The Believer’s Confession of Sin-Psalm 51 -by John Macarthur
(the following is only an extract, for the full text please visit the link above for the full sermon transcript)
In the true church of Jesus Christ, there is a kind of obsession with sin. Now that’s not popular today, even in quote/unquote churches. The more Christian a church is and the more mature its people are, the more sensitive it is to sin. I was exposed to a church, it calls itself a church and watch the service on television recently and the first thing the pastor did was say, “Welcome to our worship, we’re going to worship the Lord together.” And he said, “Let’s pray.” And the first words out of his mouth as he articulated his prayer, “O Lord, we deny anything that is negative, we deny anything that takes away our joy. We reject all thoughts of loss. We reject anything that would steal our dreams, our ambitions, our goals, our desires,” and he went on and on with this kind of thing for rather extended period of time.
And I thought to myself, “If that’s Christian at all, it certainly as infantile and as immature as a Christian prayer could ever be because the heart and soul of a true believer who comes to worship is, first of all, to come to grips with the reality of his or her own sinfulness. We come to confess things that are negative. We come to confess our weakness, our inabilities, our deceptiveness, our tendency to be dishonest, disloyal, unloving, unkind, the fallenness of our flesh, the constant recycling of our tendencies toward iniquity and sins in the same kind of categories.
Churches that talk about only good things don’t ever speak of sin, don’t ever lead the people to serious contemplation and confession of sin may not be Christians at all, they may be churches, but not made up of Christians or if some are Christians, they are of the most immature kind.
The more mature believer is, the more likely a believer is to open his mouth in any expression of worship and come out, first of all, with a confession of his own unworthiness. It was Isaiah, you know, who was the best man in his nation, he was the prophet of God, he was the noblest of all who in Isaiah 6 said, “I am a man of unclean lips and I come from a people of unclean lips.” And he pronounced a curse on himself for his own wretched sinfulness. It was the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 7 who said, “O wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from the body of this death?” He was the best, he was the best of us, maybe the noblest Christian that ever lived and he was really distraught and overwhelmed by his own wretched sinfulness.
Whenever the church gathers to worship on a Sunday here, it gives the opportunity for one of us to pray a pastoral prayer and part of that pastoral prayer prayed in the service usually after the reading of the Scripture is to acknowledge our unworthiness, our sinfulness. To acknowledge that not only are we sinful and unworthy, but our dreams and ambitions and desires and goals are corrupted. The notion that we’re supposed to come to church to tell God He needs to fulfill everything we want couldn’t be further from the truth. We come to say, “Lord, the things that I want may be worldly things and earthly things and passing things and temporal things and even sinful things and even corrupting things, rather I want what You want for me, the highest and the best and the good. But I confess that none of that is in me.”
The church never worships more purely than when it confesses its own sinfulness because that’s the platform in which we enter into worship, recognition of our own sinfulness and our own unworthiness. Everybody understands David was a great worshiper, wasn’t he? Great worshiper. He wrote many, many, many Psalms, dozens and dozens of Psalms. And we use those Psalms to worship and they are worshiping Psalms. But David also understood the wretchedness of his own heart and he was a true worshiper who knew that while it was one thing to come to God and give Him glory, it was also an equal critical thing to come to God and recognize His own unworthiness. He is not a spiritual novice, this David, he is a man after God’s own heart.