Courage for life Blog

Confession: What It Means and Why It Matters

August 8, 2023

Do you practice confession? Confession is regularly spending time with God talking to Him about your sin and asking Him for forgiveness. Since God already knows your sin, why would you go through the process of confession? Because regularly confessing your sin and seeking forgiveness from God demonstrates you desire to have continuous, unhindered fellowship with God.

Everyone sins (reference Romans 3:23) and needs God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ to establish a relationship with God (i.e., salvation). After you receive the gift of God’s grace through Jesus, you are in a right relationship with God, but you still sin (reference Romans 3:24-25; 7:14-8:16). When you sin, after salvation, your relationship with God remains secure through Jesus, but your fellowship with God is disrupted or hindered, not because God loves you less or wants to condemn you, but because you chose sin over fellowship with God.

When confessing to God, be specific about your sin to acknowledge that you are aware of God’s expectations for your relationship with Him. Also, confession of specific sin demonstrates that you agree with God that you sinned against Him, and you take responsibility and ownership for not remaining in fellowship with God. When you are generic in your confession to God, instead of specific, you fail to go through the relational effort to talk with God about your knowledge and ownership of your specific sin and show your lack of understanding of what your sin does to your fellowship with God.

In 1 John 1:5-10, the apostle John compares light and darkness, contrasting God and His character to humans and our sinfulness. John explains how our sin is a hinderance to genuine fellowship with God.

This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 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. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts. 1 John 1:5-10

John knows that fellowship with God leads to an abundant life full of joy (reference 1 John 1:4). However, sin disrupts fellowship with God and robs those in relationship with God through Jesus of the joy found in continuous fellowship with God. When John declares, “God is light and there is no darkness in Him at all” (1 John 1:5), he is defining God as perfect, holy, righteous, pure, and sinless. Therefore, when your relationship with God is not healthy, joy-filled, and growing, John is placing the fault with you, not God. John is not talking about your salvation but rather your fellowship with God has been compromised temporarily because you have chosen to “go on living in spiritual darkness” (1 John 1:5).

The phrase “go on living” is also translated “walking” which indicates action or activity. God is active in the world and your life through Jesus. God desires that you “walk with Him,” meaning that you are active in your daily life doing things with God. However, God does not expect perfect obedience from you after salvation. God knows you are sinful and loves you evidenced by His justification of you through your belief in Jesus. After salvation, when you sin, Jesus cleanses you from your sin to restore your fellowship with God (reference 1 John 1:7, 9).

God makes you a promise.

“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). God makes a way for you to restore fellowship with Him after you have sinned. By faith in God, who He is – faithful and just – you confess your sin and receive His forgiveness and cleansing which restores your fellowship with Him.

Confession is also about not lying to yourself and denying that you sin. Being honest with yourself, acknowledging your sin before God and agreeing with God about your sin, maintains your fellowship with God and reflects you know the truth about reality as presented by God in His Word (reference 1 John 1:6, 10).

The more regularly you spend time with God confessing your sin demonstrates you know God through Jesus and understand God’s grace more fully. By faith in God, you receive right standing before God for salvation (reference Romans 3 and 5) and after salvation, you continually receive forgiveness of sin and cleansing by faith in God’s promise to respond to your belief in Jesus – God’s grace toward you.

God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:20-21

The more you study God’s Word and know God, the more you realize that God thinks favorable toward you and loves you intensely, even though you sin. God’s Word teaches you what sin is, and God exposes your own sin to you and convicts you of breaking fellowship with Him. The more you walk with God daily and study God’s Word the clearer your sin becomes. After salvation, you would expect God to be angry with you or judge you or punish you for sinning continually, but God’s grace is so amazing that it becomes more abundant the more you sin (reference Romans 5:20). The apostle Paul was not advocating that you sin more to experience more of God’s grace. He was explaining that a true understanding of God’s grace is that you can never sin so much that God’s grace is not greater than your sin. God’s grace does not accommodate your sin or promote sinning, it defeats your sin through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection (reference Romans 5:1-2). God’s grace abounds in your life when you resist sin, but also when you regularly confess your sin to God.

How do you know when you have sinned against God and need to confess?

God provides His Word to help you understand and know God – His character, His love, and His relational expectations for you. Consistently, spending time with God listening to and reading the Bible will help you grow in your knowledge of God, yourself, and your sin. Confession is speaking back to God the same thing God has said to you in His Word. You concede that what God has said in the Bible is true about sin and you want to live in accordance with what God intended your life to be with Him. Therefore, confession is saying the same thing about your sin that God says about it. You acknowledge agreement with God about your sinful thoughts, actions, speech, motives, behaviors, etc. When you refuse to make confession a part of your regular time with God, you hinder your fellowship with God. When you sin, you have offended the heart of God. God is willing and able to forgive your sin and wants you to be in continual fellowship with Him. Confession invites God to provide you with what you need – you need to be forgiven. God can set you free to be in fellowship with Him. You confess to God your sin and through God’s grace He offers forgiveness to you.

Why practice confession?

To live in continual fellowship with God and experience the abundant life He intended for you to live with Him. Confession is your acknowledgement of sin to God. Confession can be public among other followers of Jesus or private between you and God. Confession is your agreement with God that you have sinned against Him. You are agreeing with God’s perspective of reality and viewpoint about sin.

Regularly practicing confession in your relationship with God demonstrates that you desire spiritual growth. You confess as a part of your relational work to ensure your relationship with God is healthy and growing. Confession is not just the “words” you say or the “feelings” you feel, but rather confession includes your identification of your sin, your acknowledgment of your sin, and your agreement with God about your sin. Ultimately, confession is you agreeing with God’s viewpoint about you, sin, and His desire to be in continual fellowship with you.

Watch the LIVE REPLAY to discover why confessing your sins fosters self-awareness, renewal, and a deeper connection with God. Join us LIVE every Monday at 3 p.m. ET on @GodGivesCourage Instagram for our Spiritual Growth Series and check back here on Tuesdays for the companion blog post.

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