“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:9-10)
What do you do when you mess up? Confess your sins, out loud. Silence is not an option. “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found…” (Ps 32:3-6a) And thanks be to God, it is a time when the Lord may be found. He is found in His church where His Word is proclaimed and His sacraments rightly administered. So we confidently confess our sins when we gather for Divine Service, and we hear Christ speak forgiveness to us through His called and ordained servant.
We are not stuck in our sins, sitting in silent guilt, stewing in remorse, crushed by their weight. But Jesus opens your lips to declare His praise and a whole lot more.
Scripture gives us plenty of words and bold requests to cry out to God in our sinfulness. Psalm 51 is a great example. This is King David’s psalm of repentance and contrition after the prophet Nathan had confronted the king about his adultery with Bathsheba. David confesses his sin and evil, and he asks God to “blot out” all his transgressions, to “wash” him thoroughly from his iniquity, to “cleanse” him from his sin, to “create” in him a clean heart, to “renew” a right spirit within him, to “not cast” him away from God’s presence, to “not take” God’s Holy Spirit from him, to “restore” to him the joy of God’s salvation, to “uphold” him with a willing spirit, and to “open” his lips. An astonishing prayer from a depraved sinner. All David has to offer God in exchange is “a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart”. And yet, this is exactly the sacrifice God would not despise. This is because of the Lord’s steadfast love and mercy – the basis of this bold prayer.
The words of this psalm were given to David by the Holy Spirit to speak, sing and cry out to God in his sinfulness. These words and all the words of Scripture are given to us as well.
The Lord knows your sins, and He invites you to confess them out loud, so that He may forgive, renew, and restore you with the joy of His salvation through the words of the pastor. In addition to joining the congregation Sunday mornings in speaking words of confession and hearing the words of absolution in the Divine Service, I also encourage you to go through with me the rite of Individual Confession and Absolution (LSB pp292-293) where you hear God’s words of forgiveness spoken directly to your sins. You may stop by my study when I am at church or schedule a time that is convenient for you.
“The great treasure of the church is the message of forgiveness of sins. Where there is forgiveness of sins there are also life and salvation. To dispense this treasure God not only instituted the ministry and gave us the sacraments but also instituted the office of the keys. He bestowed upon his church the authority to remit or retain sins in the power of the Holy Spirit. Only where this authority is exercised can the church live. For unforgiven sin destroys the fellowship; forgiveness creates it. Therefore every Christian is called to confession.” (statement presented for discussion in the Lutheran Church in Germany, 1949)