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Thanksgiving Sermon from Ezra 9 and 10 November 25, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Confession, Ezra, Religion, Sermons, Thanksgiving.
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CONFESSION AND THANKSGIVING

Ezra 10:6-14

INTRODUCTION: As we leave the Thanksgiving season, we want to look back one more time at the word “thanksgiving.” The word that often is translated in the Old Testament as “thanksgiving” or “praise” is found in verses 1 and 11 of Ezra 10. It is translated, however, in these cases with the word “confession.” “At first glance these meanings appear unrelated” (Vine). What is the relationship between confession and thanksgiving?

WHAT PEOPLE TODAY UNDERSTAND UNDER THE TERM “CONFESSION”

 

I knew a fellow once who believed very strongly in confession. This man had a horrible temper. He treated his family badly. He had a filthy mouth talking about things that even today you would not hear on television. He hated the church. He often made fun of Christians. He was a what one might call a working drunk. Every night though, according to his own testimony, before he went to bed, he would confess his sins to God, settle his account, so to speak, and make sure that he was covered by God.

Obviously, he is an extreme case but I am afraid that he is not that much different from most of us. We think of confession as a listing of sins, “…a moralistic, autobiographical catalogue of sins– infractions of a legal code…” (Vine), and in return for that listing of sins we get some sort of favor from God. We look at it as filling out a job application for God and we had better make sure we list our whole criminal record, otherwise God will find out and will get us in some way or the other. As we look at this word more closely, I trust that you will understand more fully what confession truly is, and how that we might integrate it into our lives in the way that God intended for us.

THE NEW TESTAMENT WORD FOR CONFESSION 

The concept “confession” can be described by the phrase “to say the same thing as another, i.e., to agree with” (Strongs #3670). This may involve a confession of sin but there are a number of other things that can be confessed and not all confession is to God.

Jesus said in Matthew 10:32, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.” We find a similar statement in Luke 12:8, “Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God.” This is not a confession of sin but a confession of relationship between those who believe and Christ himself.

In Acts 23:8, we find that the Pharisees confessed the resurrection even though many of them did not confess Jesus Christ. In other words, they believed something and agreed with that doctrine.

In fact, only 5 out 41 times is confession in the New Testament related to sin and four of those times are the confession of sin publicly. Although it is not wrong to confess your sins privately before God in your prayer life, you do not find that done very much in the New Testament. The only time I am aware of is in the Lord’s Prayer when Christ teaches that we should ask for forgiveness of sins as we have forgiven those who sin against us. Sin is taken very seriously but what is normally emphasized is repentance and not the listing of our sins.

God wants a lot more than a simple listing of our bad deeds. He desires repentance, a change of mind and direction, and confession, an agreement with him about our sin. I’m afraid that what we usually call confession is that we in our hearts plead “no contest” rather than plead “guilty” to our sin and we hope that because of that the judge will somehow let us off for good behavior.

THE LACK OF TRUE CONFESSION IS A REAL PROBLEM. 

Spurgeon put it this way in his sermon “CONFESSION OF SIN ILLUSTRATED– PSA. 32:5”. “…I would remind you that thousands of those who call themselves “miserable sinners” in our public services, if they were called to plead before the bar of God would have the effrontery to say “Not Guilty.” They might not use the words, very probably they would use terms, having the opposite meaning, but their heart-plea would be, “not guilty.”…We have heard of a woman who readily allowed that she was a sinner; “O yes, sir, we are all sinners…” But when the visitor sat down and opened the book, and pointing to the commandment, said, “Have you ever had any other God save the Lord?” She did not how that she ever had. “Had she ever taken God’s name in vain?” “O dear no, sir, I never did anything so wicked.” Each precept was explained, and she very positively claimed that she had not broken it. She had not violated the Sabbath; she had not killed anybody; she had not committed adultery; she had not borne false witness, or coveted anything; she was altogether, in detail, innocent, though in the gross she was quite willing to say as other people, “Oh, yes! I am a sinner, of course, sir, we are all sinners!” which, being interpreted, means, “I am ready to say anything you like to put into my mouth, but I do not believe a syllable of it.” The inward speech of the unconverted man is, “I am not guilty.” Ask the unhumbled transgressor, “Art thou worthy of God’s wrath?” and his proud heart replies, “I am not.” “Art thou worthy to be cast away for ever from God’s presence on account of sin?” and the unbroken, uncontrite soul replies, “I am not. I am no thief, nor adulterer, nor extortioner; I have not sinned as yon publican has done. I thank God that I am not as other men are,” Man pleads Not Guilty, and yet all the while within his heart, so proud and boastful, there may readily be discerned abundant evidence of abounding sin. The leprosy is white upon his unclean brow, and yet the man claims to be sound and whole. If there were no other evidence against us, the very pride which boasts of innocence would be sufficient to convict us of sin, and will be so when we are taught right reason by the Holy Spirit.” (from Spurgeon’s Encyclopedia of Sermons)

WHAT DO CONFESSION OF SIN AND THANKSGIVING HAVE IN COMMON? 

You are probably now asking yourself, what then does confession have to do with thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is a confession that what God is doing is the best and only way. True confession of sin and true thanksgiving both recognize the same thing. God’s way is the best and only way. His perspective is the only accurate perspective. Look at Hebrews 13:15, “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks <3670> to His name.” Those two words translated “giving thanks” are the word “confession.” True thanksgiving is agreeing with God about who He is and what He is done. That is why we can give thanks during the difficult times, because we agree with God that what He is doing, no matter what it may be and no matter how little we may understand what He is doing, it must be right and just and good.

