It is not natural for us as human beings to be open with our struggles and sufferings. We have an innate propensity to hide. R. C. Sproul said, “In our human nature, we’re masters of self-deceit.” But a healthy and mature gospel community walks in open confession and repentance. These attitudes and acts continue throughout our lives as Christians. We have the charge and honor to bear each other’s burdens in the darkest of times. Confession and repentance are never out of season.
In struggling with sin, an invisible veil of confusion can cover our hearts and minds. But through faith and persistence, our hearts can break through barriers of shame to the beginning stages of confession and repentance, then toward healing and restoration. We are all in need of the Spirit’s provision to renounce individual sin. Confession is a grace aided by guidance. It’s helpful to ponder: If genuine repentance involves a godly sorrow for specific sins, does confession only involve a sorrow for sin in general?
In her book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, Rosaria Butterfield communicates a powerful and bold witness to the Spirit’s fruit from her unbelieving heart and lifestyle of sexual sin. Going from a prominent professor teaching secular worldviews to a believer growing in Christ, Butterfield articulates the process of the “hard edges and dark valleys” in her painful confessions and changed lifestyle. The process of freedom that she “experienced in coming face-to-face with the living God” led her to say, “How our lives bear the fruit of Christ’s spilled blood is important.”
Rosaria’s honesty and vulnerability in this area challenges all Christ followers to such ruthless trust in God. In a self-centered society of worldly priorities and shallow success, it is refreshing to see sincere confession accompanied by godly sorrow and genuine repentance.
Repentance, like faith, is an intellectual understanding. We need the Scriptures to show us that sin is wrong, that we are subject to God’s direction and guidance. Hebrews 4 says, “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
We turn to Christ for salvation from our sin, yet we also turn from our sin. The gospel of grace helps us do this. In our repenting, we must ask ourselves if we are making a genuine commitment to forsake sin.
Thomas Watson wrote, “Repentance is a pure gospel grace. The covenant of works admitted no repentance; there it was, sin and die. Repentance came in by the gospel. Christ has purchased in His blood that repenting sinners shall be saved.” God’s blessings lead us to repent of sin. As disciples, we are called to bear fruit in keeping with repentance; our souls need to be in habitual, open confession that is further walked out in obedience.
So, if confession and repentance are continuing parts of our Christian walk, what are the results?
The opportunities—to imitate the love of Christ, speak the truth in love and be a safe place amid stubborn sins—abound with hope for healing and restoration. If our God, who is high and lifted up, revives the spirit of the lowly and revives the heart of the contrite, may we faithfully remove any obstruction. Let us invite Christ’s presence through our confessions and love to one another. In doing so, by the grace of God, it resonates as a witness among others who seek such a safe and welcoming place.