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True Confessions, Part 2

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
November 10, 2023 12:00 am

True Confessions, Part 2

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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November 10, 2023 12:00 am

Listen to or read the full-length version of this message here: https://www.wisdomonline.org/teachings/ezra-lesson-12

Have you ever had someone apologize to you and you knew they weren't sorry? On the other hand, have you ever had someone apologize to you and you knew they were sorry? What was the difference between the two confessions? Stephen gives us the answer from Scripture.

 

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True confession, ladies and gentlemen, gets up off its knees and makes things right.

The runaway who confesses returns home. The adulterer who confesses severs the relationship. The cheater who confesses retakes the exam. The gossip who confesses retraces their steps. The liar who confesses tells the truth. True confession results in true action. We will deal with sin.

We will do it as our duty unto God. Have you ever had someone tell you they were sorry for doing something, but then they kept right on doing the thing that they apologized for? Was that person really sorry? Is that true confession? As Stephen just pointed out, true confession involves change. Not only do we admit our guilt, but we commit to changing our ways. On today's broadcast, Stephen Davey is going to explore what true confession looks like.

We're bringing to a close Stephen's series through the book of Ezra. This is a continuation of our last lesson, and it's called True Confession Part 2. Well, in our last discussion, we began an in-depth look at true confession. But above all else, we want to know what the Bible has to say about the subject of confession because we live in a society that uses the word often. But the truth about the average confession out there is that it is far different from true confession.

We discover it in the word. People may admit to doing something wrong. People may be coerced into some sort of plea bargain. People may acknowledge some sort of wrongdoing, but that is a far cry from biblical confession. So while the tabloids whisper true confession and some television personality or sports star or civil leader admits or confesses to something, it sounds, it looks, it is totally different than biblical confession.

The truth is the natural inclination of the depraved heart does whatever it can to resist confession, not only because we don't want to really truly admit to sin and the violation of God's holiness, but because we really want to sin. I mean, if we resist temptation, we might leave. The Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas pulled into that kind of natural inclination of the heart as it advertised. A businessman gave me this a few weeks ago in a full-length page ad in a business magazine.

The page was black with four words in white written across the middle. And the words simply read, lead yourself into temptation. That is the natural inclination of the heart. We have no trouble with that at all, do we? Our society at large is a guilt-ridden society, and I think the church is as well laden with sin, attempting to cover over, to lessen, to quiet the conscience brought about by sin and the absence of true confession. Well, the answer to guilt, the answer to a troubled conscience, the answer to a heart and mind that is in anguish over sin is true biblical confession. And in our last discussion, we discovered the beginnings of that definition. And we looked at the first three ingredients of true confession that we pulled right out of the Book of Ezra. Before we begin, let's reread our definition of true confession together out loud.

To simply admit unfaithfulness to God through your specific sinful thoughts and actions, to totally agree with God's point of view regarding your thoughts and actions as inexcusable, to humbly accept any consequences brought about by those thoughts and actions, and to diligently act in renewed faithfulness toward your gracious, forgiving God. Now, in Ezra chapter 9, Ezra has just learned that 113 spiritual and political leaders are guilty of, according to Malachi, divorcing their Jewish wives and marrying idolatrous pagan wives. The purpose, as we studied, was at great risk for the nation Israel. Idolatry would be taught to the children.

The table was now spread that led on this slippery slope downward into the full embrace of idolatry. Israel was vulnerable to desire gods that they could see and that they could touch and that they could hold. And now they are guilty of violating the law of God and, frankly, setting the stage for other gods. And Ezra's response to that news provides for all generation an example of what true confession is all about.

And the first ingredient we looked at last Lord's Day was admission. Look again for the sake of just refreshing our memories at verse 6, the latter part. Our iniquities have risen above our heads, and our guilt has grown even to the heavens. And now, our God, what shall we say after this? Look at verse 10 there.

I skipped down. For we have forsaken thy commandments, verse 11, which thou has commanded by thy servants the prophets, saying, The land which you are entering to possess is an unclean land with the uncleanness of the peoples of the lands and their abominations which have filled it from one end to another with their impurity. So now do not give your daughters to their sons, nor take their daughters to your sons and never seek their peace or their prosperity, that you may be strong and eat the good things of the land and leave it as an inheritance to your sons forever. Ezra admitted here the sin as sin, no excuse, no rationale. We have violated thy commandment, O Lord. We have sinned. The second element of true confession we noted was aversion to sin. There was shame and embarrassment. In fact, you remember Ezra said, I can't even, I'm so embarrassed to even lift my face to you, O God.

