how important is confession

How important is confession?

I frequently get asked what my opinion is on confession. It seems that a lot of people are concerned that people aren’t taking confession seriously enough these days to which I have to say I agree.

The primary question I get asked revolving around this topic is “do you believe confession is essential for believers”.

It gets asked because there are so many views people have on how important “confession” is.

  • Some think that confession is not important in light of what Jesus did on the cross – “why would we need to say sorry for sins already taken care of” they might say.
  • Others think that if you do not list all your past your sins in a sinners prayer then you are not really “born-again”.
  • Many think it’s important that you should confession your sins as you remember them so you can be “right with God”
  • Others still think that without confessing each and every sin you commit you will not be forgiven, they beg God to convict them of their sins so they can make sure they confess each and every one.

And that’s just scratching the surface of the varied views and opinions people have.

The Problem

I personally think that most of these varied views come from a lack of understanding of what confession actually means.

Let’s face it, if we do not correctly understand what confession means we are bound to end up with some weird views of what role it takes in the life of the believer.

9 times out of 10, in my experience, if I ask a Christian what they think confession means they would say that it is the action of listing our sins and mistakes, working your way through a laundry list of sins. This is done in order to appease God and cause Him to forgive us, that we might have “right relationship” with Him.

However, the truth is that Biblical confession has nothing to do with listing sins.

So what does it mean?

The word in the Greek which we translate as “confess” is the word “homologeo”. This word is commonly translated as “agree with”, “not to deny”, “not to refuse”, “to concede” as well as “confess”.

This word homologeo comes from the root words “homou”, which means “to be together”, and “logos” which means “a spoken word”.

A fleshed out, literal translation would basically be – “to be in agreement over what is being said”.

Now let me clarify who is doing the agreeing here.

We are not trying to get God to agree with what we say in confession. We are not trying to convince Him of our sins! In fact He says He remembers them no more. He says they are completely forgiven in Christ (long before we even did them!).

No. Confession is for us to agree with God. It is a tool given to us for our benefit so that we might renew our minds to the truth and disempower sin in our life.

What should it look like?

When we confess our sins to God we are outwardly declaring what God says about our sins.

Confession is not just listing our sins in order to be forgiven, but rather declaring our forgiveness for those sins in Christ!

When we confess our sins we proudly proclaim that God has forgiven us, the power of sin is not something we have to remain under, Christ has set us free from sin and given us freely His righteousness.

We remind ourselves of these truths (and more) and renew our minds that we would believe them.

That is true biblical confession! And that is what I’m talking about whenever I talk about confession – not the laundry list!

From the place of understanding this Greek word homologeo we can read that word “confession” in the Bible with the right meaning and thus our theology will start to fall into place.

The problem with the laundry list of sins

If we stop and think about it this idea of listing all our sins is a really bad one. I mean, let’s face it, when do we ever feel better because we just list all our sins? I don’t know about you but I just feel worse about myself! Why? Because just listing you sins doesn’t deal with the sin, it simply reminds us of them. It is a lifestyle of focusing on sin rather than focusing on Jesus.

It causes us to feel guilty, to feel condemnation, to feel sinful as a person.

That is not God’s desire for you!

There is no condemnation in Christ. No guilt whatsoever.

In fact, God has promised that He will remember our sins no more. He has literally chosen to forget our sins!

That’s good news.

I mean what do we think we are doing when we go to God and just list our sins to Him? Reminding Him of what He chose to forget?

That doesn’t seem too helpful.

If He has chosen to forget them, perhaps that might be a way we should try and be more “God-like”.

So how should I confess my sins?

As we “confess” our sins we do the following:

      1. We acknowledge that we have messed up. (this is where most people stop)
      2. We acknowledge that in Christ we are completely forgiven.
      3) We thank God that our sins are not a part of who we are anymore and that He has made us the righteousness of Christ.
      4) We ask God what lies we are believing that are causing the sinful action in our lives.
      5) We ask what truths we need to embrace that will help us not repeat these sinful actions and walk in who we really are in Him.
      6) We thank God that He has chosen to forget this sin completely and ask Him to help us to do the same.

What is the fruit of this Biblical model of confession?

Let me tell you – if you confess your sins in this way I guarantee you will start to experience these fruits in your life:

      1. You will feel better and have the weight of guilt and condemnation lifted from your shoulders.
      2. You will actually stop repeating the same sins over and over.
      3. You will feel closer to God and experience His presence and His goodness so much more.

What about you?

What does confession look in your life? What journey has God taken you on in your understanding of confession and how has it helped you in your relationship with Him?

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15 Comments

  1. This came at a great time! Very clear, extremely helpful :) I’m encouraged that I now have the tools to live the gospel message and let sin be dead in the ground and Christ be alive in me. Seriously Phil, without finding your website I would be missing this stuff. I hope this encourages you. Your work saves/changes lives.

