What does confession look like? We are told to confess our sins but really, what does that mean? Even in the story of David and Bathsheba we only see one sentence from David, “I have sinned against the Lord.” We get a better look at David’s confession in Psalm 51. Some English versions don’t show the prologue to the Psalm but it explains the context of the Psalm, “When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.” (NIV) Suddenly the Psalm comes alive, one can almost see David falling flat on the floor before Nathan crying out to the Lord. The horror of what he had done suddenly crashed upon him and the Psalm comes flooding out, “Have mercy on me, O God.”
But people really get hung up on the idea expressed by David, “Against you, you only, have I sinned.” What about Uriah’s family? What about the people of Israel? What about the child that died? Didn’t David sin against them too? Yes, David did evil against them. But, we have to get our minds around the concept that sin itself can only be done against God and God is the only one who can forgive us for sin. Others can forgive us for the evil we did towards them but only God could provide His Son as an atoning sacrifice to remove our sins, as David said, “wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” (Psalm 51:7).
Psalm 51 shows us some of the important steps of confession. First, we have to acknowledge our sinfulness. We have to really, really understand the depth of how sinful we are and how incapable we are to lift ourselves out of that sin. Second, we have to acknowledge God as righteous judge, jury, and executioner. When he sees our sin, he is just in all his actions. But we also can rely on God’s mercy when we confess. He will wash us of our sins and make us pure but there are always consequences. Confession is only true when we turn from our sin and begin to walk in God’s light. David said it this way, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” David didn’t stop there. He confessed that with God’s forgiveness he would then go out and help others turn to God as well. With God’s forgiveness we can become homes of influence.
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. -Romans 10:9-10 (ESV)