Summary: If you want God to clean up the mess in your life, you must truly confess your sins: acknowledge that God is right; admit that you are wrong; and commit to change.
Max Lucado talks about the time he decided to go to his office very early one morning. He had been on vacation for a couple of weeks and was well rested. So he rolled out of bed early…real early. He dressed to go to the church office, and his wife tried to convince him not to go.
“It's the middle of the night,” she mumbled. “What if a burglar tries to break in?”
There had been an attempted break-in at the office a few weeks previously, but Lucado ignored his wife’s concern, drove to the church, entered the office complex, disarmed the alarm, and then re-armed it.
A few seconds later the sirens screamed. Lucado thought, “Somebody is trying to break in!” So he raced down the hall, turned off the alarm, ran back to his office, and dialed 911. After he hung up, it occurred to him that the thieves could get in before the police arrived. So he dashed back down the hall and re-armed the system.
“They won't get me,” Lucado mumbled defiantly as he punched in the code.
But as he turned, the sirens blared again. Lucado disarmed the alarm and reset it. He walked to a window to look for the police, and the alarm sounded a third time. Once again he disarmed it and reset it.
Walking back to his office, the alarm sounded again. Lucado disarmed it and thought, “Wait a minute; this alarm system must be fouled up.” So he called the alarm company.
“Our alarm system keeps going off,” he told the fellow who answered. “We've either got some determined thieves or a malfunction.”
“There could be one other option,” the man at the alarm company told him. “Did you know that your building is equipped with a motion detector?”
Just then the police arrived. Lucado told them, “I think the problem is on the inside, not the outside,” embarrassed that he was the culprit setting off the alarm.
Alarms go off in our world all the time, and it doesn’t help to pretend they aren’t screaming. But it’s also wise to look in the mirror before you peek out the window. (Max Lucado, When God Whispers Your Name; www.PreachingToday.com)
When we try to cover up our sins, they only get worse. But when we openly confess them, then and only then can God solve the problem.
The Bible says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. [However], 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). Literally, God is faithful to loose us from our sins and to clean out all of the unrighteousness.
Do you struggle with sin in your life – with things like bitterness or anxiety, or with certain addictions that enslave you? Then God can set you free from these sins, but only if you truly confess them to Him.
The question is: What IS true confession? What does it involve? What does it look like?
Nehemiah 9:1 Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads. (ESV)
It was the 24th day of the 7th month, just two days after the Jews in Nehemiah’s day celebrated the week-long feast of tabernacles. Ezra had read to them the Word of God on each day of the feast, and now they’re not eating. They’re clothed in sackcloth and they have dirt on their heads – a sign of extreme distress.
Warren Wiersbe says, “Their feasting had turned to fasting as the Word of God brought conviction and people started confessing their sins” (Warren Wiersbe, Be Determined, p.108).
Nehemiah 9:2-3 And the Israelites separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day; for another quarter of it they made confession and worshiped the LORD their God. (ESV)
For a quarter of the day (that’s three daylight hours), they read the Bible, and for another three hours they confessed their sins. That’s a six-hour worship service – three hours of preaching and three hours of praying.
Nehemiah 9:4-7 On the stairs of the Levites stood Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani; and they cried with a loud voice to the LORD their God. Then the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, “Stand up and bless the LORD your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise. “You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you. You are the LORD, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham. (ESV) – which means Father of a Multitude.