A Guide for Spiritual Renewal through Confession

A person's hand placed on top of a heart symbol, surrounded by water droplets and arrows. The image represents the idea of spiritual renewal through the act of confession, symbolized by the heart and the water droplets, which represent cleansing and purification.

Sometimes we feel spiritually dry. When your own inner life feels more barren than bountiful, James 4:8 offers a two-step path toward spiritual renewal and refreshment:

  1. Confession
  2. Repentance.

Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (Jas 4:8 NIV)

How do we come near to God? It’s the two steps James just gave us:

  1. We “wash our hands”—we stop our sin, we repent.
  2. And we “purify our hearts”—we practice confession.

Do you want to experience spiritual renewal? Here’s your chance. Below I offer a starting place for spending times of solitude with God for spiritual renewal.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Your guide for spiritual renewal through confession

Prepare

You may want to print out this article for easier access or even add to your Logos library.

Set aside a time of solitude and quiet, whether it is ten minutes a day or a whole day’s retreat. You will want uninterrupted time to pray, meditate on the Bible, and examine your heart.

Pray

Begin your time by inviting the Holy Spirit to work in your heart and declaring your faith in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice to pay the penalty of your sins.

If you would like a sample prayer, here is one to follow:

Father, thank you for your son, Jesus Christ; thank you for his sinless life and his loving self-sacrifice to pay the penalty for my sin, which is forever death. I believe in Christ’s life, death, bodily resurrection, and bodily ascension to your right hand. I ask for your Holy Spirit to meet me in this time and reveal my sin clearly. Please help me to experience your grace and forgiveness as I draw near to you through confession and repentance. Amen.

After you pray, you will follow these steps through Scriptures of your choice:

  1. Read. Begin each round of reflection and confession with the digestion of Scripture.
  2. Reflect. What sin in your life does this Scripture reveal?
  3. Confess. Tell God your sin and ask for forgiveness through Jesus.
  4. Repent. Is there something I need to start doing or stop doing to follow God? Write it down.
  5. Receive. Sit for a moment of silence. Breathe. Receive God’s grace and forgiveness while opening your heart to the Spirit’s presence and gracious love.

Where can I start?

If you are anxious or angry about something, start with the Scripture below. Whatever is loudest in your soul should be dealt with first.

Read

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Pet 5:6–7 NIV)

Reflect

What sin in my life does this Scripture reveal?

  • Am I humbling myself under God? Or do I have pride? Obstinance?
  • Am I focusing on my worry instead of my trust in the good character and plan of God?
  • Am I holding onto the outcome of what I am anxious about rather than holding onto God? Have I surrendered this thing to God?

Confess

Tell God your sin and ask for forgiveness through Jesus.

A confession prayer may be something like this:

God, your Word says to cast all my anxiety on you because you care for me. I confess that I am having a hard time trusting you with [fill in the blank]. My distrust of you is unbelief in and rebellion against the truth of who you are. Forgive me, God. I lay my concerns before you and submit to you. Please, God [lay your concerns before him]. I humble myself under your mighty hand and worship you. Amen.

Repent

Is there something I need to start doing or stop doing to follow God? Write it down.

Receive

Sit for a moment of silence. Breathe. Receive God’s grace and forgiveness, while opening your heart to the Spirit’s presence and gracious love.

Choose your path

All of God’s Word is God-breathed (2 Tim 2:16–17), so the Holy Spirit can guide you through whatever Scripture you read. However, for the sake of confession, another good place to start is the Ten Commandments, one of the four Gospels, or even a New Testament epistle.

Let’s walk through a spiritual renewal session together. We will use the Ten Commandments as our guide.

First Commandment

Pray

Begin with declaring Jesus as your Lord and submitting yourself to the Father. If you would like to follow a prayer, see the one above.

Read

And God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. (Exod 20:1–3 NIV)

Reflect

What sin in my life does this Scripture reveal?

  • Do I desire anything more than I desire to follow God? (Examples: money, possessions, people, lifestyle, social status, sexual expression, etc.)
  • Have I made anything more of a pursuit or priority than worshipping and following God?

Confess

Tell God your sin and ask for forgiveness through Jesus.

Repent

Is there something I need to start doing or stop doing to follow God? Write it down.

Receive

Sit for a moment of silence. Breathe. Receive God’s grace and forgiveness, while opening your heart to the Spirit’s presence and gracious love.

Second Commandment

Read

You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exod 20:4–6 NIV)

Reflect

What sin in my life does this Scripture reveal?

  • Do I value any physical thing more than God? (If God would ask me to give it up to follow him, would I? See Matt 19:21–23.)
  • Do I give a special value to a physical object that tempts my affections away from God?
  • Do I spend my time and money on my possessions or saving for the future, but neglect worshipping with God’s people (see Heb 10:25; Eph 5:18–21) and taking care of the God’s people (see Gal 6:10; Luke 11:42)?

Confess. Repent. Receive.

Third Commandment

Read

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. (Exod 20:7 NIV)

Reflect

What sin in my life does this Scripture reveal?

