There is an awful moment when the reality of our sin hits our consciousness. The Holy Spirit snaps the word, or deed or thought into sharp focus. At times like this I sometimes feel a deep physical ache in the centre of my chest. Heat rises in the back of my neck and my cheeks. I want to stare at the ground. Shame. Guilt.
In fact, it’s not just the ‘bad stuff’ we do.
Tim Keller puts it this way in The Prodigal God:
What must we do, then, to be saved? To find God we must repent of the things we have done wrong, but if that is all you do, you may remain just an elder brother. To truly become a Christian we must also repent of the reasons we ever did anything right. Pharisees only repent of their sins, but Christians repent for the very roots of their righteousness, too. We must learn how to repent of the sin under all our other sins and under all our righteousness – the sin of seeking to be our own Savior and Lord. We must admit that we’ve put our ultimate hope in both our wrongdoing and right doing we have been seeking to get around God or get control of God in order to get hold of those things.
The load of our sin is far too heavy for us to bear. It runs so much deeper than we even realise.
Those who meet God face-to-face simply fall at his feet. Isaiah cries, “I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips” (Isa 6:5); Peter yells, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8). John just collapses as if dead (Rev 1:17). The collision of His holiness with our sinfulness causes a gut-wrenching, physical reaction.
David groans in pain, his vision dim and his hearing dull. His sin and his pain is constantly before him. Can it possibly get any worse than this?
But David is able to draw breath again as he remembers the source of his hope – God will listen and God himself is his salvation! Confession and true repentance result in true forgiveness and true freedom.
David anticipated the beautiful, life-restoring forgiveness that Jesus brings.
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
And the result:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1
I think this verse of the famous hymn by Horatio Spafford sums it up perfectly:
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.