I confessed my sins last night. At a local Messianic congregation, I joined a hundred other people as we confessed our sins together in the Yom Kippur liturgy.
That isn’t something Christians do very often—if ever. Especially not evangelicals.
The portion of the liturgy that includes the confessed sins begins like this:
For the sin which we have committed before You under duress or willingly.
And for the sin which we have committed before You by hard-heartedness.
For the sin which we have committed before You inadvertently.
And for the sin which we have committed before You with an utterance of the lips.
It goes on for pages and pages. You can see an entire Al Chet (confession of sins) here.
The impact it had on me…
It was sobering.
Sobering in that God takes sin very seriously. More seriously than we do, I think. And freeing because He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Another portion of the liturgy was read responsively. The rabbi read each of the Ten Commandments. The congregation asked God to reveal ways they had violated those commands.
So many times, we have a tendency to lump sin together for confession (“Forgive us all our sins.”) and move right on into the good part—God’s grace and forgiveness. But by naming each category of sin and taking a moment to let that sink in and searching my heart to see where I’ve not measured up to God’s standard, my gratitude for God’s mercy overwhelmed me. Rabbi opined that we need to enumerate our sins to be reminded of what we’ve been forgiven. Then, and only then, the gratitude goes deep.
During the course of the Yom Kippur services, these confessions are recited ten times. I’m not sure why they do that, but each time I confessed, the Lord zeroed in on different things in my life for which I need to be cleansed.
For 25 hours during Yom Kippur, the Jews fast both food and water. They do it out of obedience to the command in Leviticus 16:29 to “…deny yourselves…” or “…afflict yourselves…” They do it to mourn their sin. They do it to remind themselves of how serious sin is.
I went into the fast knowing that I didn’t intend to fast water. I’m a lightweight. Not that my sins are lightweight (or my body mass, for that matter) but my willpower is. Even though I didn’t fast water, my thirst raged. (Not quite sure why.) I simply couldn’t drink enough water. And I couldn’t stop thinking of those who have none. It brought me to my knees to beg forgiveness for my callousness toward them. It also sent me to the Samaritan’s Purse website to donate to one of their numerous clean water projects.
So, I confessed my sins. Does that mean that my name is written in the Book of Life for another year? No, I am inscribed and sealed because of Jesus. What I experienced over the last 25 hours deepened my faith in Messiah’s atoning sacrifice. It deepened my love and gratitude to God, the Father and God, the Son. And it deepened my trust in the active drawing of the Holy Spirit in my life.
I’m determined, by the grace given to me, to gain victory over at least one of those many sins between now and next year. And if I fail? I will trust in God’s promises to complete the work He’s begun in me, (Philippians 1:6) and I’ll try once more.