Confession, Repentance and Forgiveness
Some people feel that there is nothing for them to confess. Some people feel that they are already good enough. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in 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 1:8, 9) “Confess your sins to each other, and pray for each other that you may be healed.” (James 5: 16) The truth is that we all stray from the right path and from our heavenly Father in our thoughts, feeling, words and actions. Each day in varying degrees, we are like the prodigal son or daughter, and we need to return home, confess our sins, and say that we are unworthy to be God's son or daughter, and we need to renew our commitment to be an obedient servant.
We all deserve the judgment and punishment of God for our sins. “All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23) “There is none righteous, no not one.” (Rom 3:10) “All of our righteousness is like filthy rags.” (Isa 64:6) Someone has said, “Justice is getting what we deserve. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve.” Paul says in Ephesians, “But God who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. (By grace you have been saved.) And raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.” (Eph 2:4-7)
Every breath we take and every beat of our heart is undeserved. There is nothing we can say or do to make us worthy of one breath, or one beat of our heart. We can’t give money, possessions or property to God in order for Him to give us things in return. It’s because of His grace and blessings that He gives us money, possessions and property in the first place. Everything is made by God and belongs to God, and He puts things into our hands to hold and use on a temporary basis during our life. Even our body does not belong to us. It was made by God and belongs to Him. Our parents, siblings, children, relatives, friends and neighbors are from God, and we are unworthy of them also.
We are responsible for what we do with everything God has loaned us for temporary use throughout our lifetime. As Job said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord”. (Job 1: 21) Job knew that God had a perfect plan for his life, and even in the middle of disaster, God loved him and was with him. He knew like the Apostle Paul that “All things work together for good to those who love God, and who are called according to His purpose.” (Rom 8:28)
The Prodigal Son
The parable of the prodigal is an excellent example of confession, repentance and forgiveness. Like Psalm 23 in the Old Testament, Luke 15 is one of the most well known and best loved chapters in the Holy Scriptures. The prodigal had all of the blessings of his father, his family and his home, and none of that was deserved. He was in a rich family with servants, and yet he was not happy, and he wanted more. He was completely unworthy, but he was not worthless because he was loved by God. Just as we are unworthy of our heavenly Father’s love and blessings, but we are not worthless because we are precious in His sight, and He loves us, and He sent His Son to die in our place.
We know the prodigal son was selfish because he wanted things for himself, and he wanted his own way, and he wanted to put himself first before his father and his family. That’s exactly how we are as well in our sinful nature. The result of selfishness is that we lose everything. We lose the things that we want, and we don’t get our own way because sin and the devil are our masters. We are not first anymore because we are a slave to the enemy.
God used the suffering of the prodigal after he had lost everything, to bring him to repentance. He had a change of mind and heart. First, he decided to go back home. Second, he decided to confess that he had sinned against God, and against his earthly father. Third, he realized he was not worthy to be a son, and not worthy of his father’s love and blessings. Fourth, he said he is willing to be a servant, and that meant he was willing to be obedient and submissive to the will of his father, and to the rules of his father’s household. Instead of being a slave to sin, death and the devil, he was happy to become a slave to his father, and obediently serve him for the rest of his life. These 4 steps are necessary for confession and repentance to be genuine, so that we can be forgiven.
The Four Steps of Confession and Repentance
1) We must come home to the place where God originally put us, and make a personal face to face
confession to the people we have sinned against. Sending a message with another person, or sending
a letter is not usually enough.
2) We must confess that we have sinned against God, and also all the people we have harmed with our sin.
3) We must admit that we are not worthy to be in God's family. We are not worthy to be a husband or
father, a son or daughter, a wife or mother, or a brother or sister. In other words, we are not worthy of
the people that God has put into our life for us to care for, and to serve and obey.
4) Like Jesus, we have to become a willing, obedient servant. We have to humble our self, and be of no
reputation, and become the servant of all. We have to be obedient to the point of death, just like Jesus
was. (Phil 2: 5-8) It’s only when we lose our life that we can be saved, and forgiven. Then God can
make us into a new person that is unselfish, and we are motivated to love God and others just as our
heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ love us.
When we go through this four step process we can be forgiven by God. We can be brought into the family of God, and we can be showered with all of the love and blessings of God's grace. Many times people have a weak, diluted version of confession and repentance, and they don’t go through the four steps that the prodigal son went through. As a result they don’t feel forgiven, and they still have their guilt and shame, and they do not have victory over their sin.
The Two Main Types of People
There are two main types of people that we confess our sins to. One type is like the older brother of the prodigal, who, because of his sin and selfishness, didn’t care that his younger brother had confessed and repented. He didn’t want to hear the confession, because it would have convicted him of his sin. He didn’t even care that his younger brother was back in the family. It is difficult to confess to this type of person, but you have to try anyway.
The father of the prodigal is the other type of person that we confess to. The father had nothing but forgiveness and love for his son, and wanted to be reconciled to him. This is the perfect example of our heavenly Father’s love for us. The father didn’t have the sin, and selfishness, and guilt of the older brother, and therefore was anxiously longing for his son to return. When he saw him a long way off in the distance, he couldn’t wait. He had to run out and embrace him and kiss him. When he heard his son confess that he had sinned against God and against him, and say that he was no longer worthy to be a son, he didn’t let him go to step four and finish his planned confession. He knew his son’s confession was genuine, and that he would be obedient and submissive. He ordered his servants to cloth him with the best robe, and put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet, and to kill the fattened calf and prepare a special dinner to celebrate the return of his son.
There are some people who are ready to hear a confession, and will encourage you and support you in your repentance. Then there are people who will refuse your confession completely, and will accuse you of not being sincere, and perhaps say that you cannot be forgiven at all. There are also people who are somewhere in between and they will be hesitant to hear your confession, and will feel uncomfortable because it makes them aware of their own sin, but they will accept your confession.
Regardless of who you are confessing to, or their response to your confession, remember to go through all four steps. As a result, your guilt, anger and fear will be gone, and you will be able to forgive others, love them, and be reconciled to them in peace. You will have a new life here on earth of unselfishness and serving the Lord Jesus, and also an eternal home in heaven.