One of the most overlooked but valuable practices in the Christian life
Our sermon today is titled “The Blessing of Confessing”. But before we go any further on that let me ask you a question:
What’s the longest you wore clothing without washing it? If we have some teenage boys in here this may get interesting. If you’ve ever been stranded on an island or held hostage that doesn’t count. What’s the longest stretch you’ve gone wearing the same clothes without washing them? Yeah, kind of a gross thought, isn’t it?
When a Christian goes long periods of time without confessing its like not washing our clothing. The Bible says we have spiritual clothes… “put on Christ”… “given a white robe” …. “Keep your clothes white and without stain”…. The reality is that our spiritual clothes are going to need to be washed. So, how often in the last year have you gotten on your knees alone before God and named the specific ways you’ve sinned and asked Him to forgive you?
Think of when you buy new clothes. After you leave the store those clothes belong to you now. Legally they are your possession – not the stores. But even though you now own those clothes you have to wash them regularly. You live life in those clothes, you work in those clothes. Even if you don’t spill juice on your blouse, or get cut on the job and bleed on your work pants, or get ink all over your shirt, doesn’t mean things don’t have to be washed.
How do we keep washing as Christians? The answer is Confession. It’s hard to not see that the habit of confessing sin should be part of our lives as believers.
- “If we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us of all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)
- Psalm 32:5 says, “Then I acknowledged my sin and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’ – and you forgave the guilt of my sin.”
- “Return” God says to Faithless Israel in Jeremiah 3, “for I am merciful. Only acknowledge your guilt and that you have rebelled against me…”
I think confession is one of the most overlooked practices in our lives as Christians. I hope after today all of you will be more intentional about this important part of living for Christ.
What does Confession mean though? The word translated as “Confession” means “to say the same thing as”. It means to agree with. Okay, but what does that mean? It means that I have changed my mind (repent) about my sin and I now say the same thing about my sin that God says about it. It means that I used to think the wrong thing about my sin, I didn’t agree with God. I acted like my sin wasn’t sin, or, it wasn’t a big deal, or, that I had good reason to do or say what I did. Not anymore. Now I humbly come around to God’s way of seeing me and I nod and say, “Yeah, God, you’re right. I’ve been wrong.” No more rationalizing. No more excusing it. No more justifying it. No more being defensive about it. No more self-righteousness. No more minimizing it. No more blame shifting. No more ignoring it. Now, it’s just humbly owning it. Humbly acknowledging that “Yes, Lord, my sin is in fact sin. I agree.”
When we get to that place of humility before God, whole new horizons of blessing open up to us. “..but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Pvb 28:13). “If we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).
Why confess though? I am going to offer several blessings that come from confessing, but, first let me lay out the theological reason why we confess. First, we confess because God is holy. If we go on living, there is no doubt we are sinning. But if we go on living without confessing that sin it is treating God like He is not holy. If we don’t confess we show we are not sensitive enough to sin and the reason we are not sensitive enough to sin is because we really are not seeing God as holy.
Secondly, we confess, theologically speaking, because God is forgiving. If God were not forgiving you can forget confessing. But He is forgiving! Think of how bad Israel was but listen to God plead with them to turn to Him so He can forgive them: Ezekiel 33:11 says, “As surely as I live declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?” Remember this is the same God who said, “I desire mercy
Another theological reason we confess is because we live with sin natures. Our sin nature is not removed from us when we become Christians. We still have the presence of sin within – a sin presence that still wages war against our souls (1 Pet 2:11) trying to make us commit sin. And The reason we confess is because we know that we have not mastered the sin within and we are going to sin and the biblical response to sin is to confess.
Thirdly, theologically we confess because Jesus is our advocate. First John 2:2 says, “But if anyone does sin we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ the righteous one.” Who do you want to rely on before God when it comes to your sin? You or Jesus?