  • Do I say God’s name in a casual way?
  • Do I call myself a Christian but act in an ungodly way?
  • Do I use a Christian label as a status symbol in my community?
  • Do I identify as a Christian to use his name for my advantage in my career?
  • Do I profess Christ when it is easy, but stay silent when it will cost me?
  • Have my words (actively or passively) put down God, the church, or people (God’s image bearers)?

Confess. Repent. Receive.

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Fourth Commandment

Read

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exod 20:8–11 NIV)

Reflect

What sin in my life does this Scripture reveal?

  • Do I cease from regular work one day a week to rest, slow down, and reconnect in relationship with God and loved ones?
  • Do I weekly participant in an in-person worshipping community (Heb 10:25)?
  • Do I trust God enough to take one day a week to rest from work (whatever “work” means for me)?

Confess. Repent. Receive.

Fifth Commandment

Read

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. (Exod 20:12 NIV)

Reflect

What sin in my life does this Scripture reveal?

  • Do I show respect to my parents and other elders God has placed in my life?
  • Do I seek to maintain good communication with my parents or community elders where possible?
  • Do I criticize, judge, or dismiss them?
  • Do I value their experience and wisdom?
  • Do I speak well of them to others?
  • Do I treat them with honor?

Confess. Repent. Receive.

Sixth Commandment

Read

You shall not murder. (Exod 20:13 NIV)

Reflect

What sin in my life does this Scripture reveal?

  • Have I harmed another person through physical, verbal, or emotional means, including gossip or manipulation of any kind?
  • Have I hated any other from my heart, even when out of frustration, anger, or hurt (see 1 John 3:15–17; Matt 5:21–22)?

Confess. Repent. Receive.

Seventh Commandment

Read

You shall not commit adultery. (Exod 20:14 NIV)

Reflect

What sin in my life does this Scripture reveal?

  • Have I lusted or imagined anything sexually with someone who is not my spouse (see Matt 5:27–28)?
  • Have I engaged in sexual activity outside of a male and female marriage relationship (see 1 Cor 6:18)?

Confess. Repent. Receive.

Eighth Commandment

Read

“You shall not steal.” (Exod 20:15 NIV)

Reflect

What sin in my life does this Scripture reveal?

  • Have I taken anything from anyone else not clearly offered to me (supplies from work, money from someone, items that belong to anyone else, etc.)?
  • Have I wasted time or resources of mine or another, which amounts to ungodly stewardship or possibly even theft?

Confess. Repent. Receive.

Ninth Commandment

Read

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. (Exod 20:16 NIV)

Reflect

What sin in my life does this Scripture reveal?

  • Have I gossiped about someone else?
  • Have I embellished stories or told lies at the expense of another?

Confess. Repent. Receive.

Tenth Commandment

Read

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant [hired help], his ox or donkey [physical resources or signs of wealth], or anything that belongs to your neighbor. (Exod 20:17 NIV; parenthesis mine)

Reflect

What sin in my life does this Scripture reveal?

  • Have I harbored jealously or not liked someone because of the resources they have (or don’t have)?
  • Have I looked with judgement or jealousy on other’s family relationships?
  • If married, have I honored my spouse with my full affection and devotion in mind and body?
  • Am I content to live within my means—or do I compare myself with others?

Confess. Repent. Receive.

Ending your time in spiritual renewal through confession

You can end your time of spiritual renewal however you choose, but here are three suggestions:

  1. Sing a worship song.
  2. Write a thank-you letter to God in your journal.
  3. Meditate on 1 John 1:9: “If you confess your sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive you of your sin and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.”

Now what? How to move forward after spiritual renewal

Consistent closeness with God is directly related to our habits of drawing close to him and living in obedience to his leading. Looking back at your reflections, what are the things you need to stop doing or start doing? Is there any person you need to seek forgiveness from for how you have sinned against them that might have been revealed in your time of confession (Matt 5:23–24)? These things are your next step in moving closer in your relationship with God.

Also, how are your spiritual habits? What routine might you need to establish to keep you drawing close to God to consistently read his word, pray to him, and reflect on truths you learn?

Whatever way you choose to move forward, returning to a regular practice of confession, repentance, obedience, and worship will help you draw close to God—and he, to you.

Books about confession, repentance, and the Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments: A Guide to the Perfect Law of Liberty

The Ten Commandments: A Guide to the Perfect Law of Liberty

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My Heart Cries Out: Gospel Meditations for Everyday Life

My Heart Cries Out: Gospel Meditations for Everyday Life

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Prone to Wander: Prayers of Confession and Celebration

Prone to Wander: Prayers of Confession and Celebration

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Confess Your Sins: The Way of Reconciliation

Confess Your Sins: The Way of Reconciliation

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Written by
Seana Scott

Seana Scott is a speaker and award-winning writer with a passion to help Christians live with a well soul through knowing God's Word, walking with God, and living with purpose. She is the founder of Well Soul Life (WellSoulLife.com) and hosts the Well Soul Podcast, a weekly devotional podcast to guide listeners to drink in Scripture, reflect, and pray. Her writing has appeared at Christianity Today, She Reads Truth, Risen Motherhood, Fathom Mag, and Logos (among others). She is married to a pastor and together they are raising three creative and adventurous kids.

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