Our Hate-Love Relationship with Confession
I have a confession to make: I hate confessing my sins. I hate the feeling of knowing that I’ve done something wrong coupled with the sense that I must own up to that wrong-doing to someone else. There’s a kind of sick feeling that comes from anticipating the confession.
I have another confession to make: I love confessing my sins. I love it because the only thing worse than confessing is not confessing. I hate carrying around the burden of my sin. I hate the way that it clings to everything and ruins every enjoyment. I hate the way that it haunts. I hate the effort it takes to suppress the conviction. It’s exhausting to always be pushing aside the guilt and shame. and the more you avoid it, the more it gets into everything.
And thus, when I finally come clean, when I refuse to keep hiding from God, when I stop making excuses and simply unload the burden at the feet of Jesus, I experience a profound sense of relief and freedom.
This love-hate (or hate-love) relationship with confession is why we do it every week. Consistent confession, keeping short accounts with God is a part of the normal Christian life, and therefore we make it a central part of worship. We come to fellowship with God in his house. Therefore, it’s only fitting that we wipe our feet at the door. Or, perhaps more accurately, it’s fitting that we sit down and let Jesus wash our feet. And not our feet only, but our whole selves.
So what did you come in here with? What’s hanging on you and robbing you of joy? Have you disobeyed God, ignored God, defied God? Have you hurt someone? Betrayed someone? Hated someone? Have you lusted, boasted, envied, or stolen? Have you murmured, grumbled, or gossiped? Have you spoken harshly, failed miserably, or lied knowingly? Have you been selfish, covetous, heartless, anxious, or fearful?
Well, then I have good news for you. Not a bit of it will be held against you. All of it can be cleansed, removed, cast far into the sea. Jesus stands ready to receive you, sin and all, and to make you new. Humble yourself before him, acknowledge your sin, and seek his forgiveness. Come, and welcome to Jesus.
This reminds us of our need to confess our sins, so let’s seek him together now.
Prayer of Confession
Our Father and God, we live in a world of excuses and blame-shifting. We hate confessing. We hate admitting that we’ve been wrong. We hate acknowledging it before you, and we hate acknowledging it before others. We will tie ourselves in knots to avoid taking responsibility for our actions. And as a result, our culture labors under a mountain of back-breaking, soul-shriveling guilt. Not only do we commit great sins, but we refuse to call them sins, compounding our sin before you. This is a great evil.
What’s more, as your covenant people, we have no strong affection for confession. We treat it like a chore, a check-box on a to-do list. We go through the motions of confession, and compound our sin with hypocrisy. We mouth the words with insufficient remorse and repentance. Forgive us, O God, for treating confession lightly. Cleanse our hearts and draw us into your presence so that we feel the weight of sin more acutely. Cultivate in us an eagerness to cast off everything that hinders, especially the sin that so easily entangles. Restore to us the joy of our salvation, the joy of a cleansed conscience and a clean slate. No, not just a clean slate, a slate stamped with the name of your son, Jesus, who is our righteousness.
We know, Father, that if we in the church regard sin in our own midst or in our own hearts, our prayers will be ineffectual. So we confess our individual sins to you now.
Assurance of Pardon
Let’s stand for the Assurance of Pardon. Come, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, all who labor under the yoke of sin and guilt. Cast your burdens on the Lord, for he cares for you. See him cast them into the heart of the sea, never to be seen again. You have confessed your sins. You have acknowledged your iniquity. Therefore, by the authority of Jesus Christ, and as a minister of his gospel, I declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Congregation: Thanks be to God!