Summary: Confession is a key part of our prayer life. But was it about confession that improves our prayer life, and how can we learn to confess our sins so that our prayers are more effective?
(This was the 2nd of two sermons preached by our Associate Minister Scott Jewell while I was in Israel)
Open with the Lord’s prayer from Matthew 6:9-13
We’re continuing to learn from the Lord’s prayer by using the acronym ACTS.
As a refresher, the acronym represents four parts to prayer that help us maintain a proper balance in our conversations with God- Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. Today we are going to focus on the idea of confession.
Webster’s Dictionary definition of "confession":
1- statement in which you say that you have done something wrong
2- the act of telling people something that makes you embarrassed, ashamed, etc.
3- the act of telling your sins to God
I need to begin with a confession of my own. I’m not a big fan of confession. I’m guessing there are more than a few of you who are right there with me. After all, who actually enjoys admitting they’re wrong, that they’ve made a mistake, that “yes dear, you were right”, having to swallow their pride and eat a slice of humble pie, coming face-to-face with the notion that they’re a sinner in the need of grace and they can’t simply give an excuse and move on like nothing has ever happened. Confession can be very painful, it makes us vulnerable, it subjects us to another’s mercy, it takes away our sense of being in control as we submit ourselves to whomever is listening. Confession forces us to look in the mirror and take responsibility for the choices we’ve made or the actions we’ve taken. In fact, just last night, our plan was to pick up our dog from the Army house on the way home and we had texted that we would be there by 7:30. However, I had programmed the gps to direct us home and I forgot to turn off the route to get Larry. Terri went to text BJ to let her know that I had missed the turn so we’d be a bit late. I suggested that all she had to say in the text was that we were running late, no need to point out my error. Such a small thing, but I didn’t like having to say it was my fault, but there it is.
Confession is good for the soul. -Scottish Proverb
No one knows this better than King David. Turn in your Bibles to Psalm 32 while I explain what prompted David to pen these words. Recap the events of David and Bathsheba, Uriah, and Nathan. Soon after these events took place, David wrote the 32nd Psalm. In the heading, you’ll notice that it is identified as one of David’s psalms, then referred to as a maskil. The word maskil carries this idea of a lesson or teaching, so right up front that David wrote this psalm to teach us something- as we shall see, that lesson is the value of confession. Read Psalm 32.
The Psalm begins by declaring how blessed it is to be forgiven. Charles Spurgeon points to the plural form of blessed and describes this as an exuberant expression of joy that comes with the relief of a burden no longer carried- “Oh the blessednesses.” I like to picture him saying, “Oh the blessednesseseseses.” He then goes on to explain why with this vivid description:
Note the three words so often used to denote our disobedience: transgression, sin, and iniquity, are the three headed dog at the gates of hell, but our glorious Lord has silenced his barkings for ever against his own believing ones. The trinity of sin is overcome by the Trinity of heaven. -Charles Spurgeon
David uses three words to describe his downfall that led to his misery- transgression, sin, and iniquity. Now, at first glance I thought, how nice, the psalmist got out his thesaurus and found different ways to express the idea of wrongdoing. He mixed it up, got creative, waxed eloquent for our listening pleasure. If you dig a little deeper though, each of these words convey a slightly different nuance that presents a fuller picture when brought together. Let’s look at the verbal picture David was painting.
Transgression: a going away, a departure from God
David uses the word transgression to draw a picture of someone running away from something or someone. The word reminds me of how the prophet Jonah tried to run from God. Here is a man who is told by God to proclaim His judgment upon the Ninevites. Jonah was more concerned about what the Ninevites might do in response to his message than what God could do if he disobeyed. So he goes and buys a one-way ticket to Tarshish- a city as far away as possible from Nineveh. Of course, we know that God whipped up a storm, Jonah gets thrown in the sea, and a big fish swallows him before spitting him out on the shore near Nineveh after three days. It seems silly to think of running from the God who is everywhere, but how often do we do the exact same thing? Something happened that we’d rather justify than confess, so we seek to avoid God. Maybe that looks like skipping a little study and prayer time, missing church here and there, dodging concerned brothers & sisters in hopes the problem will eventually just go away. When we transgress, we separate ourselves from God.