“Hyper-grace preachers say it’s wrong to confess sins. They say confession is a form of unbelief.” Ever heard that? It’s not true. Actually, every hyper-grace preacher believes in the power of confession. We say things like, “confession is good for you,” and “confession is healthy.”
But what is confession?
Like the word repentance, confession is a word that has been mangled in the machinery of manmade religion. Instead of bringing healing to the hurting and life to the dead, confession is seen as the cost of admission into the house of grace. “You wanna be clean? Then ‘fess up you miserable sinner! Tell God your dirty little secrets.”
But that’s not confession. That’s manmade religion.
To confess literally means to agree with or say the same thing as another. Biblical confession is agreeing with God. It’s verbalizing faith in his goodness and acknowledging your dependence upon him (Rom. 10:9–10). It’s saying, “God, I believe you are faithful and true and will do all that you promised.”
But some people have a different definition of confession. They think confession is something you must do to make yourself clean, righteous, and forgiven. “I have to review all my sins to receive forgiveness.” This is a dead work. Confessing-to-be-forgiven is like washing with dirty water. No matter how hard you scrub you won’t make yourself clean.
Faithless confession puts the focus on you and what you have done, but faith-based confession puts the focus on Christ and what He has done on your behalf.
Does that mean we should never confess or that it’s wrong to confess our sins? Not at all. Biblical confession is good for you. It will help you to walk in the grace that God has provided.
One of the clearest descriptions of confession comes from Max Lucado:
Confession is not complaining. If I merely recite my problems and rehash my woes, I’m whining … Confession is so much more. Confession is a radical reliance on grace. A proclamation of our trust in God’s goodness. “What I did was bad,” we acknowledge, “but your grace is greater than my sin, so I confess it.” If our understanding of grace is small, our confession will be small: reluctant, hesitant, hedged with excuses and qualifications, full of fear of punishment. But great grace creates an honest confession. (Grace, p.83)
We don’t repent and confess to get God to forgive us. We repent and confess because God has forgiven us.
Your repentance and confession won’t change God, but it will surely change you. It will help you receive God’s life-changing grace. As Clark Whitten says, “Confession is for my healing, not for God’s forgiveness.”
Those who don’t understand this may point to 1 John 1:9 which seems to say God’s forgiveness is contingent upon our confession of sins. This scripture is so widely misunderstood that it gets mentioned in just about every book on grace. To paraphrase Andrew Farley, John cannot be saying God forgives us on account of our confession because just a few verses later he says we are already forgiven on account of Jesus’ name.
When you sin it takes no faith to beat yourself up and agree with the Accuser who calls you a sinner. It takes faith to look at the cross and say, “Thank you, Jesus, for carrying all my sin.” It takes faith to praise your Father for his superabounding grace that is greater than your transgression. And it takes faith to agree with the Holy Spirit who says, despite what you did, you are still righteous, acceptable, and pleasing to God.
Adapted from The Hyper-Grace Gospel, pp. 27-29.
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