My church doesn’t practice confession. Well, not in the traditional sense. We believe, for the most part, that confessing sins is something to be done between an individual and God. In prayer, we tell God that we are sorry for a sin that we have committed, and ask for His forgiveness. More accurately, we are to repent, which means to “turn and go the other way”. Saying sorry alone is not what God is after. He is a God of transformation. He longs to see a change of heart. A life oriented in a new direction.
This past Sunday, my Pastor shared the story of David and Bathsheba. He described the downward spiral that led David to hit rock bottom, morally, in his life. David pursued Bathsheba shamelessly, despite the fact that she was a married woman. Her husband, Uriah, was one of 30 elite warriors that headed David’s forces. He almost certainly fought alongside David on numerous occasions. Uriah was brave and honorable. He risked his life fighting for his king. This was not a random, unknown soldier.
David took Bathsheba anyway.
When Bathsheba shared the news that she was pregnant with his child, David tried to cover up his sin by calling Uriah home from the battle and encouraging him to spend the night at home with his wife. For two nights, Uriah refused. Instead, he slept on a mat at the palace gates, amongst the servants. When David questioned him, Uriah insisted that he could not enjoy the comforts of home in good conscience, while his comrades risked their lives in battle and slept in the discomfort and danger of the open field. He was a man of great integrity.
When David realizes that his initial plan is not working, he callously sends Uriah back to the troops with a letter containing instructions that ensure his death in battle. David likely thought he had gotten away with it. It seemed all his bases were covered.
But God knew.
God sent Nathan the prophet to confront David. He told a parable about a rich ruler who had many sheep, but chose to steal the only lamb from a poor man to feed his guests. David was outraged. He shouted out that the man who did this horrible thing must die. It is then that Nathan reveals the truth, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7).
This was a moment of decision in David’s life. Would he deny his sin? Argue with Nathan? Order him killed? But no, David chooses to confess, “I have sinned against the LORD” (2 Samuel 12:13a).
God would have been fully justified to allow the death sentence, proclaimed by David himself, to stand. But in the face of David’s genuine remorse He chooses to show mercy. Nathan replies, “The LORD has taken away your sin; you shall not die” (2 Samuel 12:13b).
Following this encounter, David wrote the words we now find in the 51st Psalm. This was his prayer of repentance. It is a beautiful example of genuine brokenness and honesty before God, accepting full responsibility for his sin. David pleads with God to purify him, to restore him, and to draw close to him. It is a beautiful Psalm. I encourage you to read it.
My Pastor shared that it was David’s genuine repentance that led to restoration. God longs for intimate encounters with his children, but our sin can often get in the way – and become a barrier of sorts, between us and our loving, heavenly Father.
Like David, we need to confess our sins and genuinely repent. When we do so, we are promised complete forgiveness…“I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.” Isaiah 43:25 (NASB).
Our pastor invited us to respond to the truth of God’s word. There were tables set up around the auditorium, each having a cookie sheet covered in sand. During the worship set, those who felt prompted were to go to one of these stations. As God brought a specific sin to mind, we were to write it in the sand as an act of confession. Then, we were to brush our hand through the sand to erase the ‘sin’, as a visual picture of how God wipes our sins away.
I don’t like to draw attention to myself, but clearly sensed God prompting me to participate. The word Striving was laid on my heart. I knew it was true. I do struggle with striving. Striving to please, striving to excel, striving for perfection. The trouble with striving is that I am not surrendering myself fully to God. I wrote each letter carefully in the sand, confessing my sin to my loving, heavenly Father. I then ran my hand over the sand erasing the word completely, as if it had never been.
That afternoon, as I was reading the Ransomed Heart Daily Reading, God confirmed that He had indeed spoken – that it was not my own thoughts that I had heard. These are the words John Eldredge posted that day…
We’ve lived in Colorado now for more than twenty years, but I’ve never really learned to snowboard. I mean, I’ve tried. But it was always a messy, hazardous, hesitant affair. Like a dog on roller skates. There wasn’t a lot of joy in it for me. I was tense, apprehensive. My basic problem was this: I couldn’t get myself to commit, to lean into it. You have to lean forward; you have to lean down slope. If you fight that, you end up constantly battling gravity and balance and the downward pull of things. The good riders just go for it—they commit, they lean into it, and off they go. Then comes the joy. I’ve never known that joy.
I’ve watched friends who are surfers, and it’s the same dynamic. There is a moment when you have to commit; you have to go with the wave or not. Yes, there is some paddling on your part, but when the wave picks you up, your choice is to let it, to go with it, to accept its power and let it hurl you forward. You don’t create the wave; the power is utterly beyond you. Once it has you in its mighty grip, your part is to cooperate. Then the beauty comes.
Holiness works the same way.
What I mean is this: The power is not ours. The power comes from God, from the presence of the living Jesus Christ inside us. He is the wave. If we think we have to paddle fast enough to create the entire experience, we will end up frustrated and exhausted from all the striving. The name for that is Religion. God offers something far better: “Let me be the wave.”
I don’t know about you, dear friends, but it gives me goose bumps when God does things like that. I love seeing how important it is to Him that I hear His message. He cares about us deeply, and longs for us to ‘listen’ for His words of love.
His message for me can also be found in the words of Psalm 46:10a, “Cease striving and know that I am God” (NASB).
In Hebrew, the expression ‘cease striving’ means to ‘let your hands drop’ or to ‘let go’ or ‘relax’. Our human instinct when facing difficulties is to strive to overcome. God’s ways are vastly different from our own. He calls on us to relinquish control, and to trust our lives into his hands. In the midst of the struggle, we must learn to relax and wait patiently, trusting that all things will work out according to God’s plan, and in His perfect timing.
Whatever the outcome, we can continue to trust in the things that we know to be true. That God is good, that He loves us with a perfect love, that He has plans to prosper us and not to harm us, and that He walks closely by our side through it all. We can experience His peace, despite our circumstances, as we learn to rest in Him.
May God fill you with His peace as you increasingly learn to live a life fully surrendered to Him.
Blessings and hugs,