True Confessions: The Role of Repentance

true confessionYou’ve heard it said, “Confession is good for the soul.” Why is this true? Because we are not made to live with guilt and shame. True confession is how God designed for people to remove guilt from their conscience. However, true confession is more than just saying some words or going through a religious ritual. Guilt not properly dealt with has the potential to create a number of emotional and psychological problems. King Saul in the Old Testament is a good example of this. To engage in true confession, we must first understand why it is necessary and, secondly, how to actually do it.

Confession – Why it is necessary
Confession for our sin is necessary because all of us sin (Romans 3:23). Confession has two sides two it: the people side and the God side. Dealing with our wrongs requires a person to make things right with God and people. Because of space limitations, this article with only deal with the God side. First is the confession of sin to God in relation to our need of a Savior. However, confessing sin and our need of a Savior is not the end of the need to confess sin. Salvation removes the penalty of sin and brings us into a relationship with God through Christ. But it does not immediately remove our sin nature from us. The Apostle Paul discovered that the law of sin was in operation in his flesh (Romans 7:21-24). Because he lived in the same body after he was saved as before, he realized he would be struggling with sin as long as he lived in his earthly body. It would not be until the resurrection when he received his glorified body that he would be free from the presence of the sin nature. Until then, Paul realized he would still sin at times and need to confess that sin to God to maintain unbroken fellowship with him.

What God desires of believers
Galatians 5:16-17 tells us that these two natures – the flesh and the Spirit – war against each other. God desires us to walk in the Spirit so we would not fulfill the evil desires of the flesh. This would be accomplished by being filled or controlled by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). God tells us that every believer died with Christ and has been raised to walk in a new life (Romans 6:6). Baptism is a picture of this spiritual reality (Romans 6:4). This is still a work in progress and will not become a reality until the resurrection. God puts the positional and the practical together in a verse like 1 John 2:1. He says do not sin, but if you do, you have an advocate—Christ. Christ is the one to whom we confess sin.

What true confession looks like
As was said before, true confession is not just saying words like, “I have sinned.” Judas and King Saul did this but were not forgiven. Confession means to say the same thing as another or agree with another; in this case, God. Genuine confession that results in God’s forgiveness involves the soul – the mind, emotions and will of a person. The Holy Spirit works in all three of these areas. In the emotions, we experience what is called conviction or godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:9-10). This godly sorrow brings about repentance (v. 10). Repentance is a change of mind. A person changes how they think about their self, God and their sin. They admit, “What I did was sinful, God is right and I am wrong” (Psalm 51:3-4). This leads to a decision of the will: “I will turn from my sin to God.” This produces a change in the life. The repentance is in regard to both the fruit (a specific sin) and the root (the sin nature)—1 John 1:8-9.

The results of true confession
When we properly confess our sin, God promises to forgive us and restore us to fellowship with him (1 John 1:9). We are still God’s children, but we need to know there is nothing between our soul and the Savior. We are close again – fellowship restored. A person simply believes God’s promise to forgive and accepts the fact he has been forgiven. Unfortunately some struggle in this area and can’t believe they have been forgiven or can’t forgive themselves. To not forgive self is to doubt God and to question his Word. There may be consequences and regrets from past wrongs in our life. However, God will meet you where you are, forgive, and take your life forward from there. Who are you to not forgive what God has? The Apostle Paul could have spent the rest of his life after his salvation in regret and depression for how he persecuted the church and ruined some people’s lives. He couldn’t change his past, so he learned the lessons, let it go, and moved forward to a life of fruitfulness for God (Philippians 3:13). True confession will cleanse your spirit of guilt and help you be fruitful for God again.

Dr. John Hawkins, along with his son, John Jr., runs Gateway Counseling Center in Boynton Beach. He can be reached by visiting gatewaycounseling.com.

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