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A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

ThinkstockPhotos-479441577Probably some of us, at one point or another, have tended toward one of two extreme attitudes toward confession.  The first extreme says: “Why should I confess?  My sin is paid for on the cross.  I’m forgiven.  I don’t need to be forgiven again!”  In other words, a reliance on the finished work [1]  of Jesus Christ actually becomes the basis for a belief that regular confession in the life of the Christian is not necessary.  Why is this wrong?  Well, it’s wrong because, simply put, we still sin:

 “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”[1]
You’ll notice that these verses are all in the present tense.  If we claim to have no sin–now, as Christians–then we are liars.  Even those of us who have been forgiven and accepted by God in Jesus still sometimes sin.  The next verse, then, speaks to the continual need for confession…even for people who are saved.

At the other extreme, however, we find an attitude toward confession that sees it almost as necessary to “stay” forgiven by God and remain in a state of salvation.  Some people who hold to this extreme attitude toward confession live in fear that they might die suddenly with unconfessed sin, which would put their eternal security in jeopardy.  Why is this wrong?  Ultimately, this attitude is wrong because it minimizes the power of the cross and fails to understand the finality and completeness of our justification in Jesus Christ:  “Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”[2]

These words speak to, first, the fact that justification is something God accomplishes.  Because God does it, it cannot be undone; it is finished, secure and completed! Second, we discover that Jesus is currently interceding for us before the throne of God; his blood makes the strongest argument for our salvation that can ever be made.  Then, the final question in these verses is rhetorical; the answer is “nothing!”

So, as Christians we are called to confess our sins regularly to God, but not in order to “get saved” all over again.  So, why confess?  Four reasons:

1.     A habit of confession helps remind us of the basis of our relationship with God.  When we come before God in prayer, confessing our sins, we are forced to go back to the place of forgiveness, mercy, grace, and salvation: the cross of Jesus Christ.  We remember that his sacrificial death has dealt with the punishment for our sins that we deserved and given us access into a relationship with a holy God.

2.     A habit of confession of sin helps us maintain good fellowship with our Heavenly Father.  While we don’t confess to get God to save us all over again, we do confess because we want to always be at peace – in good fellowship – with someone we love and cherish.  When I confess sin to my wife, I don’t do it because I’m scared she’ll abandon me if I don’t confess it!  But I also don’t “bank” on her faithfulness and neglect to apologize to her just because I know I’m secure in her love.  I confess sin – and ask forgiveness – in order to main good fellowship in our relationship.

3.     A habit of confession of sin keeps us humble.  In short, it reminds us that we are still sinners who are still undergoing the process of sanctification.  Making a habit of confessing sin helps us remember our sins, and it it can even make us more aware of the areas in which we need growth, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

4.     A habit of confession, finally, is the right response to unconditional love.  As we more and more understand our security in Jesus our Savior, we should more and more be willing to honestly and openly confess our sins to God.  If we weren’t sure of his unconditional love and commitment to us in Jesus, we would perhaps be more likely to try to hide our sin from him, as we would wonder if he would decide to withdraw his love from us.  But if our salvation is truly an act of God, through Jesus’ death for us that completes our justification, then we are free to confess sins out of total security in God’s unconditional love for us.  

Jon Neilson
Ministry Director at Princeton

[1] 1 John 1:8-9 (ESV)

[2] Romans 8:34-35a (ESV)