Mars Hill Church just published a moving testimony by a Seattle woman named Holly Webster. Holly shares in her essay how she had two abortions early in life and felt continual shame for her sin. What was it that loosed her, as she remembers it? It was confession of sin.
Holly explains her gospel epiphany:
I was terrified. I did not want to face what he was leading me to face: sharing with my community that I had had two abortions and learning to see those abortions as God sees them: the slaughter of two little babies whom he had made and entrusted to my care.
And here’s the point in my story where I want to illustrate why I found Pastor Mark’s hard words so loving: It wasn’t until I saw my sin for what it was, saw it for how brutal and awful it was, saw it for how the Lord sees it—only then could I truly come to repentance and recognize that I needed my Savior. I needed to see myself as a murderer of children before I could really repent of the sin that I committed when I aborted those two little babies. I needed to see myself as that bad so that when I was reminded that Jesus died for this for me and gave me his righteousness before the Father (my new identity!), I could see the incredible magnificence of his lavish grace poured out on me, a sinner.
It never ceases to awe me just how much God saves us. What do I mean? He saves all of us when we repent and believe in his Son, Jesus Christ. Every part of us is washed clean. All of our hearts; all of our minds. You can be 10,000 miles from God, but if you repent and believe, he receives you immediately.
A crucial part of this drawing near is seeing sin for what it is: raw, ugly, awful, festering, murderous, cancerous, deathly. Once we see that, and do not in any way minimize it, we can be saved. It is only in confession that we find release, much as our sinful hearts train us to think that unrighteousness, in whatever form, is freedom.
It is not freedom. It is slavery. And there is one way out, just one: confession of sin with faith in the Savior.
This way into the kingdom, though, is not a one-time deal. It is a pattern. Our watershed confession, in which we admit that we are guilty and filthy and helpless, leads to a whole lifetime of “smaller” confessions, as we break up the frozen waste of our heart–thawed by the gospel–and clear it away.
“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).