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The Neglected Privilege Of Confessing Our Sins To God

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Date July 14, 2005

It is a remarkable thing to note that after all of the centuries mankind has had to sin, the way men deal with their sins has never changed. The first man, Adam, foolishly tried to conceal his shame, his sin, and even himself from the Lord. His fig-leaf covering was first applied in a feeble effort to hide his shame from his own wife, while his dive into the bushes when he heard the sound of the Lord’s approach was a foolish attempt to conceal himself from the omniscient God. Apart from God’s saving grace, no child of Adam throughout all of the world’s history has ever improved upon our first parents’ futile way of dealing with their sin. We may not resort to literal fig leaves, but we do employ denial, defensiveness, and rationalization as coverings for our sin. Such suppression of the truth of our sinfulness and manifold transgressions is the only resort for any sinner apart from the Lord’s grace.

In diametric contrast to the natural man’s vain attempts to conceal his sin, those made new creatures by God’s saving grace in Christ confess their sins to the Lord, and even to one another. It seems, of course, a suicidal thing for us to admit to the holy and almighty God that we have acted against Him in offensive rebellion and ungrateful disobedience. The thought that we have transgressed against the glorious King of the universe, who has power not only to punish us bodily, but also has power to condemn our souls to the eternal anguish of hell can be and should be a terrifying thing. When we lay ourselves open to His charges of rebellion, defiance, and disobedient transgression it can seem like we are inviting a lion, whom we have aggravated, to tear us to pieces. Yet, when we confess our sins to the holy and majestic God, far from our finding Him to be enraged against us, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins (1 Jn. 1:9).

The Lord cleanses from all unrighteousness, instead of condemning, those who confess their sins to Him. He does so because He is gracious and mercifully forgiving. He who gave His only begotten Son to die for us while we were yet sinners, will not turn His heart or hand against us when we penitentially admit to Him frankly and freely that we are ones so boldly sinful that our only hope is in the merciful provision of His Son that He has made for sinners.

By the confession of our sin to our God, we acknowledge and admit that we are as bad and have done as badly as He already knows to be the case. Our confession to Him does not inform Him of anything that had escaped His notice. This fact reveals the absurdity of our attempts to conceal our sin from Him. Therefore, confession is the beginning of our right reasoning and acting. If we conceal our sin, it neither fools the divine Judge of all the earth nor does it do anything to remove the guilt, corruption, shame, and misery of our sin. In fact, concealed sin grows worse and adds the aggravating transgression of our insulting God’s omniscient knowing whatever sin we might be trying to hide from Him.

When we confess our sins, the Lord forgives us, removing from us the offending power of sin, and He cleanses us from all of the guilt, corruption, shame, and misery of our sin. If we really believed this, surely we would hasten to confess to our God our sins far more than we are inclined to do. Even as redeemed children of such a mercifully forgiving heavenly Father, we still are tempted to conceal, rather than confess our sins. It is so absurd that we should do this. It is worse than our concealing the symptoms of some grave sickness we have from the doctor who is disposed and equipped to heal us.

What I have said about our confessing our sins we have committed against God holds for our sins against each other as well. The appropriate way for us to deal with our offenses against other sinful people is not for us to deny and seek to conceal our sins against them-sins of which they more often than not have a keen and painful awareness-but, rather, to confess our sins to them and humbly ask their forgiveness.

But someone will object that if we admit our sins to other people, most of them will not forgive us, but will be enraged against us and seek to punish us for our candid admission of sin. It is true that we cannot expect forgiveness and loving reconciliation from graceless souls. However, not all souls are graceless. Our brethren, surely, will be moved more readily to forgive us when we confess our sins to them than when we seek to conceal our sins from them. Indeed, they are commanded and enabled by the Lord so to forgive us (Eph. 4:32).

With respect to those who are or act without grace, whatever they may dish out against us for our admitting that we have sinned against them is far less than we deserve. Furthermore, as all sin is ultimately against God, even if graceless souls do not accept our confession, He will accept it, and He will never refuse to bless us by forgiving and cleansing and restoring us. So let us confess more and conceal less.

William Harrell
The pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Norfolk, Virginia, USA.

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