Psalm 32:5 (ESV) … “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.”
How did David get from the burden of guilt to the happiness of forgiveness? He leaves no doubt about the answer, as he says to the Lord: “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.”
He moved from the burden to the blessing through confession. This truth is very clear when we reduce his words to these phrases: ‘I acknowledged … you forgave.’
What does it mean to confess our sins? It means to agree with God about them. Before David came to the point of confession, he and God were on opposite sides of the fence. God was condemning his sin, and he was defending himself by rationalizing and excusing his sin.
When he finally came to the point of confession, David stopped fighting against God. He, as it were, walked over to God’s side of the fence and stood with God and joined him in condemning his, David’s, sin.
The relief that came to David through confession is available to all of God’s people. The apostle John declares: ‘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).
But the promise of God to forgive his repenting people must be believed. Right here is where many of God’s people go astray. Even though they have God’s promise to forgive them, they cannot forgive themselves. So they keep dredging up their sin and feeling guilty about it. And Satan gets the victory because, while they are feeling guilty over their sin, they are virtually useless to the cause of Christ.
What shall we say to such people? God has told us that when we repent of our sins, he casts them as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12), never to be remembered again (Jer. 31:34).
Our word, then, to our troubled brother or sister who won’t let go of guilt is this: dear brother, dear sister, believe God. Don’t try to resurrect what he has buried. If God says you are forgiven, you are forgiven. Rejoice in it.
When we get down to the nub of the matter, it is highly insulting to God not to believe what he has said. It is, rather, sheer pride and arrogance to cling to our guilt when God has promised to forgive those who repent.
If God has pledged to forgive, we must forgive ourselves.