5 AM Devo: It’s Hard to Fess Up When We Mess Up

Tuesday, June 4

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment” (Psalm 51:1-4).

David, the great king of Israel, wrote Psalm 51. He wrote this wonderful psalm after his sin with Bathsheba which involved adultery, lying, and murder (see 2 Kings 11). Here, he is brokenhearted and repentant. He knows that God is the only one who can bring forgiveness and restoration and he desperately seeks it. He thus falls upon the great mercy and lovingkindness of God.

Eating Us From the Inside Out

David knows that he has violated God’s commands and his sin is eating him up inside. He knows that God has every right to bring judgment and penalty and notes that God is “justified in [His] words and blameless in [His] judgment.” David knows that he does not want judgment. He wants mercy. He seeks the forgiveness of God and the cleansing wholeness that forgiveness brings. He wants to be restored.

Such is the way of sin. Even if we seemingly “get away with it” in the eyes of other people, God knows—and we know. Our sin and rebellion have a way of eating us from the inside out. In Psalm 38, David described his sin this way, “For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me. There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me” (Psalm 38:2-4).

Confession and Salvation

To be saved, one of the main requirements is to admit that you are a sinner. It seems like such a small thing, but how many people deny this reality? They are offended when called a sinner and suggest, “I’m not a sinner!” Some will tell you how good they are and how many wonderful things they have done. But, the Bible reminds us that we are all sinners and our sin brings death (Rom 3:23; 623). The pathway to restoration is confession of our sinfulness and trust in Jesus to save us (Rom 10:9-10, 13).

You’re Speeding

Even as Christians, however, we still have a hard time confessing our inadequacies. Although most times we are honest with God (by now we’ve learned that He knows all things), we are not honest with each other. We tend to deny our failures and pretend we are perfect.

One holiday weekend, my wife and I decided to do a day trip to the city to just hang out and spend the day together. Driving on the interstate, I got behind someone who was apparently not in a hurry. After a few minutes of intense frustration, I whipped around him and passed him in the left lane. My wife said, “you’re speeding”. I said, “just a little, I’m just trying to get around this guy.” Then she said, “well, you also crossed the solid white line.” My wife is black and white and ever the law-abiding citizen. She continued, “plus, this is a construction zone. You should be going much slower.”

Fess Up When We Mess Up

My response was pretty typical. “Well, this guy is breaking the law by going 30 mph!” I said in a frustrated tone. “Plus, I didn’t see the white line—not to mention that it’s a holiday weekend so the workers have the day off!”

Brilliantly, I had countered all of her arguments and was feeling pretty good about myself. “It doesn’t matter,” she retorted, “it’s still the law.” Dang, I hate it when she’s right.

If you’re like me, rather then fess up when we mess us, we like to rationalize and justify our actions. We like to blame circumstances and other people around us. There is something deep within us that likes to be right and hates to be corrected. I think it’s called pride. I’m glad God is patient and kind.

The Dissipation of Tension and Frustration

I finally came around and saw the error of my ways and told my wife she was right and I was wrong. Immediately the tension and frustration dissipated and I felt whole. As the Bible reminds us, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” (Prov 28:13). I believe this has a vertical component (with God) and a horizontal component (with other people).

The two most powerful words to squelch an argument are, “I’m sorry.” The three most powerful words are, “I was wrong.” These short, powerful phrases, spoken from a sincere heart, can bring much needed healing and restoration.

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