God will not accept our confessions if we are not willing to turn away from our sin. We must decide to and make changes in our lives. We need to form new habits and give up everything that is offensive to God. This is what our lives will look like when we are truly turning away from our sin. Our responsibility is written clearly: “Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.” (Isaiah 1:16-17). “For instance, they might give back a debtor’s security, return what they have stolen, and obey my life-giving laws, no longer doing what is evil. If they do this, then they will surely live and not die.” (Ezekiel 33:15). When talking about repentance, Paul says, “Just see what this godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish wrong. You showed that you have done everything necessary to make things right.” (2 Corinthians 7:11).
Living sinful lives will dull our morals until we cannot recognize the sin that is present in our lives. The farther we stray from God, the less we are able to recognize our need of Him, and the more self-righteous we feel. The only way for us to return to God is to submit to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to show us our sins, because without the Holy Spirit in our lives, we will be blind to our sins. Attempts to confess and acknowledge the sin in our lives cannot be sincere without the Holy Spirit working, by both helping us recognize the sin itself, and by giving us the sense of urgency needed to do something about the sin. Without the Holy Spirit, we will rationalize our sins, and shift the responsibility away from us for the sin itself.
An excellent example of this is in the Garden of Eden, after Adam and Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit. First they ran and tried to hide, but when God caught up with them, and asked them what happened, Adam responded by partially blaming Eve, and partially blaming God: “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” (Genesis 3:12). Eve’s response is no better than Adam’s, by blaming the serpent, and implying that it was God’s fault for even creating it: “‘The serpent deceived me,’ she replied. ‘That’s why I ate it.’” (Genesis 3:13). By shifting responsibility on God’s creation, Eve is subtly blaming God for them falling into sin: ‘If it had not been for God, we would have fallen into sin.’
Sin began with Satan in heaven, and when charged with the wrongdoing, Satan had the same spirit of self-justification. It began with him in Heaven, it continued with Adam and Eve, and it is present in the lives of all of humanity since that point in history. Confessing to God while shying away from responsibility are not inspired by the Holy Spirit and this type of confession will never be accepted by God.
True confession, on the other hand, comes with true repentance, and it leads us to bear the responsibility and guilt for our sins, and acknowledge it without excuses or defense. We see this with the tax collector in the temple, who “stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’” (Luke 18:13). This humility before God, without any hint of excuse or blame, is the confession that reaches God’s ears. This is the confession and repentance that will be justified by Jesus, and the confession and sin that will be covered by His blood—His sacrifice.
Paul is another example of genuine repentance with a spirit and attitude that does not excuse sin, shift responsibility, or cast blame elsewhere. He did not attempt to justify his actions when he says, “Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities.” (Acts 26:10-11). Paul clearly admits to what he did, and also later acknowledges, “This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all.” (1 Timothy 1:15). “If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (1 John 1:9).
When we humbly acknowledge responsibility and ask for forgiveness, in light of Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross, we begin to see Jesus’ life and death in a clearer light, and our hearts are drawn that much closer to His. By truly repenting and confessing, real community and relationships are formed and strengthened—with both God and each other.
Next week we will begin our next discussion, focusing on our freedom of choice and continue learning how we can strengthen our walk with God by Growing with Jesus!
P.S. As always, if I missed something, or if you would like to respond on this topic, join the conversation below!