Confess and Be Forgiven (Psalm 32:5)

I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I did not hide;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”;
And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah.

Psalm 32:5

A very similar sentiment to this is expressed in 1 John 1:9 (If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.). Sometimes, I get caught up in the words. What do these words mean? Were these chosen on purpose? Is there something I’m missing about how this particular aspect of being a believer works? It is both the blessing and the bane of being a wordsmith. It is a blessing because going spelunking for meaning and clarity often yields treasures. It is a bane because the simple concepts — the ones with no alternate meaning and no hidden messages — can sometimes prove the most elusive to comprehend.

Take the idea of confession, for example. I grew up in the midst of Catholics. My family was not Catholic, but a fair few of my friends were. So the concept of confession for them meant going to rattling off the things they had done wrong to a priest who was sitting on the other side of a screen and the priest would tell them what sort of penance they had to do to be copacetic with God again. The Bible says that I should confess my sins to God. But what did that mean? The basic meaning of confess is to admit that something is true. Is that it? Is that all that God requires to forgive me of my sins? Short answer: Yes.

Faced with the simplicity, I have trouble. God wants only for me to own that my sins are utterly sinful. He is not asking me to do anything more or less than that. Seeing my sins for what they are is the first step, I’ve learned, in God being able to root them out of my life. By confessing, I’ve learned that some sins are rooted in simple things. Swearing is rooted in nothing more than frustration and a desire to vent my spleen. I can accomplish much the same thing with non-verbal sounds of aggravation and thereby avoid idle words. I can even do something as simple as heave a sigh. God understands the frustration whether I vocalize it or not. There are other sins that are rooted in many places. Pornography, more accurately called adultery, is one such. Some folks want to simplify it and say that it springs from whatever they think is its root cause. But plants that large and complex have equally large and complex root systems. Sure, it is rooted in sexual desires, but it also comes from a desire to be in control and a desire for predictability and a desire to understand (I don’t understand my wife, though I try) and more besides. Every time I think I’ve know where it comes from and can work to avoid those areas, I learn that the temptation comes from some previously unknown source, as well.

I am encouraged that David says that he will confess [his] transgressions to the LORD. I’m encouraged because transgression is a deliberate act of rebellion. David knew what was right and wrong and did the wrong anyway. The longer I walk with God, the less “gray” I see with regard to what is righteous and what is sinful in my life. The less “gray” there is, the more often my wrongdoing is transgression. I knew better, but I still did what was wrong in God’s sight.

God, via David, gives still more comfort when David writes that God forgave the guilt of [his] sin. David came to God and admitted that he had done what he knew to be wrong. And, simple as that, God forgave it. Something in me wants it to be more complicated than that. But it is not. It is as simple as that. I admit; I acknowledge; I confess that I have done wrong and God forgives me.

A last thought before I sum up and wrap up. David writes that God forgave the guilt of [his] sin, not the consequences. If I engage in certain sins, they have things that follow them. Sexual sin may bring with it disease or unplanned children. Anger may damage relationships (it is likely to) and can lead to far worse (which is why God says that I should be angry and yet not sin). My sins and my transgressions may have a baggage train behind them. God does not promise to stop the baggage train, only to forgive my guilt. My conscience will be cleansed, but the results of my wrongdoing will still show up in due course.

Confess and be forgiven. Simple as that.

Father, I’ve a great deal that I’ve done wrong in recent times. While others may not have seen or known, You have. To You I confess my wrong, for against You and You only have I sinned. Thank You for forgiveness. And thank You that it is simple enough to confuse me and bring me back again and again to the concept to be amazed anew at the simplicity of it all.


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