Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out. Acts 3:19 NRSV
I have a secret! I have several, as well as most, reading this message. Sometimes, the secrets are harmless, and we keep them hidden because they are too embarrassing or personal. Others may involve things we've been told by someone else which aren't ours to share. Yet others are things hidden because of guilt. Items for which we are ashamed, and if revealed, those things might change how other people see us. "What! You call yourself a Christian, and you did that!"
Thanks to God, we have a confessor in Jesus Christ, with whom we can share those secrets—which aren't secrets since he already knows. Nothing we've done is too shocking for Christ. We can tell him everything! In openly revealing those things kept in confidence, two extraordinary things happen. First, the crushing guilt we've carried for so long is released; it's no longer a secret once it's shared. Secondly, we are forgiven–immediately!
Ah, but that is the easy part! God has listened and pardoned us, but we're not quite ready to let go of that secret. We've been lugging it around so long that we feel guilty for abandoning it. Though forgiven by the one who made us, we hold on to our secrets longer than we should so we can punish ourselves. This, of course, delights Satan because he knows what buttons to push. "Hey, remember that time you did that thing? That was pretty awful, how can God possibly love you after that." Because we've been forgiven, we can respond confidently, replacing our self-guilt with gratitude, "Take a hike, Satan, I've been forgiven."
Merciful God, we confess while you stand ready to forgive, we are often slow to ask. We come before you now with humble, repentant hearts, sharing our darkest secrets; please forgive us. And help us to accept your forgiveness fully, releasing those things that formerly bound us. With the confidence of the forgiven, we give you our thanks and praise. Amen.