It’s confession time.
The mere sight of a squad car—particularly when my speed is a little beyond the posted limit—kicks off a flurry of excuses in my mind. My speedometer must be a little off . . . I had no idea how fast I was going . . . I didn’t know what the speed limit was . . . I’m on my way to church . . . The prevailing thought behind all of that is: I wonder what I can do or say to get out of a ticket?
When I think about it, I’m actually shocked by how quickly rationalizations and excuses come to my mind when I have sinned. At first blush it seems better to cover up my guilt than to be honest about my true condition. Tell me I’m not alone!
As you probably know, Psalm 51 is written after David experiences a gut-wrenching reality check. A series of choices had taken this king further and further from the path of righteousness until he found himself tangled up in a disastrous web of excuses and cover-ups. It takes a committed prophet, Nathan, speaking truthfully on behalf of the Lord, to draw King David back to reality and expose the ugly details of his sin.
In this psalm, David comes clean! And as he prays, he reminds us that God is not only a compassionate and merciful God, but He is also a God who demands that we be truthful with ourselves about our sin. Not bits of truth coated with rationalizations and excuses. Not half-hearted assertions about our sinful choices ending with “but it’s not really my fault.” When we have sinned, God demands heart-level, flat-out open honesty about our sin and our responsibility for what we have done. It is then that He is ready to pour out the abundant grace of His forgiving mercy.
There is no deceit worse than self-deceit. Making ourselves feel better about our sinful condition by covering it up with lame excuses is like taking a cadaver to the ball in a tux. You may look good for awhile, but before long you’ll have trouble living with what you really are like under all the excuses. More seriously, failing to come clean about our sin short-circuits the process of experiencing God’s cleansing and restorative work in our lives. Why are we hiding? God stands ready to cleanse and forgive! Being honest about our true condition drives our hearts to the cleansing work of the cross.
And, as David points out, instead of living in the smog of self-deceit, being honest with ourselves opens our hearts to embrace God’s wisdom. Facing up to our sin always makes us know that we are not nearly as smart as we thought. After all, if we were all that smart we wouldn’t have taken the nosedive in the first place. Admitting our true condition drives us to embrace our need for God’s wisdom to guide us on our journey!
So whether it means surprising a police officer with a statement like, “You’re right, I was speeding and am sorry for disobeying the law,” or saying to a family member or friend, “I was totally wrong! Will you forgive me?” let’s be done with our excuses. And, more importantly, let’s come clean before God! Each step that we take in acknowledging the truth of our sin is one step closer to the joy of His cleansing grace and the brilliance of His divine wisdom.
- Read Psalm 51:1-19. Think about the sin patterns you permit to remain active in your life because you have rationalized and excused them. Be honest: Would you rather keep the sin or experience God’s forgiving mercy and grace?
- Are you willing right now to bring your sins to God without any excuse, to admit your sole responsibility, and to plead for His mercy?
- With a trusted friend, pray through David’s prayer of repentance and restoration in Psalm 51:1-19. Know that the same God who forgave and restored David is ready and waiting to forgive and restore you!