If there is one organization on the planet where members gather frequently to acknowledge their unworthiness and sinfulness that would be the Christian church. The Christian faith readily acknowledges the reality of sin because the bible does so. Maturity in the life of Christian means a growing understanding of the pervasiveness of sin, and the need for God’s grace.
What does confession mean?
For the Christian, confession does not mean begging for forgiveness––there is no sin that hasn’t been forgiven through the cross of Jesus Christ. All our past, present, and future sins were taken care of at the cross when we first believe in Christ Jesus. 1 John 2:12 – “I am writing to you, little children, your sins have been forgiven because of Jesus’ name.”
In the New Testament, a Greek word for “Confess” is “homolegeō“, meaning to “speak in agreement.” When we “confess” our sins, we are agreeing with God, and acknowledging that we have sinned. Rather than denying, excusing, or trying to hide our sins from God, we openly express agreement with God over the true nature of our sinful attitudes and actions. Of course, repentance (turning away from that sin) must be accompanied by honest confession. So, the true confession is, when you say, “Lord, I have sinned. I agree with Your evaluation of myself. I’m a sinner and I turn from it.” That is a true confession.
The marks of true confession
David was identified as a man after God’s own heart. He was a great worshiper of God, but his life was marked by terrible sins that lead to terrible consequences. Among the beautiful songs he wrote, Psalm 51 bears the mark of deep guilt. This is a psalm written out of pain, anxiety, and fear when the prophet Nathan confronted David of his gruesome sin of adultery with Bathsheba, and murder of Uriah. In this psalm, David poured out his heart to God in confession. He understood God demands justice, and he asks for mercy; He saw his sin has made him dirty, so he asks God to clean him; The guilt he was carrying has made him physically sick, and he asks God to heal him; His wicked act has severed his relationship with God, and he asks it to be restored. So, this psalm is a prayer of true confession.
There are many lessons we learn from this psalm about the true confession. In David’s confession basically, we find four components: (1) Right view of Sin, (2) Right view of God, (3) Right view of salvation, and (4) Right view of himself.
Right view of sin (Psalm 51:1-5)
I must acknowledge my sin
David understood what sin is, and he recognized the wretchedness of his own heart. He is broken over his sin and came to God with a contrite heart acknowledging his guilt.
I must recognize that my sin deserves punishment
David recognized what he deserves is judgment for the crime he committed, and he pleads with God not to give him what he deserved, but to show him mercy. God is never obligated to extend His mercy to an undeserving sinner. Mercy by definition is something God does voluntarily. He is not bound to do it. But He does it out of the sheer goodness of His heart as it pleases Him. David asks that God spare him that judgment. He appeals to God’s mercy (v1).
I must understand that my sin needs to be cleansed
David asks God to wash away his iniquities and clean him completely (v2). He is asking for forgiveness from God. This is the beauty of God’s mercy; at Calvary, God made available a bath for those who ask for cleansing. ‘There is a fountain filled with blood Drawn from Immanuel’s veins. And sinners plunged beneath that flood, Lose all their guilty stains’ (reference – There is a Fountain).
I must acknowledge the full responsibility of my sin
David does not pass the blame to anyone like Adam did in the garden. He didn’t blame Bathsheba. We know that she was not completely innocent. She should have been aware that David was out on the balcony when she showed up herself in the middle of the day on her housetop when her husband was away (2 Samuel 11). David didn’t say, ‘the devil made me do it’. Neither has he blamed God for the opportunity of temptation. He said, ‘I acknowledge, I did it’ (V3). True confession accepts full liability for sin.
I must acknowledge sin is a rebellion against God
David said, “Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight” (v4). When we sin, we are not simply breaking a code, we are sinning against a person. Sin has implications in all kinds of directions, but it is primarily against God. Sin is an active rebellion against God’s Holy Character.
I must recognize my utter depravity
“I was sinful from the time I was conceived’ (v5). He was not saying that he was born as an illegitimate child; neither was he saying that he had done something evil by being born. Rather, he was acknowledging the human condition of fallenness, a condition that he himself brought into this world. The idea is that we are not sinners because we sin, but that we sin because we are sinners.
