Confession & Repentance

David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.”  (2 Samuel 12:13 ESV)

“Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.”
“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
(Psalms 51:1–5 ESV)

Isn’t confession the same thing as repentance?  NO!  Confession alone is merely acknowledging our sin without turning from it at a heart level. Confession means that we feel bad about our sin or it’s consequences, but we don’t really want to change.  When we confess  our sin without repenting of it we display that we believe that sin does not have real consequences.  Repentance means that we turn from our sin and towards God and those we have offended with a contrite heart.  Repentance involves a heart level desire to change and a plan to change.  Repentance is not just turning from the external behaviors that wrought destruction in your life and the lives of others, but digging deeper into the heart motivation that drove those behaviors.

When there is acknowledgement of sin, but no real repentance of sin there’s no true understand of the offense that has been done.  There is no real understanding of the consequences of sin.  When there is no real understanding of the consequences, there’s no real need for atonement.  When “there’s no atonement, there’s no penalty paid for sin. There’s no Jesus, there’s no Savior. There’s no new life in Christ, there’s none of that, just a bunch of counterfeits — worldly sorrow.”1

Confession ≠Repentance

David confesses and appears to be repentant, but only time reveals if his heart is really repentant because the repentant heart ALWAYS yields fruit (Matthew 3:8, Luke 3:8).  David has a truly repentant heart, he wrote Psalm 51 during this season of his life.

David appeals to God’s gracious character and covenantal, steadfast love (chesed – Exodus 34:6-7) and abundant mercy because he knows that there is nothing that he can do to make things right between himself and God.  There was no sacrifice for adultery or for murder that he could offer, both offenses deserved death according to the law (Exodus 20:13-14, Leviticus 20:10-12, Numbers 35:30-31).  David’s sin was paid for by death – the death of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah and the death of David & Bathsheba’s first born son (and the death of Another).

Only God’s grace could restore David.  But, how could God do this?  How could He “just forgive” David of these destructive sins?  David’s sin could only be forgiven because a truly perfect first born son died the death that David deserved; Jesus paid the penalty for David’s sin.  The cross of Christ is in full focus in this passage – all the sins of God’s elect were placed squarely upon the shoulders of Jesus, regardless of whether they lived before or after the cross.  Jesus did not take a blank sheet of paper to the cross and then passively wait to see if we would accept His offer of forgiveness and write our names on the paper.  NO!  He wrote our names down and took them to the cross – He took David’s, mine and millions of others of the elect!

Grace is abundant, but it does not negate the consequences of David’s sin.  This is important.  My sinful acts in my life still have consequences on me and on others – it is not a lack of God’s grace, it is an evidence of grace.

David seeks to be ceremonially washed (Exodus 19:10) and cleaned (numbers 19:19) so that he can be in the presence of the Lord.  David seeks this from God because he knows that there is nothing that he can do to be acceptable because of the nature of his sin.  David is seeking to be in the presence of the Lord.  He is painfully aware of his sinfulness.  This is the first part of receiving God’s healing in our lives – naming and owning our sin.  David does not, nor should we, seek to justify his sin, blame it on others, seek to explain why or minimize it.  We should name our depravity and let it sit deeply on us.

We know that David sinned against Bathsheba and Uriah so why does he say that it is “against you only have I sinned?”  David recognizes that God is the ultimate judge.  God sees all and will bring all things to justice – all things!  We are not tried in the court of human justice, but in the tribunal of the eternal God of the universe.  This does not, in any way, lower the harm done to others – if anything, it raises it. This passage echoes 2 Samuel 11:27 & 12:9.  God is the ultimate just judge!

David traces his sinfulness back to conception – even before his birth!  This text does not mean that he was conceived by his mother in some sinful way, but rather that sin reigned in him – even in the womb.  We are by nature objects of wrath.  David does not cite this as an excuse or to justify his sin in any way.  He cites this and it elicits worship in him.  Worship & transformation occurs when we move from, “I couldn’t help it, that’s the way God made me,” to “what kind of God loves and forgives people like me who are so depraved – even from conception!”  You can tell you are repentant if you are able to worship – even in the midst of extreme difficulties.  If you are amazed, moved and overwhelmed that God calls you his “treasured possession” (because of Jesus’ perfect obedience that He gave to you) then you know that repentance has been granted to you.

God redeems & restores, He brings beauty out of ashes.  He doesn’t operate the way that we do – Solomon was the son of Bathsheba and is in the line of Jesus (2 Samuel 12:24).

1 http://theresurgence.com/2010/07/05/7-counterfeits-of-repentance

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