Have You Confessed Lately?
To many people, the subject of confession is a foreign matter. It is not something that most people think about, unless under unusual circumstances.
Maybe we bump into someone as we are going into or out of a store, and we dutifully say, “I’m sorry.” We may drop something before a person and simply say, “Excuse me!” We may go so far as to recognize that we’ve insensitively said something we shouldn’t have, and we work up the humility to admit, “I’m sorry for saying that!” All of this is right and should be done.
But have any of our confessions been filled with more substance? We know that God wants us to regularly confess our sins to Him and seek His forgiveness. As John the apostle admonishes us, “If we confess our sins, He [God] is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Our confession of sins—whether sins of commission or sins of omission—must be a regular part of our prayer life, if we expect God to forgive us. After all, if we sin against God, it is only right that we confess our sins to Him, personally.
There is even a place to confess our sins to other brothers and sisters. As James writes, “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed” (James 5:16a). Admittedly, this instruction may be interpreted in more than one way, but at the least it is saying that we should have the humility to admit our sins to others. Do we do this?
What if we sin against another person? We fear that often this sort of sin is put out of our mind. We may deliberately push it aside with the excuse, “Yes, I know that what I did was selfish (or dishonest, or unkind, or plain wrong), but he (or she) is more to blame than I was. He committed the major sin against me—and I only committed a minor sin against him!” It is true that usually one person is more to blame than another one; however, we must not lose sight of the fact that any sin—any amount of sin and blame—brings guilt and God wants us to admit even offenses like this!
Suppose you plan to pray or read your Bible or sing or go to a Christian meeting. While in the planning stages, you somehow remember that you have sinned against another person. What should you do?
Jesus addresses this situation in Matthew 5:23-24. Admittedly, our Lord is speaking about sins against our “brother” (presumably a fellow-Christian), but the principle would probably apply to some extent to unbelievers as well, especially those who are family members or others close to us. Notice what Jesus tells us:
If you are presenting your offering at the altar [in Jerusalem], and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.
We realize that the precise situation envisioned here cannot be duplicated today since the altar in Jerusalem no longer exists and even the temple no longer exists (as of AD 70). However, surely we can derive a principle here. If we are going to public worship or even private prayer, and there remember that your fellow-Christian (or others) have a legitimate claim against you because of your sins against him or her, what should you do? Jesus would say to place your fellow believer as your priority and seek his or her forgiveness and only after this presume to worship or have fellowship with God—the God who loves you both!
We doubt that most people make a regular practice of confessing sins to a person that has been offended. I seldom receive such a confession of guilt before me. How about you? Do you regularly confess your wrongs to other people? This should be done all year long—from January to December. However, it would be appropriate before the end of this year! How good to enter a new year with your conscience cleared and purified because you were willing to admit your wrong before another person and thereby obtain his or her forgiveness.
I challenge you to do today what you know you should. Be willing to honestly, humbly, openly confess your sins against anyone you have sinned against! Begin to practice confession today and all through the year!