Who doesn't love testimony night at church? In our fellowship, testimony's are done prior to baptism and it's always a very moving experience. It is wonderful to listen to the stories of everyday people who came from in some cases horrible or godless backgrounds who are regenerated by the grace of God. Not all of those being baptized are recent converts, some have been Christians for a long time and were not aware of the importance of baptismal identification.
There is always a question of how much sinful past to confess in preparing one's testimony. How much should be revealed? The rule of thumb is to reveal enough that people get the idea but not so much to revel in past sin. The goal is that God get the glory for a changed life.
There is a difference though in confession of sin to someone we have harmed. What is the obligation of a sinner when confession is necessary? Are we obligated to disclose every sin we have ever committed to everyone we know? Must every piece of dirty laundry be publicly trotted out to satisfy someones sense of justice? What does the Bible say about confession and exposure of personal sin?
First, confession is agreement with God that what we have done is wrong. When we confess our sins to God, it is because we know we are guilty of something before Him; we have violated His commands (Ps. 51).
Confession is specific. It is not enough to say "I apologize for being angry." Apologizing is not the same as confession. An apology is merely an acknowledgment of wrongdoing, an expression of regret or remorse. Admitting the actual things you did and said to the person you sinned against is critical in a confession. That is why confession should look something like this, "I sinned against you when I was angry. I was wrong for yelling and disrespecting you by my tone of voice and by stomping off."
Confession is humbling. To admit your sin to someone is not easy and it is not comfortable. It rubs hard against the pridefulness of the heart that wants to self-justify and rationalize the reason for sinning in the first place.
Confession causes us to focus our eyes on the cross. When we confess our sin we are reminded of our need for the forgiveness, grace, and peace found at the cross of Christ. We are reminded that we are fully dependent upon the justification that is ours in Christ alone for our forgiven position before God (1 Jn 1:9).
When we confess we are assured that God has separated our sin from us as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12), and He remembers it no more (Isa. 43:25, Heb. 10:17).
Confession of sin is only given to the person or person's who were sinned against. This means that the only people who are involved in the event are aware of it. For example: when I sin against my husband it is to him I go to confess. If I sin against my husband and another person, they are the people from whom I ask forgiveness. When he/they grant me forgiveness the matter is closed. I am under no obligation to tell anyone else about my sin. I am not obligated to disclose my private sin in the public arena and those I have confessed to are prohibited from doing so.
For someone to publicly disclose something about another person is called gossip (Prov. 26:22). Very often, the gossiper will claim that "others have a right to know" something so they take it upon themselves to "share" thinking they are practicing accountability. Gossip is an abomination to God (Prov. 12:22). How sad that even when a person says they forgive, the root of bitterness in their own heart leads them to gossip about the one they say they forgave. I will bring this up again in another post on bitterness.
The maxim is this: the scope of confession is as great as the scope of offence. If you have made a good and true confession to the person you sinned against and asked for their forgiveness you have done your part.
Next time: True Repentance.