‘Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.’ [Psalm 32:-2]
Some years ago I went on a study day. Suitably interactive, involving a variety of teaching styles and fully addressing a personally relevant learning need, it was the best educational event that I’ve ever attended. The only downside was the fact that it was a Speed Awareness Course.
The day began with the leader asking for a show of hands from all those present who’d told friends and family that they were attending the course that day. Most hands went up, as did the corners of many people’s mouths, their smiles suggesting that few, if any, were ashamed at their having been required to be there. The leader then pointed out that breaking the speed limit was no less likely to cause a road traffic accident than driving whilst over the legal blood alcohol limit. He then asked how many people would have told friends and family they were on the course had it been run for those who had committed a drink driving offence. You’ll not be surprised to learn that no hands went up. Latter in the day, those gathered were asked to list the reasons why, on occasions, they might drive faster than the law permitted. A substantial list was generated. A short recording was then played of a man describing how his child had been killed by a speeding motorist. The leader then commented how our list, made up of what we had felt were potentially justifiable reasons for speeding, now seemed like nothing but a collection of weak excuses. It was a highly effective learning experience. And one that offered me spiritual insight too.
Because those contained within the Highway Code aren’t the the only laws I have broken. Though too often I don’t like to admit it, I have broken God’s law too. And so uncomfortable am I in accepting that I sometimes sin that, when I do err, I am, on occasions, want to try to preserve my spotless image, either by relativising my failures such that I am not really seen as a failure at all or, alternatively, justifying them by insisting they were understandable given the circumstances at the time. What the speed awareness course taught me was just how inappropriate and foolish both these approaches really are.
Furthermore to deny my sin is also ultimately burdensome.
‘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 sapped as in the heat of summer’. [Psalm 32:3-4]
Rather than carrying that burden, it’s better by far to be honest, not only with ourselves but also with God. Regardless of how uncomfortable it may make us feel, we have to take responsibility for our sin, owning our mistakes and feeling the genuine regret of our not being as good as we ought to be. This isn’t, I trust, an exercise in self pity but simply an honest acknowledgment of the reality of my sinfulness and the sadness that it causes. Though it would be kind of you to do so, please don’t try to reassure me by telling me I’m ‘good enough’. Because it simply isn’t the case – the truth is that I am a sinner, one who sins in ways for which there are no mitigating circumstances sufficient to absolve me of the responsibility for what I have done.
I don’t believe I am alone.
So then, ‘If we say we have not sinned, we make [God] a liar and his word is not in us’. But the good news, the gospel even, is that ‘if we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ [1 John 1:9]
Or as David puts it in Psalm 32,
‘Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD” – and you forgave the guilt of my sin.’ [Psalm 32:4-5]
Admitting our sin will be humbling – but God ‘gives grace to the humble’ [James 4:6]. Grieving over our unrighteousness will be painful but ‘blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted’ [Matthew 5:5]. And though having no confidence in ourselves may put us at odds with a world that likes to think that we are the masters of our fate and the captains of our souls, we will nonetheless find that ‘the LORD’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him’ [Psalm 32:10]
Then we who are counted righteous in Christ and who, in him, are upright in heart will sing. And rejoicing in the LORD we will be glad. [Psalm 32:11]
To read ‘Good Friday 2022’, click here
To read “Easter Sunday – 2021”, click here
To read, ‘The Resurrection – is it Rhubarb?’, click here
To read, ‘Real Love?’, click here
To read ‘Real Power’, click here
To read, ‘But this I know’, click here
To read “Hope comes from believing the promises of God”, click here
To read “Waiting patiently for the Lord”, click here