I am appalled, he said, for three hours that word appeared. I am appalled by sin. We in our desensitized state are not appalled by sin, and so I challenged you to keep yourself from the exposure of sin as much as you possibly can, which leads to sensitivity over sin. Then thirdly, there was an awareness of God's grace. I love verse 13.

We didn't look at it last time, but let's look there. After all, this has come upon us for our evil deeds and our great guilt, Ezra prays, since thou, our God, has requited us less than our iniquities deserve. A false confession would never say, Lord, you've treated me better than I deserve.

No. Someone falsely confessing minimizes their sin and usually exaggerates how tough God's standard is and how difficult the expectations of the church are and how difficult the consequences are. True confession, ladies and gentlemen, does none of that. It magnifies your sin before God.

It opens and lays bare your heart before him. And as Ezra said, our sin is like this mountain of sin piled one upon another until it reaches the heavens. He maximizes the effect of the sin. He exaggerates, as it were, the sin. He magnifies the sin so that he can magnify the grace of God. The reason we don't magnify the grace of God is we downplay the depravity of our own hearts. So true confession involves admission, but admission is not enough. It involves aversion to sin, but aversion to sin is not enough. It involves an awareness of the grace of God, but awareness of the grace of God is not enough.

More is needed. More is involved in true confession. The first three words we've studied in your notes there reflect the private nature of confession. These last two that we're going to discuss briefly this morning have to do with the public nature of confession. And let me add here, while all confession is certainly not public, it's very easy to say that you're confessing privately when you're really not, right? I mean, it's easy to say, oh, isn't the grace of God wonderful? Oh, I'm a sinner. Oh, it's easy to say, I'm appalled by that behavior in society.

I just think it's disgusting. It's easy to sound good and say the right words and still be nothing more or less than a hypocrite. A gentleman sent me a note. I thought it was very interesting, humorous. In the last few weeks, one of the presidential candidates, which I won't give you his name, gave a speech about how important God was to him and how important his faith was to him and how important the Bible was. Actually he made some rather interesting statements. But in his attempt to convince the American public they ought to vote for him because of his adoration of the Scriptures, he claimed that his favorite Bible verse was John 16.3, which was kind of interesting. Obviously, the speechwriter didn't know enough about what he was claiming, and he wasn't familiar enough with Scripture to catch the error on the fly. He meant John 3.16, which is a very familiar verse. But he said, my favorite verse is John 16.3, which is hilariously ironic because John 16.3 has Jesus Christ saying to hypocrites, you do these things because you do not know the Father.

I wonder if their camp caught that afterward. It's easy to say, I believe in confession. I believe in the values of the Bible. I believe in God.

I believe in all of that. It's easy to say. But it is the following two ingredients that reveal whether or not you really mean it.

And the next ingredient is bound up in the word action. Now let's go to chapter 10, verse 1. Now while Ezra was praying and making confession, weeping and prostrating himself before the house of God, a very large assembly, men, women and children gathered to him from Israel, for the people wept bitterly. And Shekiniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said to Ezra, we have been unfaithful to our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the lands, yet now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. And by the way, before we go any further, did you notice there were the elements of true confession that we've already studied? There was admission. Look, we have been unfaithful to our God. There is aversion. It's as if he realizes what they've done.

We've married foreign women from the peoples of the land. And then there is awareness of God's grace. Yet now there is hope for Israel in spite of this.

Fascinating. Then there is this call to action, verse 3. So now let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives and their children according to the counsel of my Lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God and let it be done according to the law.

Now notice what Shekiniah says to Ezra. Arise, for this matter is your responsibility, but we will be with you. Be courageous and act. I couldn't help but think here, may the tribe of Shekiniah increase. People who say to those who are leading their Bible study, leading their small group, leading the Sunday school class, leading in that missions organization, leading in that church, people within the organization who come up and say, listen, we know you have responsibilities. We want to encourage you to do it.

And I want you to know why you do it. We are behind you now. Be courageous and act. Let's just watch what happens next. Look down at verse 9. So all the men of Judah and Benjamin assembled at Jerusalem within the three days. It was the ninth month on the 20th of the month. And all the people sat in the open square before the house of God.

This is around December, trembling because of this matter and the heavy rain. Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, You've been unfaithful and have married foreign wives, adding to the guild of Israel now. Therefore, make confession to the Lord God of your fathers and do his will and separate yourselves from the people of the land and from the foreign wives. Then all of the assembly answered and said with a loud voice, That's right. You have as you have said, so it is our duty to do.

Can you imagine the scene? Ezra, their leader, is standing and he is courageously declaring the will of God and the people are shouting back at him. That's right. And they bind themselves to the will of God as their own personal duty. And I'll pause again to say any church, any missionary organization, any cause of Christ is incredibly blessed to have leadership that declares the word of God and people within and affected by that organization who respond with, That's right. We will deal with sin.

