Monday, May 30, 2011

Confessing our Sins

Some of us labor endlessly and compulsively to confess our sins.  We feel as though we must confess something every time we feel badly or feel "guilty."  I want to spend a minute or two looking at what I believe the point of confession of our sin to God is, Biblically.

First, we should look at what confession is not.  Confession is not a way to obtain God's acceptance.  It is not as though we forfeit God's acceptance and consign ourselves to hell if we have forgotten to confess a sin and, say, get suddenly hit by a bus.  Confession is also not informing God of something He doesn't know.  God is not surprised by our sin.  He knows everything in our hearts, everything about us, and He knows every sin we have committed and will commit.  He knows our every struggle and every inclination.

So what is it?  If we look at the Gospel and understand what it is about, I think we will understand the point of confession.  The "good news" is that God has provided what He requires, in Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  That is the Gospel.  What God desires is that fallen human beings, like you and I, turn to Him as Father, embracing by faith what He has done for us as a gift to remove all the obstacles of our sin and unholiness and make peace.  In short, the Gospel announces the costly-but-free open door to mankind's return to Him, in true closeness and intimacy and love and vulnerability and happiness.

Therefore, I believe the point of confessing our sins is this:  it marks our acknowledgement to Him of doing something that harms our side of our relationship with Him.  It is for our benefit.  His arms remain open to us.  When we sin, we turn from Him and our relationship with Him, if even for a moment.  Confession is a verbal acknowledgement of our heart's return, a way for us to relationally "get off our chest" what we have done and re-open ourselves to relationship with Him.  It does not cause Him to change toward us, for He never changes.

To use a human example.  Imagine that a husband and wife get into an argument.  The husband knows that the wife is right, but he is too stubborn and proud to admit it.  So he storms off, hops in the car, and races away.  After a few hours alone, he comes to grips with what he had done and what a jerk he had been.  The wife is upset, but she loves him and longs for him to come home.  Finally, he pulls into the driveway.  He comes to the door but is afraid to just come in, because he feels unworthy.  As he raises his hand to knock on the door, the wife opens the door gently. He stops for a moment in silence, looks at her, and says, "Baby, I'm sorry.  You are completely right."  She throws her arms around him and says, "I'm just glad you are home."  And they lived happily ever after...

Confessing our sins is our way of acknowledging that God is right.  It is an outward expression of our humble admission of guilt and our return to closeness with our Father.  Confession does not earn relationship -it presupposes that relationship already exists.

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