Brennan Manning tells the story that a few years ago in a large city in America, rumours spread that a certain Catholic woman was having visions of Jesus. The reports reached the archbishop and He decided to check her out to see if she was authentic.

“Is it true, ma’am, that you have visions of Jesus?” asked the archbishop.

“Yes,” the woman replied simply.

“Well, then, the next time you have a vision, I want you to ask Jesus to tell you the sins that I confessed in my last confession.”

The woman was stunned. “Did I hear you right, bishop? You actually want me to ask Jesus to tell me the sins of your past.”

“Exactly! Please call me if anything happens.”

Well, ten days later the woman notified him of a recent apparition: “Please come,” she said.

Within the hour the archbishop arrived. He wanted to have eye-to-eye contact. “You just told me on the phone that you actually had a vision of Jesus. Did you do what I asked?”

“Yes, bishop, I asked Jesus to tell me the sins you confessed in your last confession.”

The bishop leaned forward with anticipation. “What did Jesus say?”

She gazed intently into his eyes. “Bishop,” she said, “These are his exact words: ‘I CAN’T REMEMBER.’”

Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel , p.14

When we confess our sin to God, through faith in Christ and in true repentance, the sin is dealt with. Period! It is covered with the blood of Christ; paid for in full. Psalm 103v12 puts it like this: ‘As far as the east is from the west so far has he removed our transgressions from us.’ – You can usually measure the points between north and south but east and west never meet, they just keep on going. That’s a symbolic portrait of God’s forgiveness. When he forgives us He removes our sin, our transgressions from us and doesn’t even remember them.

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out; that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.

Acts 3:19 (NIVUK)

Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt.

Psalm 32:1-2 (NLT)

We often talk about the sacrifice Jesus made for us, but we seldom talk about the sacrifice He expects from us. Psalm 51v17 (NLT) says: ‘The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.’ Billy Graham has extended Christ’s invitation to people around the world saying, “Come just as you are. But when you come, you must leave your defiance and rebellion behind and come in submission for at that moment of repentance the Saviour of your soul will become Master of your life.”

It’s like God says, “I’ll take the blame for everything you ever did wrong and give you the credit for everything I did right.” It doesn’t get any better than that, and that’s why it’s called the gospel. It’s not just good news. It’s the best news.

Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson, Going All In, 2013, Michigan USA, Zondervan, p.25

In Psalm 32 (v1-6) David says: ‘Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit there is no deceit.’ David goes on to say: ‘When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For night and day your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD” – and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you.’

Psalm 32 is a paradox of the Christian life: If you cover and try to hide your sins God will uncover them (David says, ‘night and day your hand was heavy upon me’). But if you uncover your sins in genuine confession God promises to cover them with his forgiveness.

Confession is not primarily something that God has us do because He needs it. We need to confess in order to heal and be forgiven and changed. When we confess properly two things happen. The first is that we are liberated from guilt. The second is that we will be at least a little less likely to sin in the same way in the future, than if we had not confessed. Sin will look less attractive to us.

John Ortberg

John Ortberg, 2002, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishers, p.129-130

If you have ever lifted up a flagstone or a rock in the garden you will have noticed all the bugs and creepy crawlies scurrying for cover as you expose them to the light. Similarly, when someone comes close to God they see the light of His holiness and it shows up their own sinfulness and unworthiness. That’s why we need to come into the light; we need to confess our sin and not scurry away and hide from God. When we confess and repent of our sins the blood of Jesus cleanses us and we are forgiven and able to bathe again in the light of God’s holiness.

You know the very first question God asks in the Bible… “Where are you?” When Adam and Eve sinned they hid from God but He immediately came looking from them – seeking to restore their relationship. God didn’t ask ‘what did you do’. He already knew that information. He asked, ‘where are you’. Obviously, he already knew that information too! The reason God asks ‘where are you’ is because He wanted to see if they would invite Him into their failure. Same with us: Unconfessed sin is like a stone in your shoe; you’ll have no peace until you get it out in the open; and get rid of it. God cannot forgive sin until it is acknowledged… (Have you been rude, selfish, unkind, swearing, looking at stuff you shouldn’t be looking at? Have you cheated, been unfair, mean; have you lied or gossiped…) As Rick Warren says, “Jesus knows the things we have done wrong, but he didn’t come to rub them in. He came to rub them out. He didn’t come to condemn us; he came to change us, restore us. A clean slate is possible!”

Rick Warren, God’s Power To Change Your Life, 2006, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, p.14

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

Proverbs 28:13 (NIVUK)

If you keep tropical fish every now and again you need to clean the water. You have to siphon off about a third of the tank because the waste products from the fish make the water toxic which, if left untreated, become deadly. – That’s a picture of what sin is like. – The water in the fish tank has to be replenished with fresh clean water. It seems to me this is a bit like what happens when we confess our sins. We are never purely holy, not 100%, and our sin is like toxic waste. But when we confess our sin and we receive God’s forgiveness, we are replenished and filled afresh with God’s grace, forgiveness and love.

