But I confess my sins; I am deeply sorry for what I have done.Psalms 38:18 (NLT)
When I was growing up, I remember one of my Sabbath School teachers talking to us about making sure we kept a list of the sins we committed. This “sin tracker” would serve as a reminder of all the of dumb things we had done. It would also allow us to make sure and name every sin when we ask for forgiveness. This would ensure that we didn’t leave any out – because one unforgiven sin would keep us out of Heaven. So, I diligently kept track of all of the wrongs I committed. Sure, I didn’t write them down, but my memory would serve me quite well. It took about a day until I realized that my memory was corrupt. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t keep track of every sin I committed. Even if I focused really hard, I kept having this sneaking suspicion that I was forgetting one, or two, or three.
If this idea of sin-tracking makes you uneasy, it should. Why? Because it’s not true. Now, here me clearly, we should confess our sins (see the beginning of our verse today), but God is less interested in a laundry list of sinful behavior and more interested in His child, who is you.
The Bible tells us in many places that God examines our heart. There’s a reason for this. He is concerned with the depth of our commitment to Him and to each other and less concerned with our list. There’s a phrase I utter in many of my talks that goes like this: “Satan knows our name but calls us by our sin. Jesus knows our sin but calls us by our name.” In other words, that laundry list of sins has more to do with Satan’s way of viewing us than God’s.
The last part of our verse today provides the indicator of how our repentance should work, “I am deeply sorry for what I have done.” If we don’t have a close, personal connection to Jesus, then it becomes a ceremony to confess our sins. We name them off like we are calling roll-call in class. There’s no heart to it. It is just a list of boxes that need to be checked. But, when we are best friends with Jesus, when we come to understand Him, and He is a big part of our life, then we understand that when we sin, we negatively impact that relationship. As a result, confession is less about check boxes and more about mending a hurt in our relationship with God because it is so vitally important to us. Much like our earthly relationships, we need to genuinely say we’re sorry, hug it out, and move forward in our friendship.