A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person. As long as I am by myself in the confession of my sins, everything remains in the clear, but in the presence of a brother, the sin has to be brought into the light.
It is great folly to cast your sins upon Satan who tempted you, or upon your neighbor who provoked you; but it is a far greater sin, nay horrid blasphemy, to cast it upon God himself. A greater affront than this cannot be offered to the infinite holiness of God.
If you are truly trusting in Christ, you can’t confess a sin for which God has not provided forgiveness in Jesus. Indeed, if you work at the discipline of confessing your sin, it should not lead to despair at all, but rather to rejoicing over the extent of God’s love to you in Christ.
The blood of Jesus unfailingly cleanses the believer from his sin at all times. There could be no sin that the blood does not cover, confessed or not confessed. Though our sins were taken care of in the cross of Christ, and by His blood being spilled for us, it is applied immediately in time to every sin we commit the nano-second we commit it.
God is faithful and just to forgive every sin and cleanse from all unrighteousness because of Christ’s atonement alone. In other words, the believer does not confess in order to get something. What he seeks he already has.
Confession by itself is not repentance. Confession moves the lips; repentance moves the heart. Naming an act as evil before God is not the same as leaving it. Though your confession may be honest and emotional, it is not enough unless it expresses a true change of heart.
Confession means to agree with God on His assessment of our actions and thoughts, and to name our sin to God.
Consider the implications of adding the work of confession for ongoing forgiveness… If something more is required for forgiveness and cleansing from all unrighteousness (a state required for heaven), then the believer is in a dilemma. What if he fails to confess some sins? What if he fails to confess one sin? Is he unforgiven and not cleansed from all unrighteousness? This is not what propitiation and the continual immediate cleansing from sin by the blood assert. Must we add to what God has so completely accomplished? Isn’t Christ’s death and the application of His blood enough? Doesn’t this additional requirement diminish the cross by making my naming of a sin, each sin, a prerequisite to forgiveness?
If [1 John 1:9] is a call to immediate confession of every sin we are in trouble:
1. We are in a logistical dilemma. We cannot remember every sin. If our forgiveness depends on this, we are in serious trouble. For this reason, most advocates of this theology say that the confession we are to do is to be for every known sin. But that is an accommodation to the text. It does not say that. Actually, no Christian has confessed every known sin either.
2. We are in a theological dilemma. We have a Catholic theology of sorts. That is, if forgiveness is dependent on our ongoing confession, then what if we die with unconfessed sins? Does this view of confession of every sin being essential for forgiveness and total cleansing mean that our sins are not separated from us like the east is from the west? Does it mean we are not forgiven? Does it mean we are not cleansed from all unrighteousness? In other words, does it mean that the work of Christ on our behalf is ineffective when it comes to forgiveness and cleansing? Does it mean that we are not justified until we get to the end of life, and only then if we have confessed everything?
3. We are in an exegetical dilemma. By this I mean that we cannot reconcile the fact that the same text admits to a continual cleansing from all sins on the basis of the blood with no conditions for the believer, while also requiring the condition of detailed confession in a contiguous verse.
What God is after is not our naming our sins, but our turning from our sins in obedience. He requires repentance from specific sins. He already knows what you do… Naming all our sins may be therapeutic, certainly, but it can never be said to be required… We may name our sins on the way to repentance, but we do not do so in order to be forgiven or cleansed. We trust Christ’s work for that, alone.
The exercise of the mouth cannot change the heart. Your sin is like a prostitute. You are speaking against your lover in public but embracing her in the bedroom. She is not particular about being run down in public if she can have your full attention in private.
Confession by itself is not repentance. Confession moves the lips; repentance moves the heart. Naming an act as evil before God is not the same as leaving it. Though your confession may be honest and emotional, it is not enough unless it expresses a true change of heart. There are those who confess only for the show of it, whose so-called repentance may be theatrical but not actual.
What confession of sin is NOT:
1. Informing a human priest in the confession booth.
2. Giving God information. “God, You won’t believe what I’ve done.”
3. Speculating. “IF…I have sinned…”
4. Saying “I’m sorry…” “….just a joke!”
5. Asking/pleading to God for forgiveness for our sins. Forgiveness already available in Christ’s death.
6. Plea-bargaining for a lesser charge. “Yes…but….”
7. Emotional groveling; mental contortions.
8. Psychological catharsis. “Feel good when you get it off your chest”
9. Superficial or flippant incantation. (Sin was reason for Jesus’ death).
10. “Confessionalism” – (Excessive sin-consciousness; wallowing in weakness; focusing on ‘flesh’; navel-gazing introspection; “Worm-theology”; Pride of sinfulness; back-handed basis of spirituality; exhibitionism; revel in relating sinfulness in testimony; Who was the worst?).
