We began our series on repentance with conviction—being convinced by the Holy Spirit working through Godʼs Word that you are guilty of sin. Now we move to confession.
STAGE TWO: CONFESSION
The word confession comes with a lot of baggage. Some of us have images of a confessional booth, others have idea of sitting in a support group telling everyone how you slipped up again this week, while most are afraid of it becoming personal because we have many dark secrets that we are clinching tightly.
Confession is a means of God’s grace. We should not cower away but joyfully and regularly confess our sins to God and one another. As we are convicted by the Holy Spirit of sin and feel the weight of it before the face of God we ought to confess specifically that sin to Jesus and others. I say specifically because if we do confess, we like to do so in general. Often we have not been convinced that what we did was sin. We do not believe what the Spirit says. Therefore we minimize it and confess in general to get rid of that vague sense of wrongdoing. Ambiguous confession is not true confession and it cheapens Christ’s work on the cross. You sinned specifically and the Spirit convicts specifically. Let’s confess specifically. Our sinful behaviors and actions. Yes. As well as our sinful desires. Our unbelief in the gospel. Our idolatry. Our false saviors.
Many times we do not confess because we prefer to hide in darkness, because we love our image over Jesus and we believe confession will cause separation. We should not be afraid of our sin or the perceived shame that will come if we confess. Jesus took your shame. He decisively crushed sin at the cross freeing us from it. We are not shamed because those that are in Christ are not condemned (see Romans 8). We are a new creation that has been redeemed and have been made righteous because of Jesus’ work on our behalf. This new identity frees us to be honest with our sin.
“True confession consists in humbly telling the whole truth about our sin” (Redemption, Mike Wilkerson). Often we choose counterfeits to confession. We will confess in part, confess with our lips but not believe what we say, or shift the blame ending our confession with a “but…”
Some common counterfeits of confession include:
We are prideful and resistant to speaking the truth (see James 3:14)
We are dishonest: give half the truth, soften the blow
We blame-shift by saying things like, “I’m sorry it bothered you so much” or “I’m sorry if it hurt you, I didn’t mean to” or “forgive me for reacting when you sinned against me”
We confess as a cathartic exercise: to get it off our chest not because we love Jesus
The psalmist in chapter 32 says that when he kept silent and did not confess his sin it affected his body. He was weak and heavily burdened. He then states that when he confessed his sins to the Lord, the Lord forgave him and:
“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.”
Confessing sin fights against the lies we easily believe. It shows us our weakness. It shows us our need for Jesus. It appeals to his forgiveness and redemption instead of driving circles in the cul-de-sac of self-deception. It battles the lie of separation. John tells us when we walk in the light, confessing our sin, we are drawn closer to one another. Bank on this truth. Confess to your husband. Confess to your wife. Confess to your Community Group. Confess to your neighbor that doesn’t know Jesus. Stop running around ragged trying to conceal your sins. Stop lying or confessing in general. Mike Wilkerson has also said, “Confession is not about mouthing words but about telling the truth from a changing heart.”
In the context of this portrait of repentance confession is the verbal part. It's putting into words for God and someone else our acknowledgement of sin. Repentance is internal; confession is the external evidence of repentance. Next time we will look at the internal act of repenting—turning—from sin to Jesus.