Dr. John & Company Blog

Grace, Confession, Forgiveness and Joy

August 2, 2016
Aug 2 Blog

I have been thinking about three sections of Scripture. The first comes from 2 Samuel 11-12, which recounts the sordid details around the incident with David and Bathsheba. The incident still shocks me after all these years. How can a man described as a man after God’s own heart act like that? Asaph would later say of David in Psalm 78:72, “With upright heart he shepherded them (Israel) and guided them with his skillful hand.” And yet, this tender shepherd of Israel also took advantage of one of their married women and killed her husband.

The second section of scripture is Psalm 51, written by David shortly after his sin was discovered and his confrontation with the enormity of his own sin. The Psalm is a raw and emotional cry from his heart. It has short phrases that jump one to the other and is filled with a flurry of requests. It is the Psalm of a penitent man who is finally and completely facing the full ugliness of his sin. But it also is the Psalm of one who believes that mercy is to be found in God’s covenant love. The last section of scripture is Psalm 32. In Psalm 51, David promised that he would be open and public about his sin, and would use the opportunity in the future to teach other transgressors the ways of God. Psalm 32 is a thought through, finely crafted poem about the benefits of confessing sin. It is a part of wisdom literature, in which David, now some time after the events in 2 Samuel 11-12, makes good on his promise in Psalm 51 to teach sinners God’s ways.

Putting these three passages of scripture together provides a picture of something I think is lacking among so many believers. For years now, most evangelical churches have not had a weekly Sunday morning practice of jointly confessing sins. And because this has not been modeled in our public worship services, it tends not to be worked out in our daily devotions, nor is it being practiced as a course of our lives.In consequence, we become less humble, and less aware of the need for grace. As David reminds us in Psalm 32:10, “Many are the sorrows of the wicked.” In the context of Psalm 32, the wicked that David defines are those who act like a horse or a mule that must be curbed with a bit or bridle. They will not repent unless caught, or hard pressed so there are no options.

I once had a conversation with an atheist psychologist who told me that there was something psychologically unhealthy about Christians’ obsession with sin and repentance. I have thought about our conversation and have concluded that the exact opposite is the case. It is not an obsession with sin, repentance and the joy of forgiveness found in the cross that is psychologically unhealthy; rather, it is the denial of our sin and the suppression of our unrighteousness that is killing us. The obvious lack of joy in many can be directly traced to their unwillingness to make the confession of sin and repentance a regular spiritual discipline. As David remarked in Psalm 32:1, “How blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”

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