The Laws of Confession (Zacharias T. Fomum)
There are certain laws that guide the spiritual art of confession. We state them here in order to guide the people of God.
Do not confess any sin to God which you have not made up your mind to forsake. To expose a sin to Him which you intend to continue to practise is to put another knife into His heart. It is to mock Him terribly.
Sins that are committed in thoughts should be confessed normally only to God. He saw the thoughts and knows them and so only He must have the confession. There was a situation of a married man who confessed to an unmarried girl that he was having impure thoughts about her. The girl was flattered and began to burn with sinful passion for this man. He ought never to have confessed to her. He ought to have confessed to God alone. If after confession to God he continued to have problems, he ought to have sought pastoral counselling and ministry from a mature pastor of his sex.
All sins must first be confessed to God. All sin is primarily against Him and so He should be told all about it first.
In confessing to God, all the details should be mentioned: the motivation, the trials, the excuses, the attempts to escape, the fall, the depth of the fall, etc. It is wrong to run away from the details saying, God, You know the sin I have committed. Talk to Him as if He knows nothing about it. Talk to Him as if He is hearing it or knowing about it for the first time. Talk to Him about it as if He must have all the details before He can decide what is to happen to you. Talk to Him about it as if no one else will add to what you say and as if your future depends on His having all the details.
Confession to man should be made to the one against whom the sin was committed and to the one who will most likely suffer the consequence of the sin. Confession to man should also be made to all who know about the sin. This means that some confessions will have to be made to one person; others made to two people; others made to a small group; others made to an assembly (church) congregation, others to a village or town and others to the entire nation, continent and planet. It all depends on against on whom the sin was committed and who will suffer because of the sin.
In some rare and exceptional situations, it is advisable to confess the sin to God and to someone else who is a spiritual leader, if it considered that confession to the party that will bear the consequences may ruin the person completely. When you are in doubt seek mature pastoral counselling.
In public confessions or in private confessions to a small group, there are some things that should be confessed to the leader alone and not mentioned before the whole group because some may be discouraged in their walk with God, encouraged to fear God less, encouraged to sin, or taught how to sin by what they hear said during the confession. Again, we insist that mature pastoral counselling should be sought and things discussed and agreed upon so that all is done to the glory of God. (If your pastor is immature, seek someone in the congregation who is mature and deep in the things of God and be guided by him. If no of such people are to be found in your church, seek the counselling from someone else. Open yourself to be helped by someone in the Body of Christ and that Body is larger than your church, your denomination and your nation or continent. However, you should not seek pastoral counselling elsewhere because you want to play the hypocrite by not wanting those who are more directly involved with you to know who you are. If you want to hide, you are not yet ready for godly confession and all that you do will not lead to blessing.
Ensure that you confess every sin that you commit immediately to God. Do not try to wipe sin off your mind. Confess it. If an impure thought comes into your mind, own up and say to God, I have committed fornication (or adultery as the case may be) Lord forgive me, cleanse me and restore me to Yourself. If possible, stop all that you are doing and take the time to carry out this confession. If you have
- exposed someone’s fault to another,
- been angry
- thought a vain thought
- blamed someone for your fault,
- been disrespectful,
- been impolite,
- and all other sins that may be considered small,
you should ensure that each is confessed to the Lord and to man where necessary. If sins are confessed as soon they are committed or as soon as they are exposed to us by the Holy Spirit, fellowship with God will be maintained and spiritual sensitivity will not be lost.
It may be that an initial confession may open the way for the Holy Spirit to carry out a deeper work of convicting and exposing further and more ugly aspects of the sin. Be prepared to keep confessing as He exposes things. Never stop confessing while He continues to expose!
Confess any sin that you know you have committed even though you may not yet feel any sorrow in your heart. Very often the confession with the lips will lead to conviction with the heart and in the heart. Sometimes the action of the heart must precede that of the lips. At other times the action of the lips must precede that of the heart. Draw encouragement from the following relationship between confession with the lips and believing with the heart in salvation. The Bible says,
But the righteousness that is by faith says; ‘Do not say in your heart, Who will ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down)’ or ‘who will descend into the deep?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, it is in your mouth and in your heart,’ that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with you mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:6-10).
Do you see what it says? First you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart and you are saved. Secondly, with your heart you believe and are justified, and with your mouth you confess and are saved.
So salvation could begin with the confession with the mouth or the belief in the heart. It does not matter which comes first, provided the other one follows.
Similarly, in the confession of sin, if conviction in the heart proceeds confession with the mouth, well and good. However, if there is no obvious conviction in the heart, get the ball rolling. Confess with the lips and believe God to cause the heart to follow suit.
In fact, make it a personal rule to always confess with the mouth, any sin you have committed to God and to man. The conviction of the heart will follow. Amen.
Confession should not be carried out lightly. Every sin is a knife into God’s heart. How can it be confessed lightly with jesting and laughter? How can sin be exposed so that it entertains? This is most horrible. There are people who expose sins that they have not committed as if they committed them. They sometimes say that it is to humble them or to help others to confess their own sins. It is needless to emphasize the fact that falsehood can only increase the sins of the one lying. It cannot do any good to the person. It cannot produce humility and it will only lead others to follow the pathway of sin, that is, of adding sin to sin.
Those who hear the confession of some one and make it a subject of gossip become guilty before God as those who committed the sin confessed. They become worse than those who committed the sin and confessed it because the former are set free whereas they enter into guilt and a broken relationship with God. They must repent, if not they are in deep trouble.
Have you repented about the sin of gossip about the confession of others? Do something about it today. Do something about it now!