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Six Steps of Confession (Psalm 51, 32)

When it comes to scripture, I’m not a big list person – you know 3 steps to power over your temptation, or 17 steps to overcome doubt, or 12 steps to a happy marriage. But, as I’ve been studying these two Psalms, several sequential observations come to my mind. So, yeah, I made a list because I think they are helpful.

There are several Psalms, like these, that are coined “Penitential Psalms” because they center on confessing sins. Remember that confessing simply means to agree with God, or speak the same thing as God, about our sin. The point of connection between Psalm 51 and 32 is David’s sins with Bathsheba. Psalm 52 (which comes first) was David’s confession, a prayer for forgiveness for having committed adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband, Uriah. After wallowing in guilt for almost a year, David finally confessed his sin to Nathan and wrote about that in Psalm 32, which highlights the joy and amazing forgiveness that are quickly available to all who seek it.

So, here are 7 steps of confession from these two Psalms;

Step 1 – Seek forgiveness BASED ON GOD’S LOVE AND MERCY, not our performance.

  • Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions (51:1)

Step 2 - TAKING PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY for our sins – no excuses.

  • ​Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!

  • For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me (51:2-3)

Step 3 - Realize it’s GOD’S STANDARD that defines sin, not ours.

  • Against you, you only, have I sinned… (51:4)

Step 4 - Realize our sin is AGAINST A PERSONAL AND HOLY GOD, not just a personal mistake.

  • …and done what is evil in your sight (51:4)

Step 5 – CONFESS your sin, don’t hid it.

  • I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin (32:5)

Step 6 - ENJOY THE RESTORATION of fellowship, don’t wallow in guilt and shame.

  • 1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit (32:1-2)

  • Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart! (32:11)

Step 7 - Tell others WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR YOU, not what you have done for God.

  • Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you (51:13)

David concludes with an admonition that because God is merciful and gracious, we should enter the His presence with joy and confess willingly, and not be forced into it over months or years of guilt and pain like he was. Those to drag their feet in confession he says, are like animals without understanding that have to be forced into submission – he says they have “many sorrows” (32:10-11).

Do you have a need to confess some sin to the LORD and, like David, find amazing forgiveness and joy? See step #1 😊.


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