Spiritual Growth

Sin and Confession

Rick James

When we sin, or fall short of God’s standard, we instinctively feel a judicial impulse that someone must pay a price for our wrongdoing. Deep down, we really don’t believe that anyone should get off scot-free. We try to decide who’s going to pay the price for our offense, and there are different ways we may do this.

My Treat

“I am pig swill.” This is one of the phrases I use when I’m beating myself up for having fallen into the same trap of sin yet again. There’s no copyright on it, so feel free to use it.

In essence, what I’m doing is crucifying myself for the sin I’ve committed. Yes, what Jesus did was nice, but I’m going to take this one on myself. Someone must pay, and rightfully it should be me, so I pound myself for my stupidity.

You Pay

“You — you made me sin.” That “you” could be any person, it could be Satan, or it could even be God. In any case, someone needs to take the fall for the sin I’ve just committed, and I’ll be darned if it’s going to be me.

No Harm, No Foul

“Now that you mention it, I’m not sure that really was a sin.” Recognize this? It’s called self-justification. And as the word implies, we decide to make a judgment over and against our conscience, declaring that what we did was actually right, or at least not that wrong. Why go to the effort? Because someone must pay for sin — unless, of course, there is no sin to be paid for. That’s what we’re shooting for in this approach: to eliminate the offense.

I Had To

“I couldn’t help myself, it’s just my personality.” Let’s call this rationalizing, which is equivalent to the courtroom plea of insanity. What I’m saying here is, “Yes, it was sin, but I didn’t have the moral capacity to say no. My personality was such and circumstances were such that I could do no other than what I did.”

This strategy is as effective as you are at convincing yourself that it’s really not your fault. I’m pretty gullible, so I usually believe myself.

What Is Confession?

We are all brilliant lawyers, but try as we might, the judge, God, is not hearing any of it. It’s true that when we feel the conviction of sin, someone needs to pay the penalty and suffer the consequences. But someone already has — 2,000 years ago — so our plea bargaining was never needed. What is needed is for us to confess our sins.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, New International Version).

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Confession is the acknowledgment of our specific sin and the personal application of it to Christ’s death on the cross. Confession is an expression of faith that results in our experiencing what God has already done for us through the death of His Son.

Christ died for each and every one of our sins. Confession is the means by which we experience the mercy, forgiveness and cleansing of Jesus’ sacrifice.

How to Confess

The Greek word for “confession” literally means “to say the same thing” or “to agree with.” This sheds some light on what is involved in confession.

In prayer, we first agree with God that we have sinned (this stands in contrast to the alternatives we looked at). Second, we agree with God that Christ’s death paid for that specific sin. And last, we agree with God to turn away from that sin and ask Him to empower us to do so (this is called repentance).

How Often Should We Confess Our Sin?

You should confess sin whenever God makes you aware of it throughout the day. It’s also not a bad idea to comb your mind whenever you have the opportunity for an extended time of prayer.

But I Don’t Feel Forgiven

This is something everyone struggles with. I’ve often wondered which makes God sadder: the sin itself or not receiving the forgiveness He has purchased for us. I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out to be the latter: one is a moral failure, the other a failure of faith. One heightens our need for Jesus’ death, the other empties it of its power.

God won’t end His relationship with us because of sin. By virtue of our new birth, we will forever be His children and He will always be our Father. But as with any relationship, sin does hinder fellowship. If you’ve confessed your sin, then your guilt has been forgiven and your fellowship with God has been completely restored. Yet for some sins – those ground-in, tough-to-get-out stains — you may find that feelings of guilt linger. To help in feeling forgiven, try these two exercises.

  1. Write out on a piece of paper every sin you’ve committed that comes to mind. Next, write out across the list the words of 1 John 1:9:

    “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

    Then thank God, rip up the list, and throw it away.

  2. Although we can’t see God, sometimes others can model His forgiveness to us. This is why Scripture tells us, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). Who could you connect with weekly to share your struggles and prayer requests and to confess your sins?

More Helpful Resources on Sin and Confession: 

A Legacy of Changed Lives

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