The famous English writer, Marghanita Laski, was no friend of Christianity, but before she died in 1988 she said, “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness. I have nobody to forgive me.” I guess she never fell for the modern therapeutic gospel which is you have to learn to forgive yourself.
The religion of psychology tells us that the one person whose forgiveness you need is not God and not others but you. What most people say, including Christians, is that what I think of me is the most important opinion. But it didn’t satisfy Laski who said “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness. I have nobody to forgive me.”
We know forgiving yourself has limited value because the rise of psychology has not brought about the rise of happiness.
1. The search for true happiness is being completely forgiven by God.
Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. ~Psalm 32:1-2 (NIV)
David knew firsthand the need for forgiveness, he had committed adultery with his bodyguard’s wife and then murdered his bodyguard. True happiness was found in being offered a fresh start and a clean slate.
There are 4 different words for what needs forgiveness
- The word sin itself describes falling short of Gods expectation to love him and others
- The word Iniquity speaks of our twisted nature, turned in on itself like a knot that you can’t undo.
- The word transgressions speaks of crossing a line you know is there
David managed to break 4 commandments in a short time.
- He covets his neighbours wife
- He steals his neighbour wife
- He has sex with his neighbours wife
- Then He kills his neighbour
He could not undo what he had done. He knew that every sin was written in God’s ledger awaiting judgment. David knew that being blessed was not about having a big palace and a 1000 chariots. True happiness is found in having the sin of adultery covered over, in having the sin of murder cancelled.
The 4th word is deceit. Until he confessed he was living a lie. To come clean to God is to become clean before God. By confession, we mean to side with God and agree that what we did was wrong. By forgiveness, we mean God will not count your sins against you.
Without a relationship with Christ, your sins will be counted, just like the odometer on your car counting every kilometre you drive. So, every sin you commit is being recorded and forgiveness means your sin not will be used as evidence against you on the judgment day. That is forgiveness and it is a beautiful gift from God.
A thousand “I’m sorrys” can’t fix the problem. Confession without the cross is empty. Someone has to pay. Happiness is knowing that sins confessed are sins forgiven only because those sins were paid for by Christ at the cross. This is where true joy is found.
We hate it when others keep bringing up our failures
- “You always…” .
- Or when people love to say, “I forgive you but I will never forget” with a tone that doesn’t sound like we are forgiven.
When God forgives he will not use our sins against us.
- Others may judge us
- Our conscience may convict us
- Satan may rub our noses in those sins
However, God’s awesome promise is ” I will remember your sin no more.” This is where happiness is found. If you know the joy of being forgiven then you should know the joy of forgiving others. For Love “keeps no record of wrongs.” Why? Because that is exactly what Jesus did for you.
Happiness is knowing you are completely forgiven by God. Laski was so right when she said “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness.”
2. Unconfessed sins lead to profound unhappiness.
When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. ~Psalm 32:3-4 (NIV)
This is David’s story: For a whole year, he covered up the sin of adultery and murder
For a whole year, Bathsheba knew part of it and General Joab knew the other part. Only David and God knew all of it and he wasn’t talking to God about it.
David reflects on the experience of unconfessed sin. It damaged him physically, psychologically, and spiritually
- Physically it cut deep into his bones, and drained his energy.
- Psychologically he groaned day and night. It never left him.
- Spiritually the Lord’s hand was heavy upon him. This was the loving and painful discipline of the Lord.
David was silent to God and so had silenced God he was in his own personal hell. If you don’t hand your sins to Christ then guess who has to carry them? YOU!
“He (Christ) himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, ~1 Peter 2:24 (NIV)
Either Christ carries your sins in his body on that cross or you have to carry those sins in your body every day. And you can’t, no wonder you’re so exhausted. Over the years, I’ve spoken to men and women who have carried the guilt and shame of unconfessed sin.
When asked why they said
- I was too proud to admit it to God.
- I was too ashamed to talk to anyone
- I was too afraid to confess
- I was too guilty to acknowledge it
They say Western culture focuses on Guilt and Innocence. African culture focuses on Fear and Power. Asian culture focuses on Shame and Honour. All are true for every culture, but the cross means: Guilt, Fear and Shame are all gone.
The alternative to confession is
- Pretend to God, to others and oneself
- Living a life of distraction – from work to pleasure
- Living a compartmentalized life.
The result is that it eats into our soul. We become
- And Guilt that drives some to self-harm
This week at MBM we almost had a suicide, were it not for that dear brother finally confessing a decade long lie. Let’s hear from that dear brother.
“The weight of sin, which involved lies and deceit to my family over a decade to cover my destructive addiction simply got too much to carry any longer, gradually eating away at me from the inside out.
I knew it would eventually be all laid bare and the scale of destruction and sheer hurt it would cause to my relationships with my wife and children.
I’d reached what I thought was rock bottom but sunk even
lower to the extent I’d planned on more than one occasion in specific detail how I was going to end my life to avoid the shame and disgrace of my actions. I was totally weighed by down by guilt.
