When we come to confession before the Lord, should we think more about our sin or His holiness? Should we think more about our sin or the sacrifice of His Son? Should we think more about our sin or His grace? The answer is obviously both but, I would argue that even when we confess our sin, our focus is on God and not ourselves.
Apart from His holiness, we would have no standard by which to examine ourselves. Apart from His grace we would not even have the revelation of His standard, let alone the revelation of His invitation to confess. Apart from His righteousness, in particular Christ’s perfect life and the Father’s righteous judgment poured out on the Son, any offer of forgiveness to those who confess would be judicial fiction. And apart from His Spirit, we wouldn’t be sensitive enough to notice or care about our sin.
Our confession is part of our worship because in confession we receive and submit to His holy standard. In confession we also take hold of His Son’s sacrifice by the Spirit’s work.
So, who does the work in confession? God does. God serves us through His Word, His Son, and His Spirit. He serves us by graciously inviting us into His presence, by graciously making a way for us to come near, and by graciously cleansing our consciences so that we can worship motivated by joyful freedom, not slavish guilt. True confession is worship because we can’t take any credit for the conviction or the comfort.
When it comes to confession, deeply mourning our sin does not prohibit God’s rich blessing of comfort (think Matthew 5:4). They belong together.