“Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity” (Psalm 32:2).
When we have received the gift of repentance from the Holy Spirit, our desire will be the same as David’s after his sin with Bathsheba: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions” (Psalm 51:1).
Mercy! What a wonderful thought! But how do we receive it?
It can be easy to think that we must do some hard thing in order to deserve God’s mercy, to earn it. But this isn’t the case. God only asks us for two things: Confess and forsake our sin. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
James 5:16 says, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.” We should confess our sins to God only. He is the only One who can forgive us (Ephesians 1:5–7; Acts 4:12). But if we have faults that have hurt other people, then we should tell those who have been hurt that we know we’ve done wrong and that we’re sorry. After asking those we’ve hurt for forgiveness of the fault, we should ask God for forgiveness for hurting His child.
Confession is necessary to finding peace. We must realize the terribleness of our sin and then humble ourselves by confessing to God just how guilty we are. Only then can we experience forgiveness and the peace that comes with it. “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
How Do I Confess?
When we confess, whether to God or to someone we have hurt, we need to be specific and say we’re sorry for the specific things we’ve done. The Israelites did this in the days of Samuel after they had lost faith in God: “And all the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto the Lord thy God, that we die not: for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king” (1 Samuel 12:19).
Real confession always comes with sincere repentance and reformation. This is because real confession is the result of deep sorrow for sin. If we have this deep sorrow, this abhorrence, disgust, and hatred of our sin, we will turn from it. In this way, a changed life with a new love for everything beautiful and pure shows that our confession is real.
Paul described this kind of repentance in his letter to the church in Corinth: “For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter” (2 Corinthians 7:11).
The only way we can be really sorry for our sin, the only way we can really abhor it, is by allowing the Holy Spirit to impress us with the terribleness of it. Without the Holy Spirit, our confessions will be shallow and insincere. Such confession leads to excuse-making, like when Adam and Eve blamed each other, the serpent, and even God for their sin (Genesis 3:12, 13). If we try to excuse ourselves, our confessions cannot be accepted by God.
True confession, on the other hand, makes no excuses. This was the kind of confession that Paul made: “Many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities” (Acts 26:10, 11). “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).
This is the kind of confession that we must make. When we do, God will forgive us!
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).