Inspiration brings out the fact that the burden of sin is the cause of the maladies from which many people are suffering. “There are today thousands suffering from physical disease who, like the paralytic, are longing for the message, ‘Thy sins are forgiven’ (Luke 5:20). The burden of sin, with its unrest and unsatisfied desires, is the foundation of their maladies. They can find no relief until they come to the Healer of the soul. The peace which He alone can impart would restore vigor to the mind and health to the body.” The Ministry of Healing, 77.
2 Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” There is a judgment coming, and each and every soul has a case pending at the bar of God and must appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Christ wants His people to appear before Him spotless, without stain, with a humble and contrite heart. Song of Solomon 4:7 says, “Thou art all fair, my love, there is no spot in thee.” This conveys a similar concept as the proclamation that Jesus said He would make, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
We want to order our lives in such a manner as to be found without a single spot in our character before the judgment seat of Christ. We want to understand this pathway to holiness. In Hebrews 12:12, it says, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” It is a matter of life or death that we gain that holiness.
“No man receives holiness as a birthright, or as a gift from any other human being. Holiness is the gift of God through Christ.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, 1117. Accepting Christ as a personal Saviour and following His example of self-denial is the secret of holiness. The majority of the Christian world profess to accept Him as their personal Saviour, but they stumble at following His example of self-denial, and thereby fail to inherit that holiness.
There are steps to holiness. In Acts 2:37 Peter says, “Now when they heard this (the gospel truth) they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
The first step on the path of holiness is conviction. The Great Controversy, 467, says, “The first step in reconciliation to God is the conviction of sin.” There is also something that must be mingled with the conviction of sin. Psalm 51:1–3 says, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness, according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions; and my sin is ever before me.” After the conviction comes acknowledgment of our sin. Why is it important for us to acknowledge our sins? Steps to Christ, 37 and 38 says, “Those who have not humbled their souls before God in acknowledging their guilt, have not yet fulfilled the first condition of acceptance.” God gives grace to the humble.
There is a fatal mistake that we do not want to make on the pathway to holiness when it comes to the conviction of sin. Genesis 3:12,13 says, “And the man said, The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.”
Adam and Eve both cast the blame and guilt of their sin on others. Instead of acknowledging their own guilt they argued that the blame be on others. In this way they attempted to justify themselves. Self-justification is a fatal mistake when it comes to being convicted of sin. Do not cast the blame on someone else.
In Steps to Christ, 40 and 41 we are told: “The spirit of self-justification originated in the father of lies and has been exhibited by all the sons and daughters of Adam.” At some time in our lives we have all tried to justify our actions, whether it was by casting the guilt or the blame on others, or by any other method. Remember that self-justification originated with the father of lies. “True repentance will lead a man to bear his guilt himself and acknowledge it without deception or hypocrisy.” Ibid. Only that is true repentance.
There is another fatal mistake that can be made. Hebrews 3:7 says, “Wherefore as the Holy Ghost saith, Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness.”
Repeated rejection of warnings will harden your heart to conviction and cause you to resist the Spirit until He no longer pleads with you. Patriarchs and Prophets 268, says, “He who has once yielded to temptation will yield more readily the second time. Every repetition of the sin lessens his power of resistance, blinds his eyes, and stifles conviction.” Your heart has been hardened and you are resisting the voice of God and not doing what He is asking you.
“Therefore by the deeds of the law, there shall no flesh be justified in His sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20. It is the Law of God that convinces, convicts, reproves, or brings to light sin. “That which makes manifest is light.” Ephesians 5:14. Compare that with Proverbs 6:23, which says that the Law of God is light; it is the Law of God that exposes or makes known to us what sin is. “It is through the law men are convicted of sin; and they must feel themselves sinners.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 219.
Many people do not know what sin is and think they are okay. Before they realize the need of a Saviour, they must feel themselves sinners, and they can’t do that without being convicted by the law. The sinner must see himself or herself as being exposed to the wrath of God before he or she can realize the need of a Saviour.
It is important while on this pathway to holiness to study the word of God in order to reach the condition that God has set before us. “Study God’s word prayerfully. That word presents before you, in the law of God and the life of Christ, the great principles of holiness, without which ‘no man shall see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14). It convinces of sin; it plainly reveals the way of salvation. Give heed to it as the voice of God speaking to your soul. As you see the enormity of sin, as you see yourself as you really are, do not give up to despair. It was sinners that Christ came to save.” Steps to Christ, 35.
Conviction of sin is the first step and we want to avoid those fatal mistakes of justifying ourselves or hardening our heart. When we receive the conviction we must acknowledge our sins. After we have been convicted of sin and have acknowledged our guilt, the next thing is to repent. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” Proverbs 28:13. David says, “I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.” Psalm 32:5.
