Proverbs 28:13 (New American Standard Bible)
13 He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.
Sin thrives in the darkness.
And yet, when we sin, the first thing we do is shove that nasty little sin into the back of the closet, turn off the lights, quietly close the door, and hope no one noticed what we were doing. We’re afraid of being found out. If anyone knew what we’d done, we’d be ostracized.
I wish I could say that wasn’t true. There are some sins the revelation of which probably would get you ostracized, but that’s not the way it should be.
I’ve written before about the bent of people in the church – everyone really – to hide their indiscretions, to wear masks. And I’ve written about the need to be real, but this is different. This isn’t about what hiding our sins does to the church as a whole. It’s about what it does to us as individuals and our relationships with God and others.
I confess to you that I have sinned. (Whoa, seriously?!) In fact, I may be sinning right now. You don’t know!
I confess to you that I have hidden my sins, and when I did, here’s what happened. I became a slave to them. You see, there’s a lot of talk in the Bible about darkness/evil/sin and light/goodness/righteousness. I think that’s more than just a visual way to think about the difference between God and Satan or sin and righteousness. I think it tells us something about the nature of these concepts.
Let’s talk about darkness. You can’t see in it. Therefore, things can be hidden in it. It’s really easy to get lost in the darkness. It is – by definition – devoid of light.
Now, how about light? When a room is lit up, you can see everything. It’s impossible to hide in an open, sunny, expanse. You can generally – given the absence of other obstacles – see right where you’re going in the light. Light drives away the darkness.
Let’s compare sin and darkness. Attachment to sin can “blind” you to what you should do. Or, if you like, it can cause you to “lose your way.” (Take a look at Romans 1:18-31 to see how sin takes root and leads to more sin.) We all have a tendency to hide our sin. Sin is the exact opposite of righteousness – there is nothing good in it.
Hence, my opening statement: Sin thrives in the darkness. It grows and breeds and takes over. But once the light shines on it…
This is confession. Shining the light on our sin.
It requires humility to truly confess your sins. Therefore, a true confession requires not just speaking them aloud, but forsaking them, i.e. repentance. It is in this repentance that we find compassion. God shows compassion to those who confess and forsake their sins. What does this mean?
Remember how God hardened the hearts of those people in Romans 1? They became, as Paul later writes, “slaves to sin.” (Romans 6) I believe that sin’s power over us is found in the darkness, and when we shine the light on it by confessing, its power is broken. We are then free to become “slaves to righteousness.”
So, to whom do we confess? To God, of course. He has the power to forgive us and deliver us from our sins, but let’s be honest. We confess sins to God, but it’s still really easy to hide them.
I believe God calls us to confess our sins to our fellow believers. (See James 5:16.) This means we must trust one another, and that’s a near impossible thing to do when you can’t tell if the face someone is showing you is real. But we must trust one another.
So, confession is a powerful instrument of God in freeing us from bondage to sin. But there is an even greater impact.
I sincerely believe that if you find one fellow Christ-follower that you think you can trust and confess your sins to that person, this can be the beginning of change in the church. Masks will fall away. True faces will be revealed. People will be humbled before God, and they will see him do amazing things (2 Chronicles 7:14).
I’ll close with these words spoken by Alistair Begg during an exposition of Hebrews 3:13: “God has determined that it is in our relationships with one another that we are strengthened and equipped.”