Mark Batterson writes: “Every tennis legend who has played on Centre Court at Wimbledon, from Arthur Ashe to Serena Williams, has walked under an inscription on the player’s entrance with a prophetic message to both winner and loser:

‘If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two imposters just the same’

That’s it – an incomplete yet powerful thought, cut and pasted from a poem by British Nobel Laurette Rudyard Kipling, entitled “If”. – The BBC named it Britain’s favourite poem.

There are thousands of promises in the Bible, the vast majority come with an ‘if’ attached to the front end. One of the most amazing ‘ifs’ is in 1 John 1:8-9, but it’s a two-edged sword that cuts both ways: ‘If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’

If we plead innocent, we’re guilty as charged. Even the advocate can’t come to our defence. But if we plead guilty as charged, we’re found innocent and we come under God’s protective custody.”

Source: Mark Batterson, IF, 2015, Grand Rapids: Michigan, Baker Books, p.36-37, 40

Psalm 24v3-4 says: ‘Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, he who does not lift us his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.’ In other words, the psalmist poses a question: Who can come into the Lord’s presence; who may stand before him in his holy place? And the answer: He who has clean hands and pure heart… So, how do we get clean hands and a pure heart? Through confession. Sin comes between us and God and can act like a barrier in our worship, our relationship and our prayers being answered. But when we come clean before God and confess our sins and short fallings, and receive God’s forgiveness, we are given clean hands and a pure heart.

I remember as a young boy I would sometimes fall over in the playground and graze my knee, as children are apt to do. With my knee smarting and bleeding I would cry out seeking comfort. The school nurse would put a band-aid on the wound to make it better but first of all she would clean it with neat Dettol, which would often hurt more than the initial injury itself. – The experience was that of desperately wanting to receive the healing comfort of the band-aid but not that of the cleansing. – Isn’t that so true to life? We want God’s blessing and we want to be comforted, but we don’t want to have to go through the painful experience of facing up to our sin, of being purged and cleansed, in order to be comforted. There is, however, no other way: We have to recognise our sin, confess and repent of it, and then, by faith, receive the cleansing and purification of Jesus… before we can be comforted.

R. Ian Seymour

Confession is not praying a lovely prayer or making pious excuses, or trying to impress God and other Christians. True confession is naming sin – calling it by name that God calls it: envy, hatred, lust, deceit or whatever it may be. Confession simply means being honest with ourselves and with God; and others if they are involved too… True confession is the heart of repentance.

Source: The Transformation Study Bible (NLT), Colorado USA: David C. Cook Publishers (2009), commentary by Dr Warren W. Wiersbe, p.2130

We have to face up our sins before God can put them behind us. When we are ready to uncover our sins in confession, God is ready to cover them in forgiveness.

You have to be clean on the inside. Rick Warren says: “God uses all kinds of people. He uses shy people. He uses outgoing people. He uses people from all different races, ages, stages of life, and backgrounds. He uses men and women. God will use plain vessels, and he’ll use ornate vessels. He’ll use big vessels and small vessels. But there is one thing that God will not use: He will not use a dirty vessel. You have to be clean on the inside.

How do you do that? How do you purify yourself? You do it through a simple word: confession. Augustine said, “The confession of bad works is the beginning of good works.” The Bible says in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing” (GNT).

The word confess in Greek is the word homologeo. Homo means “same,” and logeo means “to speak.” So homologeo literally means “to speak the same about my sin that God does.” It means you agree with him: “God, you’re right. It wasn’t a faux pas. It wasn’t a mistake. It was a sin. It was wrong.” It doesn’t mean you try to bargain with God (“I’ll never do it again”). It doesn’t mean you try to bribe God (“I promise to read my Bible every day if you’ll forgive me”).

You just admit it.

That may seem too simple to you. You may say, “All I’ve got to do is admit it, and God will forgive me?” Yes! It’s called grace!

Here’s what I suggest you do if you really want to be used by God: Take time this week to sit down with a pen and a pad of paper, and say, “God, what’s wrong in my life? Show me. I’m going to write it down, and I’m going to admit it. I’m going to confess it to you.” Then, when God gives you an idea, write it down.

The first time I did this, I thought I was going to write a book! And I’ve done this many times since. Make a list, and then write 1 John 1:9 over it and say, “God, I admit these to you. These are wrong. I don’t want them in my life.” Ask God to cleanse your life. God will forgive you!”

Source: Rick Warren, Daily Hope: ‘You Don’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Used By God’ (accessed 29/09/2018)

The prayer God answers the quickest is, “Lord, show me what I have done wrong.”

Confession using Psalm 51v1-12:

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

Lord, have mercy.

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.

5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

Christ, have mercy.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Lord, have mercy.

In Psalm 139 the opening two verses say: ‘O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.’ – David (the author) acknowledges that God sees, God hears, God knows. We can’t hide from God, not even our thoughts. And so in the last two verses of the same psalm David wants to confess his sin and receive forgiveness. He wants nothing to stand in the way of his relationship with God and so he prays: ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.’

