To “confess” means “to say the same thing, to agree, to admit, to acknowledge.” It is when someone looks at a truth and agrees with it. In regards to sin, it is agreeing with God on our sin. Confessing sin is saying, “God I have sinned. I agree with you it is sin. I understand how and why it displeases you.”
Some people say confession of sin is not something the Christian should bother with. They say this because Jesus’ work on the cross is finished (John 19:30). Thus, they will say if sin is paid for and justification has taken place, why am I confessing sin? But the Bible teaches the opposite.
Confessing sin is something we see in the N.T. as a characteristic of the genuine believer:
- W are told to confess our sins to one another (Jas 5:16).
- Jesus taught to us pray for forgiveness in the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:12).
- David asked after he confessed his sins with Bathsheba that he would be cleansed from his sins (Ps 51:1-2).
Just keep in mind: we are talking about acknowledging sin. We are not somehow earning salvation when we confess; we are acknowledging before God we have displeased Him.
Let me give you some practical help on confessing sin. Some will ask, “When do I confess? What about a sin against someone that is mental? Should my confession be private or public or both?
- Confession of sin – no matter the level of type of sin – should always begin with God first and foremost. David sets the example here when he prayed, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Ps 51:4). All sin violates God’s standard first and confession must begin there.
- If your sin is known or has been committed against someone, confess it to them. If you gossip about another person or say a hateful word or exasperate your child, confess your sins to them.
- The more public you sin has become, the more public your confession should be. If you sin against one person, confess to that one person. If you sinned against a group of people (e.g., a small group or church), confess your sin to that group.
- Use your own discretion or wisdom from others about confessing sins not known by others. One example of this might be lust (e.g., viewing porn). I would find it helpful to confess sins like that with your spouse, because you sin against them by not being completely devoted to them. Also, you invite accountability and encouragement. Confess sins to people that can be trusted with that knowledge and will use their position to help you.
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