The Joy of Confessing Sin
Posted On March 06, 2017
What do you expect to happen when you confess your sin to God? You might say, “He will forgive me, of course!” But what if the sin you are confessing is the exact same sin you committed and confessed to God a mere day ago? We might be tempted to think that God would be hesitant to forgive us. We might envision a reluctant God who says, “Come on, really? You need to be forgiven again . . . for the exact same sin?!” But that is not David’s experience in Psalm 32:5–11. What David (and every believer in Christ) finds is a loving, forgiving, and patient God. “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgression to the LORD,’” and what follows is music to a sinner’s ear: “and you forgave the iniquity of my sin” (v. 5).
This is the first joy of confession: when you confess your sin, you will find a God who loves you with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3), is always willing to forgive you, and is patient with you. If parents do that, how much more does the Lord? “For as a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him” (Ps. 103:13). And that compassion, that “steadfast love,” according to Psalm 32:10, “surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD.”
The second joy of confession is found in Psalm 32:6–7. When you confess your hidden sin through prayer, you will find a God who protects and delivers you. Hiding your sin makes you vulnerable to “the rush of great waters” (v. 6), but they will not reach you if God is your hiding place, your place of “refuge and strength” (Ps. 46:1). Sin inevitably leads you toward death (James 1:14–15), but confessing that sin changes your course and directs you toward God Himself.
The third joy of confession is found in Psalm 32:8–9. After confessing your sin, you will find a God who instructs, teaches, and counsels you “in the way you should go” (v. 8). In other words, confession of sin is part of discipleship. “Without understanding” God’s ways, David states, we are like a horse or mule “which must be curbed with bit and bridle” (v. 9). We need to be taught to confess rather than conceal our sin. As Psalm 32:3–4 makes clear, concealing sin is physically and emotionally exhausting. But nothing is hid from God’s sight. As the Lord tells David, “I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (v. 8). When sin is confessed, you can have the assurance of knowing that the Lord will not reject you but will instruct you in the path of righteousness. Confess rather than conceal your sins.
Only then will you experience the final joy of confession in Psalm 32:11. Since it is the Lord who does not count our sin against us in our justification (v. 2), and since it is the Lord who forgives our sins in our sanctification (v. 5), as we “trust in the LORD” (v. 10), it follows that our gladness, our rejoicing, and our joy will be “in the LORD.” For we trust neither in ourselves nor in our confession but in the Lord Jesus Christ, our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30). He “committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth” (1 Pt. 2:22; Isa. 53:9)⏤unlike the “deceit” found in our spirit (LXX: “mouth”; Ps. 32:2). By faith, we claim Christ’s righteousness as our own and in full dependence on Him, by the Spirit, we grow in righteousness in our sanctification.
Confessing sin is humbling and humiliating. Perhaps that is why we avoid confession, either to God, our pastor, or another brother or sister in Christ. But those who practice confession can attest to the liberating joys that result.
Dr. David Briones is Professor of New Testament at Reformation Bible College.