Confession as Therapy
May 2, 2021
Confession as Therapy, 5.2.21
If you were to define the “church,” how would you define it? There are many good answers to this question. Many good ones. We might say, the church is the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, the people of God, the total number of the elect. There are many good answers to this question. Here’s another good definition. This one I first heard since pastoring here at CBC. The church is a hospital for sinners. That’s good. That’s really good. The church is more than a hospital for sinners but it is not less than a hospital for sinners.
The reason why I like that definition is it highlights the fact that we all, all of us who come in the doors of this building, we all are broken and sinful. In this day of political and cultural division, it is so important to remember that all of humanity, all of us are bound together in the difficulties and trials of this world. All the way from our sin to the sin of others to the rebellion of the devil. This life is hard. We are all hurting to varying degrees.
Christ has shed his blood so that this place, the church, Community Bible Church, might be a place where sinners, all of us, rich and poor, black and white, young and old, might come to receive help, nourishment, and healing. That is what the body of Christ is for. It is a hospital of sinners.
And as a pastor, I am responsible to provide that healing by means of sharing the word of God with you. As a pastor, my job is to provide spiritual therapy. Pastors are supposed to do this by preaching the Word of God. The Word of God is therapy to us because it identifies and rescues us from our sin, guilt, shame, and death. The Word of God is the greatest therapy available to man.
If you have a copy of God’s word this morning, either a hard copy or a digital copy, please go ahead and up to Psalm 32. I will not read the passage to begin this morning, as we have already read it together as a church. I will read the passage as I go through it and exposit it.
As we will see this morning, the Bible prescribes for us a way to receive the therapy and healing that we need as suffering sinners. That therapy is confession. As the title of this morning’s sermon suggests, we receive the mercy and grace of God, what we so desperately need, when we acknowledge our sins to God. We can and will receive the divine therapy that we need, when we acknowledge to God our sins. If we are open and honest with God regarding our sins, we will receive God’s healing.
I have two points for you this morning. Good preaching is simple preaching. I always try to keep my preaching. Sometimes I am not sure if I do that, but I always try. And if you ever have any questions about the sermon, any thoughts, concerns, or questions, please feel free to come and visit with me, Pastor Jesse, or another elder. We would love to have the opportunity to visit with you.
Only the Forgiven Are Truly Happy
Now I do not do this very often, but this morning is an exception. I actually got the outline of this sermon from the study notes in my Bible. In my personal Bible reading, I regularly read from the ESV Study Bible. The outline I use today is given in the study notes is the one I use today. So if you have a ESV Study Bible, and you realize that my outline follows what they say, you know why. The first point that I want to guide our understanding of this passage is this: Only the forgiven are truly happy. Only the forgiven are truly happy.
We All Want to Be Happy
I am not a good singer. I’m terrible. Real bad. My wife and I have had an ongoing debate as to who is the worse singer. While I think I am better than her, I agree with her that I am bad. So I’m not a good singer but I really enjoy music. A lot. I like all types of music. One song that both me and my whole family likes is the song “Happy” by Pharrell. You might not know who Pharrell is but I imagine at sometime in some place you’ve heard his song “Happy.” Young theologians, this song happy is in one of the minions movies.
These are the lyrics. This is at least the chorus.
Because I'm happy. Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof. Because I'm happy. Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth. Because I'm happy. Clap along if you know what happiness is to you. Because I'm happy. Clap along if you feel like that's what you wanna do.
Now I don’t know what all those lyrics mean but I know that the main point of the song is to be happy. It’s a fun, lighthearted, and upbeat song. When you listen to it, you become happy.
I looked at the number of views this song had on Youtube. You ready? It had two billion views. I looked up the amount of people in the world. It’s about 7.7 billion. I divided these numbers. I know I’ve said that I don’t like math. I know. I can use a calculator, though. That’s 25% of the population. Now I imagine that the same person has watched this video more than once so the figure isn’t necessarily representative of individual people. Nonetheless, that is a lot.
This song, the lyrics combined with its popularity, shows us a universal desire that all people have in their hearts. We all want to be happy. We all do. We all struggle, yes. But none of like to struggle and suffer. Instead, we all want to be happy. Happiness is what drives our every decision. We got our of bed to strive after happiness. We came to church in pursuit of happiness. We will eat, sleep, visit, and travel all in pursuit of happiness. We are all looking for happiness. That desire drives and motivates every decision we make.
Happiness is Found in Forgiveness
Our passage this morning has a lot to say about happiness. The Bible gives a different answer to finding happiness than the song, “Happy.” Our passage is very specific. According to our passage, happiness is found in being forgiven of your sins by God. Looking at the passage with me. Verse 1 & 2. It says this,
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.
These verses are saying that God’s blessings and grace, happiness, is found in forgiveness. If you want to be a happy person, ask God to forgive you of your sins.
The hope of the Christian life is that God’s grace is greater than all of our sin. That is what we see here. Look at how the author describes forgiveness in this passage. There are three terms for “forgiveness” in this passage.
The first term in v. 1 is “forgiven.” This term means “lifted up.” This word stresses that God completely takes away our sins. He lifts them off and away from our shoulders.