Right view of God (Psalm 51:1, 6-12)
God is a loving, merciful, and compassionate God.
David understood God is slow to anger, abounding in love, and forgiving sin and rebellion (Nehemiah 9:31; Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Psalm 86:5; Psalm 86:15; Psalm 145:8; Psalm 103:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2). He knew God does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. David knew His great love is as high as the heavens are above the earth. He knew if God were to give people what they deserve no one will survive. (Psalms 103). He knew that he was not consumed because of the LORD’s great love (Lamentations 3:22). That’s why he appealed to His lovingkindness (v1). We all deserve the punishment of eternal hell, but God chooses Christians to show mercy through the blood of Jesus Christ.
God is Holy, He desires the truth
David understood what God is after. In v6, he is saying, ‘I know you delight in the holiness of my heart’. God is not concerned with my external activities. God does not care how many Christian books I have; He doesn’t care how many sermons I listen to on Sunday, but he cares about my heart -my holiness. “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart (1 Sam 16:7). “Be holy because I am holy ( 1 Pet 1:16).
God has the power to cleanse
David prays with confidence, and he believes that when God purges his sins he shall be cleaned and his dirty garments become whiter than snow (v7). He believes God’s power to change him from inside out. He asks God to give him a new heart and right spirit (v10). There is nothing that God cannot do; no prison, no sin or bondage that He cannot break. David completely trusts God for the new beginning.
God disciplines His children
David recognized the chastisement of God, “let the bones that you have broken rejoice” (v8). He was experiencing physical effects of his guilt and the pain and anxiety of his own iniquity (Psalm 32:3-4). It dried up the fluids in his body. It distressed him. He was not negative about it, and he asked God to restore the joy back. God’s mercy does not eliminate His discipline over Christians. “The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone He accepts as His son (Hebrews 12:6).
God is forgiving
God speaks through the prophet, “I am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” (Isaiah 43:26). David knew God is forgiving and delights in mercy (Micah 7:18). So, he appeals to His Holy character, “Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities” (v9). David believes God is a pardoning God. He wouldn’t ask if he didn’t believe it.
Right view of Salvation (Psalm 51:11,12)
Salvation is secure in God’s hand
David understood that he didn’t lose his salvation. He knew that the divine miracle that happened to him above without his participation and his righteousness is not reversible. He lost all the joy of salvation, because of his sin. Sin shatters the heart of the father, it ruined the relationship, yet God did not cease to be David’s Father. Now, he was asking God to restore the joy of that loving relationship (v11, 12).
Right view of self (Psalm 51:13-19)
I must be holy to witness others
David said, “God, restore to me the joy of my salvation, then I will teach the sinners and bring them to you” (v13). When you have a sin in your life you won’t be able to speak, you won’t be able to witness others. If you want to be an effective witness to unbelievers then you must come clean from your sin first.
I must be right with God to offer worship
“Save me from the guilt of bloodshed, God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing of Your righteousness. Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise” (v14, 15). David knew if there was sin in his heart God wouldn’t hear him (Psalm 66:18). He desires to praise God, but God had to remove his guilt so that David can open his mouth to declare His praise.
My only path to forgiveness is a broken heart and a humble spirit
There is nothing we can offer God to appease Him when we have sinned. External religious activity cannot replace internal, heartfelt contrition. God desires my true repentance (V16, 17). When we throw ourselves on the mercy of God, He delights to lift us up. When we openly acknowledge our sin against God, turn from it, and cry out for cleansing, God promises that He will hear us and forgive (1 John 1:9).
A broken spirit and a contrite heart are foundational to the Christian life. That is the path to joy, praise, and witness. God not only creates in us a clean heart and clean hands —but when we come to Him with a humble and contrite spirit, He looks on us with favor, and only then God accepts our offerings (v18, v19). Through faith in Christ, we can no longer be cast out of His presence. Thank you Jesus for what you have done on the cross for us!