CONVENIENT CONFESSION

Neal Pollard

Lance Armstrong went on Oprah Winfrey to confess his doping, but he has refused to testify under oath about the cheating.  The World Anti-Doping Agency director, David Howman, said of the TV interview, “What he is doing is for his own personal gratification. He’s welcome to do that, no one is going to criticize that component, but if anyone thinks that in his wildest dreams that it is going to have any effect on his life ban then they are in the same fairyland” (Steve Keating, Reuters, 1/18/13).   It is reminiscent of baseball power-hitter Mark McGuire’s famous, tearful confession to MLB Network of using steroids.  He said it was wrong, but maintained he only did it (cheated) to help mend or prevent his injuries, not enhance his power.  But, as journalist Larry Stone wrote, “He confessed because he had to confess” (Seattle Times, 1/11/10).  I remember being at a congregation which supported a missionary in Africa. The missionary was repeatedly asked by the elders if he taught polygamists that they could keep their wives when becoming a Christian so long as he did not accumulate more.  Other missionaries in the region reported that he did, that they confronted him, but that he refused to change his teaching.  But, the missionary vehemently, repeatedly denied teaching that.  Several years later upon retiring from that mission work, he saw one of the men who had served as an elder. The now former elder asked him if he had told polygamists they could keep their wives.  He answered, “Of course, but ‘everybody’ did it.”  His confession was convenient at that time because telling the truth would not cost him financial support.

Christians are told in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  James adds, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (5:16).  This is a confession driven by a conviction to please and obey God and make things right with those we have offended.

“Convenient confession” is not convicted confession.  Confessing if and only if we are caught is convenient rather than convicted confession.  Confession meant to conceal or control the discovery of other and even greater sins is not convicted confession.  Pharaoh confessed to get relief from God’s punishment (Ex. 9:27; 10:16). Balaam went from cursing to confessing only when he could see the angel of the Lord (Num. 22:34). Achan only confessed when God picked him out of the crowd (Josh. 7:20). Saul confessed when his back, spiritually, was against the wall (1 Sam. 15:24, 30; 26:21).  Time and testing proved the insincerity of these confessions.

Everyone will confess Jesus at the Judgment, when doubt will have died (Ph. 2:11).  Each of us are confronted with a sin problem, and at best we will wrestle with it (Rom. 7:14ff).  For confession to be effective, the Bible urges honesty and sacrifice.  Self-serving, self-preserving confession is convenient confession.  “Convenient confession” is not convicted confession.

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