May 31, 2021
“Search me Lord and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
When was the last time you prayed a prayer such as this? David, the writer of Psalm 139 knew that he was surely sinful from birth (Psalm 51:5). Each of us has a beautiful “true self” inside of us which is God’s gift to us. But often instead of displaying our God given identity, we hide our true selves behind a masquerade of defense, mistrust, and reactive behaviours toward others and toward God.
We want to hold ourselves up as people with good morals who put on a good appearance that all is well and that we are good. We don’t want to admit that something may be wrong with us. But this appearance of goodness on our part can be a defense. A way of covering up our sin leaving us thinking that we have nothing to confess.
But in truth, we all sin. Sin is anything that breaks relationships. The ten commandments are each one about relationship either with God or with others. They were given in order that the Israelites would not sin. But sin is inevitable in our lives. We all do it. And so, self-examination and confession are important disciplines.
True repentance means opening ourselves and all the wrong in our lives up to God. It means not only praying a general prayer that God would forgive our sins but asking Him to reveal specific sins to us so that we can name them and allow His Holy Spirit to work in us and redeem us in those areas of our lives.
Confession is good for our soul, but it can be a difficult thing. It involves entering that place where we look beneath our appearances and good morals and see what is hindering the light of Christ from being fully revealed in us. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9).
To see who the Lord is brings us to confession. When Isaiah caught sight of the glory of God he cried, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isa. 6:5). Our sinfulness becomes evident when we look at it in light of the holiness of God. In the presence of God we give up appearing good and fixing ourselves, opening ourselves to Jesus and asking His forgiveness.
At our church we have a time of confession during our worship services, where we ask God’s forgiveness for specific sins in our lives. Often our pastors pair this with a children’s message. Confession is important for all members of the Church. Asking select family members or close friends to help you see your blind spots can also be a way for God to reveal where He is not first in our lives. You can ask about ways that you display love, what it’s like to be around you, whether you are self-focused in conversation or show interest in others. Asking these sorts of questions and others like this to trusted people in your life can be another guide into a time of confession.
One important point I want to make in all of this is that just as we are not to put our focus mainly on our own goodness, it is also not healthy or right to turn our focus mainly on our sin. Christ died so that we could have freedom from sin. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1). He became sin for us so that we would not be condemned. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Every time we confess how we have missed the mark of God’s love and truth we open ourselves up to the healing and mending work of the cross. Through confession we live into the truth of being God’s new creation. The old is gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17).
God knows all about us. He formed us in the womb and knew us fully and completely before our parents knew we even were. All our ways are known by Him. Our thoughts, attitudes of our heart, our habits, inclinations, and quirky tendencies that make us exactly who we are. We cannot hide anything from God. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 51:10-12).
This week, spend time reflecting on Psalm 139, or Psalm 51. Ask God where you’ve missed the mark, confess those places, ask for His Holy Spirit to guide you into godly living and live into the new life that we have freely been given in Christ.