    Free and renewed in Christ :)
    -Weston

    • Thanks Weston – that was a real blessing to read.

      That’s my heart at the end of the day. I just want to help people connect with God in a more authentic way that practically impacts their lives.

      Be blessed my friend!

  2. Thanks Phil for this clear word about confession, Several years ago I started realizing and believing this exactly as you just talked about. It is soooo revolutionary and has been so freeing. Your word here gives me more courage to proclaim this meaning of confession. Sometimes when I talk about confession like this – agreeing with God about my sinds – forgiven and forgotten – and not just telling him all the bad things I have done, I feel like people look at me like I am from another planet. :-)

    • You’ve hit the nail on the head Del! It’s all about recognising our circumstances and even ourselves in the light of what He sees… not what we see.

      This can be especially hard when we think of ourselves poorly or our sins as monumental.

      We are very good at letting our pride make our sins and our sinfulness bigger than God and Jesus’ work on the cross!

      Thanks for sharing my friend! How are you doing?

  3. Great word, my brother! Keep on clearing up the foggy theology! We miss you over here in the States! Bless you, man! :)

  4. Phil, this really helpful and we’ll use this as part of running a Freedom In Christ Course in our church. Encountering the truth of what God says about us is so liberating.

    • Hi Andrew – I interpret it the same way – confess means to say the same thing as. Just as we go through this process with God we often times need to do the same with our brothers and sisters. Declare together and encourage one another that our sin does not hold us back from God, He has forgiven it in Christ and we are free to boldly approach Him… when coming to Him for healing there is no better time to remind ourselves of those truths!

  5. This is an answer to a prayer I prayed last night. I see the article is dated December 2013, but you posted the link to it on facebook today. Exactly when I needed it. Thank you, Lord for divine appointments!

  6. Phil–Thanks for this message–it’s very timely for me. I’ve been mulling over the whole concept of confession a lot lately. My practice has more and more become that of “keeping the line open” with Holy Spirit and agreeing with Him as my various thoughts or actions come up–good and bad. It’s never a heavy thing, since his goodness and love for me continually overwhelms my awareness that his father heart is grieved FOR me not against me when I turn away from his path for me.

    The place that I’m finding “the rub” is at church. The Anglican church I attend includes a time for silent confession followed by a unison recited confession. As I pay attention, I’ve started to notice a spiritual heaviness descend when this starts. I’m somewhat torn here. I do think, in order to maintain a healthy relationship, that it’s good not to keep anything hidden from God, but the religious-law sort of a way that it’s carried out there (and I imagine for many it’s only once a week!) makes me sad, because it reveals something quite different than the calling out to Abba spontaneously at any time, and hearing back from Him, that’s become so life giving to me.

    • Thanks for sharing Bill – it can be interesting trying to re-program our communication with God about sin… re-programing ourselves from feeling guilt and condemnation and instead just talking about what’s going on in our lives, thanking Him for forgiveness of anything we’ve done that wasn’t great and asking for advice in how we can renew our minds and move forward.

      All too easy to fall back to sin conscious thought patterns and dialogues. I’ve actually got a video dedicated to this in my grace course that is coming out in a couple of months! It will go into much more depth than I have here.

  7. Dear Phil, I like what you have to say, but there’s still something I struggle with when it comes to the first part, admitting that I did something wrong. Now, it’s easy to admit I did something wrong when it was something blatant, like losing my temper with someone. However, especially when it comes to inward sin, there have been many times when I wasn’t sure whether I sinned or not. There’s a handful of examples I could bring up, but I don’t feel like getting that personal on a public forum, and because it’s very hard to full explain to another person what was going through my mind/heart in a given situation, as I am not always fully sure myself. Having said that I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been unsure of whether they did anything wrong (and I’m using the term “did” lightly including also sins of the heart/mind not merely outward actions.)

    If I feel that it is important to God that I fess up, I can spend weeks or even months mulling over a particular situation trying to figure out whether or not I sinned. However, if I don’t feel that God is desiring me to fess up, I might simply pray something like “God, I’m not sure if I sinned or not, but if I did I thank you that I’m forgiven and there’s no condemnation” and then I can move on without mulling the situation over in my mind over and over again. The second scenario feels much healthier and I believe has allowed me to keep growing when I otherwise would have been “stuck”, but obviously is not a very orthodox approach.

    What do you think?

  8. Thank you so much Phil. I’ve been through so many spiritual downfalls this last months. I thank God for working with the Holy Spirit in me to remind me of what am doing until now. Also, I thank him for using your word to convict me of the truth about confession. I can go on talking about how much I’ve been struggling and how good I feel right now because of this reflection. However, I just want to say that God used your words to help me get out of this bad situation. God bless you Phil, much love

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