One very common problem that Christians have in their Christian lives is the problem of spiritual clutter. Many Christians don’t know what to do with various unresolved sins and problems, and so they do nothing. Over time these problems accumulate, and before long there is a real mess.
You have seen this phenomenon in various places, have you not? It happens in closets, it happens in your junk drawer, it happens in your home’s designated fright room, it happens at the back of your garage, it happens when your garden fills up with weeds, and so on. Why wouldn’t it happen in your spiritual life? It certainly will if you let it.
“Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”
Hebrews 12:1 (KJV)
So one of the first things that Christians should learn is this. They need to learn to deal with the sin . . . of not really dealing with sin. If we are told to lay aside every weight, then it would be a sin not to. If we are told to deal with the sin that “so easily besets” us, then it would be a sin not to.
On Not Kidding Yourself
So the first thing to realize about all of this is that confession of sin is an ongoing necessity. I described the problem as being one of spiritual clutter, but the thing about clutter is that you can get used to it as it accumulates. You begin by thinking that perhaps your life is “a little untidy,” and then move on to excuse the fact that it looks like a bomb went off in your conscience, and by the end of the process your conscience looks and smells like a closet at the crazy cat lady’s house.
So ongoing and regular confession of sin is a necessity for everyone. What must you do if you want a garden filled with weeds? What you need to do is absolutely . . . nothing. Just let it ride. We know that sin can accumulate in this way because of the way Scripture speaks of it. If we just go on in our own fashion, we will get used to how disheveled we are.
But if we look into the looking glass of Scripture, we will there see our true condition. We don’t learn that true condition by means of morbid introspection—we learn our true condition through faithful and submissive Bible reading.
As James puts it:
“But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”
James 1:25 (KJV)
No one should ever simply assume that he is “doing fine” simply because the roof hasn’t fallen in yet.
“If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?”
Psalm 130:3 (KJV)
Scripture tells us our true condition.
“If they sin against thee, (for there is no man which sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them . . .”
2 Chronicles 6:36; cf. Job 4:18-19 (KJV)
And the apostle John sums all of this up.
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us . . . If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us”
(1 John 1:8, 10 (KJV)
Suppose a young man is learning how to do maintenance on his car, and he is told to change his air filter every 12 to 15,000 miles. And then suppose he were to ask his teacher whether he still would have to do this if the filter hadn’t gotten dirty yet. The problem with this young man is that he doesn’t know what kind of a world he is living in.
What to Do
The way to deal with the effects of such accumulated guilt through sinning is by means of confession.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:9 (KJV)
This is a glorious promise, so let us take a moment to consider it very carefully. In this verse, we are described a certain way, and then we are to do something. In addition, God is described as being a certain way, and then He does something.
We are described as sinful (we cannot confess sins unless we actually have some). So we are described as sinful, and what we are told to do is confess those sins. God is described as being faithful and just, and what He does is forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We are sinful, and He is righteous. We do the confessing, and He does the cleansing.
When we confess our sins, we are not cleaning up. When we confess our sins we are asking another to clean us up.
So what is it to “to confess” then? The Greek word that is rendered here as confess is homologeo, a very interesting compound word. The first part, homo, is the Greek for same. The logeo is a verb that means to speak. Consequently, if we put them together, homologeo means “to speak the same thing,” or saying it another way, to acknowledge.
If Scripture calls it a lie, and you call it mild prevarication, then that is not confession. If Scripture calls it adultery, and you call it infatuation, then that is not confession. If Scripture calls it theft, and you call it requisitioning, then that is not confession. The reason it is not confession is that it is dishonest.
So the central issue in confession of sin is honesty.
“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: But whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”
Proverbs 28:13 (KJV)
A paraphrase of this therefore would be that people who are dishonest about the way they are living are people who will not flourish. These are people who will not prosper—God’s Word declares that they will not prosper. The alternative is what is promised to the honest—honest confession and honest forsaking results in mercy. This honest mercy means that God is blessing that man. Nothing bad results from this.
The Blessing of Forgiveness
“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.”
Psalm 32:1–2 (KJV)
Forgiven transgression is the blessing of God. To have sin covered is the blessing of God. To not have iniquity imputed to you when it easily could have been imputed to you is the blessing of God.
But note that descriptor—“in whose spirit there is no guile.” Honesty before God is therefore the ticket. And even there, remember that if God were to mark iniquities in our confessions no one could stand.
“My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1–2).
This is why, at the end of the day, all our sins must be confessed in Jesus’ name.