Clearly, the Bible has taught that confessing our sins is essential to finding forgiveness and peace in our lives. But confession is an act we find extremely difficult to do, our emotions fearing it and fighting it. Specific and honest confession of the truth though, begins a turnaround in our lives, frees us from fear, and brings us back into fellowship with others.
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: “Our brother breaks the circle of self-deception. 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 dark, but in the presence of a brother the sin has to be brought into the light. But since the sin must come to light sometime, it is better that it happens today between me and my brother, rather than on the last day in the piercing light of the final judgment. It is a mercy that we can confess our sins to a brother. Such grace spares us the terrors of the last judgment”.1
Confession must be sincere, humble and complete. It should be made to someone we trust, and eventually to all we have wronged, if possible. But why is confession necessary?
First, it is an admission to ourselves of the truth and reality of how we have been living and what we have actually done. It is on this particular point that we have stumbled so greatly. In order for us to have lived in this sin, we have created an elaborate system of denial, rationalization and deceit. We have attempted to protect ourselves from the pain of dis-integrity of our actions and what we know is right. Confession is an act of integrating the reality of our inner and outer lives. Through this act, we declare to those we have relationships with that we want to be transparent and whole.
Second, confession is an essential part of God’s plan for us to enter into the transformation of our soul. We do this in obedience to his authority, plainly revealed to us in the Bible. (Psalms 32.5-6, James 5.16, 1 John 1.9) It is God’s condition for beginning the work of re-constructing our lives; it pleases him and results in our well-being.
Finally, it is a concrete step in practicing humility. James 4.6-10 outlines the characteristics of the truly repentant person and calls us to a place of humility. Humility is the starting point of dependence on God and puts us in a place where He can help us and restore our honor.
Psalm 130 focuses on confession in our relationship to God. The place to begin the process of confession is in our heart’s cry to God for forgiveness. God has seen all of our sin, and to ignore these offenses before an all seeing God is to fail to grasp the reality of our plight. As important as our confession is to those we have wronged, it is no substitute for coming before God and honestly admitting our sin. In this act, we not only find ready forgiveness, but we also find hope in the faithfulness of His Word. His Word reminds us of his unfailing love, forgiveness and redemption—redemption from “every kind of sin.” There is no sin that is deeper than God’s power to cleanse and forgive.
Psalm 130 (NLT)
1 From the depths of despair, O Lord,
I call for your help.
2 Hear my cry, O Lord.
Pay attention to my prayer.
3 Lord, if you kept a record of our sins,
who, O Lord, could ever survive?
4 But you offer forgiveness,
that we might learn to fear you.
5 I am counting on the Lord;
yes, I am counting on him.
I have put my hope in his word.
6 I long for the Lord
more than sentries long for the dawn,
yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.
7 O Israel, hope in the Lord;
for with the Lord there is unfailing love.
His redemption overflows.
8 He himself will redeem Israel
from every kind of sin.
When we create an offense—and as hard as we try—we will invariably do so again, we must come before God, confess our sin, and go to the one we have offended and do the same. This is the path toward freedom, joy, and healing of our relationships.
1 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (San Francisco: Harper One, 2009)
Jim is the founder of COMPASS, and has been a leader in sexual addiction ministry for over 10 years.