These are the tenth and eleventh in a series of bulletin inserts on corporate worship at Trinity URC. Full Series (to date)–>HERE
Confession of Sin
The public reading of the Law of God leads us to confession. James describes the law as a mirror, it reveals our ugliness and the ways in which we have failed to live up to the standard of God’s holy character (James 1:23-24). The Law confronts us, and makes us mindful of our sin. And when the believer is mindful of their sin, there is no other recourse for them but to confess their sins to God and to trust in the everlasting mercy that is theirs in Christ Jesus. Confession is the outward expression of repentance, something which marks the entirety of the Christian life before glory. Public confession of sin has been an element of reformed liturgies since the very beginning of the Reformation itself. To the Reformers, the confession of sin was not a moment of despairing over sin. Rather, it is a moment of humility. In the holy conversation that is worship, the confession of sin is when believer acknowledge before God that they have not lived up to his law and have sinned in thought, word, and deed.
For this reason, the confession of sin has fallen out of popularity in some churches. It is viewed as “too negative”. This is because confession is inherently difficult to us as sinners. If we have done something against our neighbor, there is often times nothing more difficult than approaching them and confessing what we’ve done. When we confess our sins to one another, we feel the present fear that perhaps the other person will react in anger and reject us. But with our God there is no question as to how he will receive us, there is no threat of rejection. Even when we are aware of our worst sins, we make our confession as did the Psalmist, believing that with confession comes forgiveness.
“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 (Psalm 32:5).”
Confession is not motivated by fear of judgement, but by confidence in God’s grace. In our confession we come before the Lord in humility, acknowledging our sin and acknowledging our desperate need for his gracious forgiveness. But we also come before Him with the sure confidence that, “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).” Dear Christian, whatever your fear, whatever your failure, bring it before the Lord in confession this day, and know that in Christ you stand forgiven and cleansed from all unrighteousness!
Declaration of Pardon
We have considered the importance of the confession of sins as a part of corporate worship. As the Law reveals to us our weakness and our failures, we are reminded of our constant need for God’s grace and we acknowledge our sin to him. What great comfort it is to the soul to know when you are confessing your sins, that immediately following is God’s own declaration of pardon! We know without a doubt what God’s response is to those who confess their sins and trust in Christ for their righteousness because He has told us in his Word!
“Come now, let us reason together says the LORD; though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow, though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool (Isaiah 1:18)
Without the declaration of pardon, the reading of the Law and the confession of sin would be left incomplete. What comfort is there for the soul to be aware of sin, but to be without knowledge of God’s grace? But wherever you are this morning, Dear Christian, whatever the sorrow of your heart or the sinful struggle of your soul, know that God meets with you in Christ this morning. God hears your prayers of confession, and He says the same thing to you that He said to the paralytic in Matthew 9:2, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” This message stands at the very heart of everything which is proclaimed to you from the pulpit each Lord’s Day: the forgiveness of sins and the granting of everlasting righteousness by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. For this reason, the declaration of pardon has been an essential element of reformed liturgies since the Reformation.
As you enter into God’s courts on the Lord’s Day, know that He meets with you to proclaim to you His gospel mercies! Consider the words of this declaration of pardon taken from a reformed liturgy during the time of the English Reformation:
“The Almighty God will have mercy upon you! As an undoubted pledge to you, he has sent His Son into the world, who was sacrificed as the innocent lamb, bore your sin and made satisfaction for it. Then, whosoever believes in the Lord Jesus Christ has the forgiveness of his sin, the robe of Christ’s perfect righteousness and everlasting life. As you hold this faith, you are forgiven all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
Truly, there is no greater comfort to our souls than the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ!