“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).
GOD’S GRACE IS A SOURCE OF JOY TO US. Where would we be if He were not “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”? But God’s forgiveness requires honesty on our part. Writing to Christians, John said, “If we confess our sins,” God will accept our honesty and forgive us.
What does it mean to “confess” our sins? It means acknowledging what the sins are that we need to be forgiven of. This is far more than a generic statement that we “haven’t done as well as we should.” In confession, we specifically name the sins we are guilty of, acknowledging the full, unvarnished truth about our disobedience. Rather than pleading extenuating circumstances that might diminish our guilt, we confess the aggravating circumstances that make our guilt even worse than it might have been otherwise. In our own “trial,” so to speak, we accuse ourselves more thoroughly than any of the witnesses — saying exactly what the sin was and why it was so wrong, sparing no detail and offering no excuse.
Anyone who has ever done this knows how painful it is. It comes from “a broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17), and it hurts. But the joy of forgiveness is on the other side of this sorrow, and the process of confessing our sins and properly grieving them should not be rushed through. One reason many Christians have so little joy is that they have paid too little attention to the process of confession and grief for their sins. Eager to be happy, they have avoided the very thing that could have made them truly rejoice.
But in addition to God, is there anyone else to whom we should confess our sins? In some cases, yes. If anyone else has suffered loss or damage by our sin, we must acknowledge how we have hurt them and seek to make whatever restitution is possible. In addition, there may be others we will want to confess our sins to because they love us and will be a great help to us as we learn to repent and live differently. Hard though it is, confession is one of the best parts of God’s plan for our redemption. It is a blessing because it is a courageous step in the direction of truth.
“Confession, which means to agree with God regarding our sin, restores our fellowship. It is a form of discipline which God requires” (Erwin W. Lutzer).