The next term is “covered.” This term communicates that God conceals our sin, removes them from sight. I think a good illustration of this is a fire blanket. Have you ever heard of a fire blanket? It’s a very simple idea. Fire blankets are intended to be used on fires, placed on top of them, and the blankets smother, conceal, cover the fire and snuff it out. That’s what God’s forgiveness does with our sin. It conceals it and smothers it.
The last term is “counts no iniquity.” This means that does not place upon our account. Once we are forgiven, God does not write our sins down in heaven in his book. We have no record of sin with God when we are forgiven.
The Danger of Hiding Sin
The happiness of forgiveness in vv. 1 and 2 is contrasted in v. 3 and 4 with the dread that comes with hiding sin. Let us read vv. 3 & 4 together. The passage reads,
For 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 dried up as by the heat of summer.
I want us to understand the “when I kept silence” reference as, “When I refused to confess.” There are times in our lives when we know that we have done wrong but we refuse to acknowledge that wrong doing to God. That’s what David mentions here. We don’t know when this happened in David’s life. It could have been after David had Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, killed after he slept with Bathsheba. He knew he did wrong, but he refused to confess. We fall into the same patterns. Rather than confessing our sins to God, we hide them and refuse to acknowledge them. We live as if nothing is wrong, when in fact we know that there is a lot wrong.
When we do this, when we hide our sins, what happens? Lets look at v. 4. That is where we get the theological explanation of what happened. The passage says,
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me.
The NET Bible, the translation made by my beloved seminary, translate this passage this way:
For day and night you tormented me.
Placing this in a larger theological framework. The Bible teaches that as God responds to our sins by means of discipline. Just as a loving earthly father will discipline his children when they reject his authority, so also our heavenly Father can and will discipline us as we stray form him. This discipline can be severe, too, as David suggests.
What might these experiences of discipline be like? The text gives us some clues. Looking at v. 3. David’s “bones wasted away.” Again in v. 3, he groaned “all day long.” And at the end of v. 4, his strength “was dried up as by the heat of summer.” What’s all this mean?
I believe that there is a mixture here of both physical experiences and psychological. The bones wasting away and the strength being dried up, I believe, are references to physical weakness. He didn’t have much energy. He felt God’s discipline in his body. The reference to groaning I take to be a psychological reference. He hurt in his soul. It was a mixture.
One commentator said, simply, David was depressed. He had no energy. His body hurt. And he experienced a deep groaning in his soul. That’s depression. All of this stems from David’s hiding of his sin.
In my life, there was a time when I felt like how David expressed himself here. I was 16, 17, and 18. These years in my life we the peak years of my ungodliness and wickedness. I was living in sin and enjoying it. But I knew it was wrong. I knew God disapproved. During these years, I would have to drive some distance to go to soccer practice. I lived in one city but had to drive to another city about a hour away. So I had a lot of time to think, a lot of time to be alone with my thoughts. When your living in sin and you know it’s wrong, it can be a terrifying experience to be alone with your thoughts. During those drives, I would experience moderate episodes of psychological disturbance. The thoughts I would have would be borderline suicidal. I would resent myself, resent my life. I was disturbed. I was uneasy. I was bothered. I attribute the difficulty of my mind with my guilty conscience. I knew I was living wrong. I knew it. But I didn’t care. So God allowed my conscience to disturb me.
Maybe you have had times in your life where you’ve experienced this type of disturbance. Maybe you are experiencing it right now. We come and gather not to end with our sin, but always and only to end with hope of God’s grace.
The Hope of Confession
Yes, David experienced this disturbance in his mind. But let’s look at v. 5.
I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.”
Praise God the Psalm doesn’t end at v. 4. Praise God. Yes, vv. 3 and 4 are true. But look at this hope in v. 5. David, here, stops dodging responsibility. He stops with his defenses. He stops with his continual hiding of his sin. What does he do? He confesses to God his wrongdoing.
When we confess to God we simply tell him what he already knows. That’s what confession is. We agree with God regarding his assessment of us. Confession occurs when we agree with God regarding who we are and what we have done. We do this both privately and publicly. Confession is both a private and public discipline we engage it.
And what does David tell us will happen when we confess our sins to God? The very last statement of v. 5. It says,
And you forgave the iniquity of my sin
What happens if we confess our sins? We receive forgiveness. And notice that there is no penance attached to this. This passage states that confession leads to forgiveness. That’s it. Because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, there’s nothing else for us to do.
Penance is what the Roman Catholic Church teaches that must occur after confession. A priest will hear your prayers, and then to prove that you’re really sorry, the priest will prescribe you some act you must do to demonstrate and prove that you’re sorry. It might be something like praying the rosary. Dear friends, is that in this passage? Is that anywhere in Scripture? No. What is here is this: if you confess your sins to Him, God will forgive you. Salvation is free.
Confess our Sins Freely
So that’s all for our understanding. Verses 1–5 teaches us that only the forgiven are happy. When we conceal our sins, God lays his hand of discipline and displeasure upon his. He allows our conscience to condemn and attack us. And what a difficult experience this is. However, if we confess our sins, if we acknowledge them to the Lord, if we stop hiding them and bring them out into the open, and agree with God regarding who we are and what we have done, then God will forgive us. He will.
