The season of Lent provides those of us in the Church a great opportunity to reflect, not only on the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, but also on our sinfulness that necessitated such a sacrifice. It is a time for self-reflection, a time for drawing closer to God through the practices of fasting, prayer, and acts of mercy. It is difficult to talk about things like sorrow, sin, repentance, and the like, but there is more to the Lenten season than guilt; there is also an opportunity to receive the peace of Christ.
1 John 1:9 tells us that ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’ (NIV) This is a promise of God to his children, and one that we should cling to tightly. But what exactly does it mean to confess our sins? Does it simply mean to tell someone about the things we feel guilt for? Is it the act of visiting a pastor or parish priest and telling them about the last time you sinned? Or is it something more?
I am indebted to my pastor for pointing out in his sermon yesterday that the Greek word ὁμολογῶμεν (homologōmen), which is used in the verse above to convey the idea of confession more literally means ‘we should agree in [our] word(s)’. So, when we confess our sins, what we are doing is not rattling off a list of things that we think we should be sorry for, rather we are agreeing with the word of God what are our sins. Instead of making a list of things we think we should bring before God in repentance, we should be asking God to show us where any wickedness remains in us.
Psalm 139:23-24 says ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.’
This is a call for God to search out the sin that remains in us and bring us to agree with him (confess) that we are indeed guilty of these transgressions. Only then can we experience true freedom.
And here is the best part. As 1 John tells us, when we agree with God about our sins and repent, ‘he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.‘ He brings about our reconciliation with himself, the result of which is peace, even the peace of Christ.
I have experienced no greater joy in life than when praying to God that he will root out any remaining sin in me, and receiving the following from him: ‘You are mine! You belong to me. And I delight in you.’ This peace and confirmation comes through confession, through continually seeking the face of God, through becoming less that he might make me more.
I urge you to carve out time this Lenten season to reflect on your life and to ask God to root out any sin that remains in you, to confess (agree with him) about the things he shows you, to repent of your wickedness, and to seek the peace of Christ that comes from knowing you are a child of God and he delights in you.