FOUR DIFFERENT CONDITIONS OF THE HEART
IN A CHRISTIAN’S CONFESSION
Even when a person realizes that he has sinned and has confessed his sins to God or to man, the condition of the heart during his confession may be vastly different from one case to another! According to my own observation, there are at least four conditions:
1. Confession because of the
After a man sins, his conscience is not at peace; it condemns him. After a man confesses his sins, his conscience is at peace and does not condemn him any longer. It is all right to confess one’s sins as a result of the condemnation in the conscience. But if one confesses his sins merely for the sake of having peace in his conscience and to stop its condemnation, and if there is no deeper reason than this (the deeper reason being a realization of the evil of sin itself), such a confession is only a bribing of the conscience. The conscience is the organ within that tells him his true condition. The reason the conscience condemns is that sin is evil. This is why it continues to speak to a person. However, a person may find the unceasing condemnation of the conscience a nuisance and try to find a way to stop its condemnation only, neglecting to hate the sin that the conscience hates. In such a case, a person is paying attention only to the condemnation of the conscience; he is not paying attention to the cause of the conscience’s condemnation, which is sin. Therefore, he does not hate sin that much. Instead, he only feels the nuisance of the condemnation of his conscience. He does not deal with the root of the matter, which is sin, but only with the condemnation which is a result of the root of sin. In this way, he tries to bribe his conscience by means of confession. But this is not the way that God wants us to deal with our sins.
2. Confession because of the
Condemnation of Others’ Consciences
Sometimes you have offended or sinned against others. On the one hand, you feel that you owe them something, and on the other hand, you are afraid that they will hate you in their hearts and remember your offense. In order to stop the conscience of the others from condemning you and to live peaceably with them, you look for an appropriate opportunity to confess to them. As long as you have their forgiveness, you think that you will be reconciled to them, that they will not hate you any longer, and that their conscience will not condemn you. If the others will not forgive you, there will be a problem between them and God, and they will be the ones who will suffer. (Matthew 6:15 says, "But if you do not forgive men their offenses, neither will your Father forgive your offenses.") This kind of thinking is similar to the first kind, for the attention is not on sin, but on others’ conscience. It is true that we have to be reconciled to others. But if we only pay attention to this, without feeling the evil of sin itself, we do not have the kind of condition in our heart that God requires in our dealing with sin.
If one confesses his sin based on the two conditions we have mentioned, the result will surely be that he will sin easily and confess easily. If the heart does not feel that every sin against man is also a sin against God, if the blood does not seem to be that important, and if he thinks that sins have only to do with man and one only need to deal with man, he will not see the evil of sin nor consider confession as a serious matter. At the same time, if a person does not have a genuine broken and contrite heart, he will not have any difficulty in confession. In short, he will consider sin as something very light and will easily commit sin. Sometimes, even before he makes confession for a sin, he commits the same sin again. May God be gracious so that we can see sin the way He sees it!
3. Confession through Fear of
the Coming Judgment
Some remember the word of 2 Corinthians 5:10, which says, "For we must all be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done through the body according to what he has practiced, whether good or bad." At the judgment seat, Christ will not only judge their works, but also their conduct. Everything that has not passed through the judgment of the Holy Spirit, through the conscience, and every sin that has not been cleansed away by the blood will be judged by the Lord. Therefore, their hearts are afraid. Since today’s sins will have to be dealt with in the future, they consider it wiser if they deal with them today, so that they can be spared from future judgment. It is not bad to confess one’s sin under such a condition; it is much better than the above two cases, because the above two cases only relate to man, whereas this, at least, relates to God. One confesses before God, through a fear of God. Such a person may have two kinds of confessions; one is before God, and the other is before men (if such sins are against men also). After he has made a clear confession, he will have a clear conscience before God and men. Although this kind of confession is quite good and proper, it is, nevertheless, not the highest condition God desires the heart to be in for confession.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 19: Notes on Scriptural Messages (3), Chapter 10, by Watchman Nee)