In light of this truth, this theological truth, how, therefore, should we live? What should we do in light of such a glorious truth? We’ll its very simple. We should confess our sins to God. Here I am segueing to my second and last point of this sermon. That point is this. “Confess our Sins Freely?” The first point was, “Only the forgiven are truly happy.” In light of that truth, we should, our second point, “Confess our sins freely.”
Verse 6 tells us this. It says,
Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found
I take the “offer prayer” to you as confess. All of us, therefore, in light of the truths of vv. 1–5 should confess our sins to God.
What Confession Is Not
I want to contrast what this passage is teaching, the confession this passage exhorts us to do, in light of what I would like to term, “Kindergarten Confession.” So imagine with me that you are a teacher of young children. Let’s say you teach kindergarteners. One day while you are on the play ground, you observe one child say something mean to another child. To maintain order in your class, you go up to this child and ask, “Johnny, did I hear you say something mean to Billy?” Johnny then turns to you and responds, “Yes.” Or, there’s also the, “Yes, but.” Johnny here is confessing wrongdoing, but is he really confessing? No. He’s not.
We want to avoid “Kindergarten Confessions.” In our confessions, we want to really, deeply, profoundly, confess our sins to God. Not dismissively but truly, deeply, sincerely. Pour out our hearts to God.
God, I have sinned against you. Forgive me, Lord.
Coming from the very bottom who we are. Not doing it because we “have to,” but doing it because we “want to.” That is key. No excuses. No equivocations. No “if, ands, or buts.”
The Lord has been working on my heart this week as I’ve reflected on this passage. As I dwelt on this passage, I’ve asked the Lord. “Lord, what do I need to confess?” The Lord has brought to mind my impatience, whether with my kids, my wife, you, the members of CBC. I have not been patience as I should. And God has shown me that. And I have told the Lord of my sins.
When Pastor Bill was here, his last sermon he preached here, was my installation service. Oh, Pastor Bill, was such a great interim. Now, I don’t really remember what he preached on. Don’t tell him that. That might be how you feel about my sermons. It’s OK. I tend to forget about what I preached, too. But I do remember his passage that he preached on. He preached on 1 Tim 4:2. The passage reads this,
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
That little phrase, “with complete patience,” I’ve confessed to the Lord this week that I haven’t done. And I share that confession with you to let you know that I am a sinner saved by grace.
You, too, must confess your sins to God, dear friend. You too must bring your sins to our heavenly Father. And you musn’t wait. You must not wait. Don’t hide your sins. And don’t wait to confess them. We musn’t wait to confess our sins.
Now this verse has this little statement at the end, “at a time when you may be found.” What is that referencing? Our time to receive God’s forgiveness on this earth does not last forever. God has given us all an allotted amount of time on this earth. After we die, what has been done by us in this world is set in stone for an eternity. The timing in which we might receive forgiveness, the time in which God might hear our prayers of confession is limited to our time on this earth. When we die, we have no more opportunities. That’s what I take David to be saying. In other words, don’t delay in your confession of sin. Confess today. Don’t wait around. Do it now.
Safety of Confession
When we confess, the passage teaches, we are safe. The end of vv. 6 and 7 show this.
Surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him. You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance.
What this means is that the troubles of life, signified by the “great waters,” will not overtake the godly who confess their sins to God. In light of confession, God becomes a hiding place. He preserves us from trouble. He surrounds us with his joyous declarations of our deliverance from sin.
Don’t Be Stubborn
Verses 8–9 mention the stubbornness that we must avoid in our confession. These verses read,
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.
I take it that what David is saying is this.
Listen, I’ve experienced tremendous difficulty because I didn’t confess my sins. You need to listen to me. Don’t be stubborn like a horse or mule. Don’t place yourself in a position where the Lord has to seriously chastise you to get you to confess your sins. Don’t be stubborn. Please, take it from me, I was taken to the woodshed and I got a whooping. Don’t be like me. Confess your sins to God.
That’s what vv. 8 and 9 mean. David has gone on before us.
Verses 10 & 11 bring the Psalm to a conclusion. What’s the sum of the matter? It is this,
Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD. Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
With confession, dear friends, there is great joy. The clearest rode to happiness in this life is to have a clean slate with God.
As we close this morning, I’d like to just share one specific application for us this week.
This week make confession the focus of your prayer life. Ask the Lord to recall the sins that you need to confess to him. Spend time thinking about what you need to tell the Lord. And as you do this confess all your sins to him. Both known and unknown. If you run out of sins to confess, tell him that you admit that you have sinned in ways that you are not aware of. And as you confess, thank God for his grace. God is so gracious.
The church is a hospital of sinners. The great physician is the Lord Jesus Christ. Our malady, our sickness, the diagnosis is sin. Our medicine is confession. The frequency of application of this medicine is take it every day. Take two, three, four times a day. And the prognosis is an eternity of joy in the new heavens and the new earth.