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 NKJV).
In the Bible, under the Old Covenant the priests were required to confess all the sins of the Israelites by laying their hands on the head of a live goat, a scapegoat, which carried those sins into the wilderness. In addition, the priests presented burnt offerings to make atonement for the people (Leviticus 16:10; 21-22). All this was done once a year, on the Day of Atonement, in order for the people to be cleansed of all their sins (Leviticus 16:29-30). Except on this one day, the High Priest was not allowed to go into the Most Holy place at whatever time he wanted, lest he should die (Leviticus 16:2). He was required to follow a strict protocol and also had to atone for his own sins first before making atonement for the people (Leviticus 16:6-34). Because of the Lord Jesus Christ, we now live in a new better covenant based on better promises (Hebrews 7:22; 8:6). In order to receive forgiveness of our sins, we are no longer obligated to confess our sins to earthly priests alone, but we can confess directly to the Lord. The Lord is holy and perfect and He does not need to do the rituals that earthly priests did; He was the sacrifice for our sins “once for all when he offered Himself” (Hebrews 7:27-28). We can now boldly come to the throne of God and find mercy whenever we need it (Hebrews 4:16).
Consequences of Not Confessing Our Sins
Many of us first came to the Lord Jesus Christ by confessing our sins and acknowledging that we were sinners and in need of a Savior (Luke 18:13; Mark 1:5; Romans 10:9-10). We humbly repented of our worldly ways and chose to follow the Lord. Those who are born again and filled with the Holy Spirit are able to live daily acknowledging their sins before God and others they have wronged, and repenting (1 John 3:9). However, sometimes because of fear of rejection or a hardened heart, when some Christians are confronted especially about some embarrassing sin, they will choose to hide the truth and deny any wrong-doing. A lack of humility, giving in to pride and concealing of sins are acts of wickedness. As we shared in Do Not Harden Your Heart, if we do not confess our sins, or if we deny that we have sinned, we not only deceive ourselves (1 John 1:8) but also increase the risk of having a desensitized or seared conscience that is unable to discern right from wrong (1 Timothy 4:1-2).
We have heard of some people speaking of themselves that they don’t sin or that they merely make mistakes (Proverbs 30:6). The Bible says “…There is none righteous, no, not one..” (Romans 3:30 NKJV); “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NKJV). And “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8 NKJV). Therefore, we should not excuse, minimize, or downplay our sins as mere “mistakes”; some mistakes may have fatal consequences (Ecclesiastes 5: 4-6; Jeremiah 42:19-22). While humans make many mistakes, either accidentally or ignorantly, the sins we commit hurt God, ourselves, and others. The Bible warns us that “whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4 NKJV). There also may be unintentional or hidden sins we may have committed and are unaware of, but with humility, prayer, and discernment, and as the Holy Spirit convicts us and shows us these sins, we should repent that we may be forgiven (Leviticus 4:22-31; Numbers 15:24-28; 1 John 1:9). Otherwise, as we shared in Our True Value and Identity in Christ – Part II last week, our sin will remain and we would be like the religious leaders who were blind because of their self-righteous, unrepentant attitudes (John 9:35-41).
In the Bible, we read how Ananias and Sapphira did not confess their sin, and they died immediately for lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-11). Likewise, some Christians are reluctant to own up to their wrongs and sins and have become liars, full of guilt, and lacking peace (John 9:35-41; Psalm 32:3). The Bible warns us against adding to God’s Word, because this is lying (Proverbs 30:6). Any type of lying diminishes trust and makes it hard for people to forgive you or work with you in the future. Sometimes we are deceived and cannot discern our sin and need to pray for the Lord to examine our hearts and show us our hidden sin so we can acknowledge it and repent (Psalm 19:12; 2 Corinthians 4:4). Those who claim to have not sinned lie and call God a liar (1 John 1:10; Romans 3:23; Titus 1:2). Ultimately, all liars will have their part in the lake of fire and brimstone (Revelation 21:8).
Benefits of Confessing Our Sins
Some people, especially those who falsely believe that there is no hell, will not acknowledge their sins before God, claiming that nobody can be perfect. The Lord has called us to be holy and He is able to help us (Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:15; Philippians 1:6); He is able to make us holy (Leviticus 20:8; 22:32). Furthermore, the Bible says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us our sins and purify [cleanse, purge] us from all unrighteousness [evil, wickedness iniquity] (1 John 1:9). The BLOOD OF JESUS purifies us from ALL sin (1 John 1:7).
The Bible also teaches us to confess our sins one to another and pray for one another that we may be healed (James 5:16). When we confess and repent of our sins, they are taken away (2 Samuel 12:13; Psalm 103:3, 12), the Lord also removes our guilt (Psalm 32:5), we prosper and find mercy from God and from those we have offended (Proverbs 28:13), and our peace and joy is restored (Psalm 51:12). While our sin separates us from God and grieves the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 59:2; 63:10), confession and repentance of our sins enable us to be reconciled to God and to have unity of the Spirit (Psalm 51:11; Luke 18:14; Ephesians 4:2-3).
Here are some examples of people who confessed their sins:
- Joseph’s brothers asked for forgiveness for the sins they committed against him and this caused him to weep. They humbly offered to be his slaves, but he forgave them and reassured them and spoke kindly to them (Genesis 50:15-21).
