Confessing the depth of one’s own personal depravity is hardly fun. Authentic confession—the admittance of sin—requires humble recognition of deeply rooted corruption inside us. The next step is even harder. Repentance—the turning away from admitted sin—requires the power of God to obey and be transformed into Christlikeness. These processes undress the soul to reveal our blasphemy against a loving God. Who wants to experience that?
It makes logical sense that we would be terrified to confess and repent of our sin.
What will people think? Can I bear the consequences? What will happen if I do? What will my confession destroy? What will I lose? Will it kill me?
Afraid of a Lie
The practical consequences of sin vary. But sin, no matter what kind, produces spiritual death (James 1:15). If you’re a Christian, the death your fully-grown sin brought forth was put on Jesus (1 Pet 3:18). Death’s sting has been taken by your Savior (1 Cor 15:55). Jesus’ death means our fearful confessions can turn to joyful gratefulness and repentance into a Christian privilege.
To be afraid of confession and repentance is to believe Satan’s lie that it will kill you. Truth be told, genuine confession and repentance kill only the parts of us that need to die: the sinful parts Jesus died to destroy (Gal 2:20).
Sin produces death; but repentance always produces life (2 Cor 7:10).
The lie says that if we cover up our sin, if we refrain from seeing our wickedness, then we can preserve ourselves into happiness. But God offers something different, something glorious. He gives astonishing things in exchange for our willingness to confess and repent.
Here are five things we can look forward to when we are willing to trust his goodness and confess and repent of our sin.
1. Repentance brings freedom.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Gal 5:1
It is for freedom that Christ died on our behalf. He didn’t die so we would be scared to repent, he died so that we would be free to repent and in doing so, experience freedom in him. Freedom in Christ brings a confidence and certainty you won’t find anywhere else. Freedom to fail. Freedom to not be perfect. Freedom to grow. Jesus took God's wrath for your freedom to repent.
2. Repentance brings joy.
Let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. Ps 51:8
It’s no secret that repentance is humbling; it can be crushing. It’s painful to witness the reality of hell settled inside our very own flesh. But, within that same reality lies the joy of having a Savior who provides everything we need to find utter happiness. Repentance brings joy because it relieves the pressure of impossible perfection and change on our own. We need Jesus. Repentance gives us Jesus. Jesus who loves and cares for us perfectly. In his arms, we are completely safe. Joy is never found in covering sin; joy is only found in the righteousnessof God, Jesus. But we must admit our need. When we fear repentance, we’re missing out on true joy.
3. Repentance brings pleasure.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Ps 16:11
Ultimate gratification is knowing the Person who said, “his sin or her sin—I’ll suffer for it and give them holiness instead.” Pleasure is found in Christ because he is the human manifestation of God’s love. Repentance brings us to the throne of our loving God with the cloak of Christ’s righteousness. When we’re in the presence of God we’ll experience love like never before. This perfect love is ultimate pleasure.
4. Repentance brings hope.
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Rom 5:5
Hope is fulfilled when reality turns out to be better than it feels. God doesn’t leave us to ourselves. He not only gives us Jesus, but his Spirit to experience all these things. When the Spirit of God helps us repent, receive God’s forgiveness, and help to actually change, our reality shifts to be full of God’s hope. Hope in God never disappoints because he’s not capable of letting anyone down. His promises never fail. He never chooses wrongly. He always does what is good. God never fails, which means our repentance brings hope in a person that won’t leave or forsake us.
5. Repentance brings goodness.
The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. Ps 145:9
To receive God’s goodness is to have his full compassion. He is kind-hearted towards his children because he knows that we’re dust (Ps 103:14). Our sin doesn’t surprise God. Our lack of contrition doesn’t throw him off. He knows the depths of our depravity and the totality of our need . . . and he stores up good for those who take refuge in him (Ps 31:19). When we seek genuine forgiveness from God and those whom we sin against, we are actively taking refuge in a God who knows the depth of our sinful intricacies and still, at the right time, died for us (Rom 5:3). To repent is to recognize God’s goodness and to receive it at the most basic level.
We don’t need fear in repentance because God loves perfectly (1 Jn 4:18). Christians receive what’s good when we endure pain, even the pain of our own sin. It’s not an even, quick swap. God doesn’t just wash away our suffering, he redeems it. This means repentance, though for a moment painful, produces an eternity of freedom, joy, pleasure, hope and goodness. Be free, Christian. Repent without fear, what you will get in exchange is far better than anything you could hope or imagine (Eph 3:20).
Questions for Reflection:
How does the gospel free you from fear of confession?
How does Christ’s death on the cross free you from fear of repentance?
What are you most fearful of in admitting your sin?
Knowing the answer to question #3 likely takes precedent over Christ, have you asked God for help?
What are some areas you refrain from thinking on your sinfulness out of fear of confession?
Have you spent time meditating on the truths of joy, freedom, pleasure, hope and goodness in Christ?
Sorrow in repentance can be appropriate, but after that, joy follows. Do you spend enough time thinking on Christ sacrifice for your sin that you feel and know the joy he brings?
Do you punish others for their sin, or do you fight for their freedom in Christ as well?
Are you gracious when others repent, knowing Christ’ sacrifice is abounding for all?
In what ways have you failed to see God’s kindness in the transformation he’s done in your life as you seek repentance?