David acknowledged his sin and confessed it. “David was pardoned of his transgression because he humbled his heart before God in repentance and contrition of soul and believed that God’s promise to forgive would be fulfilled. He confessed his sin, repented, and was reconverted.” Our High Calling, 83.
That promise is given to us if we should confess our sins. “He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9.
One fatal mistake is that we fail to confess and then attempt to cover our sins. “How mistaken are those who imagine that confession of sin will detract from their dignity, and lessen their influence among their fellow men. Clinging to this erroneous idea, though seeing their faults, many fail to confess them, but rather pass by the wrongs they have done others, so embittering their own lives, and shadowing the lives of others. It will not hurt your dignity to confess your sins. Away with this false dignity! Fall on the Rock and be broken, and Christ will give you the true and heavenly dignity.
“Let not pride, self-esteem, or self-righteousness keep anyone from confessing his sin that he may claim the promise. ‘He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy’ (Proverbs 28:13). Keep nothing back from God, and neglect not the confession of your faults to your brethren. ‘Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed’ (James 5:16). Many a sin is left unconfessed to confront the sinner in the day of final account; better far to confront your sins now, to confess them and put them away, while the atoning Sacrifice pleads in your behalf.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 326, 327.
Those who make the mistake of attempting to cover up their sins fail to recognize that one day all of those sins will be revealed. Jesus says, “For nothing is secret that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad.” Luke 8:17.
With God there is no such thing as secrets. “For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.” Luke 12:2. We make a fatal mistake by refusing to confess sins.
Achan made a fatal mistake by confessing too late. “And Achan answered Joshua, and said, indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done: When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them, and behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.” Joshua 7:20.
“Achan acknowledged his guilt, but when it was too late for the confession to benefit himself. … How often are similar confessions made. There is a vast difference between admitting the facts after they have been proved, and confessing sins known only to ourselves and to God.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 497. Achan uttered no confession until the finger of God was placed upon him. Only then, when his sin could no longer be concealed, did he admit to the truth. He made a fatal mistake.
Let’s compare that with the following: “The day is coming when all who have committed sin will make confession, even though it is too late for them to receive pardon. God waits long for the sinner to repent. He manifests a wonderful forbearance. But He must at last call the transgressor of His law to account.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 3, 1147.
In Numbers 32:23, it says, “… be sure that your sin will find you out.” There is no running and hiding from our sins. It is better now to confess them.
To whom should we confess our private sins? Psalm 32:5 says, “I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.” David was the example of confessing his sins to the Lord. We are to confess our private sins to God, and not to man. “Prayer and confession are to be offered only to Him Who has entered once for all into the holy place [the sanctuary].” “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, 913.
“It is no degradation for man to bow down before his Maker and confess his sins and plead for forgiveness through the merits of a crucified and risen Saviour. … But he who kneels before fallen man and opens in confession the secret thoughts and imaginations of his heart is dishonoring himself by debasing his manhood and degrading every noble instinct of his soul.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 638.
There are millions who are doing this and dishonoring themselves, debasing themselves, and degrading themselves by opening up the secrets from the recesses of their soul to a mere man. We are not to confess our sins to man, hoping for forgiveness or a release of guilt. Many do that hoping for some kind of forgiveness, freedom of conscience, or some kind of freedom from their guilt. But no man can forgive sins or free a sinner from guilt.
“God will be better glorified if we confess the secret, inbred corruption of the heart to Jesus alone than if we open its recesses to finite, erring man, who cannot judge righteously unless his heart is constantly imbued with the Spirit of God. God knows the heart, even every secret of the soul; then do not pour into human ears the story which God alone should hear.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 645.
There are confessions that should be made to man. “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” James 5:16. These are confession of faults to those we have injured or wronged. This is difficult for many humans to do and there are many reasons why we may not take this step. One of these reasons may be pride. Many people find it very uncomfortable to humble themselves and admit that they are wrong, for fear that they would be exposed and their reputation be brought to disrepute.
Nevertheless, we are commanded to confess our wrongs and confess our faults to our brethren. “Confess your sins to God, who only can forgive them, and your faults to one another. If you have given offense to your friend or neighbor you are to acknowledge your wrong, and it is his duty freely to forgive you.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 639. If we have given an offense to a friend or neighbor, to a brother or sister, we must acknowledge our wrong. In refusing to do that we are failing in our pathway to holiness.
“Keep nothing back from God, and neglect not the confession of your faults to the brethren when they have a connection with them.” Fundamentals of Christian Education, 239. If we have done something that has somehow offended or wronged a brother or sister, then we are told again to confess our faults to them.
Another reason why this is important is found in Matthew 5:23. Jesus says, “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought 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.”
