If, way before you were saved, you committed a certain sin or crime, should you still confess it and face the consequences?
Prior to coming to Christ, each believer’s past is different. After a person truly repents of his sin and receives salvation from the Lord, that believer should really seek God’s leading and guidance before confessing to others a specific sin or crime committed in his past because doing so has the potential of causing more damage than good.
For example, multiple times we’ve heard from a wife, who, after finding out from her husband about a long-ago affair, was unwilling to stay married to him, and the marriage was wrecked. We’ve also heard from people who have stolen either money or property from their employers and, after receiving Christ, found a way to return what they had taken. (For at least one person, this did mean serving jail time.)
We’ve also heard from people like Phil (most likely an alias for his real name) whose life was riddled with criminal activity until he came to know the Lord Jesus Christ. Phil called in to Frances & Friends to share his testimony, and I was so moved by it, that I wanted to share it with you here:
“You will never know the extent of the work that your ministry does, but I am one to tell you that because of your ministry, an old musician—a thirty-nine-year addict—was set free by the Holy Spirit of God watching your program seven years ago. And I’ve been a member of your church ever since.
The background that I come from—and that being forgiveness and the law and the breaking of the law and going on with your life as a Christian afterward—and being the family that I come from (I won’t name me or any other name of who I’m talking about), but we’re going back ten, twenty, thirty, forty years ago, and we go into the certain family of crime that I was raised in.
We were in charge of things like blowing up cars, burning down buildings, extortion, running night clubs, gambling, everything you can imagine of the world of darkness—my family had a hand in it. Later on, I spent thirty years in the music industry.
I began to watch your husband on the television, but I could not break of my own desire … even though I loved God. I loved the Lord. I was reading my Bible; for twenty-six years, every day, it was something that I did, I read it some twenty-six times front to back. I read the King James. But I just could not, of my own efforts, break the bondages that were in my life. And one day, listening to Brother Joseph [Larson] singing on television, and, on my knees—somehow I just went from my couch to my knees in front of that television—the Holy Spirit of God moved through me, and the Lord let me know, by pointing my eyes to the corner of the television screen, which said, ‘pre-recorded,’ and He very strongly said, ‘That’s the power of My Holy Spirit.’ He freed me that moment [watching] a pre-recorded program. That’s the power of God.
There are things in people’s lives—things that I know personally such as drug smuggling into this country; other things—we’re talking thirty, forty years ago. And I won’t name people, but this one person has gone on to live for the Lord, is now married and has a family. These people that I know come from a different type of world. They can’t go back and say, ‘Look, Uncle Sam, I’m sorry that I smuggled drugs into your country. I’m sorry that I blew up this building or this car’ or whatever it is they did and then go to prison. And then their wife now and their children—they’re innocent in all of this, and their lives are ruined—and what you were taking about—about forgiveness and going on and confessing these sins to make things right—where does that stop? Where is that line? I know God is a God of grace, He’s forgiven me, praise the Lord, for the awful life I lived.
I’ve watched the grace of the Lord, and you look at my life, and people would say, ‘What grace of God?’ My father, went to prison several times, federal prison—came out; died. Drank himself to death. My mother, prison twice—came out; drank herself to death. My little brother, prison six times—still hooked on drugs; I’m praying for him constantly. My older brother sold my identity, went to federal prison—came out; went to state prison. My family has been in bondage of the breaking of the law and the denying of the living God all their lives, and somehow, this little unprofitable servant of God avoided all of that. Somehow. I had dreams of the world and aspirations of worldly goods of the music [industry], and I chased that dream for thirty years just throwing my life away and not serving God, but I didn’t choose their way. They chose, ‘I’ll go take what I want,’ and I chose to earn what I had, and I worked hard to have everything that the Lord blessed me with. I always knew His hand was in my life. He protected me in the nighttime, in the cities that I can’t even name, in the alleys, in the darkness, and the nightclubs and the after-hours all of those years—three decades in the music business all over the world. God protected me.”
We thank God for what He’s done in this man’s life. And again, every person’s past is different, and when it comes to confessing sins committed long ago to others, you really should seek the face of the Lord and let him direct you.
Other Christians struggle to accept God’s forgiveness for past sins that they believe are too horrible for Him to forgive. If that’s you, then consider Paul, who referred to himself as the chief of sinners, yet he still received mercy: “Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting” (I Timothy 1:16).
In the Greek, the word longsuffering means “a long-protracted restraint of the soul from yielding to passion, especially that of anger.”
Once again, because of the extreme seriousness of this situation, the Holy Spirit, through the apostle is letting us know as to the terrible severity of Paul’s sin. The apostle Paul was not a drunk, a drug addict, immoral, a liar, or a thief—at least as far as the outward acts of these sins were concerned. In fact, Paul would have been looked at as one who had an excellent reputation, but all the time he was committing the worst type of sin— the opposing of Jesus Christ and doing so to the extent of bodily harm to His followers.
Paul’s great sin was his rejection of Christ, which means that he also rejected the righteousness of Christ, which means that he had rejected the only way of salvation. Thankfully, he immediately yielded to Christ in respect to the great experience on the road to Damascus.
Nevertheless, the rejection of Christ and His righteousness was Paul’s great sin. And it is looked at by God as the worst sin of all—other than blaspheming the Holy Spirit, for which there is no forgiveness. As well, this terrible sin of rejecting the righteousness of Christ, remains the great sin of the world and the great sin of the church.
Thank God for his mercy and longsuffering!