Everyone has sinned (Romans 3:23), which means we all have something to confess at times. And there are multiple places in God’s Word where we are instructed to confess sins to God and to one another (Proverbs 28:13; James 5:16; 1 John 1:7-10).
However, it’s safe to say that many people are reluctant to confess sins. After all, nobody ever said that confession is fun. And there can perhaps be questions about why you need to confess a specific sin when all your sins have been paid for on the cross.
So why should you confess sin? In Watermark’s re:generation ministry, Step 5 is all about confession, including the question of why you should confess sin. Here are some of those reasons, condensed from the re:generation lessons.
Why We Should Confess
Many people tend to see confession as a negative thing, almost as if the confession itself is a form of punishment for what they’ve done. However, confession is actually a gift from God. It is something we are encouraged to do for our own good.
Here are some positive reasons why you should confess sin:
- It’s a command. In passages like James 5:16 and 1 John 1:7-10, God’s Word tells us to confess sin. As with anything God instructs us to do, confession is ultimately for our own good and God’s glory. Disobeying God is what caused the problem; obeying Him by confessing your sin is part of the solution.
- It can help you repent. Confessing a sin is often a key step towards removing it from your life. Confession brings things into the light, and light is the best disinfectant (John 3:19-21; Ephesians 5:8-14).
- It brings healing. James 5:16 says that you should “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” Confession heals you from the heaviness that comes from hiding sin (Psalm 32:3-5). It overcomes the lie that no one could accept the real you, allowing you to be fully known and fully loved. It is a key step (Step 5 for the re:gen folks) in being healed from addictions that keep you enslaved to sin (John 8:34).
- It lets you be fully known. It is only through confession that you can be fully known, and it is only when you are fully known that you can be fully accepted and loved by others.
- It lets you fully experience grace. You don’t necessarily have to confess to someone in order to be forgiven, but confessing allows you to experience that forgiveness more fully. Confessing your sins to God also reminds you of God’s grace and His amazing love for you.
Roadblocks to Confession
Since we should confess sin, and since confession is really for our own good, why are people still often reluctant to confess?
There are several reasons why we might be tempted to not confess sin. The Enemy doesn’t want us to confess; he wants us to hide our sins so that we can remain enslaved to them. Plus, some of the reasons why people don’t confess sins are sins themselves; they are attitudes that turn our hearts away from God.
It can be helpful to understand these roadblocks to confession so that you can identify them and avoid them. Some of the things that can discourage people from confessing include:
- Pride. Confessing sin is an act of humility. It means admitting that you are not perfect; that you don’t live up to God’s standards and are in need of His grace. However, that is true for everyone; none of us live up to God’s perfect standards. Confessing your need for grace is a good thing, because it lets you recognize (or remember) that you need a Savior.
- Ignorance. You can’t confess sin if you aren’t aware that what you did was wrong. And even if you do know that you’ve sinned, you likely won’t confess if you don’t know that God calls us to confession. However, the Holy Spirit will remind us of God’s Word (John 14:26) and help us recognize that we’ve sinned (John 16:8). We just need to be faithful to listen and respond. If you feel guilty about what you’ve done or have a sense that you should confess, that could be the Spirit’s prompting.
- Fear. You might fear that there will be consequences if you confess what you’ve done. And it might be true; in some cases there can be earthly consequences, such as if you have broken the laws of our country or state. Sometimes the right thing to do is to face those consequences and seek to right things for the people you have wronged. However, even if the other people involved don’t grant forgiveness, the good news is that you can be forgiven by God and not face eternal consequences for your sin.
- Shame. You might also be afraid of what other people will think of you, or think that you are somehow too sinful to be forgiven. But Christ willingly died to pay for your sins, and there is nothing you could have done that deserves a punishment worse than the death penalty. And when someone else confesses to you, remember that you also are a sinner who has been forgiven much (Ephesians 4:32), and are called to extend that forgiveness to others.
- Idolatry. If you love something more than you love God, it has become an idol for you. If you love your sin and don’t want to give it up, then you will refuse to admit it and bring it into the light.
God doesn’t want us to live in pride, ignorance, fear, shame, or idolatry. Instead, He wants us to turn from those things, and confession is one step in the right direction.
There is a lot more to confession, and we’ll cover in other articles some details about what confession is,how to confess, and how to respond when someone confesses to you. You also can’t fully understand confession without first understanding forgiveness, so check out what forgiveness is, why we forgive, how to ask for forgiveness, and how to grant forgiveness. And, of course, you can always be discipled in confession, repentance, and experiencing freedom in Christ through attending re:generation.