We need to know and remember that our sin is primarily against God (Psa. 51:4). Therefore, confession of sin to God needs to be absolute with no waffling and no holding back. It needs to include motives, desires, thoughts, behavior, emotions, actions, reasons, justifications, hesitations, excuses, and anything else that will break down the wall that your rebellion has created between you and God.
We also need to know and remember that God’s forgiveness is total, absolute, and eternal. God will never bring up your sin to you again because he will not remember your sin (Jer. 31:34; Heb. 10:17-18). This means that when God forgives your sin, he promises never to remember it anymore. In addition, because Jesus took the punishment that you deserved for your rebellion, you only need to offer yourself as a living sacrifice to God and he cleanses you from all iniquity and stain. You are clean. Forgiven. Whole.
Next, the Bible does not tell us to forgive ourselves. It says to trust God. Believe God. Is God holding your sin against you? Not if you have confessed it and he has forgiven you! He doesn’t remember it anymore. For you to continue to bring it up, is to doubt God’s promises. It is to not believe. It is to not trust God. It is its own sin.
What the Bible calls us to instead, is to believe God is not remembering your sin and live the cleansed life. You shouldn’t live like you are clean, that infers that you might not be. The Bible tells us we are clean. We are cleansed. We are new people, being renewed daily and constantly. Live a clean life. Live believing that what God says is true. God is not a liar.
Third, in Ephesians 5:1 the Bible tells us, “as beloved children, imitate God.” What would this look like in this situation? It would look like you not remembering your sin. When the accuser comes to you, when you are alone and vulnerable, and tells you that you are a dirty scumbag and need to be punished for that sin you committed. You simply respond with, “I’m imitating God, by not remembering that sin. Instead, I am going to make a list of things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous things, and praiseworthy things, and I’m going to think about those things instead of dwelling on a none existent past (Phil. 4:8). Then, I’m going to do some Bible study and I’m going to do what I see on the pages and do it in the name of the Lord Jesus with all my might and strength (Phil. 4:9).” And then do it.
Then, when it comes to confessing sin to people you have sinned against, you need to know and remember that the overall point of confession is to restore a broken relationship. If I have sinned against my wife by becoming angry with her, it will not do to tell her, “I am sorry for being angry with you, but if you hadn’t said what you said, I wouldn’t have become angry.” My sin is my sin. My choices are my choices. My sin is not caused by other people and I cannot pass the buck for my sin to them. I cannot blame them for my sin, and I may not drag them into my confession. My sin is my fault.
Fifth, do you need to confess sin to others that they are not involved in? Sometimes, but not always. If the sin is the kind of sin that is a pattern in your life that will or does affect others, or that you need help overcoming, you probably need to confess that sin to others.
When you do need to confess your sins to someone else, here are a few things to keep in mind: First, think about why you want to confess sin to the other person. What is your goal? Is it to restore the relationship? Is it actually broken?
- Are you doing it because you want them to think you are holier than you are? “Oh, she’s confessing her sin, she must be really godly. She’s confessing sins I didn’t even need to know about.” If this is your temptation, you probably aren’t holier than you think.
- Are you confessing because you think you are a horrible person and you think that somehow everyone else needs to know it too? Do you have a right view of yourself? Is your view God’s view? Or something else? Why do you want this other person to think you’re a horrible person? Let God show people who you are. If God has cleansed you, sharing your sin only shows that you don’t believe God and aren’t all that godly now.
- Are you confessing sin because you think God hasn’t forgiven you and you think somehow that confessing to a person will make the forgiveness “take”? In other words, are you doubting God’s forgiveness? Are you not trusting God? If this is the case, no amount of confession will help. Go to God, confess your sin, and believe that he has forgiven you. Remember Hebrews 10:18 tells us that forgiveness means God doesn’t remember our sins anymore. I wouldn’t say that confessing sins that God doesn’t remember will confuse him, but it certainly reveals a lack of faith in his character.
If the answer to these questions is no, you shouldn’t confess your sins that person.
Second, do not confess sins that will cause you to sin all over again in the telling. If you had lustful thoughts and telling someone about them will bring up the lustful thoughts again, but for some reason you need to confess, keep your confession general and vague. You don’t need to sin again, now. I can’t think of a time when someone else needs to know the details. You can say that it was really really bad without re-living it. If you want to confess so that the other person can help you live a godly life from here on out, confess, but keep it as vague as you can to get the project done. You don’t need to make things worse than they are.
Third, don’t confess sins that are going to drag the person you are confessing to down into their own sin. Confessing that you have a problem with anger and the person you are confessing to also has a problem with anger, can create a whole new fight with them, or within them. Galatians 6:1 tells us to help others who are caught in sin, but it tells us to guard ourselves, lest we fall to the same sins. So, don’t confess sins if the confessing will cause the person you are confessing to to sin.
Above all, love God, believe God, serve God, think like God, act like God, Imitate God.
I hope this helps.