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God’s Grace Toward Sinners
Part 3 of David’s Confession
Seven Signs of Genuine Confession
In 1974, a group of six IRA members known as the Birmingham Six conducted the biggest terrorist operation known to Great Britain up until that time. The Birmingham Six planted bombs in two Birmingham pubs on the 21st of November, 1974. When the bombs exploded, they were successful at killing 21 people and injuring 162 others.
In May of the following year, the six men were arrested and charged with murder and conspiracy to cause explosions. And in August that same year, a jury found the six men guilty of murder and they were all sentenced to life imprisonment. Then in 1991, after the accused had served sixteen years of their life sentences, the Court of Appeal acquitted all six men, and they were released from prison. Then in 2001, each of the men received compensation for their hardships, averaging 1 million pounds each.
Now one of the reasons for their acquittal was evidence to the effect that the men had given up confessions under adverse conditions. Basically, the police had tortured them until they talked. And it was determined later that these confessions, which had been obtained by violent coercion, were not admissible because they weren’t trustworthy.
In Medieval times, torture was utilized to obtain confessions and in many cases the person being tortured would say almost anything just to end the agony and pain. They knew they were going to die anyway, so they would confess just about anything just to get it over with.
Today in the legal world (in Westernized countries anyway), there is a general acceptance that any confession obtained must be provided without adverse coercion. If a suspect is forced to make a confession under torturous conditions, there is potential for that confession to be false, and it could be shown later in a court of law to be untrustworthy. And a savvy defence team would certainly make sure that it was.
This morning, we are asking the question, “How do we know for sure a confession is real? How do we know a confession is authentic? What are the characteristics of genuine confession?” And we’re directing this question to ourselves really. How do I know my confession of sin isn’t just pretend? How do I know it isn’t superficial? How do I know my confession is acceptable to God? Does it incorporate all the elements that make it genuine and acceptable to God?
In Psalm 51, David provides answers to this question. He models for us the characteristics of an authentic confession. Now in order to properly understand Psalm 51, we needed to go back and look at 1 Samuel 11 and 12, and we did that these last two Sundays. What we found was that David had broken a whole string of the Ten Commandments–he had lied, he had coveted, he had stolen, he had committed adultery, he had murdered, he had dishonored his parents.
But the core issue was that he had not kept the first and greatest commandment–he had not loved the Lord with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength. In fact, David had despised the Word of the Lord. Second Samuel 12:14 said it plainly–he had utterly scorned the Lord. And that, of course, was the ultimate of sins.
Now some time later, after all the sorry events had unraveled, David sits down and pens Psalm 51–it is a record of his confession. So go ahead and turn to Psalm 51 with me. Today our focus is going to be entirely on Psalm 51. The whole chapter records David’s confession of sin, and it is said to be the classic Old Testament passage on confession. Some would say that it stands as a paradigm of prayers for the forgiveness of sins. In other words, if you want to learn how to confess sin, Psalm 51 is the key text.
So look at the psalm, and the first thing you’ll notice is that it starts in a very interesting way. It has a heading attached to it like a prologue of sorts. If you take a look at that heading, you will see how this psalm connects to the events we have been studying. Actually, before I read it, let me explain that this heading is not added by some modern-day editor or Bible publisher. It is actually a part of the original Hebrew text–that means it is inspired Scripture. For that reason, we don’t just skip over it like it’s an optional extra. It’s part of the text, so let’s read it.
Here is what the heading says, “TO THE CHOIRMASTER. A PSALM OF DAVID, WHEN NATHAN THE PROPHET WENT TO HIM, AFTER HE HAD GONE IN TO BATHSHEBA.” The first thing we note is that the psalm is addressed to the choirmaster. That means that the psalm was designed as a song, which would be sung by worshipers in Israel. Long after David died, this song would be used to lead congregations in corporate confession.
The second thing we note is the author–the author is David himself. And then thirdly, we are given the context of the writing of the psalm, which was when Nathan the prophet had gone to confront David about his sin against Bathsheba. So the prologue gives us an immediate understanding of the events that led up to David writing this song of repentance.
