“IF WE confess our sins.” I John 1.9. In these first five Words of the Text, the center Word is the Word “confess.” There are two Words in front of it. There are two Words that follow. In the center of the Word “confess,” that which stands of singular importance is the heart. In a deep sense, the heart makes or breaks the confession of sin. The confession of sin is good or bad depending on the intention of the heart that it comes from. To lay out this Doctrine in your hearing, there are two things. I. The example of Pharaoh. II. The example of the dying thief.
I. The example of Pharaoh. In the first pages of Scripture, the ancient King of Egypt, Pharaoh, stands as an infamous example of how the confession of sin should not be done. Nor should any one despise such a means of instruction. GOD can speak as He pleases. And besides, this is distinctly GOD'S way. In the very Ten Commandments: in no less than Eight of the Ten Commandments, GOD thought it important to say what should not be done. I suppose some will find fault, but it is clear from Scripture that in GOD'S mind it is just as important to know what you should not do, as it is important to know what you should do.
And how did Pharaoh repent of his sin? In Exodus 9, the Prophet Moses came to Pharaoh in GOD'S Name saying: “Let My people go.” At the time, the Egyptians were treating the Jews with cruel bondage. It was GOD'S declared Will that the Egyptians were to let the Jews go, so the Jews might leave and establish their own Country. In the beginning, Pharaoh stiffly refused. Once the hot judgments of GOD came down on his Country, in Verse 27, “Pharaoh sent and called for Moses and said, I have sinned: the Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked. Intreat the Lord that there be no more mighty thunderings and hail; and I will let you go.” Considering these Words as they are, they form a fine confession of sin. Pharaoh said all the right words. He frankly acknowledged his sin. He spoke that GOD was “righteous” in His Judgment. He said he and his people were wicked. He asked THE LORD to spare him from further Judgment. But there is one thing Pharaoh's confession did not have. This single failure spoiled the whole confession. Down in Verses 34 & 35, it is apparent that Pharaoh's heart was not in his confession. As soon as GOD removed the thunderings and hail, it is said that Pharaoh hardened his heart. He returned to his former stubbornness. He would not let the Jews go.
II. The example of the dying thief. When JESUS was on the Cross, Mark 15.25 says that event began “the third hour” of the day. Mark 15.34 says it concluded “the ninth hour.” Which speaks that JESUS was on the Cross for six hours. To translate these Facts into today's system of time, JESUS was on the Cross from nine in the morning till three in the afternoon.
During the six hours JESUS hung on the Cross, Mark 15.27 says JESUS was crucified between two thieves. At the beginning of the six hours, Matthew 27.44 says both thieves reviled and cursed JESUS. Think of that! Here were two thieves on the edge of eternity. They were about to stand before GOD. They were just moments away from their eternal home. Yet in that serious circumstance, they reviled and cursed THE SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD! There are many these days who walk in these steps. Yet as the six hours of the Cross went on, Luke 23.40 shows that one of these two thieves was raised up out of his sinful condition. Therefore as the one thief continued to revile and curse JESUS, the second thief had a dramatic change of mind. He quit his reviling and cursing. He boldly turned to his fellow-thief and rebuked him. He said: “Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.” When the second thief finished speaking these brave Words to his fellow-thief, he then turned directly to JESUS and prayed: “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.”
When the dying thief's confession of sin is compared with Pharaoh's confession, it cannot be denied that there are certain points in which Pharaoh's confession that are better. Pharaoh's confession was clear. In his confession, Pharaoh comes right out and says: “I have sinned.” But there is one thing that was in the dying thief's confession that was not in Pharaoh's confession. The dying thief put his heart into his confession. At first, it is true, the dying thief railed and cursed JESUS. But when Sweet Grace awoke him, he saw his sin. He quit his sin. He rebuked the sin in his fellow-thief. Then he turned to JESUS and did not ask for Forgiveness. Instead, he said he would be content if JESUS simply “remembered” him. JESUS did more than was asked. JESUS gave the Forgiveness of sin and the Gift of Eternal Life.
From today's Sermon, there are three Instructions. 1. The First Instruction is you can say the right words and still not confess your sin. In the example of Pharaoh, Pharaoh said the right Words. He frankly acknowledged: “I have sinned.” These Words were spoken by some of the greatest characters of Scripture. In II Samuel 12.13, David spoke these Words. In Luke 15.18, the Prodigal Son spoke these Words. But although Pharaoh said the right words, he did not truly confess his sin. His heart was not in his confession. His heartless confession made his confession of no worth. 2. The Second Instruction: The heart makes or breaks the confession of sin. In the example of the dying thief, as far as the Words go, there are other examples in Scripture that are better than his confession. He could have spoken his words better. But there is one valuable thing the dying thief brought to his confession. He brought his heart. He meant what he said. This in part is what made his confession. For in the end, confession predominantly is the work of the heart. When the heart is not in the confession, there is no real confession. 3. The Third Instruction: When the confession of sin truly springs from the heart, it will be seen in the actions of life. As for Pharaoh, his confession had no influence on his life. After his supposed confession, he continued to live the same old life he lived before. As for the dying thief, his confession sovereignly influenced his life. He quit his sin. He rebuked his sin in others. His confession made him a different man. This is always the outcome when the confession of sin springs from the heart. Amen.
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