My stomach churned, and my head pounded as I mumbled, “I was wrong. I’m sorry.” Those five simple words didn’t feel simple at all.
The journey to making this adult confession began the previous day when I had been terse with a deacon. (And thank goodness he didn’t know what I was thinking about him!) All that night, my embarrassing, unkind words echoed in my mind, and I had woken up convinced that the Spirit was telling me to apologize.
Honestly, I didn’t want to do it. Confessing my sin would be a blow to my pride, and those are never fun. But I knew that ignoring the sin would cost me even more.
So, I confessed and then waited, holding my breath for his reply. My elder’s grace-filled response soothed my gnawing fears. He forgave me, and it felt so good! I experienced firsthand the truth of James 5:16, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
The benefits of my confession didn’t stop there. That conversation strengthened my relationship with this particular deacon, and my respect for him grew. Now that I knew how good confession felt, I wouldn’t hesitate to reach out to him again the next time that I messed up.
Learning about the power of confession made me wonder why I’d never heard a sermon on this topic or studied it in Bible class. In fact, the last lessons I had about confession were way back in childhood when my mom would tell me, “Say sorry!” when I bumped into someone. I decided it was time to learn more about adult confession.
So, I opened up my Bible to hear what God had to say about confession, researched the benefits of it, and learned how to make a confession. And I’d love to share what I found with you!
What the Bible Says About Confession
Confess means “to admit” or “to agree.” And so confession is admitting our sin and agreeing with God that we are sinful. The word confess appears 34 times in the New Testament alone! This shows me that it’s a pretty important concept.
The Bible teaches about confessing both to God and one another.
Confessing to God
Confession helps us walk in the light. Sin is darkness and “God is light, and in him, there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). From the point of salvation on, we are God’s children walking in His light (Ephesians 5:8). Our salvation is fixed and the blood of Christ covers all of our sins. But we still mess up, and even though those new sins don’t steal our salvation, they do cause us pain by letting darkness back into our lives. Confession allows us to access God’s love and grace in a way that heals the wounds of sin and lets more light come in (1 John 1:6-7).
As Pastor Taylor Jenson says, “Confession is one of the greatest gifts God has given us. It reconnects us to Him, washes and purifies our souls, heals us, and breaks the kingdom of darkness’ influence in our lives.”
The wonderful news is that every time we confess our sins, God will forgive us. He is just longing to welcome us back and show us His love. There is no sin too great to separate us from God’s love. His love washes away our sins and brings us hope and healing.
Confessing to One Another
When we make a mistake, it can be tempting to cover it up or make excuses for it. But it’s so much healthier and more helpful to admit what we did and ask for forgiveness. Saying “I’m sorry” may cause some temporary discomfort, but it can prevent even worse problems down the road.
Jesus thinks adult confession is so important that he even tells us to leave in the middle of a church service for it! He says that if we realize that we’ve wronged someone, we should walk away from the altar and go make it right (Matthew 5:23-24).
The Benefits of Confession
Confession isn’t easy at first, but, like any skill, it gets better over time. Plus, once you start practicing confession, you’ll get to enjoy these great rewards:
- Forgiveness: Every time we pray the Lord’s prayer we say, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:12). Confession ushers in that forgiveness.
- Healing: Carrying the shame, embarrassment, and guilt of sin creates a festering wound. Confession is the healing salve.
- Mercy: “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
- Reconciliation: Sin separates us from God and others but confession brings us back together.
- Restoration: Just like it did with my relationship with my deacon, confession strengthens and restores our relationships. And, in my case, confession actually deepened our connection as he went from a deacon to a dear friend.
How to Make a Confession
The good news is that there is no perfect way to confess. It can be as simple as my confession to my deacon, “I was wrong. I’m sorry.” But, if you’re like me, it’s really helpful to see examples of adult confessions. Thankfully, the Bible is full of them. Seriously, turn to the Psalms, and you’ll see plenty of prayers of confession.
I’m always comforted by the fact that David was called a man after God’s own heart, even though he did some terrible things. Each time he confessed, God forgave him, and their relationship was restored. I’m so grateful that God does the same for me, too!
After David committed adultery, he wrote a powerful prayer of confession that’s recorded in Psalm 51. We’ll use it as a guide for how to make a confession:
- Lean on God’s mercy and love
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
- Be honest about what you did
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.
- Ask for forgiveness
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow… Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
- Praise God
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.
Since that day with my deacon, I’ve seen the power of confession over and over again. It’s amazing how mustering up just a little bit of courage to say “I’m sorry” can offer such huge rewards. I’ve found that the more I confess my sins, the more heavenly-minded I become. This is because confession makes me more humble and focused on God’s will over my own. Plus, I’ve seen how a humble confession can be a witness to non-Christians about the power of God’s forgiveness. Confession is the gospel in motion! I hope more and more people learn the benefits of adult confession.