Let me give you a heads-up regarding what we’ll find inside the chapter. In Psalm 51, David provides for us seven signs of genuine confession that are just as true for us today as they were for David 3,000 years ago. We’re asking the question, “What makes a confession authentic–what makes it a real confession?” So let’s start reading then. The first sign of genuine confession is found in verse 1.
Sign 1 Cry for Forgiveness Verses 1 to 2
In verse 1 David says, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.” The first thing you notice is that David knows where to go for mercy. He was confident in God’s steadfast love. He had a confident faith in God’s merciful nature. There was nowhere else David could go. The only place where forgiveness could be sought was in God Himself.
So David cries out for mercy, and he has three requests–“blot out my transgressions” (verse 1), “wash me thoroughly from my iniquity” (verse 2), and “cleanse me from my sin” (verse 3). David knows that God can blot out sin–He has a powerful eraser that can be rubbed over the page of his transgressions and make them appear to have never been recorded at all. No matter what David had done, God could erase it all, so that’s what David asks for.
And he knows that God’s washing ability is more than just a light rinse on the short cycle. God uses the long cycle, where a thorough deep clean occurs and no impurities will be left behind. David asks for that thorough washing. He knows that God can cleanse him from the disease of sin. He wanted to be rid of this disease, and so he asks for cleansing.
Notice also in verses 1 and 2 that David describes his disobedience in three ways. He calls it transgression, he calls it iniquity, and he calls it sin. He’s not scared to call sin what it is. To David, his sins were not mere mistakes, not just small indiscretions, not lapses in judgment, not weaknesses, not accidents. He doesn’t soften the blow for himself. He humbles himself and calls his sin, “sin”.
He doesn’t want God to look on these things anymore. That’s a cry for forgiveness and cleansing that only God can provide. David casts himself into the hands of the Lord and seeks mercy from the only One who can grant it. So the first element that ought to be present in our confessions is a cry for forgiveness.
Remember the two men that Jesus described in Luke 18:10 to 14? Jesus said, “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
It is so easy to get into the practice of comparing ourselves with others. And when we do that we will always look better in our own eyes than we actually are. But when we confess our sin to God, there must be a sense of real brokenness, humility, a plain recognition of our sin, and a confidence that God will respond according to His steadfast love. This is not a quickie prayer that is done and dusted in 30 seconds. This is a serious cry for forgiveness that recognizes the seriousness of our situation. The second sign of genuine confession is found in verse 3.
Sign 2 Contrition over Sin Verses 3 to 5
In verse 3 David says, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.” Can you hear the sorrow in David’s words? He was contrite. It’s been at least nine months since David first sinned. And ever since then, David has constantly felt unyielding guilt. He knew he had acted with a high-handed disregard for the Lord and his conscience just wouldn’t let him go. He hasn’t been able to stop thinking about it. So he says in verse 3, “My sin is constantly before me.”
“It won’t go away–as much as I try, the Lord won’t let me forget it.” And David knows that while he sinned against Bathsheba and Uriah, his most serious sin was against the Lord Himself. Look at verse 4, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” He makes an overstatement to make the point clear. David’s ultimate crime was against God.
Now we know that David sinned against Bathsheba and Uriah and others too, but the ultimate sin was against God Himself. We need to acknowledge this when we confess our sin. We may have offended a person or treated them unkindly, and we certainly need to seek out their forgiveness, but ultimately it is God whom we have really despised.
David wasn’t just sorry for the consequences of his sin–he was sorry for the sin itself. Too many times you find people who are sorry that they got caught. They’re sorry their sin had temporal consequences. But so often they’re not sorry for the sin itself. David though, was contrite over the sin. And he says so, and then he adds an interesting statement–he says in verse 4, “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.”
Now think about this–the more sinful we are, the more God’s attributes are put on display. When human beings sin against God, then confess it, repent, and turn from it, and experience God’s grace and love, it proves to all of creation that God is a good God. He is justified in His words and blameless in His judgments. In the darkness of our sin, God’s light shines even brighter.
Now this doesn’t mean that we go out and sin even more because we want God’s attributes to be given an even better chance to be shown. No, that would involve trampling on the grace of God. But it is in hindsight that we can look back and we see God’s mercy toward us even though we have sinned greatly in His eyes.
Here’s a question for you–how long has God been showing His grace towards us? Well verse 5 explains that God shows His grace to believers from before they were born. Look at verse 5. David says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” The point is of course that David is amazed at God’s grace. Even though David was a sinner from conception onwards–even though he was a sinner from before he was born. God still showed His grace by choosing him. It’s an amazing thing!
We are evil in our hearts even before we get started in this life. That’s why our salvation is so incredible. He chose to forgive us despite our default sinfulness inherited from our sinful parents. Romans 5:8 says, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Christ died for us before we wanted anything to do with Him.
It still blows my mind to think that I was born a sinner and yet God chose to fix that condition before I even had chosen that for myself. So David shows his contrition over his sin. He acknowledges that he was sinful from conception. His sorrow is evident. He knows exactly whom he has offended. That brings us to the third sign of genuine confession, which is found in verse 6.
Sign 3 Call for Cleansing Verses 6 to 9
Here David expresses his desire for cleansing. Look at verse 6, “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” David knew two things about himself–first, he knew he’d been living a lie and he didn’t want to do that anymore. He wanted truth to reign in his heart again. Second, he knew he’d been a fool and he didn’t want to live foolishly anymore. He wanted wisdom to regain ground in his heart.
David wasn’t concerned about external appearances. He wanted change in his innermost being. He wanted a deep cleansing that penetrated to the core of his being. And so he says in verse 7, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean.” Hyssop is the plant that was used by the priest in the temple when a leper came in for cleansing. The priest would take hyssop plant, which was a leafy branch, and he would dip it in blood and sprinkle the blood on the leper who had become well–you can read about it in Leviticus 14:6.
But what David is doing here is comparing himself to a leper who needed cleansing–except in David’s case, the cleaning he needed was spiritual cleansing from moral defilement. And then again in verse 7 David says, “Purge me, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”
There aren’t many things whiter than snow in this world. Fresh snow on the ground is the ultimate picture of whiteness, and David wants to be whiter than that. In these verses, David is going beyond a simple prayer for forgiveness–he wants change. He isn’t satisfied with status quo. He wants transformation. He wants to be purged of his sin so that there is no hint that the stain of sin was even there in the first place.
He adds in verse 8, “Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.” While he was in a state of guilt, his whole body ached under the heavy burden of sin. His ears had become deaf to the voice of God. He was deaf to all sounds of joy. Think about it–years before this, once upon a time, he had made wonderful music for the Lord with his harp, but for the past nine months he hasn’t heard such sounds. All worship music to him had become an awful noise.
The harp sounded like fingernails on a blackboard. The beautiful sound of a flute sounded like an Australian didgeridoo—terrible. David wants joy back again. He wants to be a man who rejoices in worship, rather than wallowing in his guilt and sin. And so he calls for that kind of deep cleansing.
Then in verse 9 he says, “Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.” David repeats the same cry as before. He wants his sins to be blotted out–erased forever, deleted from God’s hard drive. It would require a permanent reformatting of God’s memory. David also asks for God to hide His face from His sins.
Normally when someone is hiding their face, they are feeling the guilt of some sinful act. You see it on TV all the time–someone is being arrested, or is being led into court and they cover their face for fear of being recognized. They’re ashamed, they’re embarrassed, they feel conspicuous. Children do it too–when a parent tries to speak to their child about some act of disobedience, the child refuses to look at mum or dad. They turn away, they hide their face, they don’t want to face up to what they’ve done.
