Concealment or Confession

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : Proverbs 28:13

He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

Proverbs 28:13, RSV

“He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” Here in this ancient proverb are two very different ways of dealing with what’s wrong in our lives, two reactions to the consciousness of guilt. We can conceal our transgressions or confess them. Why do we choose the one or the other, and what are the results that follow in each case?

THE CURSE OF CONCEALMENT

The tendency to conceal seems to be natural to us. Children display it at a very early age. A little boy takes some money from his mother’s pocketbook and buys candy with it. Then, lest he be discovered, he finds a place deep under the front porch to enjoy his purchase. A girl of three years has wakened her baby brother by rubbing him with baby powder. When her mother enters the room, the girl insists that she hasn’t touched the baby even though her powdery hands give her away. It’s hard, isn’t it, to admit that we’ve done something wrong? It’s painful to have someone else know about our shortcomings. And so we learn early in life strategies of concealment.

As we grow older, we become more and more skillful in “covering up.” We don’t choose obvious hiding places like a front porch, and we are more careful about the evidence we leave behind us. We plan our alibis more ingeniously and lie more convincingly when questioned.

Behind all of this masquerade, of course, is fear. We’re afraid of being found out. Perhaps we fear the disapproval of someone whose good opinion means a great deal to us. Or we can’t bear the thought of the censure or ridicule that will follow if our failings are discovered. Maybe it’s punishment we fear, some dreaded retribution. The more fearful we are, the more feverish become our efforts to hide.

That’s why crime, I suppose, is so often associated with darkness. People will attempt things at night that they would never dare to do in broad daylight. They are afraid of light because of light’s revealing power. It shows things as they are. It takes away our cover. It leaves us nowhere to hide. We say to ourselves that if we can stay in the shadows no one will know what we are doing. No one will discover who we really are. What we fear, with a wildly irrational dread, is the entrance of light.

Turn over a big rock on some sunny summer day and watch the activity underneath. All those little creatures scurry about frantically or burrow into the dirt beneath. Suddenly they feel exposed and try frantically to escape. Anything to get away from the searching light!

What happens when we act like that, when we try to conceal our transgressions, when we run away and hide? The proverb says that we “will not prosper.” That means at the very least that we won’t be successful. Our efforts will be frustrated. We’ll finally be found out after all. “We may fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time,” as the saying goes, “but none of us can fool all of the people all of the time.” Sooner or later, the truth about us comes to light.

And that’s merely on the human level. As far as God is concerned, our efforts at concealment are simply laughable. They don’t work at all, not for a moment. He sees through everything. Before we have manufactured the lie, He sees it coming. As we start to speak, He knows all about it. The darkness and the light, the psalmist tells us, are both alike to Him. There is literally, in all of this universe, no place to hide.

Have you ever thought of what an insult it is to God, what a display of practical unbelief, to imagine that we can conceal something from Him? It shows that our fear of being discovered is almost entirely a fear of other people. It surely isn’t the fear of God. If we take God seriously, if we have a reverent awareness of Him, if we know that we stand always in His presence and under His eye, then deception will be the last thing we attempt. When we try to hide what we’ve done, or pretend we’re something we’re not, we are saying in our hearts, “No God.” We are acting as though He, the Heart-searcher, did not exist. Someone has said about every lie that we tell that it “despises God even as it fears men.”

And God won’t let that kind of thing prosper. He abhors deception, the Bible tells us. When you read in the Proverbs about the six things the Lord hates, a lying tongue is near the top of the list and a false witness is near the end. God will bring to light all the hidden things of darkness. He won’t let anything stay under cover indefinitely. All our efforts at concealment are finally doomed to failure.

But there’s another way in which we “will not prosper.” If we try to conceal our transgressions, we won’t know real peace. I read this just today in one of our Words of Hope devotional studies:

I was five years old, looking with longing at the brightly colored pegboard in my kindergarten classroom. It was fun to make imaginative designs, fitting the pegs into the holes. How nice it would be, I thought, to be able to do this at home, too! So I secretly scooped up a handful of the pegs and stuffed them under the elastic of my old fashioned bloomers. Walking home that day, I had a bit of thinking to do. How could I use the pegs without the board? What would I say when my mom asked me where I had gotten them? So, before I got home, I buried the pegs in a ditch. That should have taken care of that, but I hadn’t reckoned with my conscience. I walked into the house, locked myself in the room, and cried great, gulping sobs.

