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  • Writer's pictureRev. Chris Brademeyer

Why Do We Need to Confess?

A Catechetical Sermon on Confession and Absolution

The 6th Wednesday of Lent, 3/20/2024

1 John 1:5-10, Proverbs 28:7-14

Rev. Christopher W. Brademeyer

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

One of the traditional focuses of Lent is confession and absolution. For this reason it is fitting for us to discuss this matter here on this last Wednesday before Holy Week.

                The Small Catechism gives us as simple of an explanation of Confession as can be found. Simply put, confession is the act of naming our sins. The Catechism focuses on the specific form of confession that would have a Christian saying his or her sins to his or her pastor in order to be forgiven of them, but this is not the only way to confess sins. Besides before the pastor, a Christian may confess to God in his silent prayer before Divine Service during the rite of general confession or in his prayers at home. No matter how the confession is made, be certain that God hears your confession.

Now the reason that we do this is not to earn forgiveness. That is to say, sometimes Christians get the mistaken notion that our act of confessing sins somehow earns for us forgiveness and salvation. It is not our confessing of our sins that warrants their forgiveness, rather forgiveness is found in Christ and His work in dying for us alone. Similarly to this, sometimes Christians get the mistaken notion that if a sin is not confessed that it is not forgiven. God’s forgiveness is for all sins, not only those we remember to tell Him about. So, even if you forget to confess a sin to God, He still grants forgiveness to the penitent, sorrowful heart.

Confession, as I mentioned a short bit ago, is simply saying what your sins are and asking for forgiveness. A person making a confession should be sorry for his sins and should know and feel the weight of them. Being sorry for sins is what contrition is and is something that all of us should feel and know. However, a lack of sorrow does not mean that we should beat ourselves up to fabricate some feeling of sadness about sin, it is enough that we admit that sins are in fact sins and that we have done wrong in committing them. This, in essence, is what we admit when we confess sins: that these things are wrong, and that God is right in condemning them.

Luther points out in the Catechism that a person should only confess the sins for which he or she feels burdened to the pastor. Confessing sins to the pastor is not a requirement for good standing in the congregation, rather, it is meant to be a way to receive a very particular word of forgiveness for particular, bothersome sins. No doubt, that most, if not all of us, have spent nights awake fretting about things we have done that were wrong or offensive. The purpose of individual confession with the pastor is so that your conscience can be soothed with a clear, specific word of forgiveness concerning those sins. For this reason, our congregation has set aside thirty minutes each week from eight o’clock to eight thirty in the morning each Sunday before church in order that you know that there is a place for you to receive this specific word of forgiveness. Even if you are ashamed or embarrassed to give voice to your sins to the pastor, you can simply give a general confession which still comes with an absolution for the sake of your conscience. It is hard to convince oneself that he or she is outside of forgiveness if that past tells you one on one that you are forgiven.

Speaking of forgiveness, this is the goal and end of all confession. After acknowledging the truth of God’s Word concerning our sins, we turn to the Lord for forgiveness which is quickly granted. There is never a prayer for forgiveness that goes unanswered; God is, after all, in the forgiving business. And in order that you know with certainty that forgiveness is both real and yours, God gives you a pastor to speak those words of forgiveness, of absolution, on His behalf. In short, God is in the business of forgiving sins and your pastor is in the business of dispensing what God gives him to give: this same forgiveness. We should never doubt or be uncertain that God forgives us, since this is the very thing He sent His Son into this world to accomplish.

Related to the matter of confession and absolution is the matter of repentance. As with confession, sometimes Christians get mixed up and make repentance into a work that earns or justifies God’s forgiveness. Forgiveness is ours by Christ and Him alone. Repentance simply means to turn away from sins and to Christ. This is an essential act on the part of the Christian not because it earns forgiveness, again, that has been done in Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. No, it is essential because it means giving up on trying to solve sins ourselves. This is a very difficult thing as so often we try and fix the problem of sin through what we do or say. I

If you’ve ever been in a position where you tried to cover up something you did wrong and just made it worse, this is the sort of thing that I’m talking about. For example, a kid might try and sneak a cookie when he’s not supposed to. In so doing, he breaks that cookie jar lid. In trying to cover that up, he shoves it down the sink drain and stops that up. And so on and so forth. Unfortunately, most of the time that we do this we don’t have such obvious problems. Typically, and especially for adults, the further problems in refusing to admit that sins are sins and refusing to let Christ forgive us by trying to solve the thing ourselves are not as immediate and far more subtle.

Here's an example of this: a man is unfaithful to his wife, or a woman is unfaithful to her husband. It starts out innocently enough: the conversations are friendly and innocent. But, as time goes on, the person spends more time in the company of the other person. Soon, he or she is giving up time at home to be with him or her. By this point, if the spouse at home complains, he or she is met with anger and accusatory statements like “don’t you trust me?,” “its nothing, I swear!,” “you’re just paranoid,” and the like. By this point it is clear that there is unfaithfulness, even if there is no physical breaking of the marital vows. Jesus notes that adultery begins in the heart and, therefore, is far more comprehensive of a thing that merely physical intimacy. If left unchecked, a person may allow this to grow and blossom into a putrid fruit of full-on adultery that ruins a marriage. Even if it doesn’t get that far, it destroys trust and peace at home. Such a person also tends to become upset with the church or their pastor. These things bring accusation, and the worst thing a guilty, unrepentant mind can bear is accusation, whether real or imagined. And so, a small thing, a desire in the heart for an intimate relationship with someone other than one’s spouse can lead to adultery, ruined family life, and, worst of all, unbelief; these all stem from unrepentance.

A repentant person in this example would admit their wrong early in this process and do what his or her spouse needed for his or her confidence and security, as such as move would be in keeping with the promise to both be faithful and forsake all others that each married person makes in his or her marital vows.

In other words, unrepentance tends to atrophy and rot until it drives a person away from Christ. This is the great danger in refusing either to acknowledge sins or to see a remedy for them apart from our one Redeemer.

Confession is, despite its strong tendency to bring discomfort and vulnerability, a good thing that gives the very opposite of these worries: it gives forgiveness, comfort, peace, and security before God which cannot be robbed from you as these are ensured by Christ and His perfect work of salvation on your behalf. So, dear friends, confess your sins. But even more be assured that you are forgiven in Christ our Lord.

 

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

 

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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