I have sinned. I have sinned – and wouldn’t you like to know how! Well, I’m not going to tell you. You don’t need to know the details. We pastors have a reputation for holiness and most of us try to live up to it but the fact of the matter is that even pastors sin. Pastors are not immune from temptation and sometimes they give into it. If this distresses you, may I propose to you that in some ways, being imperfect helps a person in ministry? It enables us to sympathize and relate to other sinners. We know what temptation feels like. We know the temporary pleasure sin gives. We know how sin affects our relationship to God and to others. Lastly, we know what guilt feels like. If I asked you if you ever felt guilty for doing something wrong, you would all raise your hands. Sin, guilt, shame are common, universal experiences. Maybe you are feeling guilty over something right now. Maybe it is something you have done in the distant past. I sometimes still feel guilty over things I did 30 years ago. Maybe you feel guilty over something you did this morning. We all deal with guilt. We need to somehow resolve our guilt.
I know that I am stating the obvious so I will get to my point. We all need to be forgiven. In Psalm 32, King David talks about our need to be forgiven.
I. The blessings of forgiveness
1 ¶ Of David. A Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2 Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.
A. Blessed is he whose transgressions are FORGIVEN.
The word FORGIVEN here literally means “carried away.”
It is the act of removal of sin, guilt and the remembrance of sin.
Forgiveness is like getting the garbage taken out of our lives. We take our garbage we remove it from our homes to the curb. It is carried away and we forget about it. Can you remember a single item you put into the garbage last week? Probably not.
When God forgives our sin, he takes away the guilt and the memory of it is lost.
2. When David says that someone is blessed because their sins are “covered,” he means that God graciously reconciles sinners to Himself and that the sin is a matter of the past, so that the Lord does not bring it up any more as a ground for his displeasure.
In “A Forgiving God in an Unforgiving World,” Ron Lee Davis retells the true story of a priest in the Philippines, a much- loved man of God who carried the burden of a secret sin he had committed many years before. He had repented but still had no peace, no sense of God's forgiveness.
In his parish was a woman who deeply loved God and who claimed to have visions in which she spoke with Christ and he with her. The priest, however, was sceptical. To test her he said, "The next time you speak with Christ, I want you to ask him what sin your priest committed while he was in seminary." The woman agreed. A few days later the priest asked, "Well, did Christ visit you in your dreams?"
"Yes, he did," she replied.
"And did you ask him what sin I committed in seminary?"
"Well, what did he say?"
"He said, 'I don't remember'"
What God forgives, He forgets.
3. Then David says something about another aspect of forgiveness – he calls the person blessed whose sin the Lord does not “count against him.”
A lady I know ended up in a messy financial situation because her husband left her. She owed a business debt of about $1500.00 and she wasn’t sure how she was going to pay it. One day she went down to the appropriate bank to talk to them about the situation. The person in charge looked up the record and found that it had been marked PAID. This lady didn’t pay the debt. Somebody heard about her problem and anonymously paid it for her. She didn’t pay the debt herself yet the bank could not come after her for that money. They didn’t count it against her. The debt had been paid. It was just as if she hadn’t owed it.
In Jesus Christ, our debt of sin has been paid for. God will therefore not count our sins against us.
4. Notice how David connects being forgiven with having no deceit in your spirit.
One of the blessings of being forgiven is that you after you confess your sin to God, you no longer have anything to hide from Him.
You no longer have to live a double life. You begin living a life of integrity. You aren’t worried about being found out.
The story is told of a practical joke once played by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Doyle sent an anonymous telegram to a number of prominent acquaintances saying, “Flee at once. All is discovered.” Within 24 hours, each and every one of the recipients had left the country.
5. David then recounts what happened to him when he did harbour secret sins in his life.
3 When I kept silent, - that is, when he tried to hide his sin and refused to confess - my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
Guilt eats at us. The guilt over David’s unconfessed sin led to both mental and physical distress.
He suffered depression. There are many articles on the Internet about the link between guilt and depression. Many of them try to get people to see that they are not really guilty, they just feel guilty. But what if we ARE guilty? As much as we like to tap dance around it, there are times we ARE guilty. David was guilty of committing adultery with Bathsheba and then murdering her husband Uriah. He really did do something wrong. He hurt people – badly. When he tried to hide it, the guilt came out in depression.
Karl Menninger, the famed psychiatrist, once said that if he could convince the patients in psychiatric hospitals that their sins were forgiven, 75 percent of them could walk out the next day!