Based on this Scripture there is a connection between one’s relation between his brother or his sister and one’s relation with God and worship. Our worship could be hindered if we are at variance with a brother or sister. Jesus says, if you there remember that your brother has ought against you, first go be reconciled to him. Then come and worship Me. When we come to worship God, we must be one with our brother and our sister.
“Then there are confessions that the Lord has bidden us make to one another. If you have wronged your brother by word or deed you are first to be reconciled to him before your worship will be acceptable to heaven. Confess to those whom you have injured, and make restitution, bringing forth fruit meet for repentance. If anyone has feelings of bitterness, wrath, or malice toward a brother, let him go to him personally, confess his sin, and seek forgiveness.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 646. Don’t let this be an hindrance to you on your pathway to holiness. Confession is so essential in this pathway.
Should our confession be general or specific? Notice what the Bible says in Leviticus 5:5: “And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing.”
“True confession is always of a specific character and acknowledges particular sins. They may be of such a nature as to be brought before God only; they may be wrongs that should be confessed to individuals who have suffered injury through them; or they may be of a public character, and should then be as publicly confessed. But all confession should be definite and to the point, acknowledging the very sins of which you are guilty.” Steps to Christ, 38.
It is clear that our confession must be specific to the sin committed. There is no covering or trying to give a general statement to cover everything just by saying, “Lord, forgive me for all my sins.” I recognize that as I am specific in communion with God about those sins, I am keener to discern when He works in my life to help me on that particular point. If I had been more general, the chances are that I would not recognize it when something comes my way. If I am more specific and praying about that, I will be more in tune with God working in my life. Be specific, not only in a confession of sin, but be specific in your requests also as long as they are in accordance with God’s will.
After confessing sins and faults the next step is to forsake those sins by putting them away. “Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right, If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he hath robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity, he shall surely live, he shall not die.” Ezekiel 33:14.
An example of that is found in Luke 19:8: “And Zacchaeus stood and said unto the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
“Every converted soul will, like Zacchaeus, signalize the entrance of Christ into his heart by an abandonment of the unrighteous practices that have marked his life. Like the chief publican, he will give proof of his sincerity by making restitution” Conflict and Courage, 302. Zacchaeus proved his sincerity by repaying what he had stolen four times to make restitution.
“If we have injured others through any unjust business transaction, if we have overreached in trade, or defrauded any man, even though it be within the pale [or protection] of the law, we should confess our wrong, and make restitution as far as lies in our power. It is right for us to restore not only that which we have taken, but all that it would have accumulated if put to a right and wise use during the time it has been in our possession. If we have in any manner defrauded or injured our brother, we should make restitution.” The Faith I Live By, 132.
Involved in confession is making restitution on the pathway to holiness.
“Confession will not be acceptable to God without sincere repentance and reformation. There must be decided changes in the life; everything offensive to God must be put away. This will be the result of genuine sorrow for sin.” Steps to Christ, 39.
Are you ordering your life to be found without a spot in your character before the judgment seat of Christ? The work of repentance and reformation is a lifetime action. It is not a one-time altar call prayer to salvation. It is a daily experience. Paul says in I Corinthians 15:31, “I die daily.”
“Wrongs cannot be righted, nor can reformations in character be made, by a few feeble, intermittent efforts. Sanctification is the work, not of a day, or of a year, but of a lifetime. The struggle for conquest over self, for holiness and heaven, is a lifelong struggle. Without continual effort and constant activity there can be no advancement in the divine life, no attainment of the victor’s crown.
“The strongest evidence of man’s fall from a higher state is the fact that it costs so much to return. The way of return can be gained only by hard fighting, inch by inch, every hour. By a momentary act of will, one may place himself in the power of evil; but it requires more than a momentary act of will to break these fetters and attain to a higher, holier life. The purpose may be formed, the work begun; but its accomplishment will require toil, time, and perseverance, patience and sacrifice.” Testimonies, vol. 8, 312, 313.
“The next day, John sees Jesus coming unto Him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” John 1:29. The blood of Jesus is the sinner’s only cure. It is our only hope for freedom, the only pathway to holiness.
“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” I Peter 1:18, 19.
Are you willing to confess all of your sins, and not only confess, but turn away from sin and to truly repent, and where necessary, make restitution?
“God calls for faith in Christ as our atoning sacrifice. His blood is the only remedy for sin.” The Faith I Live By, 102.
“It is not God’s will that you should be distrustful, and torture your soul with the fear that God will not accept you because you are sinful and unworthy. … You can say: ‘I know I am a sinner, and that is the reason I need a Saviour. … I have no merit or goodness whereby I may claim salvation, but I present before God the all-atoning blood of the spotless Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is my only plea.’ ” Ibid.
Nobody will want to hear Jesus saying: “Depart from Me, I never knew You.” Follow the pathway to holiness and gain the victory through Jesus today before it is too late.
Demario Carter is a former Steps to Life employee and has been a speaker at previous camp meetings.