READ : Luke 11:4
If you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart man believes to righteousness and with the mouth confession is made to salvation. (Romans 10:9-10)
Jesus taught us when we pray to say “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who are indebted to us.” In other words, acknowledging our sins, confessing them to God, is a part of Jesus’ call as he teaches us to pray.
I wonder what you think of the title “The Joy of Confession” because often people don’t associate confession with joy. We think rather of the person confessing as someone against whom the evidence has piled up. There’s no longer any way out, any possible alibi or excuse. Finally he says, “All right, I confess. I did it.” But confession, as we’re going to see today, is a fountain of gladness when we understand what it really means.
SACRIFICES TO GOD
But before I get into that matter of confession I want you to think about sacrifice to God. You know in 1 Peter 2, verses 5 and 9, there is a marvelous expression that we are called to be part of a holy priesthood, to be offering up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God. Note those phrases: spiritual sacrifices, holy priesthood. You remember how in the Old Testament the priests were a particular group within Israel, the Levites. But now in the New Testament, every believer becomes a priest. The prophet is someone who comes from God with a message to the people. The priest is one who represents the people in coming to God and the priest is the one who offers sacrifices.
Now in the Old Testament the sacrifices were of animals and sometimes of oil and grain as well. These are the things that are offered up to God in worship. Now we learn in this passage in 1 Peter 2 that we are all priests before God and offer up “spiritual” sacrifices acceptable to God. As you read the New Testament you discover what some of these sacrifices are. In Hebrews 13:15, we’re called to offer “the sacrifice of praise to God continually.” Praise is thus an offering, a sacrifice to God.
In Psalm 50 we learn that whoever offers thanksgiving honors God. “Bring the sacrifice of thanksgiving.” Thanksgiving is another kind of an offering that we present to God. Further, in Romans 12:1-2, we learn that the offering up of our whole selves to God, our bodies, is a living sacrifice. The total commitment of our lives to him is spiritual worship.
WHAT IS CONFESSION?
Confession is also described in the Scriptures as a sacrifice. Listen to these words in the most moving psalm of confession in the Old Testament, Psalm 51:17.
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Think of thanksgiving, think of praise, think of self-offering and think of confession as sacrifices that you offer through Christ that are well-pleasing to God.
All right now, what does the word “confess” mean? It means “to speak the same as,” literally, “to agree with.” We confess when we listen to what God says about us and then affirm it to be true. Listen to these words from 1 John 1:8-10:
If we say that we have not sinned, 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.
We speak the same as God when God says, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and we say, “Yes, I’m one of those. I’ve sinned and come short of the glory of God.” We are speaking the same as God. We’re agreeing with him. We’re on the same page about this. That’s the true picture. We say about ourselves what God says and then find that he is faithful and just to forgive us. Because, as John says in that passage, “The blood of Jesus Christ keeps on cleansing us from all sin.” As long as we don’t confess, as long as we don’t speak the same as God about our sins, we find ourselves in misery.
Psalm 32 in the Old Testament is a celebration of what it is to be forgiven. It begins with looking back into the dark valley of what it was like for David before he confessed his sins:
When I kept silent my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. Day and night your hand was heavy upon me. My moisture was turned into the drought of summer.
Everything verdant and fruitful in this man dried up. His heart became withered and barren. And that’s the way we are when we try to hide from God. When we try to shove things under the rug that we know are wrong, we experience a kind of an inner misery and dividedness. But then he said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord” and “you forgave the guilt of my sin.” Next he describes the joy and celebration that arise when we confess our sins, when we say about them what God says.
In Psalm 51, listen to all these expressions of the fact that David has sinned:
Have mercy on me . . . blot out my transgressions . . . wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, cleanse me from my sin. I have sinned and done what is evil in your sight . . . I was born guilty, a sinner from my mother’s womb . . . Hide your face from my sin. Blot out my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, renew a right spirit within me.
All of this is acknowledging that what the holy Lord has said about our lives is the truth. We are agreeing with him. We are subscribing to his witness about our lives. And we find then that we are at peace.
How often do we need to confess? Well, Jesus told us in the Lord’s Prayer to pray for our daily bread, indicating that the need to confess is daily, too. Apparently we are to ask each day for God’s forgiveness.
Remember when Jesus was washing the feet of his disciples and Peter was ready to object and say that the Lord would not do that to him? Jesus said, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part with me.” In other words, to belong to Christ, to be in relationship with him, you need to be willing to accept his cleansing, to admit your need of it and to allow him to cleanse you.
Then, Peter who often blundered, says, “If that’s the way, then not my feet only but my hands and my head.” But Jesus says, “The one that’s clean doesn’t need to be washed all over again.” We are Christians. We are cleansed from our sins but we contract daily defilement . We need for the Lord to wash our feet afresh. As Calvin once put it, “Jesus always finds in us something to cleanse.”
How would we confess actual evils of which we become conscious? Our nature bent away from God? Our guilt, our bondage in which sin grips us and we find ourselves unable to break free? Our estrangement? This is the sacrifice of a broken heart, when you can say these things about yourself in more than an academic way, in the realization that this is your misery, your lostness, your brokenness, your death.
ANOTHER KIND OF CONFESSION
But now that isn’t the only kind of confession. That isn’t the only kind of agreeing with God about ourselves. Remember that passage in Matthew 11 where Jesus says, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you’ve hid these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes?” The Greek word there is actually the word for “confess.” “I confess to you. . . .” Then in Romans 10:9-10, this wonderful word of the gospel:
If you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart man believes to righteousness and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.
You see, friends, your being a sinner is not the only thing about you to confess, not even the most important. It’s not the only word from God that you are to agree with. You are not only to confess your sins and your sinfulness, but your Savior and his great salvation. So having confessed your sins and accepted his forgiveness, you say: I am a man, a woman in Christ with all that means. In Christ, I am forgiven. I am accepted. I am washed. In his dying, I died to sins’ power. In his rising, I rose to walk in newness of life, to live to God. That is what I am confessing about myself. Not only am I a sinful man or woman, but I am a man or woman in Jesus Christ.
There’s a wonderful blessing in doing both of those. When you confess your sins, you become a more transparent person, a more humble person, a more realistic person, about your own foibles and failings. But there’s more. When you confess who you are in Jesus Christ, then you are expressing God’s truth about your life and it’s a confession that fills your heart and life with joy.
All of us have been shaped throughout our lives by what other people think of us and what they say to us. Somebody said when you were young that you were not very bright or that you are a compulsive liar or that you would always be plain and homely. Then, for the rest of your life those tapes have been playing. It only changes when you run into someone later in life who sees you with different eyes and loves you and affirms you that you begin to see yourself in a different way. That’s supremely true, friends, of our relationship with God. We need to come to see ourselves as the Lord sees us. That changes everything.
Think of these words in Romans 6:11:
Reckon yourselves (consider yourselves) to be dead indeed to sin but alive to God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
That’s how God sees you. You are now to see yourself that way. See yourself as someone who has died to the old way and been raised again to a new life. And as you see yourself so, as you affirm that to be true in your life, the Holy Spirit will give you the power to begin to live out that new identity. God bless you as you do!