Do you know the difference between repenting of your sins and confessing your sins?
Here’s an illustration. In Texas, there’s about two weeks during the spring and about two weeks during the fall when no one complains about the weather. For those brief moments, the weather is perfect. It’s sunny enough not to need your heating on, but cool enough not to need the A/C. For those four weeks or so, you can go to bed at night with your windows open.
But the other forty-eight weeks of the year? A total gripe fest!
Texans will complain that it’s either too cold, or too hot; too humid, or too dry; too still, or too windy.
Complaining about the weather is a bonding moment for Texans. The weather is like having a common enemy that unites us together.
Thank God for A/C. There’s no way I would ever live here without it.
Of course, you need to keep your A/C maintained, especially in preparation for all of those summer days exceeding 100°F. Different companies will offer you a maintenance plan. For so much a month—say, $25—they’ll come out twice a year and make sure all is well with your unit, replacing the parts that need to be replaced, putting in new filters, and topping up the Freon. You pay to maintain the unit, to avoid a total breakdown.
Think of the difference between repentance and confession along the same lines.
Confessing your sins is like having maintenance plan for your A/C, but in this case, what you’re maintaining is your fellowship with God. As you are following Jesus Christ in your life, you will likely sin—whether in thought, word, or deed. When you do, you should privately confess those sins to God, and He will forgive you and cleanse you.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
So long as your big focus in life is Christ, and you’re trying to walk according to faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7), all you need to do to maintain your fellowship with God is to confess your sins as they arise. It’s like you’re changing the dirty filter of your soul, and topping up your spiritual Freon, in order to keep the fellowship system running well.
By contrast, repentance is much more serious. Repentance is required when there’s a total system breakdown. It’s like having to buy a whole new A/C unit. A believer needs to repent when their focus in life has changed from self-consciously following Jesus, to self-consciously rebelling against Him.
In the Bible, people were called on to repent most in order to avoid death, disaster, or a catastrophe. The Ninevites, and Jews of Jesus’ day, had to repent or suffer some very dire consequences.
Think of David. He had an objective relationship to God because he was eternally saved, and nothing could change that. For much of his life, David also had a deep subjective fellowship with God, enjoying God’s leading, teaching, and guiding presence.
But that fellowship was broken when David committed adultery with Bathsheba, and arranged for her husband to be killed. At that point, simple confession would not help. David was in total system breakdown. He needed major intervention. His whole life orientation had to change in order to get back into fellowship with God. He needed to repent.
Have you ever experienced that? I think your conscience will let you know whether your sin needs to be simply confessed, or repented of.
Most homeowners will tell you that having an A/C maintenance plan is worth it because it’s cheaper to pay for the maintenance than for a whole new unit after a breakdown.
Likewise, you need a maintenance plan for your soul. You need to consciously follow Jesus and confess your sins regularly to maintain your fellowship with God.
To change metaphors, when a pilot if flying to a destination and is off by one degree, he’ll eventually be thousands of miles off course, if he doesn’t correct his flight path right away. Likewise, if you don’t confess your small sins now, you may have to repent of disastrously large sins later down the road.
Are you following a maintenance plan?