Application is everything: Part 3

Confession is good for the soul, but not enough. Applying forgiveness to our souls is trusting Jesus has paid the penalty we deserve.

James D. Roecker

Sally comes to church every Sunday. She arrives early to save her favorite spot. She participates in worship, confesses her sins, and pays close attention to the pastor’s message.

Yet Sally always leaves church feeling bad about herself. Sally takes this bad feeling back into her daily life. Through this routine, Sally feels close to God. Feeling bad seems like a good thing for her. The closeness to God she experiences by feeling bad about her sins seems to satisfy her and ultimately makes her feel superior to her friends who do not go to church.

Confession is more involved than just feeling bad about sin. To some, penance quickly comes to mind when discussing confession. Penance involves confessing sins and then doing some act to repair the damage caused by sin. Feeling bad about your sins can be viewed as that “something” we do to overcome sin. Emptying the overflowing sin bucket in confession to God can be a satisfying experience, but it never applies Christ’s forgiveness.

If we view confession as a guilt reliever or a conscience cleanser, all the emphasis is on us. It’s like saying that God and I had a private conversation about sin, so we are good. Sally might come to God and say, “God, I’m sorry I hate Mary. She rubs me the wrong way. I’m sorry, but I’ve confessed this sin to you, God, so we’re good, right? When I tell you my sins, that counts, doesn’t it?” So then, sadly, Sally goes off to class and the dorm thinking that feeling bad makes up for sin.

But it doesn’t. For Sally, the law left her feeling bad about herself. The law does make us feel bad because it shows us just how far we have fallen, just how short we have come to God’s standard of perfection. We confess that we are sinners who deserve God’s punishment.

Confession is the first part. The second part is applying the full and complete forgiveness of sins. Jesus’ blood, not our remorse, cleanses us from sin. None of our efforts, including our effort to amend our sinful life, removes sin. Only God’s grace in Jesus forgives us. Then that forgiveness gives us the power to gladly and freely turn from the sin and live differently because our sins are fully and freely cleansed. The problem may be that we don’t change as dramatically as we think we should. We fail again and again, sometimes falling into the same pet sins.

So we come to church each week not only to confess our sins and feel bad about them but also to rejoice that our sins are forgiven. There is full forgiveness for our sins in Christ. As we live out our Spirit-worked faith, we’ll strive to turn completely away from sin and toward our Savior. “I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:5). We then live each day as a forgiven child of our heavenly Father.

James Roecker, pastor at Divine Word, Plover, Wisconsin, does campus ministry work at UW-Stevens Point, Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

This is the third article in a six-part series on life apps the Bible has given Christians.


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Author: James D. Roecker
Volume 103, Number 9
Issue: September 2016

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