That little girl’s story is a vivid, telling picture of our lives, isn’t it? Listen to David, a grown man, telling what happened inside him when he tried to cover up the wrong he had done, “When I declared not my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long . . . my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” He was inwardly miserable. All the vitality within him seemed to be drying up. He knew deep down inside what those “great, gulping sobs” can be. And how many people, do you suppose, are right now suffering like that? The late Fulton Sheen used to say that “depression comes not from having faults but from the refusal to face them. There are tens of thousands of persons today,” he continued, “suffering from fears which in reality are nothing but the effects of hidden sins.” Did you get that? Nothing but the effects of hidden sins.

And we’re not only talking about distressing emotional states here. There come palpable, physical effects from this inner dividedness of ours. Only God knows how many pains and ills, how many diseases and dysfunctions we bring on ourselves because of what we try to hide. And David knows that all of that is somehow God’s hand (he says so), His pressure upon us, His relentless prompting toward a better way. “Don’t keep hiding your sin,” God seems to say. “If you do, it’s going to destroy you.”

THE CASE FOR CONFESSION

Now comes the good news. While it is true that he who tries to conceal his transgressions will not prosper, it is also true that he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

What does it mean to confess our transgressions? Confession means at root “agreeing with” someone, “speaking the same” about something. When we confess our sins to God, for example, we call them what He calls them. We consent to His verdict about them. What He identifies as evil, we call by the same name. We tell Him what He already knows, namely, that we have transgressed in these particular ways and that His description of us as sinful people is strictly accurate.

What does it mean to forsake our sins? That’s where confession becomes repentance. We not only identify our wrongs; we also reject them. We renounce them and put them behind us. We turn away from them toward God, determined by His grace and help to have nothing more to do with them.

I heard yesterday of a young woman who came to a believing friend with the announcement that she wanted to become a Christian. The woman asked her, “Do you see any reason why you shouldn’t become a Christian?” She answered, “No.” The woman knew that her young friend was at the time living with a man who was not her husband. She brought up that matter. “I’m not saying that you have to have everything changed before you can come to Christ, but I’m telling you honestly that this is one of the first things He’s going to be dealing with you about.” The young girl thanked her and said, “I’m glad you told me that, because if that’s what it means, I don’t want to become a Christian.” Shortly after that, she changed her mind. She came to the conviction that this relationship was wrong and broke it off. She was ready now to confess her sin and to forsake it.

What about you? Is there any reason why you cannot become a believer in Jesus Christ right now? The only thing that can stand in the way is sin. And that can be a barrier only as long as you’re unwilling to confess and forsake it. When you’re willing to agree with God about your situation and turn away from everything that you know displeases Him, you’re on the way.

Here’s the promise: “He who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” He or she will find something, will get something, and that something is mercy. There is such a thing, friends, as forgiveness of sins. I’m not talking about God merely “letting you off” as though He overlooked your sins or condoned them. I’m not talking about God’s suspending His punishment, putting you on your good behavior for a time of probation. This is forgiveness, blotting out your sins, removing them as far from you as the east is from the west, dealing with you now as though they did not exist. “How can God do that,” you wonder, “if he is really God, if He’s the just Judge of all the earth who does right? How can He treat guilty people as though they were innocent?”

He does it in a most astonishing way. First, He visits our planet in the person of His Son, Jesus. He lives on our behalf a perfectly obedient, human life. And then, dying on a cross, He takes on Himself the accumulated guilt of all our race. He bears in His own person the judgment we deserve. And because of that great sacrifice, we can go free. We can be forgiven. Listen as John the beloved disciple sings about it: “The blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Did you hear that? If we will come into the light, if we will confess our sins and forsake them, trusting in His great mercy through His Son, God will forgive us completely. He will cleanse away all our defilement. He will welcome us as His beloved children. None of our evils will ever be counted against us. That is the gospel.

And while people feel acutely miserable about concealing their sins, they feel utterly jubilant after confessing them. Hiding our evils doesn’t work at all, but acknowledging them works wonders. Listen to David, the man whose heart became a barren desert when he was living a lie:

I acknowledged my sin to thee and I did not hide my iniquity, I said I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, then thou dids’t forgive the guilt of my sin . . . Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous (Ps. 32:5,11).

Yes, you can go on your way rejoicing this very day. You can taste the liberating gladness of sins forgiven.

You know, it’s my experience that people aren’t led to do that just because someone tells them they’re bad. In fact, the more people try to convince us that we are no good, the more we try to defend ourselves. What leads us to confess our sins and forsake them is to realize that we are pursued by a God of amazing love. In the gift of His Son Jesus, in the free offer of the gospel, God says, “There’s forgiveness for you. You don’t need to run and hide any more.” And when we get a glimpse of that love in the face of the Savior, then we’re ready to confess what we’ve done. We turn away from it gladly and receive His priceless gift. May that be true for you – right now!