11. Based on false established attitudes which create false-guilt and false-confession. Some try to agree with God that something is wrong, when God never said it is sin. But, if not done in faith, it is sin. (Rom. 14:23).
1. Ceasing to deceive ourselves – 1 John 1:8.
2. Ceasing to continue the defense mechanisms of denial, avoidance, distortion, cover-up.
3. Calling sin “sin.” Calling a spade a spade!
4. To recognize, admit, acknowledge, concede and declare our guilt of sin.
5. Part of repentance. A change of mental attitude leading to changed behavioral action.
6. Inclusive of asking forgiveness for wronging another person.
7. Inclusive of restitution – Num. 5:7; Lk. 19:8
This is ever the nature of true confession of sin, true brokenness. It is the confession that my sin is not just a mistake, a slip, a something which is really foreign to my heart (“Not really like me to have such thoughts or do such things!”), but that it is something which reveals the real ‘I’; that shows me to be the proud, rotten, unclean thing God says I am; that it really is like me to have such thoughts and do such things. It was in these terms that David confessed his sin, when he prayed, “Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned and done this evil in Thy sight, that Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest and be clear when Thou judgest” (Psalm 51:4).
Are there dangers in mutual confession [of sin]? Yes, and they are substantial. Psychologically needy persons sometimes use confession to get attention for themselves. Through the apparently spiritual medium of “confession” they can handcuff a captive audience as they relate the details of their sin with deluded or feigned contrition. Confession can also foster spiritual exhibitionism, a perverted moral pleasure in airing one’s laundry. The overly morbid can bend confession to become an excuse for unhealthy hyper-introspection. Ostensibly humble confession can also be used as a vehicle for spiritual aggression: “I want to ask your forgiveness for being bitter toward you over the years” – but what follows is not a confession, but an egregious assault… Confession turned into religious routine is deadly!
1. Confession should generally me made to an individual. There are exceptions, of course – as, for example when a sin has been against a whole group. But normally confession to all the church is not required to restore one to fellowship with the whole congregation.
2. If the sin has been against a fellow Christian, it is to that person that we must make confession (cf. Mt. 5:23-24). The rule of thumb is, the confession should not exceed the range of commission.
3. If the sin is not against a person, and if it is such that we need to confess it and gain spiritual counsel and support, we must go to a mature Christian. This cannot be stressed enough! An immature Christian should not be expected to carry such burdens. Moreover, confession to the immature may provide a temptation to gossip. Along this line, those whom we would confide in must be people of prayer.
4. The confession must be concrete, not amorphous. This is not to suggest, however, that all the lurid details be shared. One sins in confession if his recounting becomes voyeurism.
5. Confessing sins to one another is not a law, but a divinely given help and is to be practiced only as God directs.
Therefore when I admonish you to confession I am admonishing you to be a Christian.
A person who is not concerned about having his present sins cleansed has good reason to doubt that his past sin has been forgiven. A person who has no desire to come to the Lord for continued cleansing has reason to doubt that he ever came to the Lord to receive salvation.
The aim of confession [of sin] then is not to erase consequences, it’s to restore joy. And then the consequences are what they are. Your sins have consequences. They’re rocks thrown in the pond and the ripples go and they touch every shore. But God does promise when you’ve confessed and repented that He will show you lovingkindness and compassion because you are His eternal child… Your justification is settled forever. Don’t cover your sin, confess it. That’s what true Christians do. You’ve been bathed that you need continually to have your feet washed as they get dirty walking in your fallenness. If you don’t confess, you’ll be chastened. If you do confess, you may never be able to change the consequences but because you’re God’s child He’ll come to you in compassion and lovingkindness and minister to you.
No Christian will ever become perfect in this life; that awaits the redemption of the body (Rom. 8:23). Perfection in this life will always be a goal, never an achievement. If we say we do not sin, we make God a liar, because He says we do (1 Jn. 1:7-9).
