Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much (James 5:16, NASB1995).
We are all sinners and confession is a huge part of our freedom in Christ.
Richard Foster, in his book Celebration of Discipline, explains the undergirding reason for confession …
Our sins cannot be called errors in judgment, nor is there any room to blame them on upbringing or family or mean neighbors. This is a Reality Therapy of the best sort since we are so prone to blame our sins on everybody and everything instead of taking personal responsibility for them.
Biblical confession is taught as an essential part of deliverance from the effects of sin. As James says, “… so that you may be healed.”
The Apostle John adds …
If we confess our sins, Jesus is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
The Bible takes sin seriously. We should too.
Sin is falling short of God’s love, peace, and joy. Hidden sin ruins our souls (no love, no peace, and no joy) while destroying our relationships with others. It is difficult to love self, others, and God, to have joy in our relationships, and to extend the grace needed for peace in our relationships – without confession.
How do we properly confess our sins?
Richard Foster shares this quote from St. Alphonsus (I hadn’t heard of him either until I read Foster’s book) …
For a good confession, three things are necessary: an examination of conscience, sorrow, and a determination to avoid sin.
I have found in following Jesus that I get a task or a point of obedience whenever I confess. If I’m not praying enough, God will challenge my time watching TV. If I need to lose weight, my conscience beats me up the next time I order a double burger with blue cheese and bacon.
Let’s consider the verbal exchange between Peter and his sermon to the Jews who had recently crucified Jesus …
Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:37-38).
The early Jews were told to be baptized in the name of Jesus.
It’s easy to lose the intensity of what Peter asked them to do. The entire nation of Israel had just crucified Jesus as a criminal. Now those who “had been pierced” with guilt were commanded to be baptized in the name of Jesus.
If we were one of the 3000 baptized, let’s imagine going home to our families afterward:
Family, “What did you do today?”
Us: “Uh, do you remember the man named Jesus who was crucified as a criminal a few months back? Well, I was just baptized in His name. He is now my Lord and Savior.”
I admit that I can quickly discover something that I’m doing wrong and it’s easy to feel sorry about it. But obeying what the Spirit indicates that I should do is another matter. I believe the Apostle Paul indicates the difficulty of a confessing life when he writes, “Work out your salvation in fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).
The goal of confession is contrite change.
It could mean making peace with others, involve a cost for restitution, and even cultural exclusion for your newfound radical obedience.
It’s worth it. There is no other path to love, joy, and peace.