Are you holding on to unconfessed sin? The Bible never makes a case for a “probation period” or establishing sincerity before running to Christ when we see our sin. Unbelief and Satan’s lies thrive in our hearts in this dangerous gap between conviction and repentance. In this place, we turn to useless, sinful “remedies”: Atonement: I will double-down on serving in church and reading my Bible. I’m a changed person; I can make up for this fall. Penance: I will punish myself with negative self-talk and emotional self-hate because I must pay for this sin. Self-Pity: I am going to comfort myself with more sin because I’m sad about how this will impact me or my loved ones. I am the victim.
The glow of her computer screen gone, Lexi sat in the darkness of her apartment. I can’t believe I did it again, she thought, seething with self-hatred after viewing pornography. To escape the swirl of shame and condemnation, Lexi put on a movie. It would be nine long days before she would pray or acknowledge God. I’ve messed up too many times, she told herself.
Perhaps you struggle with pornography or have an ongoing relationship of sexual temptation and failure in your life. You think, I can’t go to God again when I keep pursuing this! Or maybe you’re a friend, counselor, or pastor trying to understand another’s pervasive shame.
How can strugglers and helpers move out of the shame-spiral and toward real gospel hope?
Words of Death and Words of Life
Psalm 32 can guide Christian confession for your own heart and be a helpful map if you’re discipling someone burdened by unconfessed sin. It immediately gives a sobering prognosis and a rich assurance:
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit. (Ps. 32:1–2)
First, the bad news; three words describe our evil hearts. “Transgression” is breaking the law. It connotes smashing or breaking ties in a relationship—always the case when we seek our own way outside of our loving relationship with our Creator. “Sin” signifies failing to meet the standard of God’s perfect law, while “iniquity” indicates the twisted, perverse nature of our hearts as we turn away from God and pursue sin.
But there’s good news! The three words of life in these verses reveal what God accomplishes for us, meeting us in our sin and shame. “Forgiven” speaks of the lifting or removal of a burden that is too great—God knows we simply cannot clean ourselves up enough to lift the weighty burden of our sin; we need help outside ourselves. “Covered” indicates God removing our sin from his sight. When God “counts no iniquity” against us, he calls us his righteous children, clothed in the spotless robes of Jesus himself. Lexi is no longer identified as a “porn struggler” or as “shameful.” In Christ, she’s a new creation.
If you’re stuck wondering how to move toward God after sexual sin or what to say to help a sexual struggler, start here. By faith, Lexi can take hold of the amazing gospel truth that when we confess our sins, our God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Burden lifted! Sin covered! Righteousness declared!
The Sickness of Unconfessed Sin
Why did Lexi wait nine days to lift her eyes to God? What was happening in her heart during that painful time? Psalm 32 pictures the dangerous gap between sin and confession.