The apostle Paul, undoubtedly the most committed, dedicated, spiritually mature Christian who ever lived, confessed gladly [Phil. 3:12-13] that he had failed to reach spiritual perfection thirty years after his conversion. And that confession was clear evidence of his true and mature spirituality. Who, then, can make legitimate claim to have done so?
Confession of sin should be explicit… When, in the course of the day’s engagements, our conscience witnesses against us that we have sinned, we should at once confess our guilt, claim by faith the cleansing blood of Christ, and so wash our hands in innocence.
How should we repent when rightly rebuked? In four ways: 1. “I was wrong.” Plain, honest, no evasions. 2. “I am sorry.” Brokenhearted, realizing the damage done. 3. “It won’t happen again.” Rebuilding trust for the future. 4. “Is there anything I can do to make it up to you?” Performing deeds in keeping with repentance (Acts 26:20; Matthew 3:8).
Let’s confess our sins to one another and pray for one another. No one grows in isolation. We grow in safe community. Sadly, such an experience is rare in our churches. It should be common among us gospel people. It should be our lifestyle. We should be obvious, even scandalous, as friends of sinners. But so often, someone must break the ice. I see no revival in our future without a new culture of confession. Personally, I have found a good way to measure my own honesty is the level of my embarrassment. If I’m not embarrassed by my confession, I’m still holding out. But it is freeing to come clean with a brother or sister and receive the ministry of prayer (James 5:16).
In some churches, nobody admits anything. Confession would be foolhardy, because it would be used as evidence against, rather than for, a person. If not dead already, such a church eventually will be. But God welcomes all of us sinners to confess and get free forever. It’s like being born again again.
Biblical confession also includes a horizontal dimension – confession to one another, where we find powerful healing. Confession to God alone often does not lift us into the freedom we desire. With God alone, confession can be too easy. It is too easy to save face, and there is no healing, no release, in saving face, however earnest the confession to God might seem to be. Confession to God alone can be a way of not really facing ourselves and our sins. James 5:16 shows us where freedom can be found: “Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
7 A’s of Confession:
1. Address everyone involved and only them. Talk to them about my faults. Do it right away and be persistent. Only talk to people who are part of the problem or part of the solution.
2. Avoid “if”, “but”, “maybe”. That’s just blaming the other party and finding fault with them for my own failure. “If I offended you”, “Maybe I was wrong”, “If you hadn’t said that”, “I’m sorry, but you..”
3. Admit specifically what you did, when possible.
4. Apologize – express your sorrow for your sin
5. Ask for forgiveness. Most people leave this out. The other party might be 99% wrong, but this isn’t about them right now. It’s about your own log.
6. Accept the consequences. Make restitution. It’s what you ought to do. Don’t demand that they pretend nothing happened.
7. Alter your behavior. You won’t be perfect, but you’ll get better. Repent before God (Robert Williams).
It goes against the grain to give an image of oneself that is anything less than perfect, and many Christians imagine that they will be rejected by others if they admit to any faults. But nothing could be more destructive to Christian koinonia (fellowship) than the common practice today of pretending not to have any problems (Ray Stedman).
[T]he sober truth is that without a full disclosure on sin, the gospel of grace becomes impertinent, unnecessary, and finally uninteresting.
We never see sin aright until we see it as against God… All sin is against God in this sense: that it is His law that is broken, His authority that is despised, His government that is set at naught… Pharaoh and Balaam, Saul and Judas each said, “I have sinned”; but the returning prodigal said, “I have sinned against heaven and before Thee”; and David said, “Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned.”
Living day in and day out with guilt over sin that has not been properly confessed and forsaken expends a certain amount of emotional energy; it saps your emotional strength and causes you to become emotionally exhausted (i.e., depressed).
Men will never come to Jesus, and stay with Jesus, and live for Jesus, unless they really know why they are to come, and what is their need. Those whom the Spirit draws to Jesus are those whom the Spirit has convinced of sin. Without thorough conviction of sin, men may seem to come to Jesus and follow Him for a season, but they will soon fall away and return to the world.
Until we taste the bitterness of our own misery we will never relish the sweetness of God’s mercy. Until we see how foul our sins have made us we will never pay our tribute of praise to Christ for washing us… If you would know the heart of your sin then you must know the sins of your heart!
Many blush to confess their faults, who never blush to commit them.
Confession is verbal humiliation.
