Sunday’s Sermon: The Nature of Confession

Some things in life are really difficult.

For example, most of my life I have found cooking to be a difficult chore. I couldn’t get what I was cooking to turn out right. Everything would come either disgusting or inedible. My cooking has been so bad that I have given myself food poisoning. In time, my cooking has improved. I can now cook a few things without hurting anyone.

We all have things that are difficult for us. It might not be cooking, but may be something else. Perhaps you have a difficult time using a computer or the Internet. You might have a difficult time doing household repairs. Perhaps, you have a hard time telling someone how you feel. No matter who we are there are things in our lives that are challenging. We may be great in one area, but there are those areas that we struggle with.

Our difficulties are unique to us, but there is one difficult that is common to us all. We all have a hard time saying, “I’m sorry.” We don’t like to admit when we have hurt someone or have done something wrong. Part of this is we mourn the fact we have caused pain to someone we care about. As well, we also struggle with saying these words because we don’t like to admit that we’re not perfect.

These words are hard to say to someone we have wronged. It doesn’t matter if it is our spouse, our best friend, or a co-worker. We don’t like to admit when we are wrong. If we have a hard time admitting we are wrong to someone next to us, we find it especially hard to admit our wrongs to God.

Admitting our wrongs we have done against God is something we all struggle with. However, admitting our wrongs to God gets to the heart of what it means to confess our sins. This is the first major step on our journey to forgiveness and reconciliation. Last week, we said that sin is an act of disobedience to a known law of God. Today, we are taking a move forward to being reconciled with God by confessing our sin.

In our time today, we are going to walk through an act of confessing our sin. Specifically, we are going to look at a confessional prayer offered by Daniel in our Old Testament reading from today. In this passage, Daniel takes it upon himself to confess both his sin and the sin of the Israelites. This prayer makes it possible for the people of Israel, and himself, to receive the free gift of grace from our loving and merciful God. As Augustine said, “confession of evil works is the beginning of good works.”

Daniel’s prayer does not come out of thin air. He believes the time is right for this prayer. We know Daniel was among the youths taken by King Nebuchadnezzer to Babylon. He was sent there to be trained for service to the king. This took place during the Babylonian Exile. It was a 70-year period when the people of Israel were removed from Jerusalem because of they refused to obey God. Daniel believes this period is nearly up. He knew the people’s sin, and his own, must be dealt with before they could return to Jerusalem.

It is perhaps because of this need that Daniel makes his prayer of confession. This is a prayer directed to God with the intent to acknowledge one’s sin. A confessional prayer can be said by an individual for that person’s sin, and it can be said by a community in regard to their sin. Scripture is filled with people who recognized their sin and confessed it to God. One such prayer was Nehemiah’s prayer in Nehemiah 1:5-11. He confesses to God the sins of the Israelites and his family. Daniel stands in this tradition when he prayers for himself and his people.

A quick reading may lead us to believe the prayer begins in verse 9:4, but it begins well before this moment. It begins before Daniel even begins to pray. Richard Foster says that confession begins when we ask God for a heart that is able to confess. We cannot confess our sin on our own. We need God’s help to open our eyes to our sin. We need God to give us the ability to acknowledge our sin. We need the Holy Spirit to walk beside us to begin the process of purifying us. This allows us to receive the mercy, grace, and hope of the resurrection that Peter speaks of in 1 Peter 1:3. We need God to show us the log in our own eye, so God might help us to remove ou sin. Once we are prepared to confess, we can begin to enter a time of confession that is similar to the one Daniel prays.

Daniel’s confession begins by praising God in verse 4. Confession is a worshipful act. Daniel are acknowledges that God is worthy to be praised, and the giver of mercy and judgment. Daniel has met the face of God and he is offering a confession of faith. In our confession, we do not just admit our sin, but we offer praises to God. Confession requires us to make a response to our faith. We have heard about God’s love and God’s desires for our lives. This requires from us either an acceptance of faith or a rejection. This was the choice the rich young ruler faced when confronted by Jesus. He was faced with his inability to fully commitment to faith in Christ. In that moment, the rich man refused to offer a confession of praise and of his sin. Confession isn’t about us saying words to “get out of jail,” but is an act of worship where we admit our need of Christ.

After Daniel confesses his faith in God, he progresses to the bulk of the prayer. It is the confession of his and the community’s sin. Notice what Daniel does here. He doesn’t say a prayer that I, and perhaps you, say so often. That is the quick and basic prayer of “God forgive me of my sin.” He does something more. He names the sin. It’s not an abstract idea of a general sin, but Daniel puts the sin into something real and something concrete. He is aware of what they have done wrong, and acknowledges it before God. Daniel admits they have sinned against the Lord by not being obedient to his instructions. They have refused God’s mercy. Because of this, they deserved the exile.

This act serves a purpose. It is cathartic. Acknowledging our sin releases us from our guilt and allows God to begin the work of mercy and forgiveness. When we confess our sin, we are making room for Psalm 105:46 to be at work in our life. The Psalmist writes, “Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from the nations that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.”

Daniel lives into this prayer in the final segment of this confession. He desires God to come and rescue his people, and himself, by offering mercy. This isn’t so we can receive some award, but it is so God can receive the glory and be praised. Only God who can begin the work of reconciliation and forgiveness. Daniel is asking God to begin that work anew in his people. Our prayers of confession should include our earnest desire for God to transform and renew us. Again, this is all so God’s name might be praised and proclaimed.

Confession is the act that acknowledges our sin. It moves us into a position that allows us to receive God’s grace. We should all confess our sin, both in our personal lives and in the life of our community. For a lack of a better expression, confession is good for the soul and good for our relationship with Christ.

In a moment, we will partake in a communal act of confession to prepare us for communion. As we confess our sin before God, I want to invite you to think about that sin that came to mind last week, or perhaps one that is on your mind today. I want to invite you to give that sin over to God as an act of confession, so that God might begin to renew your life.

There is no better time than today to do this. Communion is our remembrance that Christ freely died for our sin and lives with us through the Holy Spirit. We come to the table to be redeemed by the blood and to be transformed by the Spirit’s guidance.

Christ, I believe today, is calling for us to come and meet him here. Let us come, seeking the presence of the Lord to prune us and open our heart to our sin. All so we might be live in right step with God today and always.

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2 thoughts on “Sunday’s Sermon: The Nature of Confession

  1. Hi Shannon, just happened to somehow
    end up on your sermon today. Wow, what
    a powerful message. I don’t recall ever
    having this happen before-ending up
    on your website so I’m thinking God
    must have wanted me to read it.
    It did strike a nerve with me-relating to
    an issue a my work place.
    God works in amazing ways Shannon.
    Your sermon really spoke to me.
    Thank you for your sermon today and
    thank God go for directing me to your
    Facebook page. I’m sure it was not an
    accident!
    Hope you and Abbey are happy and
    doing well. We miss seeing you both
    With Hope in My Heart,
    Ruthi Sims

  2. Ruthi,

    It is so great to hear from you! I am glad that you found the blog and that today’s sermon was meaningful to you. Abbi and I miss everyone at Andover and we think of everyone often. May God bless you, and the church, both today and always.

    Tell Ed we said hello!

    Peace,

    Shannon

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