We will do it as our duty unto God. No wonder Ezra was able to restore worship in Israel. Now, this passage raises the question of separating or sending away these pagan wives.

And after reading and reading and reading and reading, it's clear that good Bible teachers disagree with you. Some say that, quoting back to the rabbinical tradition that had that allows us to see that many of these divorces occurred because the Jewish women had lost their beauty toiling in the sun to rebuild their homes and farms. And so the Jewish men divorced them after they had worn themselves out. And they married these wealthy, beautiful pagan women.

Couldn't help but think as I studied and read that the trophy wives are nothing new. Another author wrote that a desperate situation called for a desperate remedy. Other good and solid Bible scholars would disagree with that justification and would simply say that God is simply describing in the Book of Ezra what had occurred, not prescribing it. You don't see in that chapter as I looked in between every line where God would somehow affirm or approve, and it seems inconsistent to me with other passages. And so as you study the Bible, you come to a passage like this, and you have to say I'm not exactly sure, but I do know this. The point that I want to make, the point I want you to be marked by is that true confession is willing to do whatever it takes to bring a person back into fellowship with God and God's will. Many people will claim to confess, but few will act upon that confession.

And for these men and their unfortunate families, now there is separation, and for these men for the rest of their lives, celibate singlehood, they were willing to act upon what they believed to be the will of God. True confession, ladies and gentlemen, gets up off its knees and makes things right. The runaway who confesses returns home. The adulterer who confesses severs the relationship. The cheater who confesses retakes the exam. The gossip who confesses retraces their steps. The liar who confesses tells the truth. True confession results in true action. It's easy to say, Lord, forgive me.

Good, that's settled. When there are people you have harmed, there is a body you have affected, there are relationships that have been damaged, there are things that need to be restored. Don't dare say, I have confessed, and God knows, and it's over. Act. True confession reveals itself in action.

There is another ingredient. It is the final word that comes from this passage, at least to my thinking, as an ingredient of true confession, and it is the word accountability. A total of 113 Jewish men were guilty of this sin of intermarriage. Seventeen were priests.

Ten were Levites, which included the singer and the gatekeepers, and 86 were tribesmen. And God wanted the idolaters, it seems, out of the camp, and certainly out of the lives of those who were supposed to minister in the temple. They became accountable to one another as throughout the rest of this chapter they stood before Ezra, and they became known for what they had done. They were ultimately accountable to God. God had seen all along, God knew the heart all along, God had seen their downward slide, God could see into the future and know the great risk that would come to the nation. But ultimately these men were accountable to God, and it's revealed to us in a rather powerful way.

Did you notice that the last portion of the book of Ezra beginning with verse 18 and ending with verse 44 is simply a list of names? The list of 113 men who had sinned against God and their nation. And in my Bible the headline simply reads in that outline, list of offenders.

Can you imagine being accountable in that way to the nation? To have your name listed in the list of offenders for all time? Can you imagine your sin being recorded by God for all to see? The point is that God sees whether you ever see your name in a list or not on earth, and God knows. And this is an entirely different subject, but let me go off the trail for just a moment and remind you that there is a coming judgment. One judgment will involve Christians who will stand before God at what is called the beam of seed, there not to determine whether or not they get into heaven or not, but there to determine what they did on their way to heaven.

And every unprofitable thing you discover has been recorded, and then God will reward you according to those things which were profitable, 2 Corinthians 5 tells us. There is another judgment. There are no believers at this judgment.

It is called the great white throne. The terrifying details are given to us in Revelation chapter 20 where all the unbelievers of all time, all nations stand before God in his holiness, and they are judged as great books are opened according to every deed. There will be accountability to God. And it struck me as I thought about those two judgments that the difference between those companies of people, the difference between the believers who are judged and then rewarded, and the unbelievers who are judged and then condemned is that word confession. Those who confessed Christ and those who didn't. Those who confessed their sinful depravity and those who would never admit it. Simply put, those who have experienced true confession go to heaven, and those who have not experienced true confession go to hell. There is accountability before God one day. My invitation to you is to be accountable to him now.

Right? It is never too early to confess, but one day will be too late. Now let me wrap up our study not only of this discussion, but the book of Ezra by making three comments about true confession. True confession, number one, reveals the sincerity of the heart. Max Lucado in his book, The Applause of Heaven, makes some very poignant comments on 1 John 1.9. If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we confess our sins, Lucado writes, the biggest word in scripture just might be that two-letter one, if.

For confessing sin, admitting failure, is exactly what prisoners of pride refuse to do. Well, I may not be perfect, but I'm better than Hitler and certainly kinder than Idi Amin. Me, a sinner? Well, sure, I get rowdy every so often, but I'm a pretty good old boy.

