Confession and Our Unpaid Tickets
When we think about the word “confession”, we often think of unpleasant situations: admissions in a courtroom or at a police station, for instance. But I think that confession, as God wants us to confess to him and to each other, can be a source of joy. This joyful confession can only occur when we understand what redemption is and why we need it.
Ephesians 1:7 says: “In him [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.”
God’s grace is so generous. However big my sin is, his grace is much bigger. If it were not for the power of the blood of Jesus, none of us could be purified of our sin.
Here’s an illustration to help us picture our sin and God’s grace.
There once was a man who got pulled over by the police all the time. Every time he got pulled over, he got a ticket and he stuffed it in his glovebox. Pretty soon, he didn’t have room in his glove compartment any more. Soon, he had driving tickets all over his car – in the back seat, filling the trunk, sitting in the passenger seat like unwanted passengers.
Every day, he would drive his car, petrified that at any given moment the cost of those tickets would come due. The cost was so huge he couldn’t possibly pay it, and the penalties accrued were making it even worse. Every day, he knew that he could go straight to jail for not paying his tickets. Therefore, he lived in constant fear of being pulled over.
Of course, one day the man got stopped. When the police officer came to the window, he instantly saw what was going on. He checked his system and sure enough, this driver hadn’t paid a single ticket. But something strange happened – instead of hand-cuffing the man and taking him to jail, the officer paid the tickets himself. Because of the delinquency of the tickets, simply paying them wasn’t enough – so the officer went to jail himself to pay the cost for the man.
Can you imagine the feeling of having someone do that for you? Can you imagine the relief for the driver in our story? Do you think he cried or laughed?
After this experience, is he going to go get another ticket the next day? Possibly, but he won’t do it intentionally because he knows the high cost of his freedom. Every time he’s tempted to speed or run a red light, he’s going to remember the face of that police officer, offering to go to jail in his place. This reality changes the way he will live.
Clearly, a person sitting in a car stuffed with tickets could say to the officer, “Thanks a lot, but I’m okay,” roll up the window, and drive away with all his tickets. But we know that all that would do is add to the cost and put off his arrest.
We all sin. Eventually, the cost of sin has to be paid. It’s either going to be paid by us or it’s going to be paid by God.
Jesus didn’t just go to jail for our sin – he went to the cross.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. Colossians 1:21-23a
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 1 Peter 1:18-19
When we talk about confession, it’s not like God needs us to tell him what our sins are because he somehow doesn’t know. He knows our stories. We confess because we need to know. We confess our sins because we need to be made right with God. We need our tickets, our sins and our failures brought into the light.
Three things happen when we confess:
1. We draw closer to God.
Remember, in the last post we learned that God is light. In him there is no darkness. When we come close to God, he exposes our darkness and also destroys it. When I first became a Christian and saw the brokenness in my heart, immediately I felt shame. But guess what? When you’re that close to God, he is so close to you he can also offer you his compassion and his love and his grace. In that closeness, we can release that shame, give it to him, and in exchange, receive his grace and his love.
2. Confession neutralizes and breaks down the power of evil in our lives.
The guy driving around with a car full of tickets is not free. He is constantly living in fear, thinking, “Soon someone is going to find me out.” We’re pretending to be good, but we know about the tickets in the trunk, and we’re constantly waiting to be pulled over again. That is not freedom. It’s a prison with invisible but thick walls.
3. Confession gives us peace.
When you give your confession to God, it’s dirty, ugly and wicked. It’s not pretty. But the minute God takes this ugliness away, we can feel absolute gratitude and peace knowing that our sin has been dealt with and now we can live in freedom. That’s what confession does for us. It does not mean we go on sinning, for our sins, though forgiven, have real and lasting consequences.
The Enemy wants to keep us in bondage and fear, running scared from God and others with our shameful car full of tickets. Satan knows that the best way to to keep us from living the way God created us to live is by shrouding us in fear and shame. When we’re busy hiding, we aren’t helping others, we aren’t fully alive – but when we confess, we kill the power of sin in our lives. When we confess we say to God, “We know what this is. It isn’t good. We don’t want to do this any more. God, take it from me instead. Help me live in your freedom.”
When we confess, we call sin for what it is. When we look at it for what it is, understand the cost, and then become willing to receive the grace offered to us by God, we experience joy.
Let us believe this as we confess to God today, and let him pay our tickets: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
What do you need to confess to God?
Write down your prayer as a reminder of the cleansing power of confession.