Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Power of Confession - Psalm 32:1-7 NSRV - September 15, 2013

This morning we begin with a Bible study reflection by one of our children.  Aubrey, come and share with us. Today in Sunday School, we learned about a time when King David did a lot of wrong things. He started with one bad thing, and then he kept doing more bad things to cover up the one bad thing. It was getting out of control! Finally a prophet named Nathan came to King David. God asked Nathan to tell David that it was time to stop keeping secrets and hurting everyone. He told David it was time to talk to God. David was ashamed and he went to God to ask for forgiveness. And God forgave David because God promises to forgive us when we sin. The point of the story is: we have to tell God we are sorry when we do things wrong.  Thank you for sharing, Aubrey.  That is an important lesson to learn.

The picture of the Prophet Nathan’s confrontation of David with his sins – his transgressions – his mistakes – his bad acts that were out of control and hurting everyone around them.  The story of David’s relationship with Bathsheba is one of the great scandals reported in Scripture.  David’s illicit actions with Bathsheba triggered a web of lies, adultery, murder and more.  Everyone in the story ends up deeply broken because of one man’s actions. David tries to hide his sin and shame until the very moment when the prophet confronts him.  The prophet let him know that there was going to be consequences for his actions, but the promise of forgiveness awaited David.  It is into this broken story our Psalm sings out.  David has cried out and confessed everything he had done to God and experienced the matchless forgiveness of God.  Hear the words of David’s psalm again. Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them.You are a hiding place for me;  you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.

One of the things we lost in the Reformation and the great division between Catholicism and Protestantism is the tradition of confession.  As Baptist we have embraced the belief in the priesthood of the believer.  If you listen, many try to describe what this means they will say something to the effect that “we do not have to have anyone between us and God – we can read Scripture on our own, we can pray on our own, and we can be forgiven on our own.”  There is truth to this perspective, but what we often miss is that if we truly embrace the priesthood of the believer it means that we are to be priests for one another.  It means that we are to provide each other spiritual encouragement but also spiritual accountability.  We like the idea of encouraging each other but honestly we struggle with the idea of holding each other accountable. Somehow we have come to view accountability as a near kin to being judgmental.  But without accountability we will often continue to hold on to our secret sins and shames.  Without accountability we can miss experiencing life giving forgiveness.  Without accountability we can miss the vitality of transforming grace.  Hear a word from James 5 as it proclaims; Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. 

In our embrace of the belief of the priesthood of every believer it seems that we lost the language of confession.  It is our loss.  We need Nathan’s to speak into our lives when we are on the wrong path.  We need to be reminded that we are called to confession – to each other so that we can be held accountable – and to God that we might experience forgiveness given by God alone.  I believe one of the reasons we struggle to live as the forgiven is that we have never fully embraced what it means to confess our sins to God and then experience the power and depth of God’s forgiveness.  When we lay our hearts bare before God we invite God to wash us clean – to purify us – to forgive us – to make us whole.  We hold on in secret hoping that no one will know and subconsciously pretending that God does not know already.

In this psalm David comes to celebrate the joy found when forgiveness flows into our lives. But he is clear that that he needed to be forgiven.  He remembers the pain his silence brought into the lives of others. He remembers the weight of his secret sin and shame.  We know that weight. Somewhere deep inside we know we need to forgiven. Somewhere deep inside we know it is time to let go and call out to God. It is into that heart-felt need that David invites us into his moment of confession where everything changes. “Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord and you forgave the guilt of my sin.”  I John 1:9 joins this great psalm of David and cries out; If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 

In a few minutes we will come to the table to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.  This is the place where we come to acknowledge the gift of Christ that makes forgiveness and grace possible for us.  This is this place to acknowledge God’s answer to our sin and failures was to make a way for us to be redeemed and restored again.  This morning I invite you to prepare for this experience by looking into the depths of your heart and in silence come before God in confession.  Lay before God all of your secret sins and shames.  Lay before God all that you have done or said – or failed to do our say – that has wounded others.  Lay before God all that separates you from knowing the fullness of God’s love for you.  Confess – and know that as you cry out to God – your cries of brokenness will be replaced with songs of forgiveness and cries of deliverance.  Call out and confess to God – and let His forgiveness rain down into your heart and soul.

Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

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