The last theological reason we confess is because confession is THE ONLY thing we can do about our sin. Every sin – all sin – ever in our lives is only washed away by confessing it to God. “If we confess our sin God is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).
BLESSINGS of CONFESSING
Here are ____ blessings that come from Confessing. I hope these will make you start practicing confession regularly for the rest of your life.
First we are Cleared. Cleared means to be cleared of guilt and shame. Notice verses 1-2, “…It means pardon – your guilt has been taken away. Like the Seraph said to Isaiah when he touched his lips with a coal from the altar, “Your guilt is taken away.” Like when God said to David, “Your sin is forgiven, you will not die.”
Cleared means that the charges are dropped. This is the essence of being “justified”. If you have confessed to God you are a sinner and you have confessed Jesus is your Savior then you are justified. The charges against you are cleared. A Pardon happens at your very first confession. Your very first confession is when you come to Christ. You confess that you are a sinner and you can’t save yourself. You confess that you need a Savior and you accept Jesus as your Savior. At the moment you confess and put your trust in Jesus you are pardoned from all your sin. Is that something you have done?
Second, Confession removes Consequences. There are consequences of sin and consequences of unconfessed sin. Look at verses 3-4, “…” and see the consequences of not confessing. If you have good theology you know that sin affects the whole man: mind, body and spirit. David describes physical and psychological consequences of his unconfessed sin. “When I kept silent, I suffered physically, spiritually and psychologically”. “Whoever conceals his sin” Proverbs 28:13 says, “does not prosper”. Turn over to Psalm 38 with me and follow along in verses 1-8. Watch how David describes the physical, psychological and spiritual anguish due to his sin…
There are consequences to sin that are not avoided even with confessing. For instance, in 1 Samuel 12 David is confronted in epic fashio by the prophet Nathan over his double sins of adultery and murder. David is instantly humbled, and listen to Nathan’s response. Listen for what consequences are removed and what consequences remain. Verses 9-14 say… God was going to kill David if he did not confess. But, after he confessed the consequence of death was removed. However, there were other consequences that remained: his own wives would be given over to another man in a very public and humiliating fashion, the sword would always be against his own family, and the son from his adultery would die. If I learn anything from this I learn to fear the Lord because He does not take sin lightly.
But there’s a difference between consequences of sin and the consequences of stubbornly refusing to confess that sin. In the NT we see also the consequences of sin. Turn to 1 Corinthians 11:27-32 and follow along. Notice that Paul says sinful division in the Church is why some believers are sick and some have even died. One of the more foolish things we can do is think that just because we ignore our sin that God does too. Not confessing is not Good. Confess and avoid the consequences of unconfessed sin.
Confession brings Cleansing. “He will cleanse us and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 says. The waters of cleansing are opened by the key of confession. Turn the key and open up those waters. Confession is actually an expression of our faith. I believe God that I am a sinner and defiled by my sin. I believe that God will wash me clean from my sin. See the faith? “Now God I’m telling you that I am a sinner and need your forgiveness and cleansing.”
While washing their feet, Jesus told the disciples, “A person who has had a bath only needs their feet cleaned. And you are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you (Jn 13:10; 15:3).
Confession restores Closeness with God. Notice in verse 7, “You are my hiding place…” God loves closeness with us. Which is why He hates sin. Sin alienates. It causes distance between us and Him. It’s a barrier. Remove the barrier and the closeness with God is restored. How do we remove the barrier of sin? Confession. With a “contrite heart” ask God to remove it and He will. Isaiah 57:15 says, “For this is what the high and lofty One says – He who lives forever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” “I live with him who is contrite and lowly…” God says. You will not confess unless you have a humble and contrite posture. And if we do not confess we will not be near to God. Being close to God will affect you in the following ways:
Being closer to God means you will love Him God more.
Being closer to God means you will reverence Him more. Practice taking holiness seriously by practicing confession when you don’t do what’s holy. Practice taking sin seriously by confessing it when you are guilty of it. If you’re committed to confession it will keep you from becoming comfortable with sin. Remember, the more we sin the more blind to it we become.
