When we let someone down, we can feel embarrassed and ashamed, which can lead to avoiding the other person. By swallowing our pride and apologising we create reconciliation in our relationship and that usually leads to use again enjoying the relationship. Our relationship with God works along the same lines.
When we let God down by sinning, the relationship feels broken and we keep our distance. It’s important to note that our relationship is not in fact broken – God always loves us – but we feel that it is broken. When we turn to God and repent, our joy in God returns.
Not repenting enough can often be a reason for not enjoying God.
The secret of happiness
Psalm 32 starts: “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose Spirit is no deceit.”
It reminds us that the secret to happiness is not perfection and a lack of sin. The secret to happiness is receiving forgiveness. And God does these 3 things to our sin: forgives, covers, and does not count them against us. So why don’t we more readily confess our sins?
Unconfessed sin ruins our enjoyment of God
Psalm 32 goes on to describe David’s own experience of lost joy: “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.”
By refusing to acknowledge his sin and covering it up, David also lost his joy. We can be very good at hiding our sin from others, but this will rarely bring us joy and can give us a sense of unease that can affect us mentally. By delaying repentance, we step away from the love and live of God.
It’s true that as Christians we are good at acknowledging that we are sinners in a general sense but can find it harder to call out our specific sins. This can be because we are using 3 tactics to avoid true repentance:
- We minimise sin – David doesn’t say the problem is guilty feelings. The problem is guilt. He doesn’t minimise the sin
- We excuse sin – we blame circumstances for our sin rather than taking ownership
- We indulge temptation – we are to flee temptation. More often we indulge the thought or delay any decisive rejection rather than fleeing from temptation
Confessing sin restores our enjoyment of God
The Psalm gives us the solution: “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgression to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore, let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them. You are my hiding-place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”
In the Psalm there was no delay between confession and forgiveness. One act of true confession is enough to be free from the weight of hidden sin or indulged temptation – David is inviting us into that reality. By talking about heavy waters, David is inviting us into the bigger story of the Bible, the repentance that God provided to Noah when he escaped the flood, and the Israelites when they passed through the Red Sea, we can also receive that repentance. The quicker we confess our sins and repent, the quicker we will receive forgiveness and return to enjoying God.
An invitation to enjoy God
The Psalm ends: “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. The Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!”
Don’t be too proud to admit your failure. Don’t be too ashamed to admit your guilt. Don’t keep your distance. Instead, be wise and come to God willingly, freely, joyfully. God doesn’t keep his distance from us, even when we sin. So, if we feel that God is distant, it’s more likely that we are holding him at arms length and not the other way around. So, let’s embrace these disciplines of repentance: repent of every sin, repent from every temptation by fleeing, repent every day, repent every week at church.
The end of the Psalm invites us to be wrapped around by the Father’s love. And remember that love cannot be earned by what we do. It is given graciously because of the sin that Jesus the Son endured on the cross. So rejoice in the Lord, be glad, and sing.
- Last week we ended with a challenge to initiate a meal with someone from your church. How have you got on?
- What are some of the ways you minimise sin, excuse sin or indulge temptation?
- What are your “rhythms” of repentance? Is there something you need to do to build it into your routine?
- Whether you turn to God in repentance depends on how you view him. Think back to the last time you felt guilty for sin. How did you view God? How does Psalm 32 teach us to view God in these moments?
- Think of a specific sin with which you struggle. Ask yourself: What excuses am I making? How can I flee temptation? How can I embrace God instead? Who can help me?
Action: Each day this week spend time identifying, confessing and rejecting sin (you could use the four questions in Q5 to help if needed).