THE SAME OLD STORY
You just committed a sin. Where do you go from there? What is the “Christian” thing to do?
Most people today would encourage you to confess your sin to someone. They would tell you to talk about what happened with your small group or a fellow Christian brother or sister.
What happens next? You will most likely be shown grace and support. “Hey man, thanks for sharing. I’ll be praying for you.” Sound familiar?
CONFESSION AND REPENTANCE
Although confession is a biblical practice that should be done regularly, confession alone doesn’t capture what true repentance looks like in the Bible. Repentance moves beyond confession by having genuine, godly sorrow over the pain your sins bring to God.
Sadly, we rarely think about this when we confess. Because we don’t move from confession to true repentance, it is very possible to confess our sins without a truly repentant heart before God.
Here are four ways we may be confessing our sins without truly repenting:
1. WE CONFESS TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT OURSELVES
Nobody likes the feeling of holding onto unconfessed sin. It feels like baggage that weighs us down internally and it often affects our mood. Many of us try to get rid of this weight by simply confessing our sins to others.
The problem with this approach is that this kind of confession is purely self-centered and not God-centered. In fact, God isn’t even in the picture if we’re just confessing to feel better about ourselves. We tend to use confession as a Christian therapeutic exercise.
2. WE CONFESS BEFORE PEOPLE BUT NOT GOD
I’ve noticed a big push recently for people to confess their sins to other people. But I wonder if somewhere along the way, we’ve forgotten that confessing our sins should always be first and foremost before God.
Even in my own life, I get shocked by how easy it is to address my sin on a horizontal level with people, without once addressing it on a vertical level with God. A truly repentant person will confess their sins to people, but they will always go to God saying, “Against you, you only, have I sinned” (Ps. 51:4).
3. WE CONFESS WITH NO DESIRE TO CHANGE
The definition of repentance literally implies a deep desire to change one’s direction and behavior. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that many people confess their sins with no real desire to change.
A lot of people confess their sins, but they take no time or effort to come up with a serious, tangible plan for change. Confession without a genuine desire to change is the equivalent of saying, “Until next time!” to God. Good intentions are not enough—we need to take actual steps in our lives toward true repentance.
4. WE CONFESS TO FULFILL OUR CHRISTIAN DUTY
Many of us confess our sins because it’s simply what we’ve been taught to do growing up. Our conscience tells us that it’s the right thing to do. We see confession as an obligation.
But this kind of thinking completely neglects what Jesus came to do in the first place—to rid us of our legalistic, rule-keeping mentality when it comes to our relationship with him. If we simply confess our sins as a habitual duty, like changing the oil in our cars, it’s hardly surprising that our relationship with God seems so distant and cold.
Confession and repentance are tough topics. I realize that this may only be opening a can of worms, because an article alone simply can’t do justice to these topics. But Jesus himself says that we are to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Mt. 3:8). The notion that we can confess our sins and give off the impression of godliness without God is a scary reality that I’ve seen in my life time and time again.
My hope is that at the very least, this article might encourage you to pause and reevaluate what confession and repentance have looked like in your own life, and in the lives of those around you. Let’s think about this, talk about this, but let’s also take actual steps toward true repentance in our lives.
Sam Bay is the College Pastor of Gospel Life Mission Church, and has served on KCM Steering Core.