The Liberation of Confession – Bethel Church and Ministries

The Liberation of Confession

Habits of Grace series

There are several aspects of the Christian life that are arguably much easier than others. Church attendance is possible to accomplish in anonymity. Bible reading can be done privately. Theological and practical podcasts can be listened to in the car and/or while exercising. Many pray before meals and big events. Habits of grace such as these do not demand as much of us if we do not desire them to.

Confession though is much different. At any given moment, whether we are by ourselves in extreme privacy, driving (alone, but surrounded by scores of people), with a small group, or when confronted – confession often feels uncomfortable. This is (likely) because acknowledging and exposing our sins, offenses, faults, mistakes, and shame is difficult. It stirs the heart as it forces the believing confessor to recognize they have failed not just their standard, but God’s standard.

I have long thought confession gets a bad reputation. Certainly, it is difficult. And it brings to light things that many wish would be left secret. But is that not the very point of the gospel? God became man and dwelt among us (John 1:14), that He would die and take away the power of sin and eternal condemnation. Yet all the same, because confession does not make us feel good, we naturally trend toward avoiding it. We trend toward only thinking of it as acknowledging what we have done wrong, and not a continuing essential habit on the path of sanctification.

Friends, it is confession of sin that is directly connected to the work of salvation itself. Confession is acknowledging we violated the standard of our Maker (Isaiah 66:2; Nehemiah 9:6). But it is in this acknowledgment we find the offer of forgiveness of said violation.

Though fully forgiven when we embrace these gospel-realities, we are not fully rid of sin, and thus, still, battle with it (Romans 6:19; Galatians 5:17; James 4:1; 1 Peter 2:11). Sin remains a part of human life until we meet Jesus face to face in heaven. As such, confession remains a vital part of the Christian life. Confession is much more than a one-time act; it is a habit of grace that should be a vibrant, ongoing part of our lives. As long as we are being changed into the likeness of Jesus, we should be confessing when we violate God’s standard. Given this, it is much more than an airing of wrongs; it is the continuation of recognizing our need for Jesus in a relationship made right by His grace.

Consider what the Apostle John wrote of this in the often-quoted verse, 1 John 1:9:

“If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

This verse is active intense, implying the ongoing work of confession in the life of a follower of Jesus. But it is also active when describing God. When a believer confesses, God is faithful to forgive and cleanse. There are no additional qualifiers. No additional work. No secret password or handshake. God desires us to confess, and He responds with loving forgiveness and cleansing.

Confession should not be labor for us; it should be a joyous release resulting in further relational reconciliation. This way of thinking about confession demands a shift in our thinking. We must transition away from considering it as something that must be done in the dark, to something celebrated in the light as liberation from sin! This is among the reasons why James writes that confession should sometimes occur in the community (James 5:16).

Having considered this, maybe you are asking where and how to start. Below are some accessible ways to grow in this habit of grace.

· First, add confession to your personal prayer life. Have a daily prayer time, and ensure confession is among the components you incorporate. I recommend a three-step process for ease: recognize, repent (confess), request. If you are interested in more insight into this process, check this out.

· Second, when you confess, start broad and work narrow.

o God, please forgive me for my attitude.

o God, please forgive me when I did not think or act in self-control.

These are good, narrow statements that act as a catalyst to draw the narrow, specific things to mind.

o God, please forgive me for speaking unkindly to my spouse.

o God, please forgive me for being angry at my friend or coworker for attaining something I wanted or thought I deserved.

o God, please forgive me for allowing my mind to wander toward inappropriate thoughts about that person.

· Third, be accountable and in community. Get connected with other solid Christians, in a small group, or in a care and recovery ministry. Share your struggles. Engage in corporate repentance together. Pray for one another as you do.

· Finally, be quick to confess when you wrong someone else, and quicker to forgive. While this is easier said than done, it keeps a liberation-from-sin mindset at the forefront of our mind and prevents us from slipping back into confession only being associated with condemnation and shame.

Fellow believers, let us live openly confessing, liberated lives in Jesus together!