I am the person who robbed Central Bank and Trust back in '03. I stole over $100,000 and have been hiding out. I am sorry I did that, although the money is all spent. I hope the city can forgive me and I can come out of hiding. I have suffered enough, don't you think? Sincerely, A Former Robber
What would you think if you read that in the classifieds? Is that a confession? Do you agree with his sentiments that everyone should drop the matter? Is it unfair if the ones he robbed don't think so?
Something similar to that is what many people call "asking God to forgive me." Guilt catches up with them. They've heard that God is loving and forgiving, so they bank on it. They sin big-time, then grovel in pseudo-confession. It goes something like this:
"I'm sorry, God.
I know what I did was wrong, but I did have reasons for doing it.
(Fill in the blank with justifications here...)
Please forgive me, and I hope I don't do it again."
(However, I know I probably will.)
They quote I John 1:9 and head back to their life, claiming forgiveness. Most of the time, they repeat the same sin or something worse. Sin. Guilt. Repeat. Is that what the Bible means when it says that if we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive us?
I don't think so.
Now envision this. The same bank robber shows up at the police station 10 years later. He walks boldly into the detective's office and turns himself in. "I'm the guy who robbed Central Bank in '03. I spent all the money and have nothing to show for it. I have no excuses for what I did and I'm ready to take whatever punishment you see fit to give me. I am truly sorry for all the harm I caused and I'll do whatever you think necessary to make it up to everyone I hurt." Then he holds out his wrists for the cuffs.
Now THAT'S a confession! The kind of confession that warms the heart of God is one like that. We come to him with no excuses. We own our sin and hate what we've done. We know we don't deserve a break and are willing to do whatever necessary to demonstrate repentance. If it involves consequences, so be it. If we must humble ourselves and ask forgiveness from others, we do it. If it involves a lifetime of restitution, so be it. That's what repentance looks like in the heart of one who is ready for the forgiveness of God. In fact, it is those consequences that help brand into our hearts just how awful our sin was. Consequences make it not worth repeating.
God's forgiveness is not cheap. It cost him the life of his only Son. He has promised that a "broken and contrite heart, He will not despise." Confession without repentance is a waste of effort. It is an insult to a holy God who paid for your cleansing with his blood.
Are you caught on a treadmill of repeat sin? Chances are great that you are not repenting and your sin looms ever before you. If you want the total healing God promises, hold out your wrists and show him you mean it.