Thursday, June 3, 2010

Confessing Our Sins

It is clear from command (Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:9; James 5:16) and example (Psalms 32:5; Leviticus 26:40; Daniel 9:4,5; Acts 19:18) that confession of sins is a Biblical duty. But what does it involve?

Proverbs 28:13 commands an act of repentance where we are to confess and forsake our sins. 1 John gives the marks of the true follower of Christ versus a false teacher. One who claims he has no sin is a false teacher (1 John 1:8,10), but the true believer habitually confesses his sins (1 John 1:9). This individual can be confident of forgiveness, including cleansing from the unrighteousness he has not yet recognized. Therefore, confession is not a form we go through to obtain God's forgiveness, but an act of repentance of sin. Now unrepentant sin has consequences (Psalms 32), and confession can result in a forgiveness that removes those consequences (Psalms 32:5; 2 Samuel 12:13). I do not know that this is best described as broken fellowship, as 1 John 1:1-7 sees fellowship with God as the condition of all believers, but unrepentant sin affects our relationship with God.

What sins are we obligated to confess? Given that our hearts are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) and that even our righteous deeds are filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6), can we seriously believe that any of us knows all our sins? We should confess the sins we know about, but even this can be a little too simple. There are those who are complacent and seldom examine themselves; others can get so caught up in introspection that they become paralyzed and unable to do the positive things God calls them to. We need a balance here, but should ask God to show us what we need to repent of (Psalms 139:23,24).

But the real issue is what we do about sin once it is brought to our attention. In Proverbs 28:13 it says he who conceals his transgressions will not prosper. We are not to hide our sin, rationalize our sin, or deny our sin, but to come to God and admit it and forsake it. In 2 Corinthians 7:10 it speaks of sorrow for sin and says that real sorrow for sin leads to a repentance without regret. Genuine guilt causes us to come to God and repent, while guilt that is not of God leads us to hide or blame others (Genesis 3:8-13). "Without regret" here does not mean we do not wish that we had not sinned. Nor does it mean that we will not try to avoid it in the future. But it does mean that we accept God's forgiveness and put the sin behind us (Philippians 3:13,14).

Scripture advocates confessing our sin to other believers (James 5:16) and making things right with those we have sinned against (Matthew 5:23-26). Also, sin can still have consequences in our lives (Hebrews 12:4-11; 2 Samuel 12:14). But the chief thing God demands is that we honestly admit our sin to Him rather than try to hide it.

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