Sin and holy living are two topics that seem to get little press today. It feels like we don't want to face up to admitting we are sinners and we certainly don't want to talk about living up to something greater. It is to our detriment that such discussions don't happen. If we truly deal with sin and pursue holy living, we find freedom and power in our lives.
I want to discuss one aspect of dealing with sin today. When I was younger, I would "run to the altar" in tears about my sin. That is the evangelical equivalent of going to confession in the Catholic tradition. So we run to a place where we start the process of freedom, and someone may even tell us that we are absolved from those sins. And we repeat the cycle over and over again, never truly finding freedom. Why?
I want to be clear. I do believe 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sin, and purify us from all unrighteousness." But that truth was written to followers of Christ who were dealing with the occasional sin that came along. These were momentary lapses in holy living. They were not lifestyle, habitual, sins. The recipients had already taken the step that truly frees us. That step is repentance.
The message of the Gospel is that we must repent. Not confess. Confession is a part of the process and is the tool used to keep accounts clean. Repentance, turning away from sin, doing an about face in the direction of our lives, changing our minds about who is in charge and whom I will listen to in life, that is the key to our salvation. Fans of Jesus who are looking for relief from guilt confess. Followers repent and pursue. Fans cheer the periodic act that could reflect holy living. Followers live holy lives. Fans accept the spiraling cycle of sinning, consequences, guilt, confession, relief, as normal. Followers steer clear of sin and pursue righteousness, holiness, and goodness. These pursuits cause them to live further away from the border lines with sin.
If you are living solely in confession and have never repented, you will never know Christ and the power of His resurrection and freedom. Confession is not enough. Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Don't miss it.