"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)

The Bible book in which this glorious promise is given was written entirely to the saint of God, not to the unbelieving sinner.

  • Confession is what saints do when they sin.
  • Repentance is what sinners do before they become saints.
  • Confession is agreement (identity) with the sin against God.
  • Repentance is reversal (changed mind) to trust (from me to God).

Psalm 51 is a classic prayer of confession. King David poured out his heart of sorrow for the terrible affair with Bathsheba and yearned for God to "wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin" (v. 2). David acknowledged that "against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight" (v. 4). He confessed his sin, and asked God, "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation" (v. 12).

Three of the gospels record the declaration of Jesus that "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Mark 2:17). Repentance is not an apology for specific sins, it is a heart-mind-soul turning from self-righteous sufficiency to God's holiness. It is the lost that repent, not the saved: "Joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance" (Luke 15:7).

One day, however, "every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:11). Far better to repent in sorrow today than confess in terror at the Judgment. HMM III

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