A critical step to experiencing the forgiveness of God is confessing our sin. Proverbs 28:13 says, "He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. And 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."
The word for confession in Greek means "to say the same thing". Thus, when we confess our sin to the Lord we are agreeing with him when he tells us in Scripture that certain thoughts, words, or deeds are wrong.
Confession of sin can be a very freeing activity. The story is told of a twelve year old boy who had killed one of the family geese by throwing a stone and accidentally hitting the bird on the head. The boy buried the goose and hoped his parents would not know that one of their twenty-four birds was missing.
However, that evening the boy's sister called him aside and said, "I saw what you did. If you don't offer to do the dishes tonight, I'll tell Mom." The next morning the girl gave her brother the same warning. All that day and the next the worried boy felt bound to do the dishes for his sister. But the following morning, he surprised her by telling her that it was her turn to do the dishes that day. When the girl quietly reminded her brother that she would tell on him, he replied: "I've already told Mom, and she has forgiven me. So you can do the dishes. I'm free again!"
C. S. Lewis was one who knew much about the practical value of confession. Allow me to quote from the chapter on Forgiveness in my book, Mere Theology....
A practical aid to feeling forgiveness, which Lewis mentions in his letters is the aid of confessing one's sins to a priest. He writes of the contrast between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church in regard to confession. Rome makes confession compulsory for all, whereas the Anglican Church makes it permissible for any. Lewis does not doubt that there can be forgiveness without confession to a priest. However, experience shows that many people do not feel forgiveness, do not effectively believe in the forgiveness of sins, without the rite of confession. he asserts that the enormous advantage of coming really to believe in forgiveness is well worth the horrors of a first confession.
In October 1940, Lewis decided to begin seeing an Anglican priest for weekly confession. He chose as his spiritual director Father Walter Adams, one of the priests of the Anglican Society of Saint John the Evangelist in Cowley, a town neighbouring Oxford. This society was locally known as the Cowley Fathers or the Cowley Dads. Lewis wrote to Sister Penelope on October 24, 1940, about his decision to make his first confession the following week. He says that it was one of the hardest decisions he ever had to make, and so he posted a letter to the Cowley Fathers before he had time to change his mind!
Biographer George Sayer suggests that worries about the writing of The Screwtape Letters drove Lewis to seek out a spiritual director. Whatever initially drove him to do this, it is clear that he continued the practice for many years. On April 14, 1952, he wrote to Don Giovanni Calabria that he felt like an orphan because his aged confessor and most loving father in Christ had just died. Lewis continued for the rest of his life to go to confession, but he never again took up with another spiritual director as he had with Father Adams. It is clear, however from his letters, that he experienced the truth of James 5:16 (NIV): "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." Lewis says that the effect of a righteous confessor in his life was indeed powerful and effective.I too have found great consolation in having a spiritual director and confessor in my life. For others, confessing one's sins privately to God in prayer or in the context of corporate worship may be all the help that is needed. The important thing is not how we confess our sins, but simply the act of honestly doing it, and then experiencing the freedom of forgiveness that God wants us to have.