The title I have given this message is that of Cutthroat Honesty, but if you find that title a little scary or off-putting, you may categorize it as a message on actual confession of sin. Which, if you think about it, might be even scarier.
Trinity Reformed, like Christ Church, has a moment early on in the liturgy where we collectively confess our sins. This is all to the good, and is entirely healthy, provided we remember that if there is one place where we will be most tempted to hypocrisy, it will be in that moment. This is because it is on the subject of our own sins that we are most inclined to self-deception. If there is one place in our worship where we are most disposed to have our impious hearts in an entirely different place than our pious lips (Is. 29:13), it will be here, in a moment assigned to true confession.
“Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:11–13).
Summary of the Text
We are invited through the gospel to enter into God’s sabbath rest, His Canaan rest, His heavenly rest. It is a rest that we are summoned to work to enter (v. 11). The alternative to this kind of work is the sin of unbelief (v. 11). And this brings us to the place of the Word of God in our worship (v. 12). This aspect of our worship answers to the worship of the priests of the old covenant. As they sacrificed, they would dismember the sacrificial animal, which was cut into pieces and arranged on the altar. This is what the Word of God does to us in our worship—it is quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, dividing our soul and spirit, our joints and marrow, and discerns all the thoughts and intents of our hearts. This is God’s intention for us in new covenant worship. Every creature in the world is manifest in His sight, which could be taken as a function of simple omniscience (v. 13). But how is it for us, as God is the one “with whom we have to do”? All things are naked and open to Him. The verb underneath open here is trachelizo, and it is the word you would use to describe pulling a sacrificial animal’s head back in order to cut its throat. Our word tracheotomy is related to it. And this is part of the invitation contained within every true call to worship.
The Meaning of Homelogeo
In 1 John 1:9, we are told that if we confess our sins (homologeo), He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins, cleansing us from all unrighteousness. The word here means to acknowledge, or to speak the same thing. Homo means the same, and logeo means to speak. You are to speak the same thing that God speaks about whatever it may happen to be. And this is what it feels like to have your head pulled back, and to catch the glint of a Scripture passage out of the corner of your eye.
“To speak the same.” If God calls it bitterness, then you have no business calling it a critical eye. If God calls it grumbling, you have no business calling it commenting. If God calls it envy, you have no business calling it social justice. The examples are endless because we have alternative names for just about everything.
What Has Happened?
When the Galatians veered off from the true path, the apostle Paul plaintively asked them what has happened to all their joy (Gal. 4:15). Where did their blessedness go? When you were first converted to Christ, your joy at that time was a function of deep relief over the forgiveness of your sins:
“I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; And thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.”
Ps. 32:5 (KJV)
But what has happened is that unconfessed sin has gradually accumulated, and so now your Christian walk has filled up with unacknowledged clutter and looks like your junk drawer, or the fright room.
We use various tricks and devices to keep things this way. We justify our sin. It was really right. We excuse our sin. Sure, it was wrong but she started it . . . We blame somebody else. The woman you gave me. We postpone dealing with it. I have to do this, so why not tomorrow? The cost of restitution is too high. I can’t afford to pay them back. Surely God will be satisfied with a fog of vague terms. Please forgive me for anything I may have done over the course of this last week. I don’t want to let go of my bitterness. Every time I think of the situation, I think of what they did to me.
But remember that if it is your joy that is gone, then this means it is your sin that must be confessed. God does not remove your joy because of the sins of others. He doesn’t work like that. This includes, incidentally, the lack of joy in a morbid introspectionist. His joy evaporates because of his own sins also, just not the “sins” he is confessing all the time. His trouble is what he won’t confess.
The Living Room of the Heart
Have you ever had company over, knowing that you could not let them see a particular room? And so you make plans to steer them away from asking to it? But the Holy Spirit is not company. He dwells in you (Rom. 8:11). He lives in you. Your heart is His living room, and so your thoughts are the pictures you hang in that living room.
Christ Our True Repentance
It may be that by this point you feel as though even your repentance is a failure. Your confession of sin is consistently a tangled mess of shifts and evasions. Well, of course it is. The man who hears the word but does not do it deceives himself (Jas. 1:22).
But remember that the Lord Jesus began His ministry by coming to John the Baptist for baptism. This was a baptism of repentance, and was obviously a baptism He did not need for Himself (Matt. 3:14). Why did He do this? Christ began His ministry by identifying with sinners, and by repenting for them. He repented on our behalf.
Jesus died for you, but that is not all. He rose again from the dead for you. He lived a perfect sinless life for you. He came to John and repented on your behalf. And you have believed in Christ, and have been joined to Him by faith. Everything He has is yours, and everything He did is yours.
And so because the spotless Lamb was cut to pieces and offered to God, it is therefore possible for the broken, maimed, blotched, and defiled lambs to be cut to pieces in Christ, in Christian worship, and ascend to God in the smoke. This is cutthroat honesty, and even though it may be the first time this has happened to you in years, invite the Holy Spirit to wield His Word. Invite Him to do what it takes. Invite Him to pull your head back. Invite Him to have His way with you. Invite Him to arrange the various bloody pieces of your life on the wood of the altar.
This is the only way back to lost joy.