Wednesday, May 2, 2012

how to confess sin

I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying, "O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules."
Daniel 9:4-5

This prayer helps us understand what confession of sin ought to look like when godly sorrow is attached to it. Daniel is being confessional for an entire nation. In his personal study of the prophets, he realizes that the current captivity was slated to last seventy years. At the end of that time, the Jews would be able to return to Jerusalem. He then confesses sin in an act of repentance on behalf of the exiles. And Daniel's insights into God and the way in which we understand sin are very enlightening.

How did Daniel see God? First, he acknowledged Him as Lord. He lifts up God's greatness in worship. He extols the faithfulness of God, praising Him for His faithfulness to keep covenant with His people in steadfast love. He acknowledges that because of Who God is, the Jews should have loved God and kept His commands. But they did not do so and that leads us to see Daniel's insight into confession.

First, Daniel was willing to pray this prayer on behalf of the nation. He includes himself in the "we" that have sinned. Even though Daniel was a mere boy when God's judgment came, he realized that he was guilty of what the nation of Israel had done. And Daniel describes that activity that the Jews performed against their faithful, covenant-keeping God in five ways.

Daniel called it sin. He did not gloss it over with excuses or re-branding. He took the blame with the generation of the exile. Secondly, he stated it was wrong action. They had "done wrong" against the standards of a holy and faithful God. Thirdly, Daniel describes that sin and wrong action as severe: "acted wickedly". Their disobedience was sheer wickedness of the worst degree. And fourthly, all that sin, wrong, and wickedness was rebellion against a faithful God. The final fifth observation was that this was evidenced by the rejection of God's Law which he describes as "turning aside from your commandments and rules."

Real confession of sin rests on a correct, worshipful understanding of the nature of God. It also rests on a robust and broken confessional understanding of the magnitude of our sin against a great, holy, faithful, and loving God.

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