- Daniel, who was dearly beloved of the Lord, confessed his sins before God (Daniel 9:4);
- King David committed very embarrassing and serious sins committing adultery with Bathsheba and killing her husband, Uriah. When he was confronted, he acknowledged his sin and prayed for the Lord to cleanse Him (2 Samuel 12:7-14; Psalm 51:1-10).
- Ezra and the people of Israel confessed their sins (Ezra 10:1-2).
- The tax collector who was praying in the temple humbled himself before God and acknowledged his sin (Luke 18:9-14).
- The thief who hung on a cross crucified alongside the Lord Jesus Christ confessed his sin and acknowledged Christ’s righteousness (Luke 23:40-43).
Confessing our sins is part of having good character and in doing this, as we read in the Book of Ezra, we promote humility and inspire others to confess their sins as well (Ezra 10:1-2). The Lord has promised not to cast away His children who confess their sins (Leviticus 26:40-44). He resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5).
Forgiveness involves confessing our sins. Likewise, confessing of sins involves repentance and forgiveness. When someone sins against us, we are taught in the Bible to go that person and “tell him his fault between you and him alone”, and if they repent, we are to forgive them (Matthew 18:15 NKJV). If the person will not listen, then we are to seek help from other children of God (Matthew 18:16-17). When others sin against us, we are to rebuke them and if they repent, then we are to continue forgiving them not just “seven times, but seventy times seven”(Luke 17:3; Matthew 18:22 NKJV).
We have noticed how in relationships (such as marriage), some people will put another person on trial with false accusations often based on fear, personal insecurities, and speculations. They determine someone is guilty of something when that person has said they did not do it. They might say “I will not forgive you until you confess that you did A, B, and C and I know you did it because of this or that reason”. This is an unfair way to confront people because many times, we do not know people’s motives and for the sake of peace, some people will lie and tell you what you want to hear. If you are doing this, you may be forcing others to lie and remember that God is the just and fair judge (Psalm 58:11; 96:13; 98:9; James 4:12). In cases like these, it helps to give the other person the benefit of the doubt and forgive them anyway, and if they are lying God will ultimately hold them accountable. We are to forgive others whether they confess and repent or not; that we also may be forgiven (Mark 11:25; Matthew 6:15). False accusations hurt others and we are taught in the Bible not to accuse others falsely (Matthew 19:18; Exodus 23:1; Leviticus 19:16).
How to Confess Our Sins
Confessing our sins to God should be easy as it is safe. He has great mercy and will forgive and forget all of our sins when we come to Him in true repentance (Psalm 103:1-3; 12). In our relationship with others, we have noted that many people will speak a lot of accusatory words or lies, several paragraphs worth, but when they realize their error they just want to confess with one word (“Sorry!”) or two words (“I apologize”). It’s like shooting someone several times, accidentally or otherwise, but trying to treat only the least serious wound. Many people simply do not how to confess their sins and experience true peace and reconciliation with God and fellow man. Based on our experience, we are sharing the following steps below to encourage you. This is by no means exhaustive, but is a good starting point:
- Humble yourself, like King David did and ask God for help (Psalm 51:17; 88:13; 121:2): One thing that is helpful in humbling yourself is to remember that you are a child of God on a journey to Heaven. One day God will “create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17 NKJV). Therefore, it might feel humiliating to confess your sins today but the Lord will give you grace and lift you up as you go from glory to glory (James 4:6)!
- Fully acknowledge your sins and take fully take responsibility while avoiding blaming (James 5:16; Genesis 3:12 – 13): As we indicated above, many of us are good at pinpointing other people’s sins and calling them out clearly. In the same way, we should grow to be able to not just brush things over regarding our own sins by simply saying “please forgive for whatever I did” but to humbly pinpoint our sins saying something like, “please forgive me for lying, for manipulating you with my words, for hurting you by being late, for not helping you, for believing the worst of you, and […whatever other sins]”. It helps to acknowledge our sins by naming them as clearly as possible instead of brushing them off.
- Ask for forgiveness (Genesis 50:17; Psalm 25:11; 1 John 1:9).
- Repent and cease from repeating the same offense (John 8:10-11).
- Keep forgiving in your heart and praying for the person who offended you, as long as it takes until you have peace (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:28; 18:21-22). We have to grow in humility in order to confess our sins willingly. If all someone can say to you “sorry”, that might be where they are in their level of humility. If you believe it is not genuine then you may struggle with fully forgiving and letting go. As we shared in a testimony in Resolving Conflicts and Overcoming Strife – Part 2, praying for and forgiving the person continually and as long as needed should restore peace and love in your heart.
Finally, are you someone who wants to praise and glorify God forever? Do you love to please the Lord? One way to do that is by confessing your sins (Joshua 7:19). True repentance is a prerequisite to having our sins blotted out (Acts 3:19) and subsequently obtaining salvation. We should, therefore, not maintain an unrepentant sinful heart (Revelation 2:10). The Bible reminds us that “there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open” (Luke 8:17 NIV), and that “God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). Rather than trying to hide or deny our sins, it is, therefore, wise to confess our sins, repent, and submit wholly to God’s commands in humility and obedience, and remain faithful to the end.
To start living a repentant life of confessing your sins, repenting, and forgiving others by grace through the Lord Jesus Christ, please start by praying this Prayer of Salvation. For any questions or comments about this article or our ministry, please contact us.
Janet and Abes.