Well here David isn’t sticking his head in the sand. He isn’t hiding his face. He is asking God to turn away. David is being open and transparent about his actions. He isn’t hiding at all. Rather he wants God to hide His face–to not look at David’s sin, but rather to blot them out and provide cleansing. That’s the third sign of genuine repentance–a call for cleansing. The fourth sign of genuine confession is found in verse 10.
Sign 4 Craving for Renewal Verses 10 to 12
In verse 10 David says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” The last thing David wants to do is to fall back into sin again, so he pleads with the Lord to do a creative act in his heart. And the Hebrew word David uses for “create” is bara–that’s the word used back in Genesis 1 to describe God’s daily actions when he created the universe.
David isn’t satisfied with recreation in his heart–he didn’t want a fixer upper. He doesn’t need Chip and Joanna Gaines to come over. He didn’t want to enter the secondhand-heart market–he wanted brand new. It would require a supernatural miracle to create something out of nothing. He craved the creation of a clean heart within him. He wanted renewal.
These are internal issues. Forget appearances. Forget what man can see–David doesn’t care about that. He wants God to deal with the real issues of his heart–his motives, passions, desires, and loves. Once again, we can see that forgiveness was not the only goal for David. He wants a serious change in his internal constitution.
That’s how we should pray. That’s what we should crave–a clean heart that is totally devoted to loving God alone. A spirit which is renewed and inclined to God alone. David continues in verse 11–he says, “Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.” The worst thing that David could imagine was to be cast away from God. He’s crying out for that not to happen. He wants renewal to happen in his inner self so that God would never cast him away.
And then he mentions the Holy Spirit. It’s interesting–this is the first time in the entire Bible that this title for the third member of the Trinity is used. In fact, this title is only used three times in the entire Old Testament. Now as we read David’s concern, he says he doesn’t want the Holy Spirit to be removed from him.
This is a phrase that is often discussed because it doesn’t seem to sync with New Testament truth concerning the Holy Spirit. In John 14:16, Jesus said that the Father would send the Holy Spirit so that “He may abide with you forever.” Then in the next verse Jesus explains that the Holy Spirit “dwells with you, and shall be in you.” But that is a New Testament truth and only became possible after Pentecost in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit began His indwelling ministry in believers.
So from the beginning of the New Testament Church, the Holy Spirit has dwelt inside believers permanently. But David is not a New Testament Christian–he is an Old Testament saint. And so when he talks about the Holy Spirit, he is speaking from a very different point of view. So what does he mean when he says to the Lord, “Take not your Holy Spirit from me“?
Well, it’s most likely that David is remembering back to what happened to Saul. You’ll remember this–it is when Samuel came to Bethlehem to survey all of Jesse’s sons to find which one of them would be the new king. In 1 Samuel 16:10 to 14 it says, “Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The LORD has not chosen these.’ 11 Then Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all your sons here?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.’ And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.’
“12 And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the LORD said, ‘Arise, anoint him, for this is he.’ 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah. 14 Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him.”
See, David would have remembered this from years ago. He knew that when he was anointed as the new king that the Spirit of God departed from the previous king, Saul, and then the Spirit came upon him. And the last thing David wanted was for that same thing to happen to him now. And so back here in Psalm 51, David didn’t want the Holy Spirit to leave him, because he knew that meant the throne would be given to someone else.
So when David prays this prayer for renewal, he does so with a desire to continue serving as the king of Israel. He wants to serve the Lord and he wants the Lord to be faithful to His promises. Then in verse 12 David says, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” David had lost his joy, and he wanted it back.
Do you ever feel like that? Do you ever feel like you have lost your joy? Christ just doesn’t appeal like He used to. Your excitement for the things of God is dissipated. Your love for the Word of God is not what it used to be. It could be that you have lost your joy because you have unconfessed sin that is keeping you back from rejoicing in the Lord.
