I’ve recently realised that I’m an expert at making excuses. I hadn’t seen this as a problem until recently because I don’t usually make them out loud.
Most of us know that it’s bad form to reply with an excuse when we’re criticised or when we’ve failed someone, and I try to avoid this. But I’ve noticed that the excuse-making often continues in my heart.
Sometimes it’s in situations that don’t really matter. If I made fewer mental excuses when I’m at the gym, I’m sure that my workout would be more effective – ‘I’ve had a tiring day, I’ll go easy on myself’ – but it’s only my physical fitness that is going to suffer!
But where God has been working on my heart lately is in the area of making excuses to him about my sin.
No More Excuses
I’m currently reading a book called Openness Unhindered by Rosaria Butterfield, I’d recommend it if you want a challenging and stimulating read. It covers a range of topics to do with identity, sin, and ‘union with Christ’.
Something that the author says about our attitude to sin intersected with the ‘excuse issue’ for me. It made me realise that making excuses becomes a troubling spiritual problem, when our excuses are directed at God with the purpose of minimising or denying our sin. I saw that this is not part of repentance, it actually works against it!
Admission Alone Is Not Confession
Admission of sin says ‘Yes I sinned, but…’
I like Butterfield’s blunt summary: ‘Sin is treason, not sinus trouble’. She goes on to say that part of the problem is that we often ask God to see our sin from our point of view. Instead of allowing his word to bring our perspective in line with his sovereign and holy will, as true repentance is worked in our hearts.
Butterfield defines confession like this: ‘to own, acknowledge, or avow, as a crime, a fault, a charge, or a debt.’
‘When we confess a sin, we are not asking that God or others see it from our point of view. . .We consent that the Bible is true and that the law of God condemns us. And this either drives us into mad depression or into the open arms of our saviour Jesus Christ.’
Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, Openness Unhindered.
So, unlike admission alone, confession says to God ‘You are justified when you speak, and blameless when you judge . . .Create in me a clean heart O God’ (David’s prayer in Psalm 51)
There is simply no place for making excuses when it comes to sin!
Jesus Removes the Need for Excuses
However, one of the reasons that I find it so difficult to dislodge my excuse-making is that I use them to cover my nakedness! When I know I don’t measure up, when I identify areas of failure and shame in my life, I rush to find little scraps of defensiveness, self-pity, and mitigating circumstances, to clothe me before anyone notices! (We see this both literally and symbolically in Genesis 3:6-13 – remember the fig leaves?) But I can never cover myself sufficiently, and the Bible tells us that all our efforts at righteousness are shown to be ‘filthy rags’ when compared with the perfection of God! (Isaiah 64:6)
Yet the good news for the Christian is that God has a solution for any who are willing to surrender their useless rags to him, in exchange for the pure white clothing of Jesus’ righteousness. We can throw our excuses away and ask him to cover our nakedness!
‘A broken and contrite spirit you will not despise.’ Psalm 51:17
I can confess my sin and mourn it, recognising it for what it truly is in all its shame and ugliness, because doing so will actually bring me closer to Christ! He promises to forgive me, wash me clean, and help me to continue to turn from my sin in the power of his spirit!
‘There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ Romans 8:1
Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. Psalm 32:5
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
Wow, God is so good to us!
Let’s boldly exchange our excuses for his promises.