The English word “confess” derives from Latin and merely means, “acknowledge.” To Christians, however, confession is something more. Confession is speaking a truth placed in our hearts by God. Here are five confessions of a Christian.
Confessing the Revelation of Christ
When Philip first brings Nathaniel to meet the Lord, Jesus speaks a prophetic observation about Nathaniel. Nathaniel is so impressed that he says, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” (John 1:49 NASB). Surprisingly, Jesus doesn’t commend Nathaniel for recognizing Him. In fact, Nathaniel’s profession is entirely turned aside.
“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.’ ” (John 1:50 NASB).
Contrast this with the conversation between Peter and Jesus at Caesarea Philippi.
“He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.’ ” (Matthew 16:15-18 NASB).
Nathaniel and Peter say nearly the same thing regarding Jesus. One statement is treated as inconsequential, and the other receives a prophetic commendation. What is the difference? Nathaniel speaks from observation; Peter confesses the Truth of Christ by revelation from the Father. A genuine confession of Christ is an acknowledgment of a revelation placed in the heart by God.
Confession of Christ Before Men
Once we have received a revelation of Christ, we confess Christ to others. The best confession of Christ before men is a changed heart that gives glory to God. Jesus doesn’t expect all of us to stand up and preach sermons. Peter encourages us to “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you.” (I Peter 3:15 NASB). Confessing Christ before men proclaims that Jesus is the Lord of our hearts, and we have pledged our allegiance to Him. In Matthew, we read as Jesus exhorts,
““Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32 NASB).
Confessing Sin to God
In the Second Book of Samuel, the Lord sends the prophet Nathan to speak with King David. Nathan tells a thinly-veiled parable of the injustice of a rich man stealing the lamb of a poor man. David proclaims, “As the Lord Lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die.” Nathan speaks four words that pierce David’s heart, “You are the man!” Nathaniel goes on to tell all the consequences of David’s sin. David will endure violence, betrayal, and the death of a son. The next words out of David’s aren’t self-pity for the consequences. God has granted David a revelation of his sin. He humbly says, “I have sinned against the Lord.” The question becomes, “Do we regret the consequences or do we get a revelation from God that permits us to confess our sin?”
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” (I John 1:9-10 NASB).
Repentance isn’t an emotion; we can’t “decide” to confess and repent because we hate the consequences of our sin. True repentance is a confession rooted in a revelation that we have offended God.
Confessing Sin to Our Brethren
Sin is embarrassing; yet we all sin. Our inclination might be to keep our sins between God and us, but Scripture says otherwise. Admitting our faults keeps us humble. Confessing and repenting of sin make a public declaration that we are choosing to go God’s way. Sharing our weaknesses allows others to pray for us. Hidden sin gives the Devil opportunity to bring accusation; the fear of being found out can cause us to maintain a façade of right relationship. Confessing sin to our brethren allows us to be healed of that inner falsehood.
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (James 5:16 NASB).
Confessing Truth to Ourselves
We cannot deceive God, though we may be able to mislead those around us. The most tragic deception is when we merely fool ourselves. It takes revelation from God to confess the truth to ourselves, yet know that God loves us in spite of our faults.
Repenting of adultery and murder, King David wrote Psalm 51. We read,
“Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.” (Psalm 51:6 NASB).
Truth in the innermost being… God already knows the complete truth of our innermost being far more than we will ever know it ourselves. Why does God give us revelation to allow truth in the depths of our hearts? It’s for our benefit. This truth God gives us about ourselves isn’t to shame us or send us into spirals of depression. Confessing our hidden faults to ourselves sets us free. We are liberated from pretense; we are free from the Devil’s accusations. Telling the truth to ourselves gives up any claim to self-righteousness and roots us squarely in the warmth and love of the grace of God.
“So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’ ” (John 8:31-32 NASB).