It’s one of the scariest things the Bible tells us to do. If you are Christian, confession is part of your walk with Christ. But it’s extremely uncomfortable and many Christians refused to do it because it is uncomfortable.
But the Bible calls us to confess our sins. We wax and wane on all the details. But even though it’s scary to expose our sins to God and others, we must obey as Christians must do what God’s Word prescribed if we sin.
There’s one way to be free from sin, addiction, and bad habits. Confession is God’s gift to us, but we don’t see it that way. When we muster the courage to follow the biblical precedent of confession, freedom floods in.
So why do we continue to confess as Christians? Some people have a theology of Jesus forgiving sins past, present, and future. I’ve put a lot of thought into this, and I originally thought this sounded great.
But after further study, I would ask anyone with this point of view, “Then why are there verses about forgiving one another and God forgive our sins after salvation?” John 1:5-10 distinguishes momentary sins and a sinful lifestyle, promising Jesus forgives every time we confess our sins.
If God forgives all of our sins, even the ones we have yet to commit, why would these verses be in our Bibles, and addressed to Christian churches? It made no sense the more I thought about it.
I approach Christian confession differently now. When we were saved, Jesus forgave our sins, the sins we committed before we committed our lives to him. But he does not forgive us for sins we will commit. If we commit sins as we walk with Jesus, we must confess our sins, seek his forgiveness, and continue to walk with him.
This makes sense when we consider the verses I mentioned above. John teaches that Christians deceive themselves when they live a lifestyle of sin and they still walk with God. Their fellowship with God and other Christians is separated by their sinful lifestyles.
John doesn’t expect Christians to keep on sinning. But he reminds us that Jesus is gracious if we do sin and ask his forgiveness (1 John 1:9). Jesus forgives all our sins. “All our sins” refers to current sins, not future ones.
Paul teaches the same principle. In Romans 6 he teaches we are dead to sin. We don’t react to temptation. We continue to demolish our fleshly desires. This brings victory in him over sin. In Ephesians, Paul says we are dead to sin and alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-3).
So sin for the Christian must be rare. But if we momentary lapse into sin, Jesus is still faithful and just, still loving and gracious, to forgive our sins.
Keeping Sin to Myself
Most Christians in the Western world consider sin a private matter. They don’t want to confess sins to anyone, and not publicly. We would rather confess them to God in private prayers.
But the Bible speaks of public confession often in the New Testament. Jesus calls us to go to a brother we have offended and received forgiveness before we offer our gift at the altar (Matthew 5:23-24). This indicates a public place, at a service.
Confession to a brother we have wronged can happen privately even in a public place. We deal with it personally. But we still must deal with it in that moment, in that public arena.
The threefold approach Jesus gives us to discipline may turn out to be very public, addressing the whole church with our sin if we refuse to deal with it before then (Matthew 18:15-18). Jesus teaches us to address it one-on-one first, then to have an elder of the church delivery between two parties that refuse to come to forgiveness. And the third if it is still not dealt with is to address the church with the issue.
Nobody wants their sin to become public. It’s incredibly embarrassing. But it has its benefits if it comes to that. If a believer refuses to go through these steps, it’s hard not to address the church and make the sin public. This is why it is better to expose sin to the light and eradicate it.
The Bible talks about hidden sin (Psalm 19:12; 90:8; Job 34:32). It also talks about the entangling sin we continue to fall into (Hebrews 12:1). We must expose this into the light of confession or it will continue to rule over us. We will never be free from sin if we do not confess it.
Hidden sin was believed to be the things we don’t realize we have done that are sin. For instance, in the Old Testament law, a person could commit a sin against God and not realize it was against Old Testament laws.
Hidden sins may be the sins we commit and hide away, not asking for forgiveness from God and not seeking forgiveness from those we offend. We pass them off until we forget about them. We keep them deep down inside not wanting anyone to know about them.
