What does the action of confession entail?
First, the believer in this posture counts the death and resurrection of Christ to be true of himself. He, by faith, aligns himself with Christ’s relationship to sin and righteousness. This is the argument of Paul in Romans 6. Since it is already true of a Christian that he is dead to sin, and has died with Christ, he must keep counting himself dead to living for sin. Likewise, if by faith we count Christ’s death to be true of us, then by faith we turn to count his life and righteousness to be true of us, and alive to the empowerment of his Spirit to enable obedience to him. This act of faith is bringing our position into our posture. Believing ourselves to be in Christ, we now set our loyalties in advance. We count ourselves to be as dead to the attractiveness of sin as Christ is, and as alive to God’s goodness as Christ is. We embrace the truth that sin is as evil as God calls it, and righteousness is as good as he calls it. We yield ourselves to righteousness, not sin. The posture of repentance begins by reporting to our master, yielding ourselves to what God calls good.
Second, with this loyalty in place, we keep calling sin sinful by fleeing from temptation. We flee from sin by removing opportunities to sin, such as tempting situations, provocative stimuli, or fuel for the flesh. Various influences feed our flesh’s desire to sin. Certain media, places, social situations, leisure activities, or acquaintances will feed the wrong thoughts, tempting us to go from inclination to consideration. Even though our position in Christ means we have died to these things, the posture of repentance will continue to deaden itself to these things by removing and separating from such influences.
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. (Romans 13:14)
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. (1 John 2:15-16)
As we turn away from the sin, we must turn toward something. When we flee from sin, we must also follow after something. What is that? It is the beauty of God. We confess that the sin is a substitute, a cheap perversion of God’s original good. We admit that our hearts will not be satisfied from drinking from the broken reservoirs of sin, but from the all-consoling Fountain of God Himself (Jer 2:13-13). Thomas Chalmers called this “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection”. When we see the superior worth of God, the satisfying and delightful nature of His glories, we confess sin to be evil, turn from it and turn towards God in Christ.
This becomes critical at the moment before the interest or curiosity of temptation turns into a serious consideration of embracing it. Before we deceive ourselves into thinking that we are simply weighing up the merits of a sin, we must say what God says of the sin, and turn away. This corresponds to God’s promised way of escape for every temptation (1 Cor 10:13). The door of escape opens at the very beginning of a temptation, and it is at this point that the posture of repentance takes it, by agreeing with God about the unworthiness and evil of sin. The moment we entertain the possible goodness of what God has called sin, the door of escape closes.
At times, this turning away is more like a tearing, particularly if the sin has become a habit. Nevertheless, where a ‘radical amputation’ is necessary, it must be done to prevent further opportunities to sin.
If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. (Matthew 5:29)
The third thing we must do to grow in this attitude of agreeing with God about sin is to allow the Word of God to continually shape our conscience. A growing believer is saturating himself with Scripture, to allow God to rule on what is good and what is not. Our attitude must be one that is prepared to obey whatever the Word says, and allow it to have the final say in our lives.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)
So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:19-21)