Confession demolishes filthy sin and constructs a clean heart in its place.
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Read Psalm 51
Listen to passage & devotional:
Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 126
Q. What does the fifth request mean?
A. “Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors” means,
Because of Christ’s blood,
do not hold against us,
poor sinners that we are,
any of the sins we do
or the evil that constantly clings to us.
Forgive us just as we are fully determined,
as evidence of your grace in us,
to forgive our neighbors
It's easy to think of the confession of your sin as a purely negative act, in that you're asking for your sins to be taken away, or negated. But our passage today helps us understand that confession involves two distinct aspects: the removal of sins for sure, but also the restoration of godly behavior.
Earlier in Psalm 51, David asks for his sins to be washed away (v3), and his iniquity to be blotted out (v9). This necessary first step removes the filfth and decay brought about by the sins being confessed.
In today's passage, there are three actions David asks God to perform within him: to create a pure heart, to renew a steadfast spirit, and to restore the joy of salvation. These requests are sandwiched around the key ingredient for the new life that David is asking for: the internal presence of the Holy Spirit.
Think of the process of replacing delapidated buildings with new construction. The project isn't finished once the old buildings are mowed down and hauled away. In fact, that's often the quickest and easiest part of the project! Raising up the new buildings takes hard work, resources and time.
This is how confession works: it's not just asking God to demolish your sins and haul them away (that's actually the easy part!), but confession also must involve inviting the Spirit to (once again) begin new construction in your life.
Too often people equate forgiveness and salvation as nothing more than a bunch of divine do-overs, as if whenever you mess up God's expectation for perfect righteousness in your life, you can simply confess your sins and God will give you another new blank slate so you can try again.
Of course the big problem with this type of thinking, aside from the fact that it's completly contrary to scripture, is that it's totally hopeless. Even if you were given an infinite amout of do-overs, you would never meet the perfect standard God requires.
David wrote Psalm 51 roughly 1,000 years before Jesus lived, so David had no way of understanding the theological details describing how Jesus would become the perfect righteousness we need in order to satisfy God's demand. But even so, David knew he didn't just need his sin demolished and taken away, he needed a pure heart and steadfast spirit built back up in the spot that sin had been, and he knew that he was completely reliant on the Holy Spirit to construct these things within him.
So confess your sin often, just as Jesus commands us in the Lord's Prayer. But in doing so, don't just ask for another hopeless do-over. Instead, pray that Holy Spirit will fill the void left by the blotted out sin with the pure heart and steadfast spirit you need.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father; who restores to us the joy of His salvation;
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray your sins will be taken away and that the Holy Spirit will create, renew, restore and grant you a pure heart.
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED:
Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - Revelation 16