Self-Judgment, Confession and Forgiveness

 •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 9
“When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.
“I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah” (Psa. 32:35).
Where can a guilty conscience find relief? The very effort at concealment only aggravates the burden. How many broken hearts there are, and how many heavy spirits, who dare not tell their sorrows to another! How many have found bitter disappointments in everything and in themselves also, and yet are ignorant of the real cause, because they are ignorant of their condition as lost. They do not know that God has looked upon their case and provided the remedy. They keep silence, although it only aggravates the raging fever within. In this they are realizing what the constitution of man is as a moral creature. He is insufficient for his own happiness, and other creatures too are insufficient to make him happy. Although he may not normally feel this attitude as sin, yet this is perhaps the deepest principle of sin, because it is, in fact, “[worshipping] and [serving] the creature more than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25).
No Relief Until ...
There is no relief until the soul can tell out its sorrow to God. Even if the hand of God is felt and acknowledged, God Himself is often regarded as inaccessible. The soul goes on bearing its own burden, the whole spirit is gone, and the individual utterly miserable. The hand of God may touch some idol or something in which the soul was seeking rest, but this intervention may itself produce fretfulness against God.
The first thing under all circumstances of misery is the acknowledgement of God. Then he finds that God meets him where he is, and with the message, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). The gospel brings a message of forgiveness — eternal forgiveness, but also brings man to God to make him happy in God. Then the sinner finds that “blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psa. 32:1).
Silence and Misery
However, there are certain principles which apply with equal truth to man as a sinner and to one born of God. The verse quoted at the beginning of the article is one of these. If keeping silence brings misery to the sinner, how much more to the saint who knows God in grace, yet does not use the truth properly to deepen his knowledge of himself! Such a one has really forgotten his standing before God, and having guile in his spirit, is not being open with God. We need to come to the point where we say, practically as well as positionally, “O wretched man that I am!” (Rom. 7:24).
When God is really known as the One who imputes righteousness without works, any concealment of sin from Him must necessarily produce heaviness of spirit. We cannot come near Him because of the concealment, and then coldness comes in. How often in such a case do we lay the fault anywhere, even on God Himself, rather than on ourselves for keeping silence! When we have been restless in spirit, or downcast and unhappy, has it not often arisen from mortified pride? Our self-esteem has been lowered on discovering some unsuspected sin, as if our blessedness consisted in our character, instead of having our righteousness imputed without works. God will not allow us to have confidence in our character or in our faithfulness to Him, but in His own revealed character and His faithfulness to us. This tendency in the believer to self-righteousness accounts in a great measure for the misery found in Christians. When they entertain it even in a subtle form, they have departed from the real and only ground of their blessedness. If sin is unconfessed, made light of in confession, or only generally and not specifically confessed, it brings on misery.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
What relief — immediate relief — accompanies confession! Silence is broken by confession, and no longer is any effort made to conceal the sin! We are brought into God’s presence and have to do with God. God is justified by confession and the sin brought out in its deepest character in His presence. But then we realize that His love has already provided the remedy, and the sin for the believer is forgiven because of Christ’s work on the cross. The believer experiences restorative forgiveness and once again has happy fellowship with God.
Much of the trial of spirit experienced by saints arises from their not exercising themselves in self-judgment. The right understanding of the truth of righteousness without works puts me in the place of self-judgment — a high and wonderful place. We are in the light, and the light detects what is inconsistent with that place. What a privilege to be able to judge it in that light! However, a saint may become too solicitous about his own character in the eyes of his fellow-saints or even of the world, and thus he unconsciously may be led to act a part instead of getting his life strengthened from the spring and source of life. Our character becomes our object instead of Christ. But let the exercise of soul in self-judgment be ever so humbling, yet it leads to Christ, and we really are strengthened. If saints only knew what a toilsome process self-vindication is! If they were to justify God instead of justifying themselves, what sorrow they would avoid!
In 1 Corinthians 11:31 we read, “If we would judge [discern] ourselves, we should not be judged.” I think we see the design of Paul in using the word “discern,” not simply “judge.” Self-discernment, getting a positive insight into the real moving springs of the activity of the flesh, cannot be done unless we know the blessed truth that God has judged the flesh at the cross. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that we discern ourselves, and this in the immediate presence of God. The new evil, which we discern in ourselves, God has already seen from the beginning and now allows us to see that we may justify Him in His total condemnation of it.
It is indeed a blessed encouragement to the soul to be assured that there is nothing we may not tell God. He has done everything to win our confidence! It is because of the connection between confession and forgiveness that we may come to God, even in the knowledge of some freshly discovered sin. Let us remember that, for the believer, there is no hindrance to our fellowship with God except ourselves. Let us not keep silence when we sin, but come to Him in confession, and enjoy forgiveness, fellowship and happiness once more!
Adapted from “Righteousness Without Works,”
The Present Testimony, Vol. 1