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Weekly Lift

#144. Repentance - with or without you?

Bruce Stanley

March 6, 2023

Repentance - with or without you?

I have to confess... I'd rather not confess my sins to you. Perhaps some of them I could share, but probably not all of them. I doubt you'd want to confess all your sins to another person either. Why? Why not? Perhaps you think they might tell others. Perhaps it would just be too embarrassing. Perhaps it's way too personal.

But it is very clear in the Bible that God calls all people to confess their sins - he calls us to repentance.

This question of "corporate confession" - confessing our sins together - came up in our Q&A last night and I think it was worth a closer look. Much of what is below is from the Q&A actually...

Confessing sins has not really changed from the Old to New covenant/testament. God still calls individuals to repent of their sins. But it is also helpful, as his people to do this corporately - that is, when we are together. We often have a prayer of corporate confession. Some examples o this are as follows:

In 1 Chronicles 17, God calls his people to repent as a nation for their sins as a nation.

2 Chronicles 7:13-14

13“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

In Psalm 51:4-10, David personally confesses his personal sins to the Lord after committing adultery with Bathsheba.

Psalm 51:4-7

4Against you, you only, have I sinnedand done what is evil in your sight;so you are right in your verdictand justified when you judge.5Surely I was sinful at birth,sinful from the time my mother conceived me.6Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;you taught me wisdom in that secret place.7Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

In the New Testament, we see calls to corporate confession and individual confession. The churches in Revelation were called to repent corporately of the sins they had committed together:

Revelation 2:5

5Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

Individuals were also called to repent:

James 5:16

16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Mark 1:5

5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

Confessing personal sin:

We may privately confess our personal sins to God, and sometimes we might confess our private sins to another person. This may help us to be accountable for our sin and to receive help from another person in dealing with that sin in our life. There are also times to confess our personal sins corporately (while we are together). Sometimes we confess corporately that we are individually guilty of sin.

Confessing corporate sin:

And sometimes we confess corporately that we have sinned as a group.

For example, a church may repent together of their sins for not being generous, or for not welcoming strangers, or for not protecting children (which certainly is the case with the results of the recent royal commission for institutional child abuse).

All of these options happen in the Bible, Old and New Testament:

  • Corporate confession of corporate sin
  • Corporate confession of personal sin
  • Personal confession of personal sin
  • Personal confession of corporate sin

But one thing is certain. Again and again in God's word, we are called to confess our sins to him. As sinful human beings, we continue to fail God but he is a loving Father, who loves to forgive. 1 John 1 says this beautifully:

1 John 1:8-9

8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Our God loves us and loves to forgive us. He loves it when we admit our faults, our mistakes and our needs before Him, because he loves to restore us. But how can he restore us if we don't come to him with an open and honest heart?

Confess privately, confess corporately. But most of all, confess to your heavenly Father who loves to forgive. Below is a corporate confession that reminds us, as we gather together, that we are all sinful broken people in the same state of brokenness and all needing God's help. This is a corporate prayer, but it works when you're on your own too...


Merciful God,
our maker and our judge,
we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed:
we have not loved you with our whole heart,
we have not loved our neighbours as ourselves:
we repent, and are sorry for all our sins.
Father, forgive us.
Strengthen us to love and obey you in newness of life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(from better gatherings - Anglican corporate confession

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