Bishop Sandy Millar tells of a time when he was walking along the beach and he noticed how the sand had been churned up by the footprints of those who had gone before him. The next morning the footprints were all wiped away by the sea. He sensed Jesus saying to him, ‘That is a picture of forgiveness.’ Forgiveness from Jesus Christ is like a recording of the bad stuff in our lives being wiped completely clean.

Source: Nicky Gumbel, Bible in One Year – Day 70 of 365

Confession without repentance is just bragging!

Everyone has a shadow and whenever they come into the light or into the sunshine their shadow is exposed. Similarly, whenever we come to God in confession, it’s like God’s light shining on us and our shadow, our sin is exposed, laid bare before God, but as soon as we repent, confess and ask God for forgiveness the shadow is banished, dealt with: It’s like God stands directly over us so the shadow no longer exists… it has been cast away.

Confession: What will the Vatican give for the pope’s name? Roger Cadenhead sought an answer to that question. Upon the death of Pope John Paul, this self-described “domain hoarder” registered before the new pope’s name was announced. Cadenhead secured it before Rome knew they even needed it. (The right domain name can prove lucrative. Another name, surpassed sixteen thousand dollars on eBay.) Cadenhead, however, didn’t want money. A Catholic himself, he’s happy for the church to own the name. “I’m going to try and avoid angering 1.1 billion Catholics and my grandmother,” he quipped. He would like something in return though. In exchange, Cadenhead sought:

  1. “One of those hats”;
  2. “A free stay at the Vatican hotel”;
  3. and “Complete absolution, no questions asked, for the third week of March 1987.”

Makes you wonder what happened that week, doesn’t it? It may remind you of a week of your own. Most of us have one, or more. A folly-filled summer, a month off track, days gone wild. If a box of tapes existed documenting every second of your life, which tapes would you want to burn? Do you have a season in which you indulged, imbibed or inhaled? Does your third week of March stalk you? It’s time for you to put your “third week of March 1987” to rest… Place the mistake before the judgment seat of God. Let him condemn it, let him pardon it, and let him put it away.

Max Lucado

Source: Max Lucado, 2006, Facing Your Giants, Nashville Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, p142-2, 148

At the end of a meal in a restaurant with some friends, I got up to pay for my meal and was told by the waiter, “It’s been paid for already. Someone else has covered it for you.” As we confess our sins to God through Jesus [with a repentant heart], he assures us that they have already been paid for on the cross.

Source: Explore Bible notes, 7/1/2015

Exercise involving a written confession of sin: Write you sin/s on paper. Then fold the paper in half to symbolise a ‘closed’ chapter. Take the paper to a large wooden cross where there is a hammer and nails. Nail your confession to the cross and leave it there. (Audible impact of the sound of the hammer hitting the nail and visual impact of the sight of a confession plastered cross.)

Source: Mark Batterson, IF, 2015, Grand Rapids: Michigan, Baker Books, p.66

One of the attributes of our God is His omniscience, a word made up of two words: omni, which means all, and science, which has to do with knowledge… I love the story of the wealthy grandfather who was getting on in age. He was going deaf, but he went to the doctor and was fitted with a unique hearing aid. It not only overcame the man’s deafness, but it allowed him to hear perfectly. When he went back to the doctor for a check-up, the doctor commented, “Well, your family must be extremely happy that you can now hear.” The grandfather said, “No, I haven’t told them about my hearing aid. I just sit around and listen to the conversations. I’ve already changed my will twice!” – Are you living your life in light of the fact that God hears and sees everything you say and do?

Tony Evans

Source: Tony Evans, Time To Get Serious, 1995, Illinois: Crossway Books, p.20

“There you were, a pesky wasp about to be squashed flat, helpless under the wrath of the person you had stung time and time again. And He not only shows mercy, He gives His own Son to die instead of you.”

Explore Bible notes 06/11/2008

If you knew that in 20 minutes time you would stand before God, how would you react? Would you be nervous and pace up and down anxiously or would you say to yourself, “I can’t wait?” – Get right with God.

For our confession to be taken seriously there should also be a promise that you do not intend to make the same transgression again. You can give no guarantee, of course, because the best of us fail and go back on our promises. But there should be a sincere intention at least. So confession is not just naming where you have transgressed in the past. It also requires a kind of promises for the future, a genuine intention not to do it again.

Evangelicals are not very good at confessing. John Stott calls it the ‘omnibus confession’: Dear God, I am sorry for my sins. Amen.

Philip Yancey writes: ‘Confessing my sins before God communicates something God already knows, yet somehow the act of confession binds the relationship and allows a closeness that could not otherwise exist. I make myself vulnerable and dependent, bringing God and me together. The same kind of intimacy happens when, all too rarely, I apologise to my wife for something we both know about. I do not bring her information; I bring her my heart, my humbled self.’

Source: Quoted by Nicky Gumbel in The Jesus Lifestyle, 2010, London: Alpha International, p.164