I would like to spend this week and next addressing honesty with God, and what it means to grow in grace. In brief, there are two elements to growth in grace. The first is the removal of impediments to that growth, which we will address this week, and the second is the presence of that which feeds grace. The first is negative, dealing with sin, and the second is positive, which has to do with the reception of means of grace, and actually growing.
Think of a house plant that has been knocked over, and the pot has been shattered. If the plant is to grow and flourish, it is necessary to repot it . . . but repotting a plant is not the same thing as watching it grow. Repotting is what is happening when sins are confessed. Growth is what happens when the soil is rich, the sunlight plentiful, and water is abundant.
“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: But whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
“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).
Summary of the Text:
I have entitled this short series Honesty With God, and such honesty is essential to all true confession. So let us start with the passage from Proverbs. A man who covers his own sins will not prosper. It is striking that this action of covering is positive or negative depending on how it is happening. The word for cover here (ksh) also means to forgive. “Hatred stirreth up strifes: But love covereth [same word] all sins” (Prov. 10:12). Covering is what love does, and covering is also what a self-absorbed sinner does on his hell-bent way to “not prospering.” But a man does not have the authority to cover (forgive) his own sins. The offense was against God (Ps. 51:4), and so God must forgive. What is God’s way in this? The man who confesses (honesty), the man who forsakes (true repentance) is the man who finds mercy from God.
We find the same element of honesty in the passage from 1 John. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. The word for confess here is homo (meaning the same) and logeo (which means to speak). To confess is to “speak the same thing” that God is saying about it. We do not engage in any spin control. For example, what God calls adultery should not be called an “inappropriate relationship” by us. Note that God is the one who does the forgiving, and God is the one who does the cleansing. We do the acknowledging. So what do we contribute to this process of confession? We contribute the sin, which creates the need for forgiveness, and we contribute the honesty about the sin, which engages the promises of God—promises that ride on the fact that He is faithful, and that He is just. But keep an eye on that word honesty.
What Shifts and Evasions Look Like:
What are some of the shifts and evasions we employ to keep from doing what God summons us to do? Here are just a few. We justify what we did. What we did was really right, we say. We excuse what we did. It was wrong, but it all happened so fast, and besides, she started it. We hide what we did. Nobody knows about it and nobody is going to know about it. We confess what we did in vague terms. Lord, please forgive me for anything I might have done today. We rename what we did. Everybody makes mistakes. We shrug over what we did. Nobody’s perfect. We give up over what we did. I am going to do it again, so why bother? We barter over what we did. Restitution would be too costly. We pass the buck over what we did. The woman you gave me. We postpone dealing with what we did. I’ll confess it next Sunday. We are overwhelmed by what we did. Nobody could forgive that gross a sin.
Honest on Our Behalf:
Now the problem for us is that we live in a world that is simultaneously corrupt and (more importantly) dishonest about the depth and extent of that corruption. All we have to do is be honest about our sin, the man says. But how? We can no more do that than we can achieve perfection in any other area. It is not as though we can be Augustinian about most of our sins, but get to be Pelagian about the sin of dishonesty and self-ignorance. And here comes the gospel of grace.
Jesus did not just die for you so that the penalty might be paid for the sins you committed. He did do that on the cross, but Scripture teaches us that all of the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us who believe. So you are afraid because you are such an imperfect and dishonest repenter? Are you discouraged because it is so hard to be honest about things like this? But Christ didn’t just die for you, He also repented for you (Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:21). From the very beginning of His ministry, He identified with sinners, and He—the sinless one—went through the humiliation of receiving a baptism of repentance. Why would He even do that? The man who administered it to Him wondered the same thing.
“And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him” (Matt. 3:14–15, NKJV).
Now He did not repent so that you wouldn’t have to repent. Rather, He repented so that you could learn how to repent, following in His footsteps, freed from all condemnation (Rom. 8:1). Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord. Let the one who repents, repent in the Lord. Let the one who is learning to walk honestly with God, walk honestly with Him in the honesty of Christ. This is what it means to walk in the light.
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
This is just two verses before our text on confession. Walking in Christ means walking in the light. Walking in the light means walking honestly. And that means you will always be dealing with your sins in a well-lit area. Never forget that Christ is that light. Confessing honestly means confessing in Christ, and in the name of Christ, and in the honesty of Christ.