Honesty When I'm Out Of Harmony With Holiness
“When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord” (Proverbs 19.3). The teaching here is simple: We ought not blame God for the fruit of our folly.
Christians struggle. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves” (1 John 1.8a). Christians make mistakes. “If we say we have no sin…the truth is not in us” (1 John 1.8b). Christians continue to need the interceding work of Jesus Christ. “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1.10). At times, Christians need to confess to their heavenly Father about some word, thought, or deed that is out of harmony with holiness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1.9).
I must be honest with myself. “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51.3). I am breathing God’s air. I am functioning within a body provided by God. I am exercising talents that are God-given. I am living on God-created (and God-limited) time. Paul asked the saints in Rome, “Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2.4). When wayward children of God are honest with themselves, the gravity of sin against a gracious God can drive them to “come to themselves” (Luke 15.17) and “grieve” them into repenting (2 Corinthians 7.9).
Listen to the vital part of David’s prayer of confession: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean hear, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (Psalm 57.7-12). David was not an alien sinner, but in covenant relationship with God.
What does it take to be willing to pray such a prayer of confession? Honesty. My heart is not clean. My spirit is not right. Whatever joy I feel will not last. My gladness has been uprooted from the only abiding source. I have been willing once again to trade the greatest of blessings for the most fleeting of foolish pleasures. Men who are unwilling to be honest with themselves will not pray such prayers. Women who are unwilling to be honest with themselves will not be grieved into repenting. And without repentance, we run the eternally weighty risk of standing before God without an advocate.
I must be honest with God. “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” (Psalm 51.4). Isn’t it interesting what isn’t in Psalm 51? David had committed adultery, lied, manipulated, and murdered. And yet, in his classic psalm of confession, not one of those sins is specifically identified. Neither Bathsheba nor Uriah are named. Why is that? Because David’s transgressions were serious symptoms of the greatest ailment of all — the failure to treasure God above every other person, pleasure, and thing.
David’s sins didn’t stem from ignorance. On that night, David wanted illicit sexual gratification more than he wanted God. In the days that followed, David guarded his sinful secrets more than he guarded his covenant with God. When the situation grew desperate, David feared the awful truth being revealed more than he feared God. When backed into a corner, David demonstrated more of a willingness to shed innocent blood than to be honest and penitently cast himself before the feet of the God who already knew what David had done. David was exactly right when he confessed, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12.13). Step 1: David had to be honest with himself. Step 2: David had to be honest with God.
Again, men who are unwilling to be honest with themselves will not make such confessions. Women who are unwilling to be honest with God will not humble themselves in his sight. And without humble confession, we run the eternally dangerous risk of standing before the God of ultimate holiness and purity without an advocate.
It’s commendable to offer the Lord a passionate prayer of confession. But, let us be men and women who are honest enough to live transforming, maturing, obedient lives for the glory of our Father after we say, “Amen.” As Proverbs 28.13 warns, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”