When you confess sin you can’t hold anything back–it’s all or nothing. We need to air out all of our dirty laundry. Sometimes our confessions are like a high school boy who hasn’t yet learned how to do his own washing. He bundles up his clothes in tight knots and throws them into the washing machine. Well that’s how he found them on his floor, so in they go. When the washing comes out, he piles the tangled clump of material into the drier too, and when that cycle is finished, he takes his clothes back to his bedroom floor, untangles everything and finds that his clothes are just as dirty as ever. The wash didn’t penetrate into the tight mass of clothes.
David is not like that–he lays all his dirty laundry open before the Lord. He wants a deep clean. He wants a close fellowship with God. He wants his joy to be restored. He is craving for renewal–that’s the fourth sign of genuine repentance, and the fifth sign of genuine confession is a commitment to ministry, and it’s found in verse 13.
Sign 5 Commitment to Ministry Verses 13 to 15
Look at verses 13 to 15–David says if You will restore me and uphold me, “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. 14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.”
Basically, David is making commitments here. He is saying, “Lord, if you will create a clean heart in me, if you will renew my spirit, if you will restore my joy, then I will promise to do something for You. If you do this for me Lord, then I will promise to do three things for You.” I will promise to teach others (verse 13), I will teach people about your ways and I will plead with them to come to you for forgiveness (verse 14). If you deliver me, I will promise to sing loudly about your righteousness, I will make music that extols your wonderful attributes (verse 15)–if you will open my lips, I will declare your praise.
David is committing himself to undertake ministry to others–it’s a wonderful thing. David isn’t going to shrink back into an insignificant world with nothing to offer in regard to ministry. No, he commits to taking the lessons he’s learned and passing them onto others. Listen, only someone with great confidence in the grace of God can do this. Only someone who has truly laid his burden of guilt on the Lord can think about such things. Only someone who has genuine faith that God has forgiven them can consider ministry to others.
You can tell when someone hasn’t genuinely confessed his or her sin–they pull back from Christian ministry. They have no desire to serve others in the church. Sometimes they just disappear, and we’re like, “Where are they?” Some church attendees are like that–they disappear because they have unconfessed sin in their lives and they have no desire to serve in the church.
Either they haven’t yet really turned from their sin and their conscience is still pricking them, or they aren’t yet resting in God’s grace. They’re holding onto their guilt and can’t fully believe that God has dealt with their sin. Either way, the result is that they have no desire for deep fellowship. They don’t want to be involved in the activities of the church. They are quick to disappear after church. They seem to be on the fringe all the time. They’re sitting on the bench when they should be in the game.
David isn’t like that–he lays out his sin for the Lord to see. He cries out for forgiveness (verses 1 to 2), he shows contrition over his sin (verses 3 to 5), he calls on the Lord for cleansing (verses 6 to 9), he craves for renewal (verses 10 to 12). And having done all that, he rests in the grace of God and commits himself to bounce back from the blackest period of his life in order to serve others (verses 13 to 15).
That’s a sign that genuine confession has taken place. The person bounces right back into Gospel ministry again. They’re sharing their faith. They’re spreading the Gospel. They’re serving the saints. They’re involved in body life. They’re committed to ministry. The sixth sign of genuine confession is found in verse 16.
Sign 6 Consideration of God’s Heart Verses 16 to 17
An authentic confessor is always concerned about what God thinks. Look at verse 16, “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.” David easily could have made a quickie sacrifice, some kind of burnt offering to the Lord and then simply got on with life. But David knows God better than that. David considers God’s heart and knows instinctively that no matter how much law-keeping he does, the thing that God really wants is confession.
Nothing will take away his sin except God’s grace. And David could observe all kinds of offering laws and God wouldn’t care about any of it, because the thing that the Lord really wants above everything else is a broken spirit. Look at verse 17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
Here’s the question–what kind of person are you? Are you broken? Are you contrite over your sin? That’s the kind of person God loves. Not the person who legalistically keeps certain rules thinking that will find favor with God. If you’re living your life ticking all the Christian boxes–quiet time, Bible reading, offering, church attendance, baptism, communion . . . if you’re doing all that but don’t have a broken spirit and a contrite heart, then it’s all in vain.
