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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

25 March 2006

Confessing a Secret Sin

Q: The Bible talks about how God despises a liar and loves an honest heart. This bothers me because I thought He loves us in spite of our flaws and weaknesses. I have lived with a lie for my whole life and now I feel that I should “fess up” about this. However, I’m the only one who has been hurt by this lie. It’s an issue of pride, which I know is also a sin. Since no one else has been affected by this directly, it should be my personal issue to work through with God as opposed to the masses at large, right?

A: You are hearing God’s Law, which all sinners (all people) need to hear. This Law always condemns. Obviously, it’s doing its work, since you have been afflicted by this. Scripture’s words against falsehood have singled you out. Even if you have not murdered and are innocent of any number of other sins, you are not perfect — the Law of God finds you guilty of dishonesty.

Your own honesty, no matter how hard you try, can never measure up to God’s standards. Only the absolute truth that Christ lived and spoke is perfect, and anything less is unacceptable to God. Thus, by God’s grace in Christ Jesus, we must claim the Savior’s honesty as our own. Otherwise, we risk exclusion from the Kingdom of God in the Resurrection. Revelation 22:15 warns us, “Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”

We receive the Savior’s righteousness as we confess our sins to Him, trusting in His forgiveness. I don’t know your church, but situations like yours are why some churches and many individual pastors and priests practice individual confession (which is actually individual absolution, or forgiveness). Some sins root themselves so deeply that the wrong itself and the attending guilt become extremely difficult to hand over to God.

AbsolutionBeing forthright in confessing to God in the presence of one of His called shepherds is difficult, yet it allows opportunity for God to reach past our pride and our shame.

Then He can snatch away the sin, and nail it to the cross of Christ. In so doing, He shows the truth of your own words, that God loves us, “in spite of our flaws and weaknesses.” He never excuses our sinful behavior; He forgives it!

In sin’s place, He offers full and free pardon, as well as strength to turn away from the sin. He creates the “clean heart,” just as we pray in Psalm 51. If you have not harmed others, but still have difficulty confronting this one-on-One with God, try finding a trusted minister of the Gospel and ask if he will hear your confession and pronounce the Absolution.

While your sin may be “personal,” it’s difficult to “work through” with God, since we naturally tend to downplay the severity of the sin while overestimating our ability to battle it. Going to God with your pastor on your side makes it easier both to focus on the absolute wrong of the sin and to receive the fullness of God’s forgiveness.

Previous posts dealing with Confession and Absolution include Confession and the Keys of the Kingdom and Confession and Forgiveness by God through Man.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

Send email to Ask the Pastor.

Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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