Making Confession a Habit
Confession is an important part of a Christian’s life, but it is often something avoided. Our sin can create feelings of shame, guilt, and fear that make us want to hide instead of seek forgiveness and repentance. The very first example of this is seen in Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve disobey God and then hide themselves from God when they hear Him walking in the garden. Then, they hide their bodies from each other when they become aware of their nakedness.
We are just like those first humans and often run from confession, thinking we can avoid shame, guilt, and fear; but the truth is, confession brings freedom, forgiveness, and grows our relationship with God.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2
Throughout this journal challenge, you will be given scripture to read and a short prompt to respond to that will help you learn how to confess sin. I pray that over the next 21 days you would grow closer to God and become more comfortable confessing sin so that you would be able to make it a regular habit in your life.
Step 1: What is sin?
Read: James 4:17, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, 1 Corinthians 10:13
Sin is any wrongdoing against God. Sin affects every aspect of our lives and causes corruption at every level. Sin causes a separation between us and God because our holy, perfect, and righteous God cannot be in the presence of sin. Every single person has sinned and the penalty for sin is death. God, in His mercy and grace, sent His Son, Jesus, to die for our sins so that we could have access to God.
Temptation is not the same as sin. We can be tempted to do what is wrong, but choose not to do it, and therefore not sin. We must be on guard and aware of the things that tempt us and invite us into sin.
Step 2: What is confession?
Read: 1 John 1:9, Psalm 69:5, 1 John 4:18
Confession is the acknowledgment of sin. It is not revealing something to God He didn’t already know, He knows what we have done. In His kindness, God invites us to go to Him in confession so that we may obtain mercy and grace. We do not have to fear confessing to God or think that if we confess our sins to Him, He will punish us. God wants us to come to Him with our sin so that He can help us turn from it and grow closer to Him.
Step 3: What is repentance?
Read: Acts 3:19, Luke 13:3, Romans 2:4, Romans 6:1-4
Repentance is the act of turning away from our sin and turning towards God. While God is always faithful and gracious to forgive us of our sins, we should strive to turn away from our sins so as to not abuse God’s grace. We should not continue in our sin just because God says He will forgive us. Confession should lead to repentance, or a conscious effort to become more Christlike as we leave our sin behind and turn towards Jesus’s example.
Step 4: Who do I confess to?
Read: Romans 14:12, James 5:16
Sometimes confession is private, between only you and God. Other times it is public, between you, God, and one or more person. Who we confess our sins to depends on what we are struggling with and what kind of help we need. All sin must be confessed to God because all sin is against God. Sin should also be confessed to other people when they are impacted by our sin and we need to seek their forgiveness. Sometimes we need to confess to other people when we need help, or accountability, to turn away from our sin.
Step 5: Why should I confess sin? Because God tells us to.
Read: 1 John 1:5-10, Mark 1:5
God’s Word tells us confession is the way we receive God’s mercy. If we say we do not have any sin, we deny our desperate need for a Savior. But there is freedom that comes from confessing our sin as Christ lavishes us with mercy and grace and reconciles us to God and to others.
Step 6: Why should I confess sin? Because hiding sin takes a toll on your health.
Read: Psalm 32:3-5, Psalm 38:18
There are real health benefits to confessing sin. Carrying around the weight of sin can lead to stress and anxiety which can lead to many symptoms such as trouble sleeping and eating and feeling agitated or irritable. When we confess our sins, a weight is lifted that brings peace and health.
Step 7: What do I need to confess?
Read: John 16:8, 1 Timothy 1:5
There isn’t a specific list you will find in the Bible that tells you which sins you need to confess; scripture simply says, “confess your sins.” We can assume then, that we must confess all our sins. All sin, no matter how big or small we think it is, leads to separation from God, so all sin should be acknowledged before Him. Though we need to confess all our sins to God, we do not necessarily need to confess all our sins to other people. As mentioned in Day Four, confession to other people should be centered around seeking forgiveness and/or accountability. If your confession to another person could cause them to sin, then it is probably best to not confess to that person. For example, if you look at someone lustfully and they are unaware of it, confessing that could give them the wrong idea and cause them to sin. However, you might would want to confess to a friend who could help you stay accountable.
Step 8: When do I confess?