Someone who is genuine in their confession considers God’s heart and then says to himself, “I know that God is not satisfied with religious duty. He wants my whole heart–broken and repentant.” That’s the person who God will not despise. How’s your heart today? Are you broken and contrite? Do you love Christ Himself more than you love being a Christian? That is the sixth sign of genuine confession. The seventh and last sign of genuine confession is found in verse 18.
Sign 7 Concern for Corporate Wellbeing Verses 18 to 19
Look at what David says in verse 18, “Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem.” Can you believe this? David has been fessing up to his own wicked ways. He has been so focused on putting things right between him and the Lord, but now here in the last two verses he ends with a prayer for others. He is concerned that his sin might have affected others.
And so he prays for Zion–that’s another name for Jerusalem. He wants God to do good to the people who live in the great city. He wants God to build walls for the city so that the people would be protected from their enemies. Big picture–David did not want his citizens to pay for his sin. Rather he wanted God to bless His people. David was concerned for corporate wellbeing.
Then he says in verse 19, “Then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.” In other words, if Jerusalem is blessed and a temple for the Lord is built, and an altar for making sacrifices is established in that temple, and offerings to the Lord are made, then even God Himself will delight, and He will receive the glory.
Look, here’s the point–David knows that his actions affected others. He was not an island unto himself. He was part of a bigger entity–the nation of Israel. We are the same–we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. We are members of Christ’s body. We are members of a local church. And when we sin, it affects the health of the entire body.
We tend to forget this too often. We continue on with our secret sins as if no one else is being affected–but they are. We all are. All true confession will acknowledge that our sin has affected others, whether we like it or not, whether we have seen it firsthand or not–it just has. David’s confession of sin included a deep concern for the wellbeing of others. We need to be the same.
How do your confessions measure up to David’s? All of these seven signs of genuine confession ought to be present in some measure every time we come to the Lord to seek forgiveness. The brief, superficial prayer at the end of the day, or the once-a-week prayer right before communion doesn’t really cut it, does it?
When Sereena and I were growing up in New Zealand, we’d celebrate a holiday called “Guy Fawkes Day” every November. Guy Fawkes was arrested in 1605 for the famous Gunpowder Plot in which he and his associates had planned to assassinate King James the 1st and blow up The House of Lords, with the goal of restoring a Catholic monarchy in England.
Guy was found on November 5, 1605 with the match and fuse in his hand, so to speak. Just a few more moments and his plot would have been brought to fruition. He was arrested and carried away to the Tower of London, subsequently tortured on the rack, and ultimately sentenced to death.
In the process of all this, Guy Fawkes willingly confessed his guilt. The only reason to torture him was to force him to give up his accomplices, which he did in the end. But his personal confession of guilt came even before the torture began, and these were his words. This is what Guy Fawkes said in his confession, “My intention was ‘to blow you Scotch beggars back to your native mountains.'”
In his confession, he openly admitted his intention to blow up the House of Lords, and get this, he expressed profound regret that his mission had turned out to be a failure. Now that was a confession of guilt, to be sure. Guy Fawkes was transparent and open about his evil deeds. But he wasn’t broken over his sin one iota. He wasn’t contrite at all. He was not repentant.
Listen friends, we need to do better than Guy Fawkes. Simply telling God we have sinned isn’t really confession. Just telling Him, “God, I have sinned again–I have sinned again,” isn’t really true confession, because there’s no repentance in that kind of prayer. Repentance is more than just a repeated apology.
Genuine confession involves all of these elements—a cry for forgiveness (verses 1 to 2), contrition over sin (verses 3 to 5), a call for cleansing (verses 6 to 9), craving for renewal (verses 10 to 12), a commitment to ministry (verses 13 to 15), consideration of God’s heart (verses 16 to 17), and concern for corporate wellbeing (verses 18 to 19).
And when we call out to God with all these in mind, He will respond with tremendous grace towards us. God loves broken people. He heals broken sinners. He answers the prayers of the humble. That’s why David started in verse 1, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love.” Let’s pray.