The call to confess isn’t a suggestion. It’s a holy command

By Edwin Crayton/Opinion

Anyone who is making a list of the greatest confessions in history can find one in Luke Chapter 23, verses 39-43 of the Holy Bible. It occurred on the day Jesus was crucified. One of the criminals who hung on a cross next to him gave an enlightening three-part confession. First, he confessed that he and the other criminal were guilty of the crimes they were condemned for. Then he criticized the other criminal for mocking Jesus and told him that although they were in fact guilty, Jesus was not. Thirdly, he indirectly showed faith in Jesus when he confessed that Jesus was who he said he was, and then asked Christ to remember him when he came into his kingdom. You see, in his heart, this condemned man knew Jesus was lord and savior. That last part of the confession prompted Jesus to promise this criminal that he would be with him when he got to paradise (heaven). So that criminal, who just minutes earlier was most likely headed for a miserable eternity in hell, was in the last moments of his life, saved and taken to heaven. It’s truly moving.

I believe that criminal’s confession is the ideal example of what Christian confessions should look like. In other words, it gives us the basic content. First, we must acknowledge our sins. All human beings have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). Then we must acknowledge that Jesus is Lord and savior, submit to his authority, repent for our sin and ask him to be our lord and savior (John 3:16, Romans 10:9-10). However, today, the reality is, many who claim to be Christians are simply not meeting these requirements and in some cases are rejecting them partially or completely. Ours is a willful society determined to have its own way. Even inside the church we are now having to deal with certain members who are trying to bring ungodly, worldly ideas into the church body itself (John 14:23-24). Just open the paper or log on to your online news and see what I mean. The Greenville News reports that the United Methodist Church in South Carolina is facing a “theological split over sexuality”. The paper makes it clear the fight is over whether the church should accept same sex marriage and openly gay clergy. It’s also not uncommon elsewhere to find church members who back abortion or who fornicate (having sex with someone you are not married to). The Bible prohibits all of that (Leviticus 18:22, 1 Corinthians, chapter 6, Exodus 20:13). Yet that doesn’t seem to matter in some churches where there are those who see God’s commands as mere suggestions to be debated instead of holy commands to be obeyed. This is a direct challenge to God. It’s 100% demonic and 100% unacceptable. The Bible is not like a Chinese buffet. You can’t just take what you want and leave what you find unappetizing or undesirable. You have to take the whole thing. Another way to look at it is that it’s like driving your car. You cannot skip steps in the driving process. You can’t say, “Well, I won’t turn on the ignition. I’ll skip that step. Or, I’ll only use the accelerator and never use the brakes.” In the same way, confession is a mandatory step in accepting Jesus as savior and lord. Peter said, you must repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38). Romans 10:9-10 says, “You must confess with your mouth that Jesus is lord.” No confession of sin, means no repentance. No repentance, means no surrender to Christ, which indicates no faith in Jesus. No faith in Jesus means no salvation (John 3:16-18).

But although it is the main reason, salvation isn’t the only important reason that confession matters. Confession has many spiritually healthy benefits. It relieves you of a heavy burden that can rob you of your peace of mind and injure your soul. It can free someone who has been accused of what you are in fact guilty of. It restores your relationship to God and allows Christ to wash away your sins (1 Corinthians 6:11). If it’s that beneficial then why don’t more of us confess? The reasons are perhaps too numerous to catalogue in an article, but here are a few I’ve found to be true in my own life as a sinner and that I’ve noticed in general. First, mankind is proud and craves social acceptance and status. We care what others think about us and that makes us tailor our lives to fit what is socially acceptable. In Jesus’ day, some people did not follow him, because they were afraid of the religious rulers who made themselves enemies of Christ (John 12:42-43). This is still an issue today as some people still reject Jesus due to social pressures. Another reason is that we are worried about what would happen if we admitted to having a moral failing. There is something worse than having others look down on us because of our failings. It’s dying without confessing our sin and then paying for it by living a hellish eternity. You see, God is just and righteous and so he must and will punish those who sin and refuse to repent. In other words, if you do not repent, your sin remains. That means you will have to pay for it. There is one more reason we don’t confess. Many of us who claim Christ have forgotten that we are guilty sinners, just like those two criminals who died with Christ. That is why we don’t get excited about being used to save other sinners. It’s why we don’t witness, it’s why when the pastor stands up in the church sanctuary and invites volunteers to stand up and give a testimony about what God has done in their lives, almost everyone is silent. Have some of us forget that we were lost, but now are found? Or, do people display this lukewarm attitude because they are in reality still lost (Matthew 7:21)?

What can you do about this? Well, God gave us the answer to that question quite a long time ago and it still works. He told us to obey the instructions given in the Bible. Repent. and confess your sins. Then ask Jesus to be your savior and lord (John 3:16). The Bible also says, “Confess your faults to one another so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). Also, if you have committed sins that are crimes, you as a believer have an obligation to confess them to the police. If you were part of crimes or have knowledge of a crime, you are also obligated to confess what you know to authorities. Some may say, “But I might be arrested and jailed.” True. Yet, there is something worse than jail. It’s leaving this life with unrepented sin and then having to pay for it by experiencing a painful eternity in hell. That is much worse, because eternity means you’ll pay for your sin forever. There is no parole from Hell. You cannot appeal or plea bargain anything after death. However, if you confess while living, you can be washed clean spiritually and be freed in your soul, even if you have to be bound in jail. There is hope. You can serve God and other people well even in jail. Many have done it. A good deal of the Bible was written by prisoners, serving time in jail.

Remember, like those two criminals who were crucified with Jesus, our lord, we are all guilty. We are spiritual criminals (Romans 3;23). The only question is, which criminal are we going to be most like? The one who disrespected Jesus and did not take him seriously? We can disrespect God’s commands and promote sin and rebellion in the name of the church. Or we can be like the other criminal who admitted his sin and confessed that Jesus is lord and obeyed him. All in hopes that some other poor, miserable sinner who is watching us, might also be saved.

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” -1 John 1:8 (ESV)
“Confession is good for the soul.” –Ancient expression of unknown origins

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