Being closer to God means you will understand His love and His grace more. Just when you couldn’t believe He would forgive you, He does when you ask Him.
You can see how this will affect your worship too. Confession will lead to being closer to God and being closer to God will free your heart to worship God more fully.
Character. Confession opens up growth in our CHristian character too.
First, we become more humble. Sin puffs up. Sin will puff our pride up. Ironically the more wrong we are because of sin the more right we think we are in general. But, the more sensitive to our own sin we become the less self-righteous we will be. If you find yourself overly-focused on the sins of others its usually a sign you’re not focused enough on your own sins. Actually, let me dissect that: you are aware of your sins, but you’re not confessing them, so you deal with them by criticizing others to make yourself feel better. Want proof? While listening to this sermon are you listening for your own benefit or are you thinking “Oh, I really hope so and so is listening to this. They really need to hear it.”?
That’s not “psycho-babble”, that’s biblical – that’s Jesus. Remember the whole “don’t pick the speck out of someone’s eye” thing? Remember? Jesus blasted the hypocrisy of picking at the speck in someone else’s eye while ignoring the log in our own. The person who has a big log in their own eye is trying to tell someone else how to get the tiny speck out of theirs. Get the point? He means the person who is more blameworthy, who has more undealt-with sin is running around trying to correct the smaller faults in everyone else. The person who ignores their own sins is going to be obsessed with everyone else’s.
Second, confession improves our character in the area of guilt. Living with a guilt-complex is brutal. The key is not forgiving yourself. The key is believing that the Holy Creator has forgiven you through Jesus Christ. If a person is ruled by guilt then nearly everything they do is motivated by relieving that guilt. They’re trying to work that guilt off.
Listen to Psalm 51:16-17…the person who doesn’t confess their sin, but, tries instead to work harder at being a good person or a more religious is going about it all wrong. God is very displeased with religion and morals when all the while we have sin that is unconfessed. This is the exact opposite of someone living in God’s grace. When you let God’s grace in guilt goes out. You step out of the prison of guilt and into the freedom of grace.
Third, confession makes you a more forgiving person. The more we see how forgiving God is the more forgiving we will become. If you are dominated by bitterness, resentment, and keep a tightfist on grudges, and you refuse to forgive, its because you haven’t seen how forgiving God is. This is the idea when Jesus told the Pharisee the parable of the two debts. Two people owed the Master a debt, one was small and the other was large. Both debts were cancelled. Jesus asked “Who loved the Master more?” The answer is the person who had the greater debt. They saw to a far greater degree how gracious and kind the Master was. They saw how far His forgiveness extended. And the more one sees how much one is forgiven, the more one will love. The less one sees how much one is forgiven, the less one will love.
Fourth, confession will make you more wise. Let me back into this point by saying: Sin blinds. By blind the Bible means blind to truth and righteousness. Sin has incredible power to darken your eyes. The more sin piles up in a person’s life the more blind to the things of God they become.
But, when sin is cleared out – through confession – light comes in. Turn to Psalm 32 with me. In verses 8-10 David describes the wisdom that is gained by confessing sin.
Persisting in sin, piling it up, will make you more and more foolish. You won’t have access to wise thoughts, you won’t get light from the word, you won’t glean from preaching and teaching the meat and fruit of God’s wisdom. You will grow more and more spiritually dumb. Because that’s what sin does. It darkens the mind. “Although they claim to be wise they became fools” Romans 1 says about people who persist in sin and lies. “Their minds were darkened and their thinking became futile.”
HOW TO CONFESS:
A few pointers I can suggest from my own practice of confession:
First, be specific. If you’ve said or done something specific then pray specific. Don’t be a Puritan and sit 24/7 wailing in sack cloth and ashes over general things “Oh God in heaven, I know I’m a no-good, miserable, wretched, vile, disgusting sinner! Oh God please forgive me!” And God asks, “Well what have you done?” And your response is “Well, I can’t think of anything off hand.” Someone like that is either very self-righteous, or, very confused, or both.
