Confession IS Good for the Soul

“Most will recognize the name of Martin Luther, the 16th century church Reformer. Fewer will recognize the name of Johann von Staupitz. He, like Luther, was a Catholic priest, theologian and professor. And for a lengthy season, he was Luther’s mentor and confessor. He played such a vital role, Luther later wrote, “If it had not been for Dr. Staupitz, I should have sunk in hell.” That’s the power of a mentor!

You might also know of Luther’s emotional and spiritual struggles early in his life. His deep sense of inadequacy, and his inability to grasp God’s grace, led Luther to spend up to six hours a day confessing his sins to his mentor. Stauptiz would later complain, Luther was “wearing me out by his constant coming to me!” Luther wrestled not only with the assurance he had been saved by God, but also with the assurance he had been forgiven by God.

The Apostle John wrote, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). The word confess In the original language of the New Testament, means “to say the same thing.” It implies saying the same thing about my behavior God already has, in full agreement. No justifying or excusing allowed. Just agreeing with God’s assessment – it is sinful, period.

The Reformers didn’t deny the role or power of confession; they simply denied it had to be done before a priest. We can speak directly to God’s heart. And John reminds us of the character of the God to whom we confess: he is faithful and just. God is faithful – unchanging and steadfast in his mighty love toward us. He is just – altogether righteous and free from bias or deception. Even as we are confessing our sins, God acts in grace toward us. Glory to God!

Because of who God is – faithful and just – we can rest assured in what God does – forgive our sins. The word forgive indicates God has stopped blaming us and no longer takes our offense into account. Through Jeremiah, God declared he blocks our sins from his very memory (cf. Jere. 31:34). I don’t fully grasp how the sins I confess are wiped from God’s memory, but I am eternally grateful they are!

When we confess our sins to our faithful and true God, he doesn’t just forget the sin. He also purifies the sinner. From a root meaning “to purge,” God does a purifying and restoring work in us, cleansing us from all unrighteousness. Don’t overlook the power of “all.” God doesn’t purge and free us from some, much or even most of our sin. All means all. Hallelujah!

Confession is clearly “good for the soul.” In the end, it doesn’t matter if you know the name of Luther or Staupitz, or even Grace for that matter. It only matters that the God who has forgotten your sin knows your name and has carefully inscribed it in the Lamb’s book of life!

Pastor David

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