When you hear the word “confess,” what feelings flood in? Embarrassment? Shame? Fear? That’s what I used to feel when I thought of confessing.
A picture of a scary priest or intimidating church leader would haunt me. Thoughts like, “What would they think about me if they knew?” would flood through me.
It is clear that the Bible calls us to confess our sins to one another, but the question is, why? Why do I have to do it? And even if I do, what is the biblical way to confess to one another?
This article will explore a new side of confession and explain the what, why, and how of this gift God has given us.
What Is Confession?
Biblical confession is not what many have pictured. It is not going to a church leader or a priest, confessing every sin you have committed from the previous week.
It is not praying to God every night, hunting down every possible sin of the day, believing that if you forget one of them, God won’t forgive it.
First and foremost, biblical confession is speaking with God. We share with Him the areas that we know we have sinned. We acknowledge we messed up, talk to Him about it, and ask Him to forgive us.
Why Do We Confess to God?
If God knows everything, then He already knows I sinned. Why do I need to confess to Him?
It is not about God knowing everything. It is about Him connecting with you.
Confession is like the husband who knows he has wronged his wife and knows a wall has formed between them. He must go to his wife, admit his mistakes, and ask for her forgiveness so that they can feel connected again.
In the same way, we too must go to God, and for the sake of connection, admit where we have sinned and ask for His forgiveness.
When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, they felt shame and hid from God in fear. Though nothing can separate us from the love of God, sin tends to cause us to run and hide from Him. It opens the door to fear, shame, lies and starts an endless cycle of perpetual sin.
That is why God, in His goodness, gave us an answer to break this perpetual cycle and help us be clean again.
1 John 1:9 says that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Confession is not for God. It is for us. According to this verse, every time we confess, He will purify us from the very unrighteousness “gunk” on our souls. Confession is the tool God uses to cleanse our hearts again.
Confession opens our hearts to receive God’s forgiveness and points us back to the need for Jesus and His actions on the cross. When placed up against the cross, all sin, shame, fear, control, and lies have to break.
If we are unwilling to confess to God, we refuse to connect with Him again, and we deny our need for the cross. The effect of this becomes spiritual, emotional, and physical! King David felt this way when he hid his sin.
When I kept silent, my bones wasted away, through my groaning all day long (Psalms 32:3).
God wants to wipe out the agonizing shame, fear, and lies caused by our sins. This is why He says, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19).
Confession to God always brings a refreshing from God.
Do I Need to Confess to a Person?
Justification comes from God alone. Confessing my sins to a human has no power to save my soul or get me to heaven. Only God can forgive our sins with the power of His grace and His sacrifice upon the cross.
However, the Bible is clear that we are to confess our sins to one another. But why?
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed… (James 5:16).
Forgiveness comes from confessing to God. But a “healing” comes when we confess to one another. Have you ever noticed that even after confession to God, sometimes you still feel alone and broken?
This is because the devil tries to put a lie in our minds that says, “God can forgive you, but no human can. If they knew what you have done, they would never look at you the same again. If anyone finds out, they will realize you aren’t who they thought.”
God knows that when we hide our sins from another person, we begin to feel isolated and alone. We start to walk on eggshells, paranoid about the “what ifs.”
We begin to wear an emotional mask and become fake to the world around us. We say words like, “bless you brother,” and “praise God,” but secretly inside, we wonder if we would still be accepted if they knew our sin.
This is why God calls us to confess to one another. Not for salvation, but for healing. When we are vulnerable and bring our sin to the light of another human being, the darkness’ power breaks, and the mask comes off. We become ourselves again.
When we confess and are still accepted by others, we realize that we are okay. New confidence comes into us.
The devil’s lies lose their power as we recognize we are still accepted even when our worst is in the light. How healing!
Who Do I Confess To?
Though there is no specific verse saying who is the exact person you should confess to, I have some suggestions and recommendations based on experience to help set you up for success.
I recommend starting with someone you trust with your heart. It may be your spouse, parent, best friend, neighbor, or whoever that person is in your life that you feel safe confiding in.
I would also recommend they be a Christian because they more than anyone should understand the need for forgiveness and that they too have fallen and need grace. They can also then pray for you and bless you.
If you don’t have anyone you truly trust or any good Christian influences in your life, then I would recommend reaching out to your local church and asking to speak with a pastor, counselor, mentor, or small group leader.
The point is, find someone you trust who has a genuine relationship with the Lord. This will massively set you up for success!
How Do I Start?
When that awkward moment comes, butterflies flutter through your stomach, and the fear arises, don’t run. Rip off the band-aid and go for it.
I recommend, however, not to unload every sin you can ever think of since childhood. This will overwhelm you and them!
Start with the sin that you feel is hindering your relationship with God and others the most. The one most weighing on your heart.
Resist the urge to tell the whole story, justify why you did it, or dance around the subject, hinting towards what you did. Just say it. “I messed up. I did blank, can you pray for me?”
Could the person react weirdly? Yes, that is a risk. Real authentic relationship is always a risk. But the reward of healing is worth the risk. There is also a good chance that they have struggled with the same issues.
More often than not, people will respond with, “Oh, that’s it? I’ve done that.” It is usually less of a big deal than we make it out to be in our minds. That is why getting it into the light is so powerful. Big issues become minor issues.
Confession is one of the greatest gifts God has given us. It reconnects us to Him, washes and purifies our souls, heals us, and breaks the kingdom of darkness’ influence in our lives. What a gift of God that James 5:16 gives us!
Now go and live it out!
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Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Sanja Radin
Taylor Jensen is a missionary, pastor, and world traveler. His passion is to help equip believers with practical ways to ignite their faith and bring Jesus into the world around them. That is the goal of his personal blog Fireplace Faith. Subscribe here to get his Free Ebook “Choosing Hope,” about his time as a missionary in Cambodia. Reach out to him any time through his blog or through his social media accounts @taylorcjensen.