The entangling sin of Hebrews 12:1 is a sin a person continues to commit over and over. Even though we ask for forgiveness from God, and confess the sin, it is a weak spot in our armor. We are susceptible to recommitting them.
Find an accountability partner. This is a Christian who is wise and mature in Christ and the Scriptures. He or she can help guide you away from this entangling sin, to help you with putting these sins away for good.
Accountability partners should be the same gender and must be someone you trust to not reveal confidential conversations to others. It’s unfortunate I even have to give qualifications for a wise choice in an accountability partner, but more than once I have seen Christians abuse these relationships.
May we have inner fortitude and strength to address our hidden and entangling sins before they destroy us. God much more desires that we walk with him, deny our former fleshly desires, and keep our guard up against temptation.
Confession to Whom
There are many different Christian traditions ranging from confession in a box to a priest to Christians who don’t have any form of public confession. But Scripture gives us guidelines and principles on confession.
First and foremost, we must realize what happens if we sin. Sins affect up to three parties
our sins always affect God and our relationship with him. They also affect us. But don’t stop there. We can sin against other people. If we sin against another person we’re responsible to confess to God, see the effect in ourselves, and confess to that person.
Some of our sins don’t affect others, like sinful thoughts, intentions, and motives. Others don’t see these sins. We must confess to God. He already knows, but confession rescues us from thinking we can keep moving in faith without addressing it.
So there’s always at least two people involved in every sin we commit. Confession cannot be unspoken. We can’t think we can sweep it under the rug or expect that God forgives us. It’s a healthy practice to confess your sin to God, and to another person if you sin against them too.
Sin and Sickness
Throughout the New Testament, a careful reader will notice a connection many of the authors give between sin and sickness. Two examples will help us to see this pattern, although they are not the only times this principle appears in Scripture.
James talks about the effective prayer of the righteous person (James 5:16). Let’s back up to James 5:14. James starts with sickness. He provides the solution, to go before the elders of the church, have them anoint you with oil, and pray for you.
The result, he concludes, “and you will be healed, and if the person has committed sin, their sin will be forgiven” (James 5:15). First we are talking about sickness, and now sin is included. Why does James talk about both?
James says that the prayer of the righteous person is effective and powerful. But that’s not the whole verse. The beginning tells us to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another.
James says when we do this, we will be healed. We could interpret this verse to say that sin can block healing. So in confessing sins, we open the door to physical healing. That’s why the prayer of faith by a righteous person is so effective. Through it God deals with sin and sickness.
Sin and sickness are connected. Sin can cause sickness. This is why in John 9, the disciples when they see the man born blind ask, “Who sinned, him or his parents?” They saw sin as the cause of his sickness. And since it was from birth, they wanted to know if the parents passed their sin onto the sun before he was born.
But there’s another reason James brings up sin when he talks about sickness. Jesus died on the cross to save, deliver, and heal us. Salvation includes forgiveness of sins, healing the body and relationships and deliverance from demons. Jesus’ salvation is holistic. His work in us is complete. It takes care of everything that holds us back from freedom in him,.
Four friends can’t get their paralytic friend to Jesus, so they dig a hole in the roof and drop him before Jesus’ feet (Matthew 9:1-8; Luke 5:17-36). When Jesus sees him, he tells him, “Your sins are forgiven. Get up and walk.”
The friends brought him there so Jesus could heal him. But Jesus forgives his sins. He forgives the man’s sins and heals him. It may be that his healing is the proof of his sins forgiven. But they both happen at the same time. He frees the whole person so we can completely devote ourselves to him.
Confession scares us because we don’t want our sins exposed to the world. We don’t want anyone to know about these failures. But exposing our sin to the light of God’s forgiveness keeps sin from mastering us.
We must ask God and others for forgiveness. The Bible calls us to make confession one of our greatest weapons against hidden and entangling sins. God forgives us, and other Christians are commanded to forgive. Confession doesn’t have to be scary. Leave a comment and describe your fears about confession.