Don’t coddle it.
Don’t tell your conscience, “It’s not that big of a deal. Confessing it openly is turning something small into something major.”
Don’t tell yourself, “I’ve got this under control. I’ll simply stop; no need to confess.”
Don’t tell yourself, “They don’t need an apology, that’s too dramatic.”
Don’t tell yourself, “OK, from this moment on, I’ll be real and thorough; the next time I commit this sin I’ll confess.”
This bargaining will not do, and it betrays a view of sin that is far too naïve and a view of God that is far too tame. That unconfessed sin is what lies between you and the joy of fully wrapping your arms around the gospel you know to be true.
Many of us find ourselves in spiritual ruts. You may feel a complete lack of zeal for the things of God that once marked your Christian life. Among the plethora of possible reasons that one finds oneself in a season of spiritual dryness, unconfessed sin is often the culprit.I will not presume to tell every rut-constrained Christian how to climb out of the pit to feel the warm rays of God’s presence on your face again. It’s not so simple as that.
But, I can promise you this: there is no climbing out for the one who refuses to let go habitual, unconfessed sin. You can try as hard as you may, clawing at the mud and gravel and tree roots with a free hand—as long as the other hand clutches onto that sin, the ditch is your home. You can’t have both. You can protect your image and refuse to confess your sins openly if you wish, but it comes at the cost of deep and abiding communion with God. That is what you have to sacrifice on the altar of pride in order to “save face.”
Not only that, but unconfessed sin will not behave itself or content itself with the margins of your life. We cannot tame unconfessed sin, and we’re fools for thinking we can. Like a blackhole, it will suck every bit of you into nothingness until there is nothing left. All too often, we believe the lie that the damage of confessing sin will be greater than simply trying to keep it under control; as if we have any ability whatsoever to control its blast radius to only hurt a “small part of our souls.” What lunacy!
To change the metaphor in a slightly more gross direction, unconfessed sin resembles the properties of a leech: rather than shrinking overtime or simply “going away,” it gets fatter and deadlier. Our lifeblood is its food—the one diminishes as the other grows. The Puritan pastor, Ralph Venning, said it well when he said, “To be merciful to sin is to be cruel to yourself; to save the one alive is to put the other to death. Therefore do not spare it, but repent unfeignedly from the bottom of your heart.” Don’t soften the blow of conviction you receive when you read God’s word and feel convicted—when the Law acts as a mirror to show you all of your blemishes and stains. Don’t look away. Take note of what you see: those sins are the sins you grieve over and confess to God in prayer. Those are the ones the Son of God took on flesh to deal with. Let him.
“For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:13-14).
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:9-10).