EZRA’S CONFESSION 

Ezra 10 begins in verse one with Ezra weeping and confessing. We find the content of his confession in the previous chapter, Ezra 9:5-15. Let’s look at what Ezra was agreeing with God about, what He was confessing.

He was confessing, agreeing to, the guilt of himself and his people (verses 6-7a, see also verses 10-15). None of us sin in isolation. Ezra identified himself with his people. He knew that he was not guilty of the exact sin to which he was confessing but that is not the point of confession. Confession is agreeing with God about sin and your sin.

He was also confessing, agreeing to, the justness of the judgment of God (verses 7b-8a and 13-14). Notice that Ezra in his prayer did not directly ask for anything. There is no petition, only confession. He does not even ask for mercy. He does not say to God, “Look how sad I am, look at how repentant I am, how great my sense of sin is.” He does not expect mercy because of his show of repentance. What Ezra is doing here is drawing close to God by seeing himself and his people from God’s perspective and doing what he can to bring his people with him to see that same perspective.

Finally, he was confessing, agreeing to, the cause of their good fortune, God’s relationship to His people (verses 8-9 and 15). This is a relationship of mercy, a relationship of covenant, a relationship of justice, where God determines how things should be and it is our responsibility to step in time. It is our part to conform, to agree, to confess, to submit ourselves to God. In that sense, confession is the highest form of worship. We are agreeing with God, with who He is, and with what He does.

THREE PRODUCTS OF TRUE CONFESSION

Hope (verse 2). True confession does not result in depression. True confession does not result in discouragement. Why? Because true confession is not just a confession of sin and guilt but a confession of the character of God. There is hope to be found in the character of God.

Spurgeon said once that a lesson we need to learn about confession is that “the fact of sinnership is no need to despair.” Now the reason there is hope is not because of the guilty plea. A true confession of sin can be boiled down to one word, “Guilty!” Sometimes I have confessed to a wrongdoing and I said, “Guilty, but…!” Why? I’m looking for hope in that second word because there is no hope in the word “guilty”. Agreeing with God about my sinfulness and the justice of my sentence gives me no hope. My only “…hope is in the Lord, who gave Himself for me and paid the price for all my sin on Calvary’s tree.” In other words, a confession to a relationship to God is the only basis for hope. “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”

Commitment (verse 3). When you agree with God about your sin, about yourself, about Him, about His plan, about His Son, you then come to the place where commitment is demanded from you. The evidence of the reality of your confession is seen when you commit to obedience to Christ and His Word.

Action (verse 4). It is possible to make an outward commitment without following up and doing what you have committed yourself to do. True confession produces hope, it produces commitment, but it also produces action. “The knowledge of sinnership leads to right action” (Spurgeon).

OPPOSITION TO CONFESSION 

That does not mean that the changes are easy. Some were opposed to the action resulting from this confession (verse 15) and you may have some opposition to acting on your confession to God. Some of the circumstances around the commitment these people made were very difficult (verses 10-13) and we know that later some of the people fell back into the same sin (Nehemiah 13). Ezra and Nehemiah, which may originally have been one book, revisit this theme repeatedly. Nehemiah 1 opens with Nehemiah confessing the sins of his people and the greatness of his God and committing himself to doing whatever God desired him to do and then acting on that commitment.

SO WHAT DO WE DO WITH THIS? 

Recognize that true thanksgiving involves not just being happy for what you have but recognizing the reality of your blessings. We do not deserve one blessing. We are hopeless in this life because of sin but God in His mercy has provided hope for us through Jesus Christ.

Second, if you are a believer, start working on your confession. Find out what God says about your sin and agree with that in your heart. If God says your sin is an abomination to him, think of your sin as an abomination and not as a habit or addiction or quirk or personality trait. But don’t stop there. If God says that He is merciful to you through Jesus Christ believe Him and depend on Him for salvation. If God says that He loves you and will care for you in Christ Jesus, believe Him. If God says that there is no other word from Him except for what He has revealed in this book, then turn to this book and no where else to learn from God. If God says that Jesus Christ is God, not a just a man, but also a man, believe God and do not look for any other information. If God says that you need to confront those who you have offended or who have offended you, do it. Don’t look for an excuse to get out of it. If God says you need to love that person that gets on your nerves in this church, before you two leave this building, give them a word of kindness or encouragement. You say, people will think I am doing it just because you preached on this subject. Isn’t that the point? Is the point of preaching to entertain you or to drive you to God and obedience to Him? Is the point of singing His praises to make your worship enjoyable or are you changed by the songs that you sing? Is the point of giving an offering to support the church or to model the example of your Savior? Are you today because that is what you do on Sunday morning or is your church attendance a result of your confession before God?

CONFESS FAITH IN CHRIST 

If you haven’t trusted Christ as Savior, God wants you to confess also. Romans 10:8-11 says, “…The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” {#De 30:14} (that is, the word of faith which we preach):  that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” {#Isa 28:16}”

You see confession and faith are entwined together. This confession is not just the mouthing of words but the result true faith in Christ. The Bible reveals Christ as the Son of God who came and became man to die for your sin. He rose from the dead and ascended to His Father. If you are to be forgiven of sin, you must agree with God not only about your sin but also that Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for your sin is the only hope of salvation. You cannot do this. You must trust Christ to save you.

God sees you as a condemned sinner without hope but God loves you. He sent His Son, Jesus to die for you, to shed His blood for you. Will you trust Him today? Will you confess Him today? He will transform you, He will cleanse you through the blood of Jesus Christ. Believe on Him today.

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