Life Beyond Regret – Confession 101

Scott Benson

Ask God to speak as you interact with today's Scripture and devotional.

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” - 1 John 1:8-9

At your next group discussion, we’ll dive deeper into the Rhythm of Repentance (choosing to honestly confess and then turn away from our sin in humble surrender to Jesus). Together as a group we’ll enter into an experience designed to provide freedom from some of the strongholds in our lives — those areas of sin where Satan has twisted a weakness we have into a binding knot where he’s holding the ropes and we’re unable to break his hold simply by trying harder to be good. It’s important to note the sequence of confession preceding repentance. We need to call out our sin (confession) before we can turn from it (repentance). To understand more about confession, John Ortberg offers a helpful primer on the what and how of confession: 

Because many of us struggle to accept the reality of forgiveness, that is the reason that God has given us the practice of confession... Confession is not primarily something God has us do because he needs it. God is not clutching tightly to his mercy as if we have to pry it from his fingers like a child's last cookie. We need to confess in order to heal and be changed. 

Confession is a practice that, done wisely, will help us become transformed. When we practice confession, two things happen. The first is that we are liberated from guilt. The second is that we will be at least a little less likely to sin in the same way in the future than if we had not confessed. Sin will look and feel less attractive. 

So how do we practice confession in a way that begins to heal our souls? Confession that helps us experience the power of forgiveness is a process, not a single act. There are three steps in confession:

1. Preparation — We begin by placing ourselves into the care of the Spirit and asking for help. Apart from this, confession is dangerous. If left to ourselves, we are prone to self-condemnation for things we are not to feel guilty about, or alternatively prone to glossing over the truly ugly stains that demand attention. We need the Spirit’s help. 

2.  Self-examination — This entails taking time to reflect on our thoughts, words, and deeds and acknowledging that we have sinned.... A helpful approach to self-examination is to think through various categories of sin. Probably the list used most often is that of the seven deadly sins: pride, anger, lust, envy, greed, sloth, and gluttony. Where do we stand in regard to each of these? Confession should be specific, concrete, and particular. At the heart of it, confession involves taking appropriate responsibility for what we have done. This is not easy to do. To confess means to own up to the fact that our behavior wasn't just the result of bad parenting, poor genes, etc. But confession means that somewhere in the mix was a choice, and the choice was made by us, and it does not need to be excused, explained, or even understood. The choice needs to be forgiven. The slate has to be wiped clean.

3.  Perception — We need a new way of looking at our sin; a new understanding of it. All sin involves denial. One of the worst things about sin is that it carries with it a certain moral myopia — nearsightedness. It distorts our ability to detect its presence.... So in this step of confession, we ask for honest perception. We want to see our sins through a new lens. We begin to see our sin through the eyes of the person we sinned against. We struggle to see them through the eyes of God.” (Psalm 139:23-24 – Ortberg, p. 129-133)


Answer the questions below and write down any other thoughts and prayers to God in your Life in Rhythm journal.

  1. Ortberg notes two benefits to confession: liberating us from guilt and making sin look less attractive. How have you experienced those two things to be true?  
  2. Of Ortberg’s three steps to confession (preparation, self-examination, and perception), which one is most challenging for you? Most important to you?  
  3. How is God calling you to take the next step in confession? Confess any sin now as God leads you.
  4. Take time now to thank God for the gift of confession.

Go deeper (optional)

Every day you'll have an opportunity to "go deeper" into God's Word by practicing the REAP study method. Read the following scripture and use your journal and the REAP method to unpack the following scripture and apply it to your life.

Psalm 51:1-7
Learn more about reap