to even lift His face to God knowing the gravity of their guilt and sins. Have you ever felt this way before God? Many are too proud to come before God’s presence thinking that they are too clean and God is obligated to listen to them. But come to Him confessing your sins and pour out your hearts in prayer. Your heart will be humbled.
We need to confess our sins daily.
It obtains grace for cleansing
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 ESV
Confession cleanses our conscience and hearts from guilt and shame. Constant confession of sin is a sure mark of God’s grace in our hearts. God is faithful and just in forgiving us of our sins because Christ has already shed His blood for His people. That’s why we cry for mercy, not because of who we are but because of the abundant mercy that can only be found in the blood of the Lamb.
When we pray to God for forgiveness, we are not praying to someone who might say “No”. In the gospel, all who come to God in the Name of Jesus are promised to receive forgiveness.
It restores our sense of intimacy
I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah. Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him. Psalms 32:5-6 ESV (see also Psalm 51:3-4)
We are all open before God’s presence. He knows and sees everything in us. Though God knows the Psalmist’s sin, he did not hide it but openly and honestly confessed it to God. When we confess our sins, the sense of intimacy that was lost when we sinned will be restored. In confession, we break up with sin and cling to the Holy One more and more. Since, “True Confession brings with it a holy, burning horror and hatred of all sin, because sin is a vile thief, cheating God of His honor as well as robbing the sinner of His peace (Goodwin, 28).” We declare war against sin and find peace with God.
It restores our usefulness in the ministry
Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.
Psalms 51:11-13 ESV
In confession, not only that the joy of salvation is restored but also our usefulness to preach to others is restored. We will have the boldness to herald the blessing of forgiveness that we received in Christ. Who will be more credible to preach to other than those who experienced God’s gracious forgiveness?
So in prayer, don’t reduce it to merely asking God for your temporal blessings. Come to Him with a contrite heart, humbled by the sense of God’s infinite greatness and unconditional love in Christ that a sinner like you can even utter a word before His holy presence.
To God be the glory!
This blog post is based on our pastor’s message in Bella Vista last 01/19/22
Reference: Goodwin, T., & Palmer, B. (2007). What Happens When I Pray? Grace Publication Trust. (Original work published 1997)