We take many things for granted until we really need them.
Like windshield wipers.
I vividly remember driving down the interstate as rain pounded my car. As I flipped my wipers into high-speed, they suddenly caught on one another. Not good. I pulled over to the shoulder, jumped out of the safety of my dry car and got soaked as I separated the wipers like two fighting children. After a silent rendition of “Jesus Take the Wheel,” I returned to the road, exhaling a deep, grateful breath.
That’s when I understood the value of windshield wipers. They seem so uncommon, and they’re never my focus. But they’re essential to what really matters: the ability to see the road in front of me. Without them, you’re hosed in a rainstorm.
We value windshield wipers, not because they’re a glitzy feature, but because they provide us with unobstructed vision in the middle of a storm.
The understated value of wipers helps us grasp the role of confessing our sins to God. Unconfessed sin blurs our vision so we can’t see or communicate clearly with God; confession is how we remove it so we can draw near. To be clear, Jesus paid for our sin and provides full forgiveness for what alienates us from God. Confession doesn’t accomplish atonement. But it is part of how we walk daily in the cleansing Jesus purchased.
Confession wipes away the relational junk between us and God. It restores us by eliminating what gets in the way—shame, guilt, and fear. We don’t often emphasize confession, but when we realize how sinful we are, we grasp what a necessity confession must be.
Confession wipes away the relational junk between us and God.
Confession goes hand-in-hand with repentance.
Repentance is a change of mind resulting in a change of direction. In Scripture, it’s when someone—either at conversion or as part of the Christian life—turns from sin and to God. Notice repentance is not only turning from something, it’s returning to someone (e.g., Deut. 4:30; Jer. 4:1; Joel 2:12–13).
In the Old Testament, God calls his people to repent. This means turning from idols and returning to him. It’s not the language of a judge or ruler calling us to make right what we’ve done wrong. It’s the language of a friend or spouse entreating a loved one to return.
To repair a damaged relationship where one person is at fault, there must be the verbal confession or acknowledgement of wrongdoing, often in the form of “I’m sorry for . . .” When we confess to God, we admit we’ve done things that cause damage, distance, or disruptions in our relationship. We’re at fault. We want the relationship restored.
Run to God
Augustine wrote, “Flee to God himself if you would flee from him: flee to him by confessing not hiding; for hide you cannot, but confess you can.” We don’t hide our sin, act as if it doesn’t exist, or run from it—and we don’t act extra nice to fix things. We confess. In honest humility we come clean on what we’ve done, admit our wrongs, and tell God we’re sorry (Ps. 32:3–5).
We come to God with our sin, ready to receive cleansing. We forsake the sin so we can embrace him. The goal is restoration.
We forsake the sin so we can embrace him. The goal is restoration.
When we confess our sin, we claim the cleansing and reconciliation Jesus achieved through his death and resurrection (1 John 1:9–2:2). Gospel grace frees us to confess. It puts a safety net beneath us, one we can fall into, and it gives us a humble boldness to move from darkness to light.
God knows us fully, including our worst parts. But he’ll not love us less because of sin. Rather than removing motivation to deal with our sin, grace incentivizes confession, because it rewards us with freedom from sin and reconciliation to the Father. As Tim Keller observes, “Fear-based repentance makes us hate ourselves. Joy-based repentance makes us hate our sin.”
Confession as a Gift
When we see confession in this light, it becomes a beautiful gift. Is it still painful, somber, stinging, and sometimes a bitter pill? Sure. But when understood rightly and joined to the gospel, confession creates a renewed walk with God and gives our conscience rest.
It hurts, but it heals.
Many only confess when they think they did something “really bad” or when they get caught. But indwelling sin is like a check-engine light for our heart. It’s a nagging reminder we need to confess with as much regularity as we stray.
The good news is Jesus paid it all to purchase cleansing and reconciliation. When we repent there is no penalty box to wait in, no warning ticket telling us we’ve used up our share of forgiveness, no shaming or finger-pointing from heaven to condemn us. There’s always grace at the foot of the cross. Let us run daily to Calvary.