If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (ESV)
Do you want to be forgiven of your sins? Dumb question huh? All of us want to be free from the guilt that accompanies our sins. Now, if we don’t experience any conviction or guilt for our sins we’re in deep trouble. The only way that is possible is for the Holy Spirit to be absent from our hearts meaning we have not been born again (Romans 8:16). When the Holy Spirit abides in us he convicts us of sin (John 16:8). If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8 ESV)
According to John, the way we are forgiven of our sins is by confessing them. The word confess here means to assent or acknowledge. We must acknowledge that we have sinned, not with a flippant “everybody sins” attitude but a confession accompanied with godly sorrow. The apostle Paul wrote, For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:10 ESV) When we confess we are in essence agreeing (assent) with God that what we have done is sin against him; it is a breaking of his commandments or rules, sins = unrighteousness.
King David is a great example of how we should confess our sins. When Nathan the prophet spoke with David after David’s sin with Bathsheba and her husband Uriah, David humbled himself in repentance. In Psalm 51 he acknowledged and assented that what he had done were sins by calling them transgressions, sin, and evil (Psalm 51:1-4). In another place David wrote, I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah (Psalm 32:5 ESV)
Our motive for confessing our sins and desiring forgiveness is eternally important. Do we just want to be free from guilt? Do we just want to punch our ticket to heaven? Our motives should be to be cleansed from all unrighteousness; to be cleansed of everything that has offended God and grieved the Holy Spirit who lives in us (Ephesians 4:30).
To whom do we confess our sins? I believe there is a two-part answer to that question. First, David confessed to God, Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. (Psalm 51:4 ESV) Secondly, James told us to confess to one another. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16 ESV) There are some things we need to confess to God alone. However, on other occasions confessing to God and to someone we trust is necessary for our healing.
Regardless to whom we confess our sins we do not receive forgiveness if we do not confess. And our fellowship with God is broken. Solomon wrote, Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. (Proverbs 28:13 ESV) However, thanks be to God that he is faithful to his covenant and through the blood of Jesus his mercy abounds to us. When we confess, he forgives and cleanses.
Have you confessed your sins?
Scriptures for meditation: