“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Romans 3:23). Not the most encouraging news, and no big secret there. Many of our sins are easy to identify, easy to address, and easy to confess. We don’t mind telling people we struggle with impulse shopping, overeating, too much caffeine, impatience, a cuss word or two, but when you go beyond the veneer, there are things we hope not even God sees. The sin we hide in a closet, basement, buried under a tree (or whatever hidden location metaphor works best for you) is to be kept there. Truth is, God sees and knows all of our sinful “stuff”, even the “stuff” we have stuffed down into the basement of our lives, hoping no one will ever see them. This is true of me! The “stuff” I don’t want people to know about, I keep it hidden. I think the reason King David had the courage to confess and repent was he knew he couldn’t keep anything from the Lord (Psalm 51). Why play the game of hide and seek with your sin when the One counting can see everything…even the depths of our hearts. David’s sin wasn’t news to God, and neither is ours.
What is the difference between “confession” and “repentance”? Confession involves admitting (often in specifics) that what we did was wrong and is more than an “I’m sorry.” Repentance involves a desire and action to change course away from sin and move your life direction towards God. We are to not only acknowledge our sin but take steps to overcome and forsake it. Confession without repentance is mere words.
We are always at a confession crossroads, a place of decision: Do I humble myself, allow those I trust to hear my confession, and keep me accountable in my repentance? David’s deliverance came when he refused to stay silent about his sin. He also had the prophet Nathan to help him navigate his repentance. The Bible presents two avenues for the confession of sin. First, we are to confess our sins to God. “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9). Think of it as an act of worship to the Lord. We confess and repent of our sins; he forgives, cleanses, and is exalted.
So, who knows what sins you have hiding in your closet? Have you allowed anyone into your basement where you hide the “stuff” of your deepest darkest sins? I ask this question because the second avenue, and the most difficult, is to confess our sins to other believers who we trust. James 5:16 tells us, “Confess your sins to each other (people who love you and have your back) and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” With every promise (healing and wonderful results), there is an obedient responsibility on our part (confess your sins to each other). Wait, you want me to tell someone about the bitterness I carry, the animosity I have towards people, the lust and porn I entertain, or the myriad of other areas I like to keep on the down low? The simple answer is a resounding YES! We buy into the lie if no one knows about my sin; no one gets hurt, including my pride. Know this, the sins we think we have covered can be eternally covered by the blood of Jesus…once we confess and repent of them.
Confessing to someone is not the least bit fun; in fact, it can be extremely terrifying, but would you risk a few moments of embarrassment for a lifetime of freedom? If the people you are trusting with your life truly love you, have your back, and will walk through this “shadow of the valley of death” with you, the results will be a new sense of victory and an even deeper level of relational equity with them. It is a painful but necessary “win-win”.
Here are three simple steps toward your freedom and victory through confession and repentance: