We tend to avoid the confession of personal sin. Sin loves to stay hidden in the darkness and our flesh resists being honest about ourselves before God. But integrity is essential, particularly in our relationship with the Lord. In fact, it is not possible to pray with integrity without confession. Here’s how confession helps you pray with integrity.
Why is confession important at all? If you consistently lied to the person closest to you about something important, how healthy would your relationship be? Translating this into terms of a biblical relationship with God, if holiness is supremely important to the Lord, and we deny our lack of holiness to Him, how will that affect our relationship with Him? This is why confession in prayer is necessary.
Confession: What is that again?
The word translated “confess” in 1 John 1:9 comes from two words put together, meaning “to share a common view” (BDAG). When John is exhorting us to confess, he’s not merely asking us to recount the things we’ve done wrong. John is asking us to adopt God’s view of ourselves. That is, to say the same thing about ourselves that God says. While there are many good aspects of the image of God that continue in us, we are also fallen creatures, which means the image of God we bear is corrupt, particularly our thinking and desires.
Confession then is recognizing ourselves for what we are while we’re in this body. It means agreeing with what God’s word says we are in the flesh. If we’re followers of Christ, and Christ dwells in us, we are redeemed. Yet, we still await the redemption of our bodies (Rom 8:23), and therefore we still act corruptly. Worse, we continue at times to rebell against our Lord. Confession is the acknowledgment to the Lord of this fact.
Confession reminds us we’re not as good as we think we are
You’ve probably heard the question Ray Comfort has used for a long time to introduce the gospel to unbelievers, “Are you a good person?” Invariably, when asked, people will affirm that they believe they are. He then proceeds to ask them specifically about whether they have broken several of the ten commandments. As they answer yes to his questions, they begin to see they are not as good as they thought. Ironically, we continue to exhibit this tendency, even after we’ve sought forgiveness for sin and come to Christ.
One of the most deceitful ways our flesh works is by telling us that we are good, especially if we compare ourselves to other people. But we are not to judge ourselves by other people but by God’s standards. If we aren’t spending time in the word of God, we won’t be concerned as about His standards as we ought to be. If our primary standard of good is others we see around us, we’ll think of ourselves more highly than we ought an be blind to our sin.
Confession is necessary because if we’re not honest with ourselves, we won’t be honest with the Lord either Click To TweetWe need to consider ourselves with sound judgment (Rom 12:3) meaning we must be honest with ourselves. Our heart wants to hide our sin (John 3:20-21), and it easily convinces us to do so. Therefore, confession is necessary because if we’re not honest with ourselves, we won’t be honest with the Lord either.
Confession recognizes the righteousness of God
Confession rightly affirms the character of God, particularly his righteousness and love for moral purity. Our righteousness, even as believers, is insufficient for us to come to the Lord without the need of Christ. If we presume upon our righteousness before God, we risk denying the absolute standards of the Lord. The word of God affirms that the Lord hates evil (Zech 8:17) and loves justice (Isa 61:8). So, if we presume to come to God on our terms rather than his, we reject the valuations that He makes. At least we reject those distinctions as far as they apply to ourselves. The result of this presumption is destruction.
The mistake that Nadab and Abihu made in offering unauthorized fire before the Lord in Leviticus 10 was that they presumed they could come to God on their terms. They were destroyed. Similarly, Samuel denounced Saul for disobeying the commandment of the Lord, and in doing so said, “presumption is as iniquity and idolatry” (1 Sam 15:23 ESV).If we presume to come to God on our terms rather than his, we reject the valuations that He makes. Click To Tweet
We need to confess our sins in prayer because if we don’t, we reject the distinctions that are important to the Lord. This means we hold ourselves to different standards than those that are is acceptable to Him. It is foolish to presume upon the goodness of the Lord.
Confession acknowledges our dependence on Christ.
Sin is the very reason we need salvation. It makes no sense to hide our sin from the Lord. The promise of 1 John 1:9 is that is that if we confess our sins, “he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Confession isn’t hard because God is righteous. It is hard because we don’t believe He is faithful or we don’t want Him to cleanse us.
If sin is the reason we need salvation, then confessing our sin is an acknowledgment that we depend on Him for our life and breath and salvation. The salvation of sinners glorifies God. When He could have been strict and harsh, God gave what was most valuable to save us. Having done so, He determined to show His grace in kindness toward those in Christ Jesus for eternity (Eph 2:7). Our confession magnifies His forgiveness.
Confession is necessary because it glorifies the Lord by trusting in the mercy and kindness that He intends to show for His glory.Confession isn’t hard because God is righteous. It is hard because we don’t believe He is faithful or we don’t want Him to cleanse us Click To Tweet
Confession counters the noetic effects of sin
Sin causes us to change our view of God, man, and sin. Theologians refer to changing this view as the noetic effect of the fall. To harbor our sin, we need to make God less righteous or more merciful than He is. When we say things such as “Sin is Ok since God will forgive me…” we show that we’ve reduced our view of the love of God. Statements like this suggest that it wasn’t a big deal for God to provide for our forgiveness. These statements also diminish the worth of Christ, whose death is intended to be an expression of the extremity of God’s love.
The failure to honor God or give thanks (Rom 1:21), leads to a futile mind. When we undermine the character and person of the Lord, we also undermine the value and capabilities of man, and the significance of sin. The result is the systemic corruption of our ability to reason cogently until we call sin good and God evil. That sounds a lot like modern atheism.
Confession is important because it requires that we adjust our view of God, man and good and evil to align with what God says in His word. Establishing a pattern of confession helps us grow in our knowledge and fear of the Lord, and the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 1:7, 9:10). Wisdom is the opposite of foolishness (Rom 1:21-22).Tolerating sin shows that we’ve reduced our view of the love of God suggesting that it wasn’t a big deal for God to provide for our forgiveness Click To Tweet
Confession is an essential aspect of prayer. If we can’t open up our sin to the one who holds out forgiveness, we probably aren’t trusting in Christ. Jesus addressed confession directly in the Lord’s prayer (Matt 6:12), though in a generic way. The more we can be honest with the Lord about our need for forgiveness, the more His grace will engage our affections.
For this reason, I encourage you to be as specific as possible with your confession. Don’t limit yourself to overt sins, but include the recognition of your corrupt desires and the tendency of your heart to stray (Is 53:6). Do this because His Word says it is true. Do it because you want to pray with integrity. Use prayer as a time of confession because you want to honor God by trusting Him. Then watch as His salvation becomes sweeter.