Owning Our Sin

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As a pastor I often have the unenviable task of confronting church members with their sin in order to help bring them to repentance. I sometimes get an answer that leaves me with the sense that the person accepts it was a sin but that he or she was not responsible for it. It just happened.

The best illustration of this in the Bible was when Moses confronted Aaron with his sin upon his return from the top of Mount Sinai. Moses was aghast to see the golden calf in the middle of the camp and challenged Aaron about his involvement in this sin of idolatry.

Aaron’s response was “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us… .’ So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf” (Ex. 32:22–24).

Aaron’s answer amounted, first, to the fact that he acted under duress. There was too much pressure being exerted on him by the people. Second, all he did was to throw their pieces of gold into the fire and, to his surprise, out came the golden calf.

Aaron was essentially saying that he had no opportunity to think through this matter. One moment he was under pressure, and the next moment the golden calf was standing in front of him. If he had actually had the time to think about it, he would not have committed this sin.

In other words, he admitted that a sin had occurred. He also admitted that he was not totally blameless. However, he was not willing to take the full blame for leading the people of God into idolatry. The bottom line is that Aaron was not truly repentant.

True repentance demands that we own our sins. Despite the world’s pressure, we must accept that we were lured and enticed by our own desire, and that desire conceived and gave birth to the sin that looms large over us (James 1:14-15).

When David finally and truly repented, after committing adultery with Bathsheba and getting her husband killed, he wrote, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Ps. 51:2–3).

As long as we are blame shifting, God knows we are not yet ready to receive pardon solely on the basis of grace. But we cheat only ourselves. God is omniscient. He knows all things. Only when we own our sin can we say with Charles Wesley, “Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin.”

What are we waiting for? Let us each own our own sin now. 

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.