Confess, Repent, Repeat: How God Uses Confession and Repentance to Draw Us Closer to Him
When was the last time you confessed sin in your life? This is a question we should ask ourselves daily and answer honestly. Confession is the only path to repentance and repentance is the only path to allowing Christ to pull us away from the sin he has already freed us from.
We can never defeat sin on our own. The only one that has achieved victory and freedom over sin is Jesus Christ, by his death and resurrection. This is so important: the sin in our lives can only be defeated by the power of Christ. We must relinquish ourselves to Christ’s lordship through true confession and repentance in order to be free from sin in our lives.
True repentance is followed by change which is achieved by God in us. According to Romans 12:2, we must be transformed by the renewal of our mind, which is only by the power and grace of God. Once there is transformation, God has made us able to discern what is good and acceptable because of the Holy Spirit in us. Once we have been saved by Christ, He has forgiven us of our sins once and for all; the work is finished. When we confess, we are not asking for new forgiveness each time, but thanking God for the forgiveness He continually bestows.
In Luke 5:32, Jesus is asked by the Pharisees why he sits and eats with sinners; Jesus replies with this: “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” In this verse, we see that only those who confess and repent will know Christ. The lack of repentance and confession indicates we have become self-righteous and do not see the need for a Savior. To that end, unauthentic confession and repentance are the product of a hardened heart. Authentic confession and repentance are the product of a convicted heart.
Conviction Leads To True Confession
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.
In this passage, David gives us the perfect example of true confession. He recognized and confessed that he had sinned against God. This is how it should be for us who are in Christ. The Holy Spirit is active within us, convicts us of our sin, and pushes us to confess our sins and seek repentance.
Homologeo, which means “confession” in Greek, is an acknowledgment of our sin, a cry out for forgiveness, and a full surrender of ourselves to God in order to maintain fellowship with Him.
True confession does not fear the judgment of man nor does it solely attack the effects of sin. True confession directly attacks sin at the source and is done in order to fully submit to Christ in order to be made into his image. Confession is not a “get out of jail free” card. If “confession” is done in order to feel better about ourselves and not to submit to Christ, then it is not an authentic confession.
True Confession Produces True Repentance
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
-1 John 1:9
In this passage, John points us to a wonderful and humbling truth: if we confess our sins, God will forgive us and cleanse us from unrighteousness, and He will transform our hearts and our minds.
This process of God transforming our hearts is due to the conviction in our heart. By this, we know that the Spirit within us is convicting us of our sin and pushes us to repentance. The Spirit pushes our hearts to want transformation and leads us to confession and full submission to Christ.
Metanoias, which means “repentance” in Greek, is a personal, absolute, ultimate, and unconditional surrender to God as sovereign King. Ben Keach once said,
Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth—with grief and hatred of his sin—turn from it unto God, with full purpose of and endeavor after new obedience.
We repent from our sins not by trying harder but by surrendering to God. Our efforts will never free us from sin, but submission to the Lord will humble us and draw us nearer to Him so that He can free us from it!
Why Should I Confess My Sins and Repent?
We are commanded to confess and repent and we should desire to do so. We cannot become more like Christ unless our desires for sin are cast out and replaced by a desire for Christ. Confession is important because when we confess, we are ultimately confessing Christ is all-satisfying to us! Romans 10:9-10 famously says that, “If we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved.”
To have faith in Christ and be saved, we must confess that He is Lord. That is what confession is—we confess our sins and acknowledge that Christ is our Lord and that He is all we want, but we also need to repent. Repentance comes after confession. We must confess our sins in order to be reminded of the forgiveness that God freely gives us, and we must repent in order to become more like Christ. We should desire to repent from our sins in order to submit to Christ as Lord, and God will use that desire to make us look more like Him.
How Do I Confess?
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
-2 Chronicles 7:14
First, we confess to God our sins. He already knows our sin, but confession is an action born out of a conviction that humbles ourselves before our Almighty God.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
We, then, confess our sins to others. This builds accountability that allows us to encourage each other and help each other to truly repent from our sin. When we confess to one another, we are opening ourselves up and allowing others to come alongside us and encourage us through our confession of sin. Through prayer and accountability, we can confess to others, not receiving judgment, but a community.
How Do I Repent?
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
-2 Corinthians 7:10
Repentance is preceded by conviction and confession, not by a fear of judgment or wanting to feel better about ourselves. Greg Laurie says it well when he says,
Remorse is sorry for being caught. Repentance is being sorry enough to stop.
True repentance is not an act of ourselves, but the victorious act of Christ in us and through us. We repent by looking more like Christ (Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Chronicles 7:14, Matthew 3:8). Repentance is an act in which we are transformed to look more like Christ; our actions, desires, and thoughts all change from being self-centered to God-centered. When we repent, we no longer desire or run after the sin that we have held on to. We have had a heart transformation and are now in Christ Jesus. Instead of continuing to sin and run from God, we run to God in times when we are tempted to sin. This means that we have crucified the desires of our flesh, as Paul explains in Galatians 5:24.
What Does This Look Like?
Submit yourself to God. When God saves us, He frees us from the chains of death (Romans 5:8), and brings us into life with Him through the death and resurrection of Christ. Repentance, in turn, produces faith in Christ alone within us (Ephesians 2:8-9), which we first confess to God, (Romans 10:9-10) and then to others as a testimony of His work (Matthew 28:19-20).
Seek accountability with community. James clearly tells us in James 5:16 to confess our sins to one another, and to pray for each other. We confess to God, and then to others. This is how sin is fought in community—brothers or sisters in Christ rallying with you, bringing your sin to light, and praying for you that you might repent.
Be honest. The only way to defeat sin in Christ is by keeping nothing hidden and repeating repentance daily. Sin cannot be dealt with if part of it is hidden or altogether deflected. Be honest with your community and allow them to know your heart. A healthy community centered around Jesus will not judge your heart but will open their hearts, reveal their brokenness, and point to the victory that is in Christ alone. The struggle against sin is not something to address every once in a while—it is a battle! We must confess and repent daily in order to continually fight our sin.
Be real. When confessing, seek a few of your brothers or sisters in Christ and be real with them. Walk through joys and sorrows together. Be open and shine light on your sin. Encourage each other with God’s Word and fight sin together. Allow the Lord to transform your heart; you cannot do it on your own. Confession and repentance are not suggestions to help live a better life-they are musts for the Christian in order to fully submit to God and His glory.
Only Christ can free us from sin. Through conviction, confession, and repentance, the Lord leads us away from sin and transforms us into the image of Christ. Our desire should be to be transformed by God daily by seeking Him through the reading of His Word, prayer, confession, and repentance. It is only by the kindness of God that we should be led to confess our sins, repent from our ways, and seek first our holy God (Romans 2:4).