At bedtime each night, my husband and I take turns reading a short devotional to our daughter from one of the various age-appropriate Bible storybooks on her bookshelf. Over the years the stories have gotten more complex, the topics more relevant to her current 9-year-old stage of life, and I’ve found the application of the daily Scripture fits her daily elementary school routine as much as my full-time ministry work.
As I flipped to the reading for the night in our current book, I hesitated. “If we confess our sins, He will forgive our sins….He will make us clean from all the wrongs we have done.” (1 John 1:9). Sin. Confession. Repentance. Forgiveness. I desperately wanted to skip to the next page, to read an easier devotional about how to handle life when it’s not fair, or how to encourage your friends. I wasn’t sure I wanted to talk about sin with our little girl.
Maybe you do that too when topics in faith feel uncomfortable. It’s easier to explain grace, encouragement, and loving our neighbors than it is to talk about sin. It’s more comfortable to offer examples of how we do those things well and more fun to come up with creative ways to encourage the people in our lives. On the other hand, when we talk about sin, we have to admit that we’re all sinners who need a Savior—and that can be an uncomfortable confession. It means that we can’t do everything on our own, that we have weaknesses, and that we are in need of restoration.
In Psalm 51 David pens a prayer for restoration, a guide that shows us how to come before God with a heart ready to receive the full forgiveness that He promises. David begins by recounting the characteristics of God (faithful love; abundant compassion) and then confesses his sins. The pre-script at the beginning of today’s Psalm notes that this was written by David after Nathan confronted him after his affair with Bathsheba. David was called a “man after God’s own heart,” (1 Samuel 13) not because he was perfect, but because he turned back to God after every mistake.
Before we can walk in the joy and gladness of God’s restoration, we must empty our hearts and hands of the sinful parts of our lives to make room for what God needs to do. God already knows what we’ve done, He knows what sins we will commit in the future, and yet He still chooses us. He calls us His daughters and He makes a way for us to restore our relationship as we confess and, with humble hearts, ask God to wash away our sins.
David goes on to ask God not only to cleanse him of his sins but to “create…a pure heart,” “renew a resolute spirit,” and give him “the desire to obey.” (v. 10, 12). What a beautiful reminder that God will give us everything we need to live fully in the abundance of His restoration if we are humble enough to confess our sins and ask for His help.
Answering questions about confession and repentance with my daughter meant being willing to share with her that I am far from perfect. I’ve been quite present for every one of my sins—big and small. But it was also a beautiful moment to share that God does not expect perfection, but obedience. In our obedience, as we confess our sins to God through prayer, He will cleanse us, removing the stain of our sin so that we can be restored and made “whiter than snow” (v. 7).
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