Listen, I'm just as good as the next guy. I pay my taxes. I coach the Little League team. I even make donations to the Red Cross.

Why, God's probably proud to have someone like me on his team. Justification, rationalization, comparison, these are the tools of the jailbird. They sound good. They sound familiar.

They even sound American. But in the kingdom, they are hollow. Well put. False confession reveals the pride and self-sufficiency of the heart. True confession reveals the sincerity of the heart before God and others. Secondly, true confession requires the submission of the believer. That's another way of simply saying that if you are interested in true confession, your confession then will produce action. I want to pull you back in time to the Welsh Revival a hundred years ago when people confessed their sin. This historical account gave one illustration of what happened as people began to act upon their confession. They began to confess wrongdoings and making restitution.

This unexpectedly created severe problems for the shipyards along the coast of Wales. Over the decades, workers had pilfered all kinds of things. Everything from wheelbarrows to hammers had been stolen. However, as people sought to be right with God, they started to return what they had taken with the result that soon the shipyards of Wales were overwhelmed with returned property.

There were such huge piles of returned tools that several of the yards had to put up signs that read, quote, if you have been led by God to return what you have stolen, please know the management forgives you and wishes you to keep what you've taken. Can you imagine the world posting a sign basically saying we can't handle your confession? We don't know what to do with it. The world desperately needs, especially in our culture, to see the church acting upon what it says it is confessing. The world needs to post signs that say to the church, we can't handle this. We don't know what to do.

We can't process it. You are now so distinctive from us that your testimony is clear that we would be that church. Lastly, true confession revives the spiritual passion for God. David, in his prayer of confession in Psalm 51, pled with God to restore unto him the what?

The joy of his salvation. Maybe what you need to revive your faltering, listless, inconsistent walk with God that is dull and boring is not a better study Bible, not a better church, not a better schedule, not a better, more positive attitude. Maybe what you need is a new awareness of your sin and your depravity before God as you open your heart to him and he is allowed by your own volition to see all that you are as you lay it bare before him. And this new aversion to sin begins to become part of your life as you are sensitive to the Spirit and to the Scriptures and then sensitive to sin. And you upon that admission and that aversion become aware of his grace and you act accountable to God.

Maybe that's what we need. And on the basis of that, we are given a fresh perspective of his grace and his holiness that we can so easily sing of. And his demands upon our lives for faithfulness and holiness in return and in the process we can be given this intimate fellowship and this sweet walk with this holy God who is gracious over our sinful lives that we confess before him and he can then in that process restore to us the joy of our salvation. I hope this time in God's Word was a blessing to you. This is Wisdom for the Heart, the Bible teaching ministry of Stephen Davey. With this lesson, Stephen concluded his series entitled Under God's Good Hand. Stephen has been teaching the Bible now for over 37 years. The complete collection of all of those teaching resources is available to you on the Wisdom International app.

If you haven't seen it, I encourage you to install the Wisdom International app to your phone. Once you do, you can take this Bible teaching ministry wherever you go. You can follow along on both of Stephen's daily programs, The Wisdom Journey and Wisdom for the Heart. You can access the library of his sermons. You can listen to each one or read Stephen's manuscript. You can read the daily devotional, read Stephen's blog, read our year-long Bible reading plan and much more. The app features the full text of the Bible. You can read the Bible or have it read to you. And when you're looking at any passage in the Bible, if Stephen has a lesson from that section, you'll have a link right to that lesson.

So let's say you're looking at Genesis 1-1 and you're interested in knowing more about it. Well, the app will take you directly to Stephen's lessons from that verse. I encourage you to look around that section of the app. I think it's really going to help you grow. You're going to increase in your knowledge of God's word and more importantly, in the application of God's word to your life.

Simply go to the app store for your device and search for Wisdom International. In addition to equipping you with these daily Bible lessons, we also have a magazine that we publish. Stephen deals with a different topic each month and helps you better understand what the Bible says and how it applies directly to your life. The magazine also has a daily devotional guide that you can use to remain rooted and grounded in God's word every day. We've heard from dozens of readers who've told us how much they appreciate these devotions.

They're written by Stephen's son, Seth. Beginning in February, we've expanded the magazine to give more room to the daily devotionals. They will help you remain grounded in God's word every day. We call the magazine Heart to Heart. This is a resource that we developed for two reasons. We use it to show our appreciation to all of our wisdom partners. We also send three issues of Heart to Heart magazine as a gift to everyone who asks. We'd like to send it to you if you haven't seen it yet. Go to wisdomonline.org forward slash magazine. Then join us next time to discover more wisdom for the heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-10 00:50:15 / 2023-11-10 01:00:22 / 10

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