Read: Matthew 5:23-24
We should confess our sins as soon as possible. It may seem a little backwards, but Matthew 5:23-24 tells us to go to the person we sinned against first, then go to God. When we confess our sin and seek forgiveness from the person we sinned against first, we can then go to God with our sin knowing we did what we could to make things right between us and the other person. Our forgiveness will feel more complete, and we are less likely to experience harsh symptoms of harboring sin. The longer we wait to confess sin, the more difficult it becomes for us because Satan traps us in a cycle of guilt and fear.
Step 9: How do I confess?
Read: Psalm 51:10, 2 Chronicles 7:14, Philippians 2:3
We confess our sin by first acknowledging our sin. We admit what we did wrong and recognize why it was wrong. We should approach confession with humility, focusing on our wrongdoing alone. Confession should not be about justifying our behavior or trying to get someone else to confess or apologize. After we confess our sin, we should seek forgiveness and have a plan in place to help us repent or turn away from that sin.
Step 10: How will I repent?
Read: Acts 3:19, 2 Peter 3:9, James 4:8
It is important to have a plan in place for repentance. Once we have confessed sin, we don’t want to fall in a trap and continue to repeat that same sin again and again. We must make a conscious decision to turn away from that sin and desire to follow God’s commands. This doesn’t mean we never sin again or don’t struggle with that sin, but that we draw near to God and rely on His mercy, grace, and provision to help us live a life that is pleasing to Him.
Step 11: Practice 1: Who have I sinned against? I have sinned against God.
Read: Psalm 32:5, Isaiah 43:25, 1 Timothy 2:5-6, Romans 8:26-27
We must recognize that all sin is against God. When we confess sin to God, we acknowledge we have turned away from His commands then trust in His promise of forgiveness. When we struggle to know the right words to say or how to approach God, we can have confidence knowing Christ is the mediator between us and God, and His Spirit dwells within us and intercedes for us.
Step 12: Practice 1: Confess it.
Read: Psalm 51
Don’t wait any longer! Take time today to confess your sin to God. David’s example in Psalm 51 reminds us to pair confession with seeking forgiveness and repentance. It also serves as a reminder of God’s great mercy and love for us.
Step 13: Practice 1: How will I repent of this sin?
Read: Acts 17:30, Revelation 3:19, 2 Timothy 2:25
Now that you are aware of your sin, you should not continue living in it. God offers correction and discipline to show us the right way to live. Following God’s commands isn’t always easy though and we often fall prey to the same sin again and again. But when we are aware of our sin patterns, we can make a plan to help us turn away from those sins.
Step 14: Practice 2: Who have I sinned against? I have sinned against this person…
Read: Romans 12:18, 2 Corinthians 13:11
We should always strive for peace with one another, but our sin gets in the way all too often. When this happens, confession, seeking forgiveness, and repentance can help lead to restoration.
Step 15: Practice 2: Confess it.
Read: Proverbs 28:13
Even though confessing sin can be scary, we can trust that God will forgive us and we can hope that He will work in the hearts of others so that they would forgive us as well.
Step 16: Practice 2: How will I repent of this sin?
Read: 1 John 3:6-9, Matthew 3:8
There should be a noticeable difference in us when we repent. The person we sinned against can learn to trust us again when they see we are making an honest effort to fight sin.
Step 17: Practice 3: Confessing when I am tempted.
Read: Hebrews 2:18, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Let’s face it, we are weak. We simply can’t fight sin on our own. God is always there to help us, but He has been gracious enough to put people in our lives who can help us as well.
Step 18: Practice 3: Confess it.
Read: 1 Thessalonians 5:14, James 5:16, Matthew 18:20
Sharing our struggles with someone else can be freeing because you no longer feel alone in your fight. It is likely that someone else struggles with the same thing you do or has overcome it and can offer advice. You also have another person fighting with you and encouraging you on the days you feel like giving up.
Step 19: Practice 3: How will I avoid this sin?
Read: Matthew 26:41, 1 Corinthians 10:13
God will always provide an escape from sin, but it is up to us to find that escape and to take it. This takes courage, honesty, and willingness to be known on our part.
Step 20: Forgiving myself.
Read: Romans 8:1, Psalm 103:12, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 1:7
You’ve gone through the steps of confession, asking for forgiveness, and repenting but you still struggle with feelings of shame and guilt. What do you do now? Now, you search God’s Word for truth about who He says you are – you are forgiven, redeemed, and made righteous by the blood of Christ. Your sin was nailed to the cross with Christ, and it is no more. Believe in His power to overcome all sin and find freedom in the work of Christ on your behalf.
Step 21: How did it go?
Reflect on everything you have learned and completed over the past 3 weeks.