So when we sin, even as Christians, we experience guilt. We experience the shame of disappointing our heavenly Father. We are broken and contrite. The Lord wants us grieved over the times we offend Him. It breaks fellowship with Him. It breaks His heart and it should break our heart as well. We experience guilt. But we don’t stay in the guilt. Again, the guilt turns us to Christ. We confess the sin, repent of the sin and experience the blessing of His full pardon. 1 John 1:8-9, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Here is how David put it in Psalm 32:5. “I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’; and You forgave the guilt of my sin.”
Why are we called in “The Lord’s Prayer” to ask for what appears to be additional forgiveness? One, because sin destroys. Confession helps our soul heal from the guilt we incurred. Two, because every sin we commit, though it does not forfeit our salvation, breaks fellowship with our heavenly Father. Three, because our forgiveness came at a great cost – the death of God’s very Son. Therefore we ought to take sin seriously and carefully recognize the specific areas we are falling short. Four, because true believers are committed to repentance. Confession of sin is important because without acknowledging the error of sin, we will never take the necessary steps toward what God ultimately desires, which is repentance (turning from the sin altogether).
Reasons why confessing our sin to another aids in spiritual victory (Jas. 5:16):
1. It forces us to identify our sin and deal with specifics as compared to the general, “God forgive me for my sins.”
2. It pulls us out of spiritual isolation.
3. It eliminates any temptation toward hypocrisy since at least one other person is aware of our weakness.
4. It promotes humility which is needed to fight the flesh.
5. It encourages accountability.
6. It gets others to bear our burden.
7. It solicits prayer from others in this spiritual battle.
This concern [of dying with unconfessed sin], I believe, has its roots in Roman Catholic theology. We do not live our lives in a constant race to stay ahead of the game in terms of our repentance. We do not, when we die, have forgiveness for all our sins, save those we commit after our last confession. When we embrace the finished work of Christ, when we place our hope in Him, all our sins, past, present and future are forgiven.
There is mercy for a sinner, but there is no mercy for the man who will not own himself a sinner.
It does not spoil your happiness to confess your sin. The unhappiness is in not making the confession.
To injure our fellow men is sin, mainly because in so doing we violate the law of God. The penitent’s heart so filled with a sense of the wrong done to the Lord Himself, that all other confession swallowed up in a broken-hearted acknowledgment of offense against [God].
When we deal seriously with our sin, God will deal gently with us.
The Bible teaches that all sin, past, present, and future, is forgiven through faith in the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Eternal destiny is sealed and set at the moment of justifying faith. Our depth of intimacy, fellowship and joy is certainly affected adversely when we fail to confess and repent of daily sin. But our eternal destiny has already and forever been determined. We must recognize the distinction between the eternal forgiveness of the guilt of sin that is ours the moment we embrace Jesus in faith, and that temporal forgiveness of sin we receive on a daily basis that enables us to experience the happiness of intimacy with the Father.
God puts away many in anger for their supposed goodness, but not any at all for their confessed badness.
The more exposed I see that I am by the Cross, the more I find myself opening up to others about ongoing issues of sin in my life.(Why would anyone be shocked to hear of my struggles with past and present sin when the Cross already told them I am a desperately sinful person?) And the more open I am in confessing my sins to fellow-Christians, the more I enjoy the healing of the Lord in response to their grace-filled counsel and prayers.
When a man has judged himself, Satan is put out of office. When he lays anything to a saint’s charge, he is able to retort and say, “It is true, Satan, I am guilty of these sins, but I have judged myself already for them; and having condemned myself in the lower court of conscience, God will acquit me in the upper court of heaven.
Most of us have had sins that we would easily confess to God, yet would be ashamed to confess to another brother or sister. Does this make sense? After all, God is the Holy One. To be exposed in His presence should be much more difficult than being exposed before sinners like ourselves. People who truly confess to God are less concerned that others learn their secret. If we easily confess to God something that shames us to confess to a friend, we are thinking too highly of the opinions of people and not highly enough about the holiness of God.
Confession is the open admission to God of our sin… [It] means to admit our guilt, assent to God’s sovereign standards, and agree with God that our actions are unacceptable… Confession is not trivial or just a quick naming of the sin. It is a deep admission of an offense to God… A deep spirit of contrition accompanies confession. There is remorse over our sin… [And] confession needs to be accompanied by repentance.
True confession involves seeing sin as God defines it, without mitigation or blurring of the lines. Taking ownership of every nuance of offense caused by our sin and bearing the weight of it.