The Forgiven Youth Pastor is a Joyful Youth Pastor
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
(Psalm 32:1-5 ESV)
I am a terrible youth pastor. At least, I think I am. I preach the gospel every week praying that it will transform the hearts of my students to love Jesus (enough to do things like read their Bibles and schedule prayer times). All the while I know that I struggle with opening my Bible during the week, other than to write sermons for the coming weekend. My ‘scheduled prayer time’ usually occurs every morning after my alarm clock goes off, futilely praying that it’s actually the weekend so I can go back to sleep. As Saturday approaches and I reflect on my week, the weight of the guilt and shame of my hypocrisy starts to crush me.
“I am such an awful youth pastor,” I think to myself.
Maybe you go through something similar to this. The beauty of the gospel in these harsh moments that we face is that God offers a perfect way to worship Him, despite our rebellion. We find this example of confession and repentance in Psalm 32.
King David is known for many things. He is the greatest king Israel has ever had, a man after God’s own heart, and the Jewish messiah will come from his lineage. But he is also an adulterer and murderer. This is probably why he writes such beautiful confessions of his sins and exemplifies repentance in a truly remarkable way.
The beginning of Psalm 32 is a sort of flashback sequence of the process of confession and repentance. It starts with the outcome: the blessedness or joy that comes from God’s forgiveness. “Blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” Here David illustrates the forgiveness of transgression, the covering of sin, and the debt of iniquity being paid for. What joy there is to be found in this!
The question prompted by this joy is how did he get there?
“For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” Verses 3-4 give us the result of hiding in shame from our sins: bones being wasted away, groaning all day, loss of strength, and the heavy hand of the Lord upon us. There is clearly such sorrow found in hiding. This is what sin and shame and lack of confession does. Depression, self-deprecation, isolation, and guilt are all too familiar for us who do not confess our sins to the Lord readily.
However, the Psalmist continues: “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgression to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Verse 5 shows us how he was freed from that place of guilt and shame and found peace with God: he confessed. He acknowledged his sin. He uncovered his iniquity. He confessed his transgressions.
And the Lord forgave him.
As youth pastors it is essential that your students see this exemplified in you. They need to see the sorrow found in sin, the peace found in confession, and the joy found in forgiveness. Students know they aren’t perfect, even though they want to be perceived that way (particularly in church). They easily run to other things – grades, sports, affirmation from their friends and family – to cover their sin with fig-leaves. They won’t acknowledge their iniquity. They distract themselves with things like Netflix and League of Legends and Justin Bieber. They won’t confess their transgressions to anyone, except themselves (or to friends who only affirm their hiding), which drives them into even deeper shame.
Our students need to know how to confess and repent to the Lord, because the beauty of what David is saying is that when they acknowledge their sin, God scandalously does not. When they don’t cover their iniquity, God wonderfully does. When they confess their transgressions, God faithfully and justly forgives.
This is all because of what Jesus did on the cross. I may be a terrible youth pastor, but I am a forgiven one. And the blessedness that is found in the cross of Christ is what will compel me in love to grow and be sanctified to be a better one, for the sake of my students and for the glory of God.