Confession Restores Fellowship
If all my sins are forgiven in Christ, a believer may wonder, why do I need to confess my sins to God?
Our relationship with God as his children was established when we were born again. But our fellowship with God can ebb and flow based on our obedience. Through union with Christ by faith, we stand justified in his righteousness and there is nothing we, or anyone else, can do to remove that from us.1 Our communion with Christ, however, can more or less please him depending on whether or not we obey.
Human relationships function similarly. My children will always be my children, no matter what they do. But the quality of our fellowship depends greatly on how we relate to one another. They will sin against me and I will sin against them—but we will always be family. Thankfully, we have a Father in heaven who never sins against us.
The only right response to God’s steadfast love is to trust and obey him in order to please him.2 Striving to obey him springs from faith-filled joy in his love. Though sin does not break our relationship with God, it does affect our fellowship with him. It pushes him away. It grieves his heart. It creates temporary obstacles to our communion. A faithful response to sin, then, involves drawing near to God in faith through confession, repentance, and trusting the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
Since fellowship with God is precious, don’t delay your confessions. Learn to keep short accounts with God. Healthy fellowship is sustained by frequent confession. Sometimes these will be short prayers, but we can also benefit from prolonged periods of focused prayer. As you confess, keep the enjoyment of fellowship with him central.
Confessing in this way purifies our hearts, deepens our humility, maintains our fellowship, and enables us to see the glory of Jesus all the more clearly. Repentance does not just give us a clear conscience before God; it also deepens our fellowship and grows us in holiness.
Confession Fosters Fear
In our flesh, we naturally fear the consequences of sin without actually fearing the God we offend. Scripture corrects this thinking:
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared. (Ps. 130:3–4)
Receiving forgiveness cultivates proper fear. Left to ourselves, we could not stand; if God were merely fair, he would strike us down. Yet in mercy he struck Christ instead and raised us with him. Seeing the cost of our forgiveness moves us to want to resist sin.
The devil knows his sin and trembles before God—but not with a fear leading to repentance. Those who have been forgiven, however, are freed to fear God rightly. For worshipful fear is not paralyzing, but tenderizing. A heart that shrugs at forgiveness reveals flippancy, not saving fear. But for those for whom sin is bitter, Christ is wonderfully sweet. Forgiveness restrains us from sin by cultivating reverence for the forgiver.
Confession Stirs Thankfulness
Confessing to God brings us face to face with the one who knows us fully, yet forgives us completely. Forgiveness produces thankfulness. As Jesus taught, the one who has been forgiven much loves much (Luke 7:47).
The connection between sexual purity and gratitude is clear: “Sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving” (Eph. 5:3–4).
His love is an everlasting love that was never earned and therefore can never be lost.
When discontented with what God has given, we become susceptible to immorality. When content with the gifts of God, however, we become less prone to indulge in the passing pleasures of sin.
A grumbling heart feels justified in sinful escapes, but a thankful one finds contentment in whatever God provides. Though mere willpower cannot produce thankfulness, meditating on Calvary can. Arnold Dallimore observes:
When we think too lightly of sin, we think too lightly of the Savior. He who has stood before his God, convicted and condemned, with the rope about his neck, is the man to weep for joy when he is pardoned, to hate the evil which has been forgiven him, and to live to the honor of the Redeemer by whose blood he has been cleansed.3
Meditate on the assurance of God’s love for you. Neither demon nor disaster can pry you from Christ’s grasp. His love is an everlasting love that was never earned and therefore can never be lost. Christ has called you and he will keep you (John 10:28–30; Rom. 8:28–39).
Thankfulness lifts our eyes from the disappointment of being single, the difficulty of marriage, the pressures of work, or the despair of broken dreams—and sets them on Christ who gave us everything when he gave us himself.
Take unhurried time, then, to honestly confess. There are no small, safe sins. But there is a good and gracious God. Pray the words of David:
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting! (Ps. 139:23–24)
- See John 1:12–13; 10:28–29; Rom. 5:1–11; 8:29–39.
- See Rom. 12:1; 2 Cor. 5:9; Gal. 1:10; Eph. 5:10; Phil. 4:8; Col. 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:4; Heb. 11:6.
- Arnold A. Dallimore, Spurgeon: A Biography (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1985), 14.
This article is adapted from Pure in Heart: Sexual Sin and the Promises of God by J. Garrett Kell.
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