David’s guilt also seems to have come out in physical symptoms.
iv. He then says that his strength was sapped like during the heat of summer. We all know what that is like. We have all experienced those incredibly hot, humid days when you just don’t feel like doing anything. Perhaps that weakness felt like a paralysis. When guilt is allowed to dominate us, it makes us want to sit on the sidelines of life and let the game go on without us. You may have heard the story of Roy Riegels, sometimes called “Wrong Way Riegels.” He picked up a fumble during the 1929 Rose Bowl and ran at full speed toward the wrong goal line, nearly scoring a touchdown for the opposing team.
At halftime, Roy sat in the corner of the locker room and cried like a baby. He barely heard his Coach announce that the same team that played the first half would start the second, so he stayed behind as the other players marched toward the field. The coach said, “Roy, didn’t you hear me?” Riegels replied, “I can’t do it. I’ve ruined you, the university … and I’ve ruined myself. I couldn’t face that crowd if my life depended on it.” The coach put his hand on Riegels’ shoulder and said, “Roy, get up. The game is only half over.” People who were there that day agreed that Roy Riegels played the greatest game in his entire life in that second half. But his guilt had to be looked after first.
The guilt of sin can paralyse us. It can keep us from moving forward for Jesus. It can keep us from ministry.
III. How do we deal with guilt? How do we receive forgiveness?
A. An important part to receiving forgiveness is CONFESSION.
5 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.
In Confession, David acknowledged his sin. He stopped covering it up.
That meant that he brought it out to the light. It meant that he stopped hiding it. It meant that he stopped trying to keep it a secret.
Sin loves darkness. Sin thrives in darkness and in secrecy. It remains powerful in darkness and secrecy. Bringing our sin out into the light often helps to break its power over us.
Richard Hoefler, in his book “Will Daylight Come?” Tells a story about how sin enslaves and forgiveness frees. A little boy who was visiting his grandparents was given his first slingshot. He practiced in the woods, but he could never hit his target. As he came back to Grandma's back yard, he spied her pet duck. On an impulse he took aim and let fly. The stone hit, and the duck fell dead.
The boy panicked. Desperately he hid the dead duck in the woodpile, only to look up and see his sister watching. Sally had seen it all, but she said nothing. After lunch that day, Grandma said, "Sally, let's wash the dishes." But Sally said, "Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen today. Didn't you, Johnny?" And she whispered to him, "Remember the duck!” So Johnny did the dishes.
Later Grandpa asked if the children wanted to go fishing. Grandma said, "I'm sorry, but I need Sally to help make supper." Sally smiled and said, "That's all taken care of. Johnny wants to do it." Again she whispered, "Remember the duck." Johnny stayed while Sally went fishing. After several days of Johnny doing both his chores and Sally's, finally he couldn't stand it. He confessed to Grandma that he'd killed the duck. "I know, Johnny," she said, giving him a hug. "I was standing at the window and saw the whole thing. Because I love you, I forgave you. I wondered how long you would let Sally make a slave of you.
Bringing sin out into the light often helps break its power over us.
B. But in acknowledging his sin, David also agreed with God that what he did was wrong.
One part of confession is acknowledging that what we have done is actually wrong.
This is tough, isn’t it? Because most of us don’t like to admit that we have sinned, we tend to conceal, deny and rationalize our wrongs. As I said before, we try to cover them up. If we can’t do that we try to minimize our wrongdoing by saying we simply made a mistake. We might shift the blame to others and try to make it their fault.
Sometimes when we apologize, we say something like, “I’m sorry IF I offended you.” Politicians do this all the time. Ordinary people do too. That ruins a confession. It implies that you believe that you really didn’t do anything wrong. It shows that you have not come to grips with how much you have hurt someone or how bad the sin is.
A true confession is one where the seriousness of the sin is addressed. A true confession is one where we acknowledge with God that he is just in calling what we did wrong.
b. In confession, we must come to the point when we agree with God how serious our sin really is.
We are all prone to self-deception in this. Sin clouds our ability to see right and wrong. “The heart is deceitful above all things, . . . who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
Living under such illusions must be replaced by reality.
C. It is accepted protestant teaching that all we need to do is to confess our sins to God and that is all we need to do to be forgiven. I believe that the body of Scripture bears that out. However, the Scriptures also speak of benefits to confessing our sins to a fellow believer.
