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The Joy of Confession

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:8-9

Early every Monday morning I take our garbage out to the curb where a garbage truck picks it up and hauls it away. Similarly, as followers of Jesus, we need to take our ‘spiritual garbage’ to Jesus by prayerful confession. I find that confessing sin is like taking out the garbage: once is not enough. The Spirit of God, the Spirit of life and love, reminds us of sin we need to take to the Savior.

Dealing with our spiritual garbage begins with acknowledging the sin, or confessing it to Jesus. Today’s scripture says that none of us can ever say that we do not sin needing to be dealt with: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” So, I like to think of today and every day, as garbage day; a day to ask the Holy Spirit to search out and acknowledge sin so that I can then take it to Jesus. God’s promise stands sure: “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”    

The word “confess” translates to the Greek homologeo (homo = “same” + logeo = “speak”), meaning “to say the same thing”, or “to agree with someone”. When we confess sin we are agreeing with God about it: it is sin. It is more than a mistake or blunder: we call it sin. But when we confess sin to God we are also agreeing with God that the finished work of Christ on the cross takes away the sin. It is because of the saving death of Christ that God is then “faithful and just” in fully and freely forgiving us of sin. And God promises that “as far as the east is from the west” He removes our sins from us (Psalm 103:12).

I have found the following prayer of confession, using “I” instead of “we”, a helpful outline for daily taking out the spiritual garbage in my life.

“Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

(The Book of Common Prayer)

It is significant that the Greek word frequently used for “forgiveness” in scripture (aphesis), means, “to set free” and “to release.” And a sense of being set free, and released, is exactly what we experience as confess our sin and know God’s generous forgiveness. We know that Jesus completely takes away our sin because He is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

This is the joy of confession.

A fellow traveler,
Tim

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