Confession and Repentance as Preparation for Communion

1 Cor. 11:28-31 offers these instructions about preparing for communion:

“Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.”

If we would just regularly go through this process of self-examination, confession, and repentance, if we would just judge ourselves in this way, then we wouldn’t have to worry about the judgment of God. This is the process that Leon Morris describes as “distinguishing between what we are and what we ought to be.” In other words, determining…

Here is where I am ——> here is where God’s word says I should be…

And then taking measures against our shortcomings – prayer, confession, repentance, accountability – so that God’s judgment, his discipline, won’t be required. So repentance is, in a way, the process of anticipating God’s judgment and then making corrections in order to avoid it.

I’ve been using Psalm 19:12-14 as my template for self-examination for a few years now and it has been really effective. The Psalmist writes:
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Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

“Hidden faults” – the Psalmist is saying,“God, I don’t even remember all of the sins I’ve committed. There are some that I committed in ignorance and others that I’ve forgotten about. Please search me and forgive me for those as well. Find these, show them to me, and then destroy them and declare me innocent of them!”

And that’s not the only kind of sin he’s concerned with. He also asks God to keep him from “presumptuous sins.” What are these?These are sins committed while taking God’s mercy for granted. These are sins committed boldly and arrogantly using God’s grace like money in the bank, available for withdrawal at the sinner’s convenience rather than at his repentance. “Yes, I’m going to do this but its ok because I know God will forgive me.” This is presumptuous sin and it is very dangerous sin.

This is the kind of sin Paul was talking about in Romans 6:1-2. After he has just finished explaining how grace reigns in the life of believers, he says this: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” In other words, “If this grace is so abundant, if it cannot be exhausted, then shouldn’t we sin even more so that more grace can be applied?!!!”

This is foolish, evil and treacherous thinking and yet sometimes we find ourselves in the middle of this type of thinking, this type of sin, don’t we? We do something we know is sin and while we’re doing it we tell ourselves that it’s OK because God is gracious and will forgive us. Well God is gracious but this doesn’t make our sinning OK.

The psalmist is aware that sin like this can very easily start to control us. Once we have laid a pattern for our minds in which God’s grace is a licence for future sinning, there is really no limit to the sins we will categorize this way. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called this “cheap grace.” We treat God’s grace as a cheap plaything when we don’t really want to live under God’s authority or walk in his ways. We want the full advantages of his mercy, grace, and forgiveness but we want none of the costs and no restrictions. It shouldn’t be so and it is a dangerous way to live.

The Process of Self-Examination

1. Known Sins

  • What known and unconfessed sin is hindering your relationship with God?
  • Is there any sin that has gone unchecked for quite a while?
  • Is there anything present in your life that you know shouldn’t be there?
  • Accept God’s forgiveness as you confess these known sins

2. Hidden Faults

  • Has it been so long since you confessed any sins that you’ve probably forgotten about them?
  • Is it possible that you have committed sins in ignorance and you’re not even aware of them? (Yes, this is true of all of us)
  • Ask God to reveal “hidden faults,” then confess and accept forgiveness for those as well

3. Presumptuous Sins

  • Have you ever been guilty (as I have been) of sinning while banking on God’s grace and forgiveness?
  • Have you boldly and arrogantly sinned before God?
  • Are you living on the kind of grace you could buy at a dollar store, this cheap grace?
  • This kind of sin, more than any other, will have dominion over you. It will control you
  • Ask God to break the power of presumptuous sins and repent of those sins

Search me, Lord,
Declare me innocent, even from my hidden faults.
Search me, Lord,
Keep me from sinning in ways that show that I take your your mercy and your grace for granted.
Keep me from the dominating effect of these sins…

Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.