Reading Psalm 38 was extremely helpful today in considering the proper posture of our hearts when we come and confess our sins. We don’t say merely, “Lord, I made some mistakes, but I know You still love me.” No, rather, in these verses read the way David speaks of his own depravity to the Lord, despite knowing the Lord is for him:
1 O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath!
2 For your arrows have sunk into me,
and your hand has come down on me.
3 There is no soundness in my flesh
because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
because of my sin.
4 For my iniquities have gone over my head;
like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.
5 My wounds stink and fester
because of my foolishness,
6 I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
all the day I go about mourning.
7 For my sides are filled with burning,
and there is no soundness in my flesh.
8 I am feeble and crushed;
I groan because of the tumult of my heart.
9 O Lord, all my longing is before you;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart throbs; my strength fails me,
and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
11 My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague,
and my nearest kin stand far off.
17 For I am ready to fall,
and my pain is ever before me.
18 I confess my iniquity;
I am sorry for my sin.
21 Do not forsake me, O Lord!
O my God, be not far from me!
22 Make haste to help me,
O Lord, my salvation!
There is a burden and heaviness in his heart for his sinning against God. It is dragging his very soul down with great weight and power. He describes himself as being in over his head with sinning. He knows only the Lord is His salvation that can rescue him from this plight.
This is not just dramatic poetry or emotional, over-done rhetoric. This is the reality of all of our hearts before the Lord. We are sinners to the core, even (and especially) as believers. In acknowledging ourselves to be in this bad of a condition (not merely mistake-makers) we put ourselves in a position to see the greatest of the cross that redeemed our lives from eternal death.
As backward as it may seem to the world, in being this negative toward ourselves and then looking to Christ alone for the remedy, we position ourselves properly, in godly humility, to see that we have been made right by the blood of Christ alone and that nothing within ourselves is worth saving. He alone saves us and makes us right. We do nothing to contribute anything toward our salvation as we have no righteousness of ourselves. And setting ourselves properly in this context is the single most comforting and satisfying thing in all the world. But we must be ready and willing to admit ourselves as being this bad. This is itself true confession.