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Appropriate True Confession

Jonathan Goforth

In view of the prominence that is given to confession of sin in this book, perhaps it would be as well to make plain my personal views on the subject. Some years ago, I was about to open a series of meetings at an important center in China, when a visiting lady missionary came to me with what she called “a sure plan to move the people.” Her idea was that I should first confess my sins, then she would confess hers and afterwards I was to persuade all the missionaries to confess theirs. The Chinese leaders would naturally follow, and she was certain that by that time every one would have broken down. I replied that the Lord had not led me to see things in that light. “If I have hindering sins,” I said, “they hinder in Honan, where I am known; and the same applies to yourself. So the sooner we return to our respective fields and get them out of the way the better. To confess our sins before this audience, where we are not known, would only waste valuable time. Besides, who am I that I should urge these missionaries to confess their sins in public, when, for all I know, they may be living nearer to God than I am? The Spirit of God does not need me to act as His detective. If the missionaries here have hindering sins, then we may rest assured that the Spirit will move them to get rid of them. But that is His business, not ours.” Never have I witnessed anything more moving than that last meeting when those missionaries, one after another, broke down before the people and confessed to the things that hindered in their lives.

We have a strong feeling that sins committed before conversion are under the blood of God’s Holy Son and never should be confessed. To do so is to bring dishonor upon His Calvary sacrifice. We have heard Church members confess to sins which they had committed previous to their having joined the Church. But such had never really been born again, and the conviction from the Holy Spirit that inspired and accompanied their confessions was usually of an awe-inspiring nature and never failed to move the audience deeply. Moreover, as far as our observation has led us, we have concluded that there must first be deep conviction among the true followers of Christ before any expectation can be entertained of moving the others. From our own experience we are able to state that in every instance where this necessary first stage has been reached, the unconverted in the audience have broken down completely. There could have been no Pentecost unless the one hundred and twenty believers had first reached this stage. The Chinese Christians speak of this work of the Spirit as judgment, but as the “hsiao shen pan” (small judgment), the way still being open to avail oneself of the cleansing efficacy of the precious blood.

We believe, too, that as regards secret sin, i.e. sin which is known only to the individual soul and God, to confess it at the private altar is, as a rule, sufficient to ensure pardon and cleansing. We say, as a rule, because we have known of many, usually such as have been responsible for the salvation of others, i.e. ministers and Church leaders of one sort or another, for whom secret acknowledgment of sin has not been sufficient. Their agonized public confessions have shown plainly that, for them at least, there was only one way of relief.

As to sin against an individual the Scriptures are quite plain. “Therefore, if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar and go thy way. First be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Matt. v. 23, 24). It is vain for us to pray while conscious that we have injured another. Let us first make amends to the injured one before we dare approach God at either the private or the public altar. I am confident that revival would break out in most churches if this were done. Then again, as regards public sins, experience has shown us that these can only be swept away by public confession. True, this amounts to crucifixion; but by our willful disobedience we have put the Lord of Glory to an open shame, and it is the price that we must pay.

Taken from By My Spirit by Jonathan Goforth.

Jonathan Goforth was greatly used of God to bring revival to China and Korea. You can learn more about his life through Goforth of China, By My Spirit (On the Korean revivals), and How I know God Answers Prayer. Most of these were written by his wife Rosalind who God also used greatly.

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