The Nature of True Confession (part 2) Two Examples

June 7, 2012 at 8:07 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Grace and Faith, Questions for Pastor Glenn | 6 Comments

I was on vacation for a week with no electronic communication.  My family had a wonderful time camping at Mesa Verde National Park.  We took all the guided tours through the ruins and a number of the self-guided ones too.  I thought it might get boring after the first few tours, but the rangers kept it interesting.  One guide was a forester, one studied history and the third anthropology.  They each had a different perspective on the evidence of who lived there and why they left.

So many people read the previous post on confession, that I wanted to follow it up with some other thoughts.  Then yesterday morning I read Ezra’s prayer in my devotions (Ezra chapter 9).  As a teaching pastor, Ezra is one of my heroes, for he devoted himself to study God’s word and teach it’s truths to others.  Ezra 7:10 is one of my “life verses.”

After Ezra moved to Israel from Babylon to teach God’s Law, it was discovered that the people were doing what God had forbidden, and that “in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men had been foremost.” (v2 ESV)  Ezra was appalled.  He fasted and mourned until evening, then fell on his knees to pray.  He confessed Israel’s sin before God, even though he had not taken part in it.  His entire prayer is not about “their sin,” but about “our sin.”

There are probably books that could be written about the sin Ezra confessed and the nature of corporate sin and corporate confession.  But in this context I just want to point out that Ezra was quick to confess.  He demonstrated sorrow for and hatred of sin (“As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled.” v3).  He recognized the guilt that was theirs because of sin (“O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens.” v6).  And he demonstrated a willingness to repent (“Shall we break your commandments again?” v14).  This prayer is a good example of a true confession.

Another example can be found in David’s prayer known as Psalm 51.  David wrote this prayer after the prophet Nathan confronted him about his sins of adultery and murder.  He too demonstrated sorrow and hatred for sin (“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.” v3); he confessed guilt before God (“Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” v4); he wanted to turn away from the sin (which vv10-15 demonstrate in many ways).  Reading the prayers of these old saints (or should I say redeemed sinners) can teach us much about the nature of true confession.  God’s people are quick to confess their sins and their sinfulness.

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  1. I was reading this post and have some comments and questions.

    ” He confessed Israel’s sin before God, even though he had not taken part in it. His entire prayer is not about “their sin,” but about “our sin.”

    Do you think that even though Ezra had not committed some of the specific sins that most or all of the people had committed he used the phrase “our sin” instead of “their” sin because “all” have sinned and fallen short of God…that even regenerated man possesses a two-fold nature consisting of both a Spirit (hidden man of the heart) that cannot sin and an outer man (the flesh) that can do nothing but sin?

    I am very familiar with the account of King David and Bathsheba, and his response to Nathan the prophet’s confrontation described in Psalm 51. I took comfort in that passage and would often pray Psalm 51 even in the early days of my walk with the Lord when I was being taught by Arminians who believed regeneration could be undone…that salvation was not always permanent. I am so thankful that I later learned that the Bible taught otherwise, but still even I took comfort that David, too struggled with his sin nature, and recognized that even the desire and power to turn (to repent) in the first place would “only” be possible if the granted it:

    “10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
    11 Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
    12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”

    Here is a verse where the Apostle Paul seems to express the same thought:

    “13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13

    Please tell me if I am on the right track. I know that we are warned not to take an attitude that says “let sin abound so grace can superabound”, and at times I am afraid that I might slip into that horrible mindset even if I do strive not to promote it. Actually I do slip into it at times and when I realize it I am horrified and pour my heart out to the Lord about it.

