Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Psalm 32 Confession Delivers us from Self-condemnation

KEY TEXT: Psalms 32:1-5 Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord" — and you forgave the guilt of my sin. 

KEY THOT: It’s over-simplication to say that the OT is law and the NT is grace, for there is grace (or “gospel”) in the OT and there is law in the NT. God has always dealt with humans on the basis of grace after the Fall; if there has been no grace, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and the rest of the OT prophets would not have found favour with God for none of them were without sin. They did find favour with God only because their faith in God allowed them to access His grace. 

In Psalm 32, we have a clear statement of divine grace in verse 10. The Hebrew word is hesed, translated variously as “mercy” (KJV), “unfailing love” (NIV/NLT), “steadfast love” (ESV/RSV), “faithfulness” (NET), and “lovingkindness” (NASB). The Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT) uses the Greek word eleos (mercy) to translate hesed. In the NT story about Jesus' deliverance of the demoniac from a host of demons, he told him: “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy (eleos) on you” (Mark 5:19). There is no clearer demonstration of divine grace than the deliverance of the demoniac from demon-possession. And Jesus used the word eleos to describe what God has done for the demoniac, which is the NT word used to translate the OT word hesed. So, grace is not a NT idea, but is embedded in the OT too. 

And grace is always accessed through faith. David affirms that the “steadfast love (hesed) surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord” (v.10). This is also asserted by Paul in Romans 1:17, “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith." From Abraham to Christ, the only basis for relationship with God is by grace through faith—this is an eternal principle, not just a NT one. Those who preach otherwise is either ignorant or ignoring biblical evidence. Psalm 32 clearly expresses this truth when David writes in Psalms 32:1-2, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”

Just because God has covered our sins and forgiven all our sins in Christ does not imply that confession is not required. Confession in 1 John 1:9 is homologeo, which is literally “saying (logeo) the same thing (homo)” as God--or simply agreeing with God's judgment about our action. What God calls sin, we don’t excuse it by calling it our weakness, flaw, "moments of indiscretion", mental illness or lifestyle choice. David committed adultery with Bathsheba—he didn’t just have an “affair” with Bathseba--and he was judged. And until he confessed (agreed with God) that what he had done was wicked and displeasing to God, he suffered inwardly: “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long” (Psalms 32:3). This lack of resolution and closure (available only through confession) generated guilt that threw David into an orgy of psychosomatic illnesses: "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long" (v.3).

Even though God will not count our sins against us because of his grace, nevertheless we will not experience relief and freedom from guilt and self-condemnation until we agree with God that we have sinned: “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord," and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” 

There are some who confuse confession with penance and indulge in an orgy of self-flagellation in their “confessions”. Instead of simply acknowledging their sins before God and in faith claim God's forgiveness and cleansing "from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9), they go into an orgy of self-condemnation and self-reproach through repeated "confessions". Instead of looking up at the Cross and thanking God for His forgiveness, they look inward into their own sin in remorse rather than in repentance. Repentance is not feeling sorry for ourselves; repentance is acknowledging we have sinned and then looking away from ourselves towards the Cross. Confession means admitting that we have fallen short of God’s standards (law) and then thanking God that He has not only forgiven us but has also cleansed us from "all unrighteousness" caused by our sins. Once our sins are confessed, we can stand before God cleansed and clean! Hallelujah! 

But when there is no confession, we feel unclean because we are uncleansed.

If there is faith, there is no need to go into an orgy of self-reproach and self-condemnation. The issue of preachers who have problem with confession isn’t because confession makes them feel guilty and self-condemned but it is because their confession is not done in faith. Instead of looking to Christ’s completed works, they are focused on themselves--their own inadequacy and failure and thereby find no relief from guilt and condemnation. 

Father, deliver us from self-condemnation but through confession help us take hold of Your forgiveness freely available at the Cross. Amen.

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