Unconfessed Sin: An Obstacle to Blessing

* This is a sermon outline (download sermon audio here) on Psalm 32.

Unconfessed sin is an obstacle to blessedness, therefore we must confess our sins to God who stands ready to forgive and bless us for Christ’s sake.

Introduction – It’s now the year 2010.  “I’m going to lose the weight.”  “I’m going to get out of debt.”  “I’m going to change careers.”  “I’m going to be a better father, mother, husband, wife, son, daughter, friend, employee, employer, neighbor, whatever.”  “I’m going to read my Bible, pray, go to church, give to charity, and be a better person.”  All these are common New Year’s resolutions.  All are ways we seek to obtain happiness and the blessing of God.  A cynic once said, “A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one Year and out the other.”  I suspect the older we get, the more we identify with the cynic.

With life experience we begin to realize that self-reformation projects, no matter how sincere, are doomed to failure.  People reason that this is so because we are fallible creatures.  In the Bible’s language, we are sinful, and we love to hold onto it!  We lack the capacity to bring blessing upon ourselves through our own efforts because our motivation wanes, our selfish desires attack our good intentions, and our pride keeps us from confessing our faults, especially those that are relational sins we commit against each other and God.  In fact, our unconfessed sin exacts a heavy toll by obstructing all aspects of blessing that are ours by God’s promise to his covenant people.  We don’t need more resolutions to reach for those elusive blessings.  We need God’s Word to teach us how to obtain the blessed life, and thankfully God has revealed to us in Scripture one powerful way whereby we may be blessed.  Psalm 32 instructs us that because unconfessed sin is an obstacle to blessedness, we must confess our sins to God who stands ready to forgive and bless us for Christ’s sake.

A. A Principle of Confession: Two Beatitudes on Sin and Forgiveness (1-2)

1. Blessed is the one whose sin is forgiven (1-2a)

The sin is covered, and the sin is not counted against the one who receives God’s blessing.

2. Blessed is the one whose spirit is not deceitful (2b)

What is confession?  It is not merely admitting wrongdoing.  It is not apologizing for someone else “being offended”.  It is not an apology without heartfelt contrition.  It is not an apology without the sincere desire to make things right.  It is always linked with repentance, which is a changing of one’s mind by turning from sin and turning toward righteousness.  Confession without repentance is hollow, like an empty promise or a tree without fruit.  Confession without repentance is a hallmark of the Pharisees (Mt 3:1-12).  It is being willing to repeat your contrite apology to those who are still hurt by your sin.  “I already confessed to you!  Isn’t once enough?” demonstrates that your first confession was not heartfelt.

Who is this blessed one?  Not Jesus Christ, the sinless one.  Not the one trusting in his own penitence, apology, remorse, or atonement through suffering.  Such a one is full of deceit, posing as penitent when in reality full of pride, self-righteousness, and self-deception.  The blessed one is the one (like David) who confesses his sin to God.  (Rom 4:7-8 quotes these verses to prove that forgiveness and righteousness cannot be earned.)

B. A Testimony of Confession: David in Particular and Everyone in General (3-7)

Notice the temptation of the righteous to imitate the wicked by hiding their guilt from God; this is a temptation to live the unhappy way as opposed to the blessed way.

1. Sin Leads to Guilt: The Unhappy Way (3-4)

Unconfessed sin leads to physical and mental anguish (3, 4b), to relentless spiritual anguish (4a), and is hidden, but not forgiven (cf. 1 Jn 1:8).

2. Confession Leads to Forgiveness: The Blessed Way (5-7)

Sin confessed to the LORD leads to forgiveness and release from guilt (5c).  Sin and confession presupposes Christ’s atoning sacrifice.  The Israelites understood that God punished sin, and that his wrath could only be appeased through a blood sacrifice.  In other words, forgiveness requires an atoning sacrifice to turn away punishment for sin.  Even the ancient pagans believed that the gods punish sin, and that divine anger could only be appeased through sacrifice.  (Some (the Ammonites worshiping Molech) actually sacrificed their own children in the fire!  Why?  This was the most costly sacrifice conceivable to appease the wrath of their god, and was appropriate in a twisted logical way since their collective national origin was the incest of Lot and his daughter.)  But today we are accustomed to believe that God can forgive by just overlooking sin because, after all, he is a loving God.  We rightly understand that God is love, but we forget that God is holy as well.  Such a view of God does not make room for the cross of Christ.  This is what the world misses by relying on God to forgive apart from Christ.  God’s Son Jesus died as a sacrifice for your sin so that God may now hear your confession and forgive freely.  God can forgive (carry away) our sin because Christ has carried our sin upon himself and taken the consequences.  He drank to the dregs the cup of God’s wrath upon your sins when he died on the cross.  Truly, forgiveness is found only in Jesus Christ our Lord!  Thanks be to God for the cross, borne out of God’s love for us!

