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When I was 17, after some years of rebellion, the Lord brought me to such deep conviction and anxiety about my life that I finally came to Him in full surrender. It was the single greatest moment of turning in my life, other than my salvation.

My dad counseled me to get a sheet of paper, write “Sin List” on the top, and ask the Lord to show me anything in my life that needed to be confessed to Him. He further instructed me to circle those sins where I had hurt someone else and then go seek their forgiveness. I filled seven pages of a legal pad, front and back.

The conversations I had with those I’d wronged were some of the most important steps I have ever taken. I remember the last phone conversation as if it were yesterday, and the wonderful joy of knowing that there was no one I had sinned against (that I was aware of) that I had not sought, to the best of my ability, to be right with.

I later came to understand this as clearing my conscience … one of the most valuable ongoing disciplines of the believer’s life.

No one understood this better than King David—a man of great righteousness, but also of great sin. His expression in Psalm 32 is one of the most powerful texts in the Bible on the tragic effects of NOT dealing with your sin, and the beauty of getting honest with God and man.


“… about my sin,” begins David’s lament about the painful consequences of an unclear conscience (v. 1 NASB).

Physical Deterioration

“My body wasted away…. My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer” (vv. 3–4). A believer who is covering sin feels it, literally and physically. In fact, I believe that some of our physical ills are literally brought on by the emotional effects of an unclear conscience.

Emotional Distress

“… through my groaning all day long” (v. 3). When we are unwilling to face and deal with our iniquity, we find ourselves troubled and distressed. We are “emotionally down,” and we blame everything under the sun (except our unwillingness to face up to our sin). Often we seek the remedy of medication, when honest confession is the answer.

Spiritual Decline

“For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me” (v. 4). Spurgeon said, “Better a world on the shoulder, like Atlas, than God’s hand on the heart, like David” (Treasury of David, Vol. II, p. 91). God loves His children. When they are running from His best, He is relentless in His conviction. We feel the loss of His presence and the heavy pressure of His conviction.

The value (and the purpose) of all of this pressure is to bring us to what Paul describes as a godly sorrow that leads to “a repentance without regret” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Repentance is not just an acknowledging of sin, but a turning from it, brought about by genuine hatred of our sin and a longing for God’s direction.


David shows us the simple path of confession. Because of the sufficiency of the cross, all of the believer’s sins are forgiven. We humbly come in honest repentance about our sin, and we remember and rejoice in our cleansing. “My iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’; and You forgave the guilt of my sin” (v. 5).


… is the theme of the cleansed conscience! We now experience:

  • forgiven transgressions
  • covered sin
  • nothing laid on the ledger of our account
  • a spirit free from deceit! (vv. 1-2)

All of these are always there for the receiving, but they are hidden by our dishonesty. Our unwillingness to take responsibility for our sin, our blaming of others, our lying to ourselves and those around us abort these glorious results. Our transparent honesty ushers them in like a cleansing, reviving flood.

When was the last time you sat in silence before the Lord and let Him show you the depths of your heart? When have you said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139:23-24)?

Perhaps it’s time, right now, to take the steps to remove the boulders of sin that are clogging your relationship with Jesus.