Monday, November 10, 2008

The Nature Of True Repentance - Part 3

Today we come to part 3 in our study of repentance where we will be looking at the next ingredient of genuine repentance: Confession of sin. And as with the previous posts I will again be quoting from Thomas Watson and his book The Doctrine of Repentance.

In the last post we saw that true and genuine repentance is characterized by a realization that one is a sinner and then sorrowing over that sin. Once those have occurred, the next step to genuine repentance is the confession of sin. Thomas Watson writes:
Sorrow is such a vehement passion that it will have vent. It vents itself at the eyes by weeping and at the tongue by confession...
So let's look at what it means to confess and what this confession will look like in the life of the believer. In his first epistle the apostle John wrote:
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:8-9
What an awesome promise; if we confess our sin He will forgive us. But what does it mean to confess? The Greek word translated confess in this passage is homologéō, which is a compound of two Greek words:homoú (together with), and légō (to say), so this word literally means, to say together with. Of this word's use here Kenneth Wuest writes:
Confession of sin on the part of the saint means... to say the same thing that God does about that sin, to agree with God as to all the implication of that sin as it relates to the Christian who commits it and to a holy God against whom it is committed. That includes the saint’s hatred of that sin, his sense of guilt because of it, his contrition because of it, the determination to put it out of his life and never to do that thing again. This is what confession of sin means here. The English word “confess” means “to admit the truth of an accusation, to own up to the fact that one is guilty of having committed the sin.

But the Greek word means far more than that, as was shown above.This is quite different than what we usually hear in regard to confession, but this is what God means when He says we are to confess our sin. And this is one of the ingredients of Genuine repentance. In writing on this subject Thomas Watson reminds us that both Judas and King Saul confessed their sin, "but, theirs was not a true confession."

He then goes on to give us eight qualifications for true confession:

1. Confession must be voluntary

By this Watson means that our confession must not be given out of a fear of punishment; it must flow freely from our hearts because it is the right thing to do to confess our sin to our Heavenly Father. Here Watson writes:
[T]rue confession drops from the lips like myrrh from the tree or honey from the comb, freely. "I have sinned against heaven, and before thee" (Luke 15:18): the prodigal charged himself with sin before his father charged him with it.
2. Confession must be with compunction

Here Watson is talking about the feelings that accompany true confession of sin; he writes:
The heart must deeply resent it. A natural man's confession runs through him like water through a pipe. They do not at all affect him. But true confession leaves heart-wounding impression on a man... It is one thing to confess sin and another thing to feel sin.
3. Confession must be sincere

This deals with our attitude toward sin; true confession of sin is accompanied by a broken heart over that sin. We cannot sincerely confess our sin and yet love our sin. Watson writes:
Our hearts must go along with our confessions. The hypocrite confesses sin but loves it, like a thief who confesses to stolen goods, yet loves stealing. How many confess pride and covetousness with their lips but roll them as honey under their tongue... [A good Christian] is convinced of the sin he confesses, and abhors the sin he is convinced of.
4. In true confession a man particularizes sin

In order to confess a sin we must know what that sin is; we cannot say to God "I have sinned" and call it confession. If you ask a person if they are a sinner most will say yes, but if you ask them to be specific about the sins that they have committed they are at a loss. Here Thomas Watson is saying that in order for confession to be genuine it must be specific. He writes:
[A] wicked man says, "Lord, I have sinned" but does not know what the sin is; at least he does not remember, whereas a true convert acknowledges particular sins... By a diligent inspection into our hearts we may find some particular sin indulged; point to that sin with a tear.
5. A true penitent confesses sin in the fountain

By this Watson means that we must confess that our sin is inherent in who we are - that we are born a sinner. There are many today who deny that we have a sin nature, but Watson points out here that in order to truly confess our sin we must acknowledge that we are a sinner and that we were conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5) and that our very nature is polluted. Watson writes:
The sin of our nature is not only a privation of good but an infusion of evil. It is like canker to iron or stain to scarlet... We are ready to charge man of our firsts sins to Satan's temptations, but this sin of our nature is wholly from ourselves; we cannot shift it off to Satan. We have a root within that bears gall and wormwood (Deuteronomy 29:18). Our nature is an abyss and seminary of evil, from whence come those scandals that infest the world.
6. Sin is to be confessed with all its circumstances and aggravations

We are to confess that we have sinned against knowledge; when we know something is a sin and do it anyway we have not only committed the act itself but we have also sinned in that we knew what we were doing was sinful. True confession will not only include the confession of the sin, but also of the ignoring of God's decree. Watson here writes:
Confess sins against knowledge, against grace, against vows, against experiences, against judgments... These are killing aggravations which do accent and enhance our sins.
7. In confession we must so charge ourselves as to clear God

In our confession we must be sure that that we place the blame for our sin fully upon ourselves. James tells us that God cannot be tempted and does not temp anyone to do evil, but that we are tempted and carried away by our own lusts (James 1:13-14). Therefore the responsibility lies fully with us when we sin. Thomas Watson writes:
Should the Lord be severe in his providences and unsheath his bloody sword, yet we must acquit him and acknowledge that he has done us no wrong.
8. We must confess our sins with a resolution not to act them over again.

True confession will involve a turning away from that sin; we cannot truly confess a sin and still continue in it. Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery "go and sin no more" (John 8:11) and that is the response to true confession - we will sin no more. Here Watson writes:
Some run from confessing of sin to committing of sin, like the Persians who have one day a year when the kill serpents and after that day they suffer them to swarm again. Likewise, many seem to kill their sins in their confessions and afterwards let them grow as fast as ever. "Cease to do evil" (Isaiah 1:16). It is vain to confess, "We have done those things we ought not to have done", and continue still in doing so... now when we have vomited up sin by confession we must not return to this vomit. What king will pardon that man, who after he has confessed his treason, practices new treason?
If this is what true confession is we must ask ourselves if this is what our confession looks like, because as was quoted above:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9
Next time we will look at the next three ingredients of true repentance: Shame for sin, Hatred of sin, and Turning from sin. Until then it is my hope that you will prayerfully consider what it means to confess our sins.
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