I have a confession to make: I only recently became a Christian. It happened on August 11, 2016, to be exact.
Don’t get me wrong: I’ve been reading the Bible for years. I did my best to follow the teachings of Jesus. I professed Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior.
But there was still something missing.
I didn’t know this until last August. My family had been plagued by demons for several years, and in the course of our deliverance, I discovered two things were missing from my faith. One seems obvious now: I had not yet accepted forgiveness for my past sins, some of which I thought were unforgivable.
The other was less obvious: I was still a sinner, and I failed to confess my current sins.
I should rephrase that. I am still a sinner. I continually fall short of what God wants for me. I suffer from sloth, fear, and doubt. Occasionally I fall into greed and gluttony. And selfishness is a regular companion. What’s more, I act on these defects of character with alarming frequency.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)
Whether I can, in this life, be cleansed of all unrighteousness is a matter for debate that I will not go into here. My point is, it hasn’t happened yet. And confession is the means by which I bring my sin before God and ask for his forgiveness through Jesus Christ.
Having unconfessed sins separates me from God. It also provides a gateway for demons, those evil spirits whose torment I would in the future like to avoid.
[C]onfess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (James 5:16)
Often I find it necessary to confess my sins directly to God, in order to do so in a timely manner. However, I find it much more beneficial to confess in the presence of another Christian. Shared confession, like shared prayer, is powerful. And, so far as I know, each person I have chosen to share my confession with has accepted it with respect and confidentiality. The relationship between sincere believers is also powerful.
As I encounter other Christians in the world, I am often amazed that confession is so little talked about. Most admit to being sinners, yet to hear them talk, it is as if they never sin. They seem to see no need for confession. Maybe they don’t sin. I’m not here to judge, though John’s letter strongly suggests that they may be overlooking something.
Some tell me that their sins are forgiven– as indeed they are, but only after they have been confessed.
Some look at me blankly, as if the idea of sin never occurred to them.
So here is my invitation to you:
Consider the three passages below, honestly asking yourself if your life reflects them as fully as you believe the Bible intends.
[T]he righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:37-40)
For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (Ephesians 2:9)
You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren? (James 2:19-20)
If the answer is yes, ask yourself again. If it is still yes, congratulations. You’re a better Christian than I am.
But if, as I suspect is true with most of us if we get honest, the answer is that we fall short, I invite you to find a suitable person and confess your sins. Because that’s part of the deal God made with us, part of the New Covenant. And it’s also a way to become closer to God.
I’ve tried it both ways. Living in confession is better.