No one likes having sins exposed. The very nature of sin is to hide. When sin first entered the world, isn't that what Adam and Eve did? They hid. They reached for fig leaves to ease the shame they felt. In a culture that glorifies curated highlight reels, the temptation to hide our mess is magnified. We frequently reach for our metaphorical fig leaves in the form of filters and carefully constructed captions. We quickly realize how easy it is to hide behind our screens. We get comfortable, and if we're not careful, we begin to assess the health of our lives through the state of our feeds. But do we hear God calling out, "Where are you?"
Have you considered how kind God was in drawing Adam and Eve out from their hiding by using that question? They disobeyed God, doubting His goodness toward them. The consequences were death and disrupted fellowship with their Maker. Yet, God extended kindness. In the very first confrontation, God shared with them His plan of redemption (Genesis 3:15). The cost would be great–His very own Son–but He was wholly committed to His covenant of redemption. In this single account, we learn so much about the character of God– His faithfulness, sovereignty, kindness, goodness, justice, holiness, and more.
And praise God, He is also unchanging. The kind and gracious God in the garden of Eden is the very same God today. He continues to extend kindness to His people, leading them to repentance (Romans 2:4). He beckons us to come out of hiding, and He invites us to confess our sins before Him to taste the fruit of repentance. So, we must ask ourselves, how do we respond to His calling? What role do confession and repentance play in our lives?
Christians ought to have regular rhythms of confession because we are sinners. Yes, when we put our faith in Christ, we are declared righteous. We are saved by grace through faith in Christ. Our justification occurs in a moment in time, and we can never lose our salvation. However, confession is instrumental in our sanctification, which is an ongoing process. 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." This cleansing of unrighteousness is the process of purification that continues throughout our lifetime. It is the work of sanctification in our lives. Confession is a powerful means of growing in Christlikeness as we acknowledge our sins, seek forgiveness, and continue to repentance.
The Apostle John expounds on this a few chapters later. In 1 John 3:1-3, he says,
"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure." (ESV)
Here, we see that it is the children of God who continue to engage in the purification process. We continually confess our sins, striving to be holy as He is holy. We partner with the Spirit of God in us, fighting the sin that so easily entangles on this side of eternity. We understand that we have the imputed righteousness of Christ as His children. However, we acknowledge that our Father in heaven is grieved by our sin, and it is His loving kindness to lead us to repentance.
Yet how many of us struggle with confessing our sins? We don't like to confront our shortcomings. It's scary to say, "I have a problem with yelling," "I am really struggling in liking and loving my husband," "I feel really discontent right now in my career," "I am dealing with negative body image issues," or "I'm finding my worth in the number of followers I have on Instagram." These confessions reveal our hearts. They bring to the surface the places we have been looking to find satisfaction, validation, worth, and comfort. When we admit our sins, we affirm that our hearts are idol-making factories.
But do you know what else our confessions acknowledge? They acknowledge our need for the Savior. We need Him, not only for our moment of salvation but for every moment afterward. When we practice regular confession, we are yielding to His good design for us–to be wholly dependent on Him. We are accepting His forgiveness. We are declaring our desire to be transformed into His likeness.
When we believe in the true gospel, we understand that we don't have to earn our salvation. Our acceptance into the family of God is based on the person and work of Christ alone. When we put our faith in Him, we are united to Him. But we are also united to one another. This is why we go a step further in our confession by heeding James 5:16 which says, "confess your sins to one another." Why is this necessary? Confession is hard enough!
God has called us to live in community. As the body of Christ, we are deeply connected. This is why we are told, "If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together" (1 Corinthians 12:26). There is tremendous beauty in this design; we're never alone in our mourning or rejoicing. We're also not alone in our journeys of sanctification. As members of one body, we are after each other's sanctification. We share each other's burdens, we take each other's sin problems to the cross in prayer, and we encourage one another to love and good deeds.
This can be hard. Confession can be costly. There will be people in our church who respond poorly (we are all imperfect sinners in need of grace!). However, may we strive to be people who cling to the true gospel in our churches. May we be people who are honest with our sins and cling to the cross. May we act on the truth that we don't have to hide because of guilt and shame. May we refrain from using our metaphorical fig leaves and pursue authentic, gospel-centered relationships instead. For in the end, "nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known" (Matthew 10:26).