Jas 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
There are benefits to confessing our sins to one another. Be careful who you confess to!
Four preachers met for a friendly gathering. During the conversation one preacher said, "Our people come to us and pour out their hearts and confess certain sins and needs. Let's do the same. Confession is good for the soul." All agreed. One confessed he liked to gamble and would sneak off when away from his church. The second confessed to a lifelong smoking habit that he had kept from the people of his congregation who frowned on that habit. The third one confessed to having romantic feelings for a woman in his church who was not his wife. When it came to the fourth one, he wouldn't confess. The others pressed him saying, "Come now, we confessed ours. What is your secret or vice?" Finally he answered, "It is gossiping and I can hardly wait to get out of here."
IV. What are the benefits of confessing our sins?
Obviously, a clean conscience is one of them. But the Psalmist shows us a few more in the next few verses. They all have to do with receiving the favour of God. When we confess our sins and receive forgiveness, we go from having God’s face against us, to enjoying God’s favour.
1. God’s protection.
6 Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him. 7 ¶ You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.
If God is willing to forgive us, he is willing to protect us.
I’m not saying that bad things won’t happen to forgiven people. The Bible never promises us that we will be spared all bad things. However, we can have assurance that anything that happens to us is “Father filtered.” Just like God limited what Satan could do to Job, God has the say in what is allowed to affect our lives. God has a reason for allowing it, even if we don’t see it.
2. God’s Instruction.
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. 9 Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.
Confession of sin enables us to be more sensitive to God’s instruction. Sin hardens our heart to God’s Word. We don’t want to listen to it. We think it is ridiculous. We think it is unreasonable. We become like unreasoning animals who do not willingly obey their masters.
When we confess our sins and receive forgiveness, we are more receptive to God’s Instruction.
Some of us here when through rebellious years as teens. Perhaps your mom and dad tried to give you good advice and instructions but you were determined to go your own way. If you were blessed, you found the consequences of your rebellion to not be to your liking. That might have made you more receptive to mom and dad’s advice. Mark Twain once said that when he was 14 his father was so ignorant he couldn’t stand to have him around. By the time he turned 21 he was surprised at how much his father had learned in seven years. He had become much more receptive to his father’s wisdom.
It is the same with God. When we come to a realization that our rebellion against God is wrong, we are more receptive to what he says. When we face the consequences of our sin and rebellion and truly repent, or when we somehow on our own realize how bad sin is, God’s Word looks much more attractive.
3. God’s unfailing love.
10 Many are the woes of the wicked, but the LORD’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him.
If we refuse to repent and confess our sins, we shouldn’t be surprised if life doesn’t work very well for us.
Pr 19:3 A man’s own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the LORD.
The choices we make in life affect it far more than we realize. So often we find ourselves in trouble because of the choices we made. We have the freedom to choose how we are to live our life. We don’t have the freedom to choose the consequences of those choices. And so many are the woes of the wicked.
If we make choices for God, if we choose to obey him, if we choose to listen to his voice, if we choose to repent of sin, we will reap the consequences of that and one of the consequences is to experience his unfailing love.
11 Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!
Joy is the wonderful result of forgiven sin. It is the wonderful result of having our guilt taken care of.
My question this morning is very basic: has your guilt been taken care of? Has your sin been carried away, have you been reconciled to God and are you certain that your sin will not be counted against you? Have you found this blessing that David speaks about? It is possible to find this blessing. That’s one reason we exist as a church – to help people find the blessings of forgiven sin.
We can find that blessing because of Jesus Christ. In a few weeks we will be celebrating Good Friday and Easter. Many people will celebrate these holidays. They will go to church. They will hear the story of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus. They will hear sermons about it and sing songs about it. And they will still not have a clue as to why it all happened. And they will leave the services with the same guilt, the same feelings of shame and the same need for forgiveness they had when they went it. It is sad because we don’t have to. The very reason Jesus went through all that was to pay the price for our sins.
1Pe 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.
Friend, you don’t need to live with guilt. Because of Jesus, you can be assured of God’s forgiveness.
1Jo 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
We need to hold on to this. We are all guilty of sin and we all need forgiveness. Jesus had made the way. Do you need forgiveness? Confess your sins. Confess them to God. Confess them to someone else if you think your should. Don’t live with guilt anymore. Live in forgiveness and know its joy.
C. 2012 by Rev. Steven Brown. You are free to use portions of this message but please do not pass this off as your own.