The woe one feels in relation to God happens because one realizes his or her sinfulness before a holy God. We see this individually, but we also see this corporately. For more of a corporate version of confession one can turn to Nehemiah 8:5-10. There Ezra “opened the book in the sight of all the people,” and hearing the Word of God they were convicted of sin and responded with tears of sorrow, until they were commended and commanded to rejoice in the Lord.
1 John 1:8-9
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 to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The decision of whether or not we confess our sins can be killer. I may mean that metaphorically, but also literally. While carrying around the ball and chain of sin in our lives can affect us spiritually and emotionally, it can even affect us physically. David says in Psalm 32 before confessing his sin, “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long…” and, “my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.”
All of this, along with our conscience ever pricking at us, can be such a burden to bear. Not only is it hard to think about confessing our sin to the individual we’ve wronged, but when we multiply that by 20, 30, or even 100 of your closest friends in a corporate setting, the thought can be crippling.
Fears and anxieties may bubble up and abound when thinking about confession: “What will he/she say in response? How will I be perceived after this?” How exposed we are left! How naked and bare we may feel!
Because of this, in recent decades many churches have abandoned the historical element of confession of sin in services and liturgies altogether, thinking it will kill numbers in attendance. Others may say that this practice hearkens back to a rote traditionalism, and we are too modern and progressive for this practice of ‘confessing sin’. Much like the practice of church discipline, it has seemed to have gone the way of extinction. Combining these thoughts, the amphitheater-esque concerts of modern-day evangelicalism have no place to dredge up the muck of sin.
In contrast to this picture, there is goodness in confessing sin as a corporate body. For starters, it shows a picture of the Gospel, a mini ‘Gospel-drama’ if you will. Within the Lord’s Day gathering it rehearses the Gospel Story, one that reveals Christ at the center and focal point.1
As we confess our sin together, though we show how deep and dark our hearts take us, we also see that we have a great savior, Jesus Christ, who is abounding in love, faithfulness, and forgiveness.
Putting Confession in Biblical Context
At OBC, we begin every Sunday service with a ‘Call to Worship.’ This call pronounces the Word of God and reminds us that God himself has spoken to us. He is the one who initiates, and we, as His people, respond to His rule and reign, by giving Him the worship that he deserves. Our response towards God can be multi-faceted, with either adoration and thanksgiving in our hearts for His wondrous works in creation and redemption, or, a recognition of our need for Him in our lives, because we realize how imperfect, unholy, and sinful we are in relation to a God who is holy, transcendent, absolute, omnipresent, and all-knowing. This can be summed up by saying that when our God reveals Himself in Scripture it always leads to one of two responses: wonder or woe.
With wonder, the psalmists turn and praise God. We can look at Psalm 33, or Psalm 100:
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture!
On the other end of the spectrum, that of woe, we can turn to Isaiah 6, where after the glory of the Lord has been revealed to him, Isaiah says:
“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
The woe one feels in relation to God happens because one realizes his or her sinfulness before a holy God. We see this individually, but we also see this corporately. For more of a corporate version of confession one can turn to Nehemiah 8:5-10.