  2. Sorry about the typos. Here are the corrections:

    * even back then I took comfort…

    *…and recognized that even the desire and power to turn (to repent) in the first place would “only” be possible if the “Lord” granted it:

  3. Theresa,
    I’m sorry it’s taken so long to get back to you on this matter. As always, I appreciate your insights and questions. I’ve never thought about Ezra praying about “our sin” because of his own sinful nature. That could certainly play a part in his prayer; it could in part explain his association with their sin. I’ve always associated it with the idea of “corporate sin,” when many people in one group are sinful, the entire group is guilty and suffers the consequences. The ancient Israelites had a better understanding of this concept than we who grew up in independent-minded America. There could be a whole theology written on this; it wasn’t my intent to get into it here, and it’s not an area I know a whole lot about.
    In brief, many churches are guilty of denying God’s word, even though not all the members in that church deny it; many churches are guilty of over emphasis on one area while ignoring others, though not all members would be guilty of that imbalance. However, when churches are guilty of such things, all the members suffer the consequences. Not all people in the United States are guilty of abortion or materialistic greed, but our nation as a whole is guilty of those things, and all who live here suffer the consequences. Both those who are guilty and those who are not could confess corporate sin and beg God’s forgiveness for the entire nation or church.
    Second, as for the nature of regenerated man, that is another matter that books could be written about. In short, I grew up being taught that Christians have two natures. Twenty-five years ago, I explored the one-nature teaching that was really popular at the time, saying Christians have only a righteous nature, and though that study taught me a lot about who we are as believers, I ultimately rejected that form of one-nature teaching as unbiblical and having some really dangerous implications. In recent days, I’ve begun thinking about one-nature teaching again, but not the same thing I explored earlier. Now I am thinking we might have one nature, that is human nature which is spiritually dead and sinful, but in believers that nature has been regenerated and is being renewed in the image of God. Still pondering on this one.
    Third, you said, “I took comfort that David too struggled with his sin nature, and recognized that even the desire and power to turn (to repent) in the first place would ‘only’ be possible if he granted it . . . Here is a verse where the Apostle Paul seems to express the same thought: ‘For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.’ Philippians 2:13” That is insightful on your part! I always viewed that verse to say that God wills and works his pleasure in us, but when preaching through Philippians last year, I discovered it means that God works in us so that we both will and act according to his pleasure. In other words, both the motivation and the ability to do good come from him.
    Finally, “ I do slip into it at times and when I realize it I am horrified and pour my heart out to the Lord about it.” That’s exactly what God’s regenerated people do! That was one of the points of this whole discussion from the beginning.
    Keep thinking God’s Word, and keep writing about the truth, GG

  4. Thank you so much for responding to my comment and questions. I want to apologize for getting too theological. I am still not sure what this means:

    “Second, as for the nature of regenerated man, that is another matter that books could be written about. In short, I grew up being taught that Christians have two natures. Twenty-five years ago, I explored the one-nature teaching that was really popular at the time, saying Christians have only a righteous nature, and though that study taught me a lot about who we are as believers, I ultimately rejected that form of one-nature teaching as unbiblical and having some really dangerous implications. In recent days, I’ve begun thinking about one-nature teaching again, but not the same thing I explored earlier. Now I am thinking we might have one nature, that is human nature which is spiritually dead and sinful, but in believers that nature has been regenerated and is being renewed in the image of God. Still pondering on this one.”

    When you say, “Two natures” do you mean the “two-fold” nature (Some call it the “Dual Nature”.) of believers?And When you say “one-nature” they will only have the righteous nature? I just want to make sure. The idea of Christians only having a righteous nature was sort of implied at the Armenian churches I attended. They liked to quote that verse about being new creatures and old things are passed away. That used to torment me, because I saw evidence in myself every day that “my” old things had not passed away. I was one confused little teenager…kept begging the Lord to save me over and over again. It continued like that until I was around 32 years old and met a very kind lady that helped me. Even now I am haunted at times. Sometimes I think it’s my personal thorn.

    I knew that we could and should pray for our nation, but I did not know that we could ask for forgiveness for a nation or any other type of group, or even an individual person other than myself. That is interesting.

  5. It just remembered this:

    “59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” Acts 7:59-60

    I guess this would illustrate that idea about asking the Lord to forgive others.

  6. For a great description of true repentance, taken from the world of literature, see my review of Leif Enger’s novel, Peace Like a River.
    https://pastorglenn.wordpress.com/2012/12/08/book-review-peace-like-a-river/


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