We can indeed approach God with confidence. And yet, because we stand on this side of our Lord’s final return, we still have with us the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh. We have not yet faced the final judgment. And so, with sin still working in us, the condemnation of God’s Law must still confront us, lest we have any delusions that we might have something to boast of before our mighty Judge.
Above all else, Confession and Absolution keep us honest–honest with ourselves and honest before God. The act of confession is not some work that we lay before the Father’s throne; rather, it is the simple acknowledgment that God’s Word is true and right and that when we measure ourselves against its demands, we come up short. God’s Word says "you shall not give false testimony," but in truth we have lied and gossiped and slandered." And so, the Christian confesses: "Lord, Your Word is true; I have sinned."
There are three basic ways to handle sin and guilt. One is to ignore or minimize them. We’ve all been tempted in that direction more than a few times. Isn’t that, after all, what our sinful human nature is all about? Another way is to institutionalize them, especially the guilt part. After all, if you can keep people feeling just guilty enough, you will keep them coming back for more.
The third way is to give sin and guilt their proper due, and then to silence them. That is the way of God’s absolution. With his forgiveness, our sin is removed from us as far as the east is from the west. Christians know that, but they also need to hear it often. We need to be reminded that those familiar words, "I forgive you all your sins," are not just some impersonal announcement. They say what they mean and accomplish what they promise. Jesus himself said to his disciples that the sins they forgive are forgiven (John 20:23).
The last and greatest absolution that will ever be spoken to us will be at the last judgment. In the final pages of the Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis provides a marvelous description of this event. As each individual comes before Aslan–the lion who is Lewis’ figure for Christ–one of two things happens: either the person gazes directly into Aslan’s face and recognizes his forgiving countenance, or, upon seeing the lion’s stern demeanor, passes into his long shadow, forever to be separated from Christ.
In the Confession and Absolution we are being readied for our appearance before Christ on the Last Day. And hidden behind those comforting words that our sins are forgiven is the invitation, "Come, you who are blessed by my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Mt. 25:34). When our Lord speaks those words to us at the Last Day, Confession and Absolution as we know it will cease, for we will then bask in the eternal absolution of the Lamb.
Reposted from the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod website.