At the age of 17, after some years of rebellion, the Lord brought me to full surrender. It was the single greatest moment of turning in my life, other than my salvation.
My dad counseled me to get a sheet of paper, write “Sin List” at the top, and ask the Lord to show me anything in my life that needed to be confessed to Him. He further instructed me to circle those sins in which I had hurt someone else, and then to go and seek their forgiveness.
I later came to understand that this is clearing the conscience—and it is one of the most valuable ongoing disciplines of the believer’s life.
I was shocked at the number of pages I filled. When, after several weeks, I finished the exercise and made the last call of confession, both to the Lord and to one I’d wronged, I was shocked again at the level of freedom and joy I experienced!
No one understood this better than King David, a man of great righteousness but also of great sin. Psalm 32 gives us one of the most powerful texts in the Bible on the tragic effects of NOT dealing with your sin, and the beauty of getting honest before God and man.
“WHEN I KEPT SILENT ABOUT MY SIN”
David laments this choice and describes a host of painful consequences.
“My body wasted away…. My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer” (vv. 3-4 NASB). A believer who is covering sin feels it, literally and physically.
“… through my groaning all day long” (v. 3). When we are unwilling to face and deal with our iniquity, we find ourselves troubled and distressed. We are “emotionally down” and blame everything under the sun (except our unwillingness to face up to our sin). Today we are prone to seek the remedy of medication, when honest confession is often the answer.
“Day and night Your hand was heavy upon me” (v. 4). Spurgeon said, “Better a world on the shoulder, like Atlas, than God’s hand on the heart, like David.”
God loves His children. When they are running from His best, He is relentless in His conviction. We feel the loss of His experienced presence and the heavy pressure of His conviction.
The value and purpose of all this pressure is to bring us to what Paul describes as a “godly sorrow” that leads to a “repentance without regrets” (2 Corinthians 7:10-11). Repentance is not just an acknowledgement of sin, but a turning from it brought about by genuine hatred of our sin and longing for God’s direction.
“I ACKNOWLEDGED MY SIN TO YOU”
David shows us the simple path of confession. Because of the sufficiency of the cross, ALL of the believer’s sins are forgiven. We repentantly come and get honest about sin, and remember and rejoice in our cleansing. “My iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’; and You forgave the guilt of my sin” (v. 5).
This is the theme of the cleansed conscience! We now experience:
- forgiven transgressions
- sin covered by God’s grace
- no imputing of iniquity to our account
- a spirit free from the curse of habitual deceit (vv. 1-2)
All of these are there for the receiving, but they are often hidden by our deceit. Our unwillingness to take responsibility for our sin, our blaming of others, our lying to ourselves and those around us abort these glorious blessings. Our transparent honesty ushers them in like a glorious, reviving flood.
This is a wonderful psalm, but I wonder: When was the last time you sat in silence before the Lord and let Him show you the depths of your heart? When have you said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139:23-24)?
The passion for God’s glory, full surrender to His surgery and cleansing, and humble, continual repentance is the heart of a revived life.