The Need To Confess Our Own Sins
By D. L. Moody
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Prov. 28:13).
“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed…” (Jas. 5:16).
I think we, as Christians, have a good many sins to confess.
If you go back to the Scripture records, you will find that the men who lived nearest to God and had most power with Him were those who confessed their sins and failures. Daniel confessed his sins and those of his people. Yet there is nothing recorded against Daniel. He was one of the best men on the face of the earth, yet his confession of sin was one of the deepest and most humble on record. Brooks, referring to Daniel’s confession, says:
“In these words you have six circumstances that Daniel uses in confessing of his and the people’s sins; and all to heighten and aggravate them. First, ‘We have sinned’; secondly, ‘We have committed iniquity’; thirdly, ‘We have done wickedly’; fourthly, ‘We have rebelled against Thee’; fifthly, ‘We have departed from Thy precepts’; sixthly, ‘Neither have we hearkened unto Thy servants the prophets, which spake in Thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land’ (Dan. 9:5-6).
“These six aggravations which Daniel reckons up in his confession are worthy of our most serious consideration.”
Job was no doubt a holy man, a mighty prince, yet he had to fall in the dust and confess his sins (Job 42:6). So you will find throughout the Scriptures. When Isaiah saw the purity and holiness of God, he beheld himself in God’s true light, and he exclaimed, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips...” (Isa. 6:5).
I firmly believe that the church of God will have to confess her own sins before there can be any great work of grace. There must be a deeper work among God’s believing people. I sometimes think it is about time to give up preaching to the ungodly and preach to those who profess to be Christians. If we had a higher standard of life in the church of God, there would be thousands more flocking into the kingdom.
So it was in the past when God’s believing children turned away from their sins and their idols: the fear of God fell upon the people round about. Take up the history of Israel and you will find that when they put away their strange gods, God visited the nation, and there came a mighty work of grace.
Judgment Must Begin with Us!
What we want these days is a true and deep revival in the church of God. I have little sympathy with the idea that God is going to reach the masses by a cold and formal church. The judgment of God must begin with us! (1 Pet. 4:17). You notice that when Daniel got that wonderful answer to prayer recorded in the ninth chapter, he was confessing his sin. That is one of the best chapters on prayer in the whole Bible. We read:
“While I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God; yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding” (Dan. 9:20-22).
So also when Job was confessing his sin, God turned his captivity and heard his prayer (Job 42:10). God will hear our prayer and turn our captivity when we take our true place before Him and forsake our transgressions. It was when Isaiah cried out before the Lord, “I am undone,” that the blessing came; the live coal was taken from the altar and put upon his lips; he went out to write one of the most wonderful books in the Bible.
It was when David said, “I have sinned” (2 Sam. 12:13), that God dealt in mercy with him. “I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin” (Psa. 32:5). “I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight...” (Psa. 51:3-4; notice how similar David’s confession is to that of the prodigal son in Luke 15:21).
God Is No Respecter of Persons
There is no difference between the king and the beggar when the Spirit of God comes into the heart and convicts of sin.
Richard Sibbes quaintly says of confession: “This is the way to give glory to God: when we have laid open our souls to God, and laid as much against ourselves as the devil could do that way, for let us think what the devil would lay to our charge at the hour of death and the day of judgment! He would lay hard to our charge this and that – let us accuse ourselves as he would, and as he will ere long.
“The more we accuse and judge ourselves, and set up a tribunal in our hearts, certainly there will follow an incredible ease (1 Cor. 11:31). Jonah was cast into the sea, and there was an ease in the ship (Jonah 1:15). Achan was stoned and the plague was stayed (Josh. 7:25-26). Out with Jonah, out with Achan; and there will follow ease and quiet in the soul, and your conscience will receive wonderful ease!”
Thomas Fuller says: “Man’s owning his weakness is the only stock for God thereon to graft the grace of His assistance.”
Confession Implies Humility, and This, in God’s Sight, Is of Great Price
If this confession of sin is deep among believers, it will be so among the ungodly also. I never knew it to fail. I am now anxious that God should revive His work in the hearts of His children so that we may see the exceeding sinfulness of sin!
Let us pray God to search our hearts. If it is a right eye, let us pluck it out; if it is a right hand, let us cut it off; that we may have power with God and with man (Matt. 5:29-30).
Unconfessed sin is unforgiven sin, and unforgiven sin is the darkest, foulest thing on this sin-cursed earth.
You cannot find a case in the Bible where a man has been honest in dealing with sin, but God has been honest with him and blessed him. The prayer of the humble and contrite heart is a delight to God (Psa. 51:17; Isa. 57:15). There is no sound that goes up from this sin-cursed earth so sweet to His ear as the prayer of the man who is walking uprightly (Prov. 15:8).
Let me call attention to that prayer of David, in which he says: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psa. 139:23-24).
I wish all my readers would commit these verses to memory. If we should all honestly make this prayer once every day there would be a good deal of change in our lives.
“Search Me” – Not My Neighbor!
It is so easy to pray for other people, but so hard to get home to ourselves. I am afraid that we who are busy in the Lord’s work are very often in danger of neglecting our own vineyard (Song 1:6). In this psalm, David got home to himself!
There is a difference between God searching me and my searching myself! I may search my heart and pronounce it all right, but when God searches me, as with a lighted candle, a good many things will come to light that perhaps I know nothing about.
“Know My Thoughts”
God looks at the thoughts. Are our thoughts pure? Have we in our hearts thoughts against God or against His people – against anyone in the world? If we have, we are not right in the sight of God. Oh, may God search us, every one! I do not know any better prayer that we can make than this prayer of David.
I think, if God searches us, we will find a good many things in our lives for us to confess. If we are tried and tested by God’s law, there will be many, many things that will have to be changed.
Let us pray to God to search us and try us to see if there be any evil way in us. If these holy and good men in the Bible felt that they were faulty, should we not tremble and endeavor to find out if there is anything in our lives that God would have us get rid of?
Once again, let me call your attention to the prayer of David contained in Psalm 51: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight.... Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which Thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide Thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free Spirit. Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto Thee” (vv. 1-4, 7-13).
A friend of mine told me some years ago that he repeated this prayer as his own every week. I think it would be a good thing if we offered up these petitions frequently; let them go right up from our hearts!
If we have been proud, or irritable, or lacking in patience, shall we not at once confess it? Is it not time that we began at home, and got our lives straightened out? See how quickly the ungodly will then begin to inquire the way of life! Let those of us who are parents set our own houses in order and be filled with the Holy Spirit; then it will not be long before our children will be inquiring what they must do to get the same Spirit!
I believe that today, by its lukewarmness and formality, the Christian church is making more nonbelievers than all the books that nonbelievers ever wrote. I do not fear nonbelievers’ lectures half so much as the cold and dead formalism in the professing church at the present time! One prayer meeting like the disciples had on the day of Pentecost would shake the whole nonbelieving fraternity!
What we want is to get hold of God in prayer! You are not going to reach the masses by great sermons. We want to “move the Arm that moves the world.” To do that, we must be clear and right before God.
“For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:20-22).