Monday, May 23, 2011

The Necessity of Sin Confession


Today I want to talk about confession, that is confessing out sins unto God.  Some say that we must confess our sins in order for them to be forgiven us.  Some teach that the act of confession itself is wrong.  I am not talking about the unscriptural doctrine of Catholicism where sins must be confessed and absolved by a priest through proscribed penance.  What I am talking about is the doctrine of confessing our sins unto God. First let us begin with some Scripture.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9 NKJV
Some take this verse to mean that if we do not confess our sins, we will not be forgiven.  They assume that if God forgives our sins if we confess, that it is implied that God will not forgive our sins if we do not.  In other words, they are adding to Scripture.  I like to compare one Scripture with another, and so I would like to share another Scripture to shed some light on this one.
He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may [continue to] believe in the name of the Son of God.  1 John 5:12-13 NKJV
If God through John meant that we must confess our sins at one part of the epistle, why would God through John say something that is entirely impossible later in that same letter?  I say that because if we had to confess our sins in order to receive forgiveness, we can never know that we have eternal life.  Think about the idea that if  we just forgot to confess one sin, that sin would not be forgiven and we would be judged eternally for that unconfessed sin.  Can you imagine what that life would be like?  Our entire lives would be spent trying to make sure we remember each and everything we did that could be construed to be a sin in any kind of way.  We might as well be back under the law, because even in the law there was a sacrifice for unknown sins. 
If a person sins, and commits any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the LORD, though he does not know [it], yet he is guilty and shall bear his iniquity. And he shall bring to the priest a ram without blemish from the flock, with your valuation, as a trespass offering. So the priest shall make atonement for him regarding his ignorance in which he erred and did not know [it], and it shall be forgiven him.  Leviticus 5:17-18 NKJV
This also brings up another point.  If Jesus is the final and sufficient sacrifice for all sins, then how does He not also cover the sacrifice for unknown sins?  Is His blood not applied to this blood sacrifice?  The answer is that of course it is.  Maybe then we only have to confess to sins that we know about.  But then again, but is just adding to what was already added to Scripture.  You would be taking 1 John 1:9, adding the converse as also being true, then adding qualifiers to the converse.  Of course you would have to apply the addition to the original verse as well meaning that God will forgive the sins we know about if we confess the sins we know about to Him.  Does that then mean that God will not forgive us at all for sins we do not know we commit?  That makes even less sense.  What all this confusion illustrates is the slippery slope created by adding to Scripture.  The fact is that if we must confess all our sins before God in order to be forgiven them, then none of us would be saved because it would be impossible for us to remember all sins we have ever committed.  If we apply it to only sins we know about, it adds disincentive to read God's word because that is where we learn about sin.  I do not think God would add a disincentive to read His word.  Not only all of that, but adding confession as a qualifier for forgiveness adds works to grace. 

Now let us address the other side of the issue. There are those, especially those of an Antinomian mindset, who believe that confession in and of itself is something we should not even do.  An example would be Bob George and his followers.  They claim that it breaks God's heart to confess our sins because those sins are already forgiven us.  They also believe that all sin (even if you do not accept Jesus) is forgiven at the cross yet they still claim to not believe in universal salvation.  I have addressed that in a previous post so I will not get into that again here.  While they are right in that you do not need to confess sins in order to be forgiven them, they are terribly wrong in saying that it breaks God's heart to confess our sins to Him.  Unfortunately for them, Scripture tells an entirely different story.
I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.  Luke 15:7 NKJV
Yes I know we are talking about confession and yes I know this verse says repentance.  Repentance, though, is impossible without confession.  Repentance comes after confession.  You can not turn from doing something wrong without first acknowledging you are doing something wrong.  Acknowledging you are doing something wrong is confession.  Considering all of heaven rejoices over repentance, it is silly to think that confession breaks God's heart.  It is even more silly to think it breaks God's heart when in 1 John 1:9, we are told that we should confess. 

The argument often given as to why it breaks God's heart is the illustration of the father's heart breaking for a child confessing to something the father has forgiven him for.  That is yet another silly argument.  I do not see their logic in saying that asking for forgiveness implies a bad relationship.  I mean would a good father-son relationship be where every time the son does something wrong, nothing is said ever?  It is better for a son to never apologize or say that he did something wrong to the father?  That does not imply a good relationship at all.  That implies that either the son is scared of the father so he would rather not say anything or it implies that the father is all too permissive and the son takes advantage of that.  A good father-son relationship is where the son knows that he did wrong and comes to his father and admits and apologizes for what he did wrong and trusts in his father for forgive him and help him repent of his wrong-doing.  I know I am not a father yet, but in thinking of how I would feel and in knowing many other fathers, I do not think I know any who would be less hurt if his child was trying to hide his wrongdoings or refusing to talk about them at all.  In fact, that kind of relationship would be terribly hurtful to any father that I know of.  

And that brings me to my final point and that is what the purpose of confession is.  Confession should not be something we avoid as that shows that we are either afraid of God or that we are taking advantage of His grace.  We also should not confess our sins to God as some way of earning our salvation.  We should confess our sins to God, though, and the reason is because it is He who will give us the strength to repent.  We also should confess because it is a way of healing our relationship with God that is strained due to sin.  When we go to God and we are living in some kind of sin and that sin never comes up in our conversation, it becomes a black cloud.  It hinders our talking to Him because we are careful to avoid what we do not want to tell Him.  It hinders His response to our prayers because He wants to help us repent of what we are doing wrong, but we refuse to hear that from Him.  It is not that God does not want to forgive us or has not forgiven us already, but it is about making that forgiveness a reality.  We do not confess our sin to God for His sake, we confess our sins to God for our sake. It takes the weight of that sin off of us and places it on the cross where it belongs.  I am reminded by a story-song that was done the the Mississippi Mass Choir called "Pull the Wagon."  It was about a boy who accidentally killed a duck.  His sister watched it happen and out of fear of his parents finding out, he pleaded with his sister not to tell.  She agreed, but at a cost.  He had to pull her around in a wagon day after day after day.   This went on for some time until he could not bare the burden any longer and he went to his parents of confessed.  They said that they saw it happen too and knew all along that he did it and were only waiting for him to confess.  Immediately, he was freed from carrying around the burden of that unconfessed sin, but also knew that the burden was not necessary in the first place.  Such is the same with our sin.  Confessing it to God is giving to it God.  Confessing it to God allows us to experience the mercy of God.  Confessing it to God heals the strain in our relationship with God by trying to keep something from Him that He already knows.  Confessing our sins to God is being honest with God, in admitting we know we are doing something wrong.  Confessing our sin to God is the first step in repenting of that sin because it is only by His strength that we even can.  Confessing our sins to God is how we turn back to Him after turning away. He does not ask us to confess so He can beat us down, but to raise us up  And, finally, we confess our sins to God because we trust the love of God to overcome whatever it is that we may have done. You see, when we confess our sins to God we are showing Him that we trust Him not to just rejoice with us in our triumphs, but we trust Him to still love us in our failures. 
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Hebrews 4:16 NKJV

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