This was precisely the outcome Satan seeks for sinners who succumb to temptation but I couldn’t grasp that in those moments.
In desperation and complete and utter despair I reached out to ask for help in a totally distressed state. We talked, then met on several occasions and together we asked Jesus for forgiveness as the hopeless sinner I had become. If not for that intervention I would not be writing these words today.
While I am in early days of recovery and I have significant work to do to repair the untold hurt I caused to the loved ones around me I have Jesus to thank for his all powerful and enduring love that carried me through and for the ultimate sacrifice he paid for me. Nothing I can do will ever repay that. I now count every day as a blessing and praise God and his almighty powerful son Jesus for saving my life.”
Satan wants you to think you are unforgivable and that death is the only way out. Don’t llisten to him, he is a liar and he does not want you to be free or happy.
Did you hear the sadness in Laski quote? “I have nobody to forgive me.” M Laski. But we do friends.
3. The search for happiness begins with confessed sin
Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. ~Psalm 32:5 (NIV)
From cover up to confession to cries of joy. Oh, the relief of naming our sin before God and others. David says “When I acknowledged my sin to you Lord, the pretending stopped, the sin is forgiven, the guilt is removed and God’s hand is lifted.
Here is the Paradox. When you try to cover your sin it remains exposed before the Lord. But when you uncover your sin to God, He then covers it by his Blood. If you confess your sin, God will conceal it. If you conceal your sin, God will condemn it.
We live in a culture that has found a thousand sophisticated ways to excuse our sin. Every department at University plays their part:
- Chemistry will say it’s just the dopamine hit in your head
- Biology will say its in your DNA
- Psychology blames your parents
- Economics points to your unemployment
- Education will say you didn’t know better
- No ultimate joy is found in these partial truths. The BIBLE IS full of unqualified confessions that satisfies the soul.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. ~Psalm 51:2 (NIV)
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! ~Isaiah 6:5 (NIV)
“Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” ~Luke 5:8 (NIV)
The Tax collector says
‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ ~Luke 18:13 (NIV)
Have you owned your sin?
What is holding you back?
It can’t be that God won’t forgive you.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. ~Psalm 32:5b (NIV)
That is a promise! And its why we share the gospel!
4. Forgiven sinners plead with other sinners to confess and be happy
Therefore, let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble ~Psalm 32:6-7 (NIV)
If God is willing to forgive then don’t delay. He pleads with us to talk to Him while he may be found.
- Today is the day of salvation. Don’t hesitate.
- Tomorrow is promised to no one.
- The thing about saying “no” to God is you get very good at it.
Don’t think God is like you. He never tires of hearing you say “I’m so sorry Lord.” He will never throw your confession back in your face.
God sent the prophet Nathan to David to confess his sin. God has sent me to tell you today to confess your sin.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. ~Psalm 32:8-9 (NIV)
In verse 8 God takes over the Psalm and talks directly to each of us. He says, I have my loving eye on you. I have been teaching you the right path. But if you don’t listen to my tender love, you will listen to my tough love.
Don’t be like a stubborn mule or an unbroken horse who need the bit and bridle. One way or the other you’re coming to me. We can do it the hard way or the easy way, either way you’re coming.
Spurgeon once said:
“If one severe trial does not sanctify you, expect another more rigorous.”
In last few years Sandy and I have both seen how God has used the bit and bridle to disciplined us in our pride…What personal feedback, bible reading and sermons didn’t do God did with the bit and bridle of reality. Painful as it was I’m so glad he did. This is where deep joy is found.
Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart! ~Psalm 32:10-11 (NIV)
5. Forgiven souls want to rejoice and sing.
Great sinners are great singers. What joy there is in confession and forgiveness. See the pattern, it never changes:
- Sin brings Sorrow,
- Confession brings Forgiveness
- Forgiveness brings Joy.
Is this not how any relationship works?
You may not be a Christian and so this passage is calling you to confess a life lived in rebellion. Let me give you the ABC of becoming a Christian
- Admit you’re a sinner
- Believe Jesus paid for your sins at the cross.
- Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour.
You may be a Christian and this passage is saying never stop confessing. Stand with God against your sin and claim your blood-bought forgiveness.
You may be a Christian who has backslidden. Like a brother in Christ I spoke to some time ago, he was married but had slipped into a series of anonymous sexual encounters with other men. He was so overwhelmed by his guilt and shame that he too was very close to suicide. He finally came to me to confess, with tears in his eyes I got him to read David’s confession in Psalm 51. You could see the relief in his eyes and the joy in his soul.
Can I suggest confessing to a trusted brother or sister in Christ, Pastor or Christian counsellor? Having someone know your sins and having them announce that you are forgiven in Christ is a powerful thing. The prophet Nathan did just that to David.
And of course, your relief may be the beginning of someone else’s grief who you have sinned against.
- Let them grieve.
- Let them be angry with you.
- Don’t demand they forgive you because God has
- And don’t let their reaction deny your comfort that God has washed away all your sin.
What is stopping you? Laski thought she had no one to forgive her but you do friends.