Healthy vs Unhealthy Confession


Grace is God’s response to our messes. If you don’t acknowledge your messes, you’ll never receive his grace.

Confession is one way to receive grace and break the power of sin. But confession is poorly understood. Like the word repentance, confession has been mangled through the machinery of man-made religion.

Instead of bringing freedom to the bound and life to the dead, confession is seen as the cost of admission into the House of Grace.

“You wanna clear your conscience? Then start talking you miserable sinner!”

Confession is good for you, but only when it’s done right. We might say there’s good confession and bad confession (see 1 Tim 6:12).

So what is good confession? Very simply, it is the articulation of faith; it is agreeing with God and acknowledging your total dependence on him.

And what is bad confession? It is verbalizing unbelief in the goodness of God and the finished work of the cross. The picture below illustrates the difference.

To help you grasp this distinction, I want to draw twelve lines between healthy and unhealthy confession.

1.    Unhealthy confession is an admission of my badness, but healthy confession is a declaration of my trust in God’s goodness (Ps 145:4-7).

2.    Unhealthy confession leaves me focused on my needs, my weaknesses, and my shortcomings; healthy confession connects my need with God’s grace, his strength and his limitless provision (Php 4:19, 2 Cor 12:9).

3.    Unhealthy confession puts the focus on me and what I have or haven’t done, but healthy confession puts the focus on Christ and what he has done for me (Rom 10:9-13).

4.    Unhealthy confession requires no faith at all and so doesn’t please the Lord (Heb 11:6), but healthy confession is an expression of the faith in my heart (Rom 10:8). Indeed, healthy confession stirs my faith (Rom 10:17).

5.    Unhealthy confession is based on the hope that I can convince God to do something or give me something to make things better; healthy confession is based on the good news that God has already given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us (2 Pet 1:3).

6.    Unhealthy confession is begging God to forgive me; healthy confession is only possible when I know he already has (2 Pet 1:5-9).

7.    Unhealthy confession is begging God to bless me; healthy confession is thanking God that in Christ I am already the beneficiary of every blessing there is (Eph 1:3).

8.    Unhealthy confession perpetuates a cycle of Adamic self-reliance and death (Gal 6:7-8); healthy confession empowers me to walk in newness of life (Acts 13:46).

9.    Unhealthy confession is hedged with excuses, finger-pointing, and blame (see Gen 3:12); healthy confession is an honest admission of failure or need underwritten by a radical reliance on God’s grace (see Ps 51:1).

10.    Unhealthy confession is motivated by a perceived need to restore relationship with God; healthy confession is only possible when I am secure in his promise that he will never leave nor forsake me (Heb 13:5).

11.    Unhealthy confession always follows sin but healthy confession often preempts it. By being honest about my weaknesses and vulnerabilities I position myself to receive the grace that empowers me to say “No” to ungodliness (Jas 4:6).

12.    Unhealthy confession is agreeing with the Accuser that I am still a miserable sinner (“look at what you did!”); healthy confession is agreeing with the Holy Spirit that I am still a saint despite what I did (Joh 16:10).

In this life you will make many messes. Confessing-to-be-forgiven or to otherwise manage your sin is like trying to clean house with a filthy mop. You’ll be busy but you won’t make any difference. If anything, you’ll make things worse by adding self-righteous unbelief to your pile of sins.

True confession is freely acknowledging your total dependence on God’s grace – grace for salvation, sanctification, and every other thing. True confession is faith put into words. True confession is relying on the One who cleanses you from all unrighteousness.

Bad confession, such as religion teaches it, seems right to man but ultimately leads to death. Good confession leads to life and godliness.

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23 Comments on Healthy vs Unhealthy Confession

  1. Hello Paul! I wanted to thank you for sharing with me. I absolutely love reading your writings. I sometimes forward on to other friends and family. My son on law responded with this question and I wondered if you could shed some light. I have been looking at James through new lenses lately and I am sure this would add to it! Thank you again and every blessing you need to you and yours! Maryann

    Thanks! I like the point that we should focus on more of who we are in Christ, for believers. I love the idea and agree fully. My question would be how to reconcile this into their teaching:

    Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working]. (James 5:16 AMP)

    God bless and have a great night!


    Maryann’s iPhone

  2. So liberating! I will read this to our Church!

  3. Thank You Paul for Your Articles and Teachings ! I have Such Joy and Freedom as I Read and get Reminded of These Truths of The Finished Work ! So So Greatful to My Abba for Revealing them to Me ! I am Jumping for Joy ! 🙂

  4. Really well explained, thank you

  5. ya know Paul its getting spooky,how your one step ahead of me,Im thinking about something, and i round the corner and your standing there with it.I am going to share this on Facebook and it will probably get us put on the Vatican hit list, but here it goes.

    • well, we may not be on the Vatican hit list but I sure heard from catholic family members about making fun of mother angelica.

      • Yeah, me too. I had no idea that was a real picture. I thought it was someone dressed up as a pirate nun. My sincere apologies to Mother Angelica. I have since replaced the picture.

      • ok, we will let it go this time,we need to let it calm down for a week or so ,watch my back bro,then we’ll strick again,………..ONLY KIDDING PEOPLE.

  6. Yes this should be the way, it’s just that simple and pure.. Bless to those who has ears to hear….If God wanna be harsh on us, very commanding or demand self discipline, He would not had sent Jesus to go through so much for us, He would just continue that 10 commandments to stay with us. I’m not a bible scholar but being as a father, I wasn’t taught how to love my kids unconditionally in nature and I love them so much, I believe our Heavenly Father is the same. If my sons doubt my love for them, I also feel hurt.

  7. Paul, WOW! I’ve received tons of freedom from your writings on confession (THANK YOU), BUT i have a question: you said in the article “12 reasons why Christians don’t need to confess…” that we should ‘“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy’” (Heb 12:14). If digging up old hurts brings healing and life, I would do it.” But don’t you think there are times when bringing up things from the past that the other person was not directly affected by can lead to new hurt and insecurities in the present? In other words, hurt instead of healing? I like to be as transparent as possible with people, but I feel like in my experience there are times when no good can come of confessing certain things to people we’ve sinned against. Thoughts?

  8. Intriguing about the pirate nun! Anyway this one is especially helpful for me. Unhealthy confession is based on the hope that I can convince God to do something or give me something to make things better; healthy confession is based on the good news that God has already given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us (2 Pet 1:3)

  9. Edgar Guillermo // February 11, 2016 at 11:07 am // Reply

    PraiseGod..can i share it to corporate world here in the phils?

  10. If somebody has commited secret sin e.g adultery and he wants to forget it and not want to get it revealed forever to anybody so he bring it to God who is light and get rid of it forever. By not confessing will he not miss this. And without confessing and asking forgiveness to God will he not be feeling guilty?
    As you said if we don’t confess or ask forgiveness of a particular sin then how a person can deal with that sin to get rid. Will it not be sweeping the sin under the rug? If he don’t think of that sin and not confess will he not be having more chances to get into that sin again easily?

  11. Amen! Thank you for posting this. I really needed to find this today! May God bless you.

  12. At first this post really offended me, but as the internet allowed me to share your posts I found the solution: knowing our fathers love – and he loves us more than we know. Then you can speak to mountains.

  13. What does number 3 mean?

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