We often think of confession as something which is more relevant to sinners or the unsaved than to Christians. However, many verses in the Bible about confession are directed to Christians. It should be noted that , while confession and repentance are not synonymous, repentance should be an essential component of confession. In 1 John 1:9 we are told ‘if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ And in James 5:16 we are instructed to ‘confess your faults one to another and pray one for another.’ In both cases the writer is addressing Christians and their need for confession.
Throughout the Old and New Testaments confession plays an essential role in the lives and accomplishments of some of the major players in Biblical history.1) Before Daniel received a visit from the angel Gabriel who gave him a vision of the coming of the Messiah and the events of the end times, he humbled himself before God and confessed ‘I was praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people.’ (Daniel 9:20)2) When Isaiah saw the majesty of the Lord in the temple he realized his own sinfulness and confessed ‘Woe is me! for I am a man of unclean lips’. (Isaiah 6:5) This occurred before he wrote one of the greatest books of the Bible.3) Job was described as a ‘perfect and upright man’, yet after a direct conversation with God he declared ‘I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.’ (Job 42:6)
Revival is something we often pray for but very few of us get to experience. It is accepted that revival must begin within the church, or the body of Christ. Why do we see so few revivals today? Could it be that there is a lack of confession of, or genuine repentance from sin among Christians?Although forgiven Christians will not be judged and condemned for their sins, John tells us that ‘if we say we have no sin we lie.’ Maybe we forget or overlook the fact that Christians sin in unique ways, since their thoughts and actions should be in obedience to the will of God and under the direction of the Holy Spirit. The Bible clearly defines ‘quenching or grieving’ the Holy Spirit by Christians as sin. In contrast, the unsaved are for the most part unaware of God’s will for them as they do not have the Holy Spirit to guide them. Christians may also sin in ways that are not obvious to them. In Psalm 19 David wrote ‘Cleanse me from secret faults’ and ‘keep back thy servant from presumptuous sins.’
Why is confession so important to Christians and what are the typical ways in which Christians sin? Probably the majority of sins for which a Christian will have to account are sins of omission, or failure to do the things God would expect us to do. This would include the following:
1) do we ‘love God with all our hearts and souls and minds and strength?’2) are we good stewards of the time, treasure and talents God has entrusted us with?3) do we take advantage of the opportunities to witness that God places before us in our daily lives?4) even in our worship do we seek to glorify God only, or are we often guilty of going through the motions?
Probably the greatest problem with unconfessed sin is that it interferes with or breaks our fellowship with God, and results in God not hearing or answering our prayers. In light of this, David asks God to search him with the familiar words ‘Search me O God and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts.’ In this case David is not relying on his own ability to examine himself but is asking God to search his heart. When we pray like that we can be assured that God, Who is omniscient, will reveal even our secret or presumptuous sins and invite us to seek His forgiveness and cleansing.