If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God. [1 John 1: 8-10 (MSG)]
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The church in which I was raised recited a general confession during each service and I sometimes wondered why we bothered to confess. If God sees everything we do, I reasoned, He already knows what sinners we are and what sins we’ve committed. If that’s the case, what’s the purpose of confession? Why bother to tell Him what He already knows? Eventually, I understood that, while God knows what we’ve done wrong, He wants us to know it too. We must admit why we need forgiveness before we can accept it. Until we repent, how can we be redeemed? Until we acknowledge our guilt, how can we be pardoned?

It’s easy for most of us to think we have no sin. I know I haven’t killed anyone, stolen any property, or committed adultery. I don’t covet my neighbors’ houses, cars or spouses. I attend church regularly, read my Bible and don’t worship idols. What do I have to confess? Unfortunately, plenty! I have harbored anger, failed to forgive, not offered help when I should have, and gossiped. I have been envious of peoples’ beauty and talent. I have been needlessly anxious because I didn’t turn my problems over to God. I’ve been less than honest in some relationships. I’ve broken promises to myself and to others. I’ve been selfish when I should have been generous. I’ve lost patience, I’ve lost my temper and, at times, I’ve even lost my faith.

In her oft-recited sonnet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote the words, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” I thought of her poem while writing this devotion. My poem, however, would begin, “How have I sinned against you? Let me count the ways!” Unlike her sonnet, however, my list would easily be over fourteen lines in length.

Father, forgive me for I have sinned.

I’m ready to tell my story of failure, I’m no longer smug in my sin. [Psalm 38:18 (MSG)]

You can’t whitewash your sins and get by with it; you find mercy by admitting and leaving them. [Proverbs 28:13 (MSG)]