Jesus teaches us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses.” God requires confession of us. We must continually be reminded of sin’s destructive force in our lives that threatens our eternal salvation. Christian faith and life are a continuing state of repentance. Jesus’ own instruction—“Repent! For the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2)—isn’t a task to be checked off, but a daily dying to sin.
Luther encourages us to be of the mind that lives in daily confession. He speaks of Baptism, not just as a momentary ceremony, but as a daily drowning of the old Adam in us through contrition and repentance (ELS Catechism, 2001 edition, p. 187). In the Christian Questions and Answers, he encourages anyone who would be hesitant to be of this mind to “put his hand into his bosom, and feel whether he still have flesh and blood, and that he by all means believe what the Scriptures say of it in Galatians 5 [on the works of the flesh] and Romans 7 [on the daily and constant struggle against sin]” (p. 32). Luther goes on to say that we need communion (and its preceding confession) because sin and the devil in the world will not allow the Christian to have a moment’s peace.
Scripture provides numerous examples of faithful people confessing their sins before God. One of the most famous is King David, who wrote in Psalm 32 of his guilt before God. He was a believer who had strayed in sin, like we all do. He was in great spiritual danger as one who was living in a state of deliberate and determined sin against God. Confronted by God’s Law as delivered by the prophet Nathan, David writes: I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin (Psalm 32:5).
He goes on to encourage fellow believers to similarly confess their sins to God: Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him (Psalm 32:6).
Just before His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was speaking with a very faithful Simon Peter, whose every intention was to follow Jesus whatever the result (just like you, dear reader). But Jesus declared to him that he would fall away. He would even deny his Lord three times that night. Jesus said to him, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31–32).
Peter’s warning of the devil prowling around “like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8) reminds us that our faith is constantly under attack and can be lost through carelessness. We confess our sins because as David and Simon Peter, we are burdened with sin’s guilt. We feel the Lord’s hand heavy upon us. We need the relief that He offers at the foot of the cross for all who repent.
Yes, we live in a state of forgiveness by God’s grace alone, through faith alone in Christ’s atonement for sins. We continually confess our sins according to Jesus’ instruction, John’s preaching, and the example of the faithful in Scripture so that the seed that the Spirit has planted in us might avoid being lost in carelessness, and instead, mature unto salvation.
Reverend Michael Dale
Christ Lutheran Church
Port St. Lucie, FL