Exhortation - Confession
One of the reasons behind our gathering together to memorialize the death and resurrection of Christ is to obtain and celebrate the forgiveness of our sins. This was accomplished through the sacrifice of Christ. So we thought it might be useful for us to consider confession. For it is clear that confession must precede forgiveness. Through the use of some scriptural examples we hope to clarify some of the characteristics that are related to confession, certain elements that must precede forgiveness. And then when we do admit our sins, certain obvious qualities that must accompany the confession that we make.
A young boy once told his parents about his crime before they found out. In other words he confessed to them his sin. There is something magical about this confession. Despite his parents being upset they were never quite as angry as they would have been if they had found out about the crime themselves. For some reason hearing their son admitting his mistake was less offensive to them. Confession of sin then is an important step that softens the blow of punishment. Confession of our sins is more useful than trying to cover then up.
Let's spiritualize this story. God is the father in the illustration, we are the young boy that has done wrong. We must turn to God and allow Him to cleanse us. Romans tells us that the punishment for sin is death. There is no point trying to soften death's sting by trusting in our own strength. Our only hope is to place our trust in God, in His merciful hands and confess to Him our sins, leading on to His forgiveness. The boy who brought his crime to the attention of his parents instead of hiding it, evidently understood certain principles that we would do well to remember when we bring our sins before God. Firstly the boy knew his position before his parents. If the boy thought that he himself was the ruler of the household, he wouldn't be worried about telling his parents about his crime. And this is much the way that the world treats God today, they deny His existence, thus establishing for themselves that they can do whatever they please.
In contrast to this we need to recognize that God is the supreme Ruler. He is the one who sets the rules; He is the one that has the power to enforce them. The boy who confessed his mistake realized that his parents were in control So recognition of God is essential to confessions that we make.
In Isaiah 6 we learn a valuable lesson. Isaiah before he starts his ministry to speak to the people, is presented with a marvellous vision of God. He sees God sitting upon a throne attended by creatures praising his name, and the vision causes Isaiah to confess his sin. In verse 5, after seeing the vision, Isaiah says "Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts".
The vision clarified in the mind of Isaiah the position of God in his life. He saw God as supreme; he saw that God was powerful; God had authority in Isaiah's life. This understanding was essential to Isaiah's confession.
If we can picture God in the same vivid manner, we too will be startled to confess our sins rather than trying to cover them up.
Recognition of wrong is another requisite for confession. To illustrate this let us consider the example of Judah and Tamar in Genesis ch 38. Judah was a man who had three sons the first of which was given to Tamar. The first son was so wicked that God killed him. And Judah gave his second son to Tamar as a husband. And the second son was also very wicked so that God smote him and he died leaving Tamar a widow yet again. So Judah promised to Tamar his third son, as soon as he was old enough to be given to her as a husband. But when the child grew Judah didn't fulfil his promise. So Tamar was left a widow without seed. Tamar decided to take matters into her own hands and dressed as a prostitute and sat at the side of the road. Judah came along that road, met her and unknowingly had an affair with Tamar his daughter-in-law. Tamar became pregnant and was charged by the people with prostitution. Let us take up the account in verse 24 "And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter in-law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt. When she was brought forth, she sent to her father-in-law, saying, By the man, whose these are, am I with child: and she said, Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the signet, and bracelets, and staff.[the pledge] And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son".
So we learn from this that Judah recognized sin in others but he was blind to his own error. Without even giving Tamar a chance to defend herself he condemned her to death. He as prepared to judge her for the very sin he himself had committed three months earlier.
The great task then in this situation is to recognize ourselves as the sinners. It is impossible to confess our faults if we are blind to this fact. The light of Bible truth must be directed to examine ourselves. If always we direct this light towards other people we will never see our own sins. And if we do not recognize them how can we confess them to God?
It takes courage to admit wrongdoing. Saying, I was wrong, must be one of the hardest phrases to get our tongue around. It's very difficult to admit these sins to our heavenly Father. Imagine the Israelites under the Law of Moses walking towards the tabernacle, taking the sin offering. A person who walked that way with a female goat beside them would surely attract stares from people around. It would be humiliating. People would question what you had done.
Confessing our sins to others has always required great courage yet this is a command from God. James in chapter 5:16 says: Confess your faults to one another that ye be healed and pray for one another. So although this confession is difficult, the character of God makes it easier. Why not confess our sins to God who is willing to completely forgive us. God was willing to let His son die for our sins. There is no limit to God's love. So we must admit our faults to God in prayer. God already knows our sins before we confess them for He is everywhere present and He witnesses everything that we do and He will judge us for them. So admitting them to God can help us. What is there to lose? And there is no point whatsoever in hiding our sins from an all-knowing God.
We know then that a sinner who confesses his sins is admitting to several things:
- First of all in his confession there is an acknowledgement of God as a supreme authority in life.
- Second, he recognizes that he�s done something wrong, that he's a sinner.
- And, finally, he recognizes that God is a merciful God who is willing to forgive.
But it's a big step to admit wrongdoing. A big step but a crucial one. And once we decide to make that step the Bible goes further to explain how we should proceed with our confession. Our confession must be accompanied by several characteristics.
There is a wonderful confession made in 2 Chronicles ch 33. A very wicked king of Judah was moved to repent by the affliction that God sent upon him. The change in character of king Manasseh is manifested in his prayer. Manasseh was a horrible king in his early reign. He became king at the age of twelve and one would hardly recognize him as being the son of Hezekiah. He ruined the orderly reforms that his father had made. He re-established false worship in every corner of the nation. He built groves. He rebuilt the alters for the worship of false gods. He built an alter for worship of stars and placed it right in the temple. Manasseh stoops so far that he even cast his children to be sacrificed to false gods. And king Manasseh made the entire nation follow his evil practices.
That quick summary of Manasseh's life takes us up to verse 11 "Wherefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon. And when he was in affliction, he besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God".
So the rebuke of the Lord against Manasseh in carrying him away to Babylon moved Manasseh into prayer. And it's no doubt that Manasseh turned to Yahweh and sought for deliverance. It was a major turn for this king. He turned 180 degrees. He no longer trusted in the gods of wood and stone but he made supplication to the Lord, no doubt asking God to forgive him of the sins that he had committed. Manasseh made a confession to God.
From this example we learn that humility must accompany our admission of sins. The king finally acknowledged that it was not of his own accord or power that he ruled this nation. Manasseh had to learn not to trust in his own strength, his own strength was taken away when he was taken to Babylon.
So we see that God will not accept confession from a proud person. God is willing to forgive even the most horrendous sin. There is no sin too large that cannot be forgiven. Take comfort in knowing that there is no limit to the mercy of God if we approach Him in the proper manner.
Finally, let us read a passage that we would all do well to memorize, two short verses from 1 John chapter 1:8-9 which says: "If we say that we have no sin, 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".
Bro Emmanuel Mphambo ( Randburg, South Africa).