Sin confessed to the LORD leads to protection/salvation from imminent dangers (6b, 7a-b).  Sin confessed to the LORD is not hidden, but is forgiven.  Sin confessed to the LORD leads to his surrounding the penitent with shouts/songs of deliverance (7c) (cf. Ex 15:1).

C. A Life of Confession: The Path to a Life of Blessedness

1. Listen to the LORD because he protects and listens to the godly (6a, 8)

Are you one who is “godly”?  The godly trust God, confessing and repenting, on an ongoing basis.  The godly are in right relationship with God.  The godly are upright in character.  If you are godly, he will instruct and counsel you (8).  If you are godly, he will teach you and watch over you (8).  If you are godly, his discipline for unconfessed sin is actually a mercy.  The LORD will not let go those who are his!  If you are godly, pray to him in confession so your sins may be forgiven.  This is the happy way to live! (6a)

If you are not one who is godly, if you know you have never truly repented of your sin and trusted in Jesus Christ in sincere faith, then God’s most urgent call before you this morning is to confess your sin to him, repenting and seeking eternal forgiveness in Christ’s perfect sacrifice.  Even your sin against other people is ultimately sin against God (Ps 51:4).  Therefore you must first repent and confess you sin before God, and only then will God forgive and enable you to go confess your sins to others whom you have sinned against.

2. Wisdom Vividly Contrasted (9-10)

Don’t be like the horse or mule—obeying only under compulsion without understanding.  This is a foolish life filled with many woes. (cf. Prov 26:3; 2 Kgs 19:28).  This is the unhappy way for God’s people to live.  Be like the wise—listening to the LORD’s instruction and trusting him willingly.  CONFESS YOUR SIN TO GOD!  This is a wise life surrounded by the LORD’s unfailing, steadfast, covenant love.  This is the happy way for God’s people to live.

The world’s way is in stark contrast to God’s way.  The world says “apologize and don’t offend”; God says “confess your sin”.  The world says the goal is temporal peace and happiness; God says the goal is eternal reconciliation.  The world’s way brings glory to oneself and is basically selfish; God’s way restores the glory to God and his image bearers, and is basically selfless.

3. Sing joyfully to your forgiving LORD (11)

The spontaneous response by all who are forgiven is to praise to God, in this case in congregational song.

Conclusion – Have you made any New Year’s resolutions yet?  Do you want to experience God’s blessing this year, beginning today?  You’ve heard God’s Word this morning teach you a principle of confession, David’s testimony of his experience with sin—before and after confession—and you learned that confession is not just a one-time requirement for God’s blessing.  It’s not merely a requirement for entrance into the kingdom of heaven.  It is a habit, a lifestyle, a means of grace given to us by our merciful Father, who is able to forgive and bless you because his Son Jesus Christ bore the penalty of your sin and guilt.  He carried your sins away so that you can now carry them—confess them—to your Father in heaven who stands ready to forgive and bless you.  So here is your challenge, begin now a renewed life of sin confession, not just to God, but to everyone else you have sinned against.  Start with the big one that you’ve been neglecting.  That big one is the sin which is causing you unending grief and guilt (whether the pain is sharp or dull).  The one you cannot seem to muster the courage to confess.  That is your roadblock to blessing.  Begin with that one, confess it to God.  If a relationship has been hurt by it, confess it to them.  Give thankful praise to God for forgiveness that is found only through Christ’s ultimate work of forgiveness and atonement on the cross.  Be glad because he has declared you righteous in Christ!  Live in blessed harmony with your Savior God by confessing your sins to him, for he will certainly forgive you.  Pray that God would give you a spiritually renewed heart of humble and habitual confession for all your sins, and that you may experience his blessing from now on.  And in light of sweet forgiveness, join David (and all forgiven saints) by singing to the LORD with shouts and songs of deliverance!

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