The latest Q&A card I received asked this question, “What does the Bible say about confessing sin? I’ve heard it said that you have to confess your sins before any other prayer will be heard, but does this mean confessing each specific sin, or confessing our sin as a general?”
I think this is a great question! Many a time have I heard someone in a church service offering up some prayer to God thanking Him for our many blessings, asking Him for many more, and then closing out with something like, “and forgive us our many sins. In Jesus name, amen.” There is something way too flippant, way too generic about a confession of that nature.
So, the first thing to keep in mind is that confession should come from conviction. If our hearts are tender towards the things of God, and we are working to keep our relationship with Him vibrant and growing, then the Holy Spirit will bring conviction into our lives. We will feel the weight of our sin, and we will want to go to Him to ask His forgiveness, not just so the rest of our prayers can be heard, but because we don’t want anything to come between ourselves and God.
Unconfessed sin has a way of festering inside of us, and it tends to drive a wedge between our heavenly Father and us. By the way, it almost always leads to more sin as well, because our hearts can become callous and insensitive to things that grieve the heart of God.
Confessing that we are a sinner in a general sense is certainly not wrong. In Luke 18 Jesus told a parable about a Pharisee and a Tax Collector that went into the Temple to pray. But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ (Luke 18:13)
There was no mention of specific sins, but we can clearly hear the man’s brokenness over his sin, and his complete dependence on God’s mercy to cleanse him. The point is it’s the attitude of the heart that matters more than the words that are spoken.
That being said however, confession of sin should be specific, not because God doesn’t know what I did, but because I need to be reminded of what I’ve done. I need to feel the Holy Spirit’s conviction, and I need to communicate my authentic sorrow to God for offending Him.
If I do that it will lead to the most important part of all, change. Confession isn’t a license to go out and sin more just because I got the slate wiped clean. Confession that comes from conviction should lead to change. God wants us to change. God wants us to gain victory over the temptation to sin that often entraps and enslaves us, and keeps us in a cycle of sin.
We do sin, and as I understand scripture, none of us will be perfectly sinless this side of eternity, but we don’t have to be slaves to sin, giving in, feeling God’s conviction, asking for His forgiveness, and then stumbling right back into sin. That’s a cycle that will only pull you down.
Jesus’ death on the cross is about both taking our sins away and taking us away from sin. He’s come to set us free! As the Apostle John put it, So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.