If your find your faults are on the surface, deal with them. But don’t go trying to call them up. A better approach is to ask the Lord to show you your sins and then you be ready with a humble attitude when in His time He brings things to light.
If you lost your temper with your wife or kids; if you were critical & grumbling towards someone; if you’ve been bitter and unforgiving; if you were disrespectful to your spouse, your boss, your government, etc; if you thought or acted arrogantly towards others; if you looked at someone or something in a way you should not have…then confess that specific sin. Be specific.
Second, if you’ve sinned privately, pray privately and confess it to God.
Third, if you sinned against someone then confess to them. Go to them. Or, if they’ve come to you and showed you how you’ve sinned against them then humbly listen. Confess your sin and ask for forgiveness. This is the primary meaning of James 5:16, “Therefore confess your sins to each other…” Or Jesus when He said, “If you are at the altar and remember that your brother has something against you then leave your gift at the altar and go be reconciled to your brother first.” Jesus is basically saying don’t come to God when you’re divided from your brother. You can’t love God while hating your brother. God’s going to refuse your worship if you refuse to reconcile with people you’ve wronged. What happens horizontally will get in the way of what happens vertically. Here’s two pieces of advice I’ve tried to practice and urged for a long time now:
One: specifically ask with the words: “Will you forgive me?” Do not say, “Oh, I apologize” or “I’m sorry.” Specifically ask the person to forgive you.
Second: own your actions. Acknowledge your actions/word and seek forgiveness for the wrong you’re guilty of. The other person may also be in the wrong (usually everybody is doing wrong and its blowing up) but, don’t make your apology simply an attempt to get them to apologize too, like you’re trying to make them “go down” with you. That’s manipulation. And, also, don’t make your apology about blaming the other person: “I’m sorry you felt that way” or
Fourth, confess even if you don’t “feel” like it. Do not – and I mean do not – rely on your feelings to get on your knees and confess. I can’t tell you how many times I didn’t “feel” bad about my sin but I knew it was sin and so I knew I had to get on my knees and confess. And guess what? I even confess to God in those moments that I’m not feeling the shame the way that I should. You’re feelings won’t be right a lot of times going into this, but, part of being mature is not being led by feelings. You’re feelings won’t be right going in a lot of times, but, I can tell you that confession has a way of purifying your feelings and realigning them with God.
Someone might say, “Man, you’re making way too big a deal out of this.” And I would say, “Am i? Maybe you’re not making a big enough deal out of it.” Take a look around, the problem is not that we take sin too seriously. The problem is that we don’t take it serious enough. Oh, we take everyone else’s sin seriously enough, but my point today is we don’t take our own sin seriously enough.
Fifthly, trust God will forgive. This will be a struggle for someone who has sinned repeatedly. “Theres no way God can forgive me again.” Try Him. Remember how Jesus told Peter he had to be willing to forgive 70 times 7 times in a day? Jesus doesn’t expect us to do anything He won’t do. If you sin 100 times in a day then make sure you get on your knees and confess 100 times in a day. Trust God will forgive.
This will also be hard for people who think they’ve committed too big of a sin. “It’s too big. There’s no way God can forgive something that bad.” Try Him. Paul said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life.”
The reason we might think God won’t forgive is because we are projecting ourselves onto God. We think God is like us, and if we wouldn’t forgive us then there’s no way God could either. Never let your image of God be determined by who you are. (That’s idolatry). Look into His word where He has revealed who He is. Turn to Ps 103:1-3a, 8-12. Trust He can forgive you.
What better way for us to transition into Communion than through Confession? If you haven’t done it in a while then this will be a chance for you to do it. If you do practice confession then you will welcome the chance now to do it again.