March 24, 2015

Confession: Good for the Soul

Psalm 51:1-12

Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.

—  Psalm 51:2-3

The organist spoke of his passion for his church's grand pipe organ: "You not only hear the music; you feel it. It resonates with your heart." Psalm 51, written by Israel's King David, resonates in penitent hearts.

Confession as a spiritual discipline must be mastered. It's the foundation of our relationship with God. Confession requires an honest self-awareness without which we cannot grow spiritually. Otherwise we're just fooling ourselves, trying to keep secrets from God by ignoring our sins within. Psalm 51 was David's confession after the prophet Nathan pointed out the king's sins of adultery and murder (see 2 Samuel 11-12). David knew he had to confess.

The pronouns "me," "my," and "I" emphasize taking personal responsibility, not slipping by with a general "prayer of confession." This is not groveling in self-pity or trying to get by with denial. We honestly own our sins because God graciously forgives.

Disciplined confession reminds us that all sin is against God. We apologize to people we ­offend, but we confess to God that we've offended his image in others. Then God cleanses us from the inside out and restores us to the joy of salvation. Do you need to weep Psalm 51 like David did?

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” Amen.

About the author — Norman F. Brown

Chaplain Norman F. Brown graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, in 1969. He served aboard destroyers during the Vietnam conflict and ashore in San Diego, Calif., as an instructor. By then God had made clear his call to work in pastoral ministry, and Norman entered Calvin Theological Seminary, graduating in 1980. Chaplain Brown pastored churches during his ministry career but spent most of his time as a navy chaplain. During one assignment he served three years at Holy Loch, Scotland, where he and his wife, Ruth, encountered the Iona Community and their emphasis on spiritual disciplines. Chaplain and Mrs. Brown have three married children and nine grandchildren.

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