“Confessing sin” sounds so intense doesn’t it?
It brings up images (for me, at least) of a catholic confessional or your final words with a priest when on death row.
But, it’s not suppose to be so distant in the life of a Christian, is it?
We see confession and repentance as an important act all throughout Scripture. In the Old Testament with the entire sacrificial system and lifestyle ordained by God – and even Jesus Himself confirming this for Christians as His primary message was a call for us to repent of sin and turn to Him for forgiveness (Mark 1:15, Luke 13:5).
(And, note that repentance absolutely confirms confessing sin, as without confession, you have nothing to repent for.)
This is later confirmed in Acts where the primary message of the church to unbelievers is to “repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out.” (Acts 3:19).
All of these examples show that we need to confess and repent of our sins for salvation, but why should we repent of sins after we’re saved?
Repentance as a lifestyle
Ongoing repentance in a Christian’s life is such an important topic that it was the first of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses:
“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Matthew 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”
As Luther pointed out, scripture points to a daily/frequent repentance – not just a single repentance to become a Christian.
This is alluded to in the sacrificial system laid out in the Old Testament where there were times of “whole covering” sacrifices, but then there were also “trespass” offerings and other types that were done on an “as needed” basis.
Now, as Christians, we do not have a need for a sacrifice to be made beyond what Jesus has already done, His work on the cross as our sacrifice is complete and forever. However, we are told to continue to confess and repent of sin in our lives because, although we have been made righteous before God, we are still imperfect in our actions.
We see this lifestyle as described in James 5:16 where James writes:
“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
And also in 1 John 1:9
“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
These are not descriptions of repentance for salvation, but for the daily struggles of sin we still have even though we are saved.
So, why is ongoing repentance important?
The obvious question is “why is ongoing repentance important”? If this is not repentance for salvation, then why would God tell us to do this?
I think there are a lot of good reasons for this, but here are the two most important factors I can think of:
1. Confession and repentance keep us focused on the Gospel and the ongoing grace and mercy of Jesus in our lives
Think about it this way: without ongoing repentance, it would be dangerously easy to grow prideful in our salvation. It would be all too easy to think that we have life together and that although the Gospel was something we needed “back then” we don’t need God’s grace for today.
Repentance is the quickest way to bring ourselves back to the reality that we are imperfect, in need of a Savior and that we need God even for our every breath.
And, as a side-note, having a constant reminder of our need for God’s grace is the only surefire way to keep us humble, which is by far the best way for us to live life, since we are told multiple times in scripture that God “Opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble” (Proverbs 29:23, Matthew 23:12, Luke 1:52, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5)
2. Confession and repentance bring a constant reminder of who we are and who God is making us to be
Or put another way: when we have an active life of confession and repentance, it helps us recalibrate and realign with God’s will and plan for our life.
Think about it this way: without ongoing repentance, God might never work out the character flaws or other “rough edges” from of your life. Although the Gospel brings about our justification, it is also meant to bring about our sanctification (our becoming more like Jesus).
Paul actually wrote to Titus specifically reminding him that the Gospel was meant to bring about our salvation and to transform us into a people who “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age…” (Titus 2:11-14).
God wants us to grow in holiness and Christ-likeness, and this will not happen without the ongoing confession and repentance of sin and shortcomings as God reveals them to us in our lives.
An awesome (and surprising) side benefit of confessing sin and repenting
About a year ago, I remember reading about a study that had been done by the Barna group on what brought about the most evangelistic change in Christians. They were looking to see what could be done in churches today to help the average Christian share the Gospel more frequently in their day to day lives.
And do you know what they found?
It wasn’t how many Bible studies attended
It wasn’t how involved they were in church
Or if they were part of a small group.
The factor that caused the most amount of evangelistic growth in groups of Christians was simply an increase in confessing sin to one another and repenting of their sin.
Isn’t that crazy???
The two seem so unrelated… but are they really?
Because, as we make a purposeful choice to confess sin more frequently…
We are actively choosing to remind ourselves that the Gospel is for us, today…
And as we engage with and are humbled by the Gospel for ourselves
How could we not increase our sharing the Gospel with others?
I think what we so often lack, as Christians, is that we believe the cross, our repentance and the Gospel was for yesterday. It was for “back when I really needed Jesus”.
But when we remember that we need Jesus today.
And we come to Jesus with our sin, today
We will be more humble,
More engaged with His mercies
And, of course
We won’t be able to brush by those around us without telling them about this good news that we are experiencing today.
Good news, today.
So, may you refresh your hearts in God’s Gospel, grace and mercy, today.
Whether you’ve been saved 1 day, or 100 years, you can enjoy the Good News just as much as you did when you were first saved. And I guarantee you, that when you do, you’ll have a deeper passion and desire to tell others of this great love you’ve found in Jesus.