If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 NASB
Confess – “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus,” wrote Robert Lowry in this famous hymn from the 19th Century. He was absolutely right. Nothing can clean off the pollution of deliberate sin except the crimson red disinfectant. Once cleansed, we are free to obey out of hearts of gratitude. We come blameless before the throne, unashamed to enter into the presence of the King of the universe.
But what happens if we mess up again? John provides the answer. There is emergency help. It’s called confession.
Confession is not like a daily shower. God does not expect His redeemed children to play in the mud. He expects them to live righteously. He expects them to stay clean once they are washed with red soap. There would be no point at all in providing instructions for living if God thought that we were so magnetically attracted to life’s dirt that we couldn’t avoid it. Torah would be useless if it were impossible to obey. The point of getting cleaned up is to stay cleaned up, not to run back to the mud. That means that sin subsequent to being washed in the blood is not the norm. It is the exception to the rule. Nevertheless, it happens – and when it does, emergency measures must be taken. Confession is one of those emergency measures. In the event of a calamity, in the case where we stumble in spite of our deliberate redirection after cleansing, God provides a 911 emergency number. It is 266 3377. And it’s toll free.
When I was the victim of Augustinian-Lutheran thinking, I used to believe that repentance was a daily exercise. If I am born a sinner and a sinful nature directs my every action, I obviously must confess continuously. Even after I am “saved,” that sinful predilection persists. I am in an eternal spiritual battle, fighting to keep the faith while observing that I sin every day in word, thought and deed. When Augustine decided that Romans 7 was a description of every Christian, when Martin Luther adopted Augustine’s point of view and declared that sin springs out of every pour, the trap was set. Confession is no longer an emergency provision. It was the mainstay of religious life. One can only wonder why there wasn’t a confessor priest in every village in Israel. The Roman Catholic Church certainly operated on the principle that confession was interminable.
But John doesn’t speak like the Pope. He writes in order that we will not sin! Once cleansed, sinning is an aberration. He says, “If anyone sins,” not “when anyone sins.” He used the Greek word homologeo (confess), a word that means to acknowledge openly. In an emergency, we admit that we have stumbled and Yeshua accepts our admission in the same way that YHWH accepted Abraham’s trust. Restoration is instantaneous and complete. We are ready to go back to obedience. The Hebrew equivalent of homologeo is yada’, the verb that covers “to know” in the widest possible sense. Confession is not only knowing that I have stumbled, admitting that I have fallen, it is also knowing the intimacy of His promise to forgive and experiencing restoration.
If you have to dial 911, do it now. Then get back to the Way.
Topical Index: 1 John 1:9, sin, emergency, confess
 For those who need more than a hint, CON-FESS