Confession is the admission of what we specifically did that was wrong. Until you admit what you did, you will have guilt. You will be defensive waiting for someone to point it out. Admitting it leads to freedom.
Repentance is the turning away from the action. This proves the will of the individual. Do they really want to stop doing it and put God first or do they want to keep doing it? Again, until you make the effort to turn away from sin, you will experience guilt. The ultimate repentance is to make up for the injustice...to give a value back to equal out the injustice. This is the opposite of doing the injustice. This is "turning away".
However, man has two ways to circumvent this process. The most popular is called “apology”. An apology is when people say they are sorry or feel bad. Most apologies don’t consist of people admitting what they did. Most apologies don’t involve promising they won’t do it again.
Listen to apologies closely. Most sound like this: “I’m sorry your feelings were hurt.” or “I’m sorry this bothered you.” Neither identified what I did. Neither said, “I’ll never do it again”. Some athletes have even given public apologies without stating what they were apologizing for or why! Apologies are focused on the short term.
What value is the apology from the individual who has sinned against you? If the person hasn’t admitted his wrong action or worked on not doing it again, there’s no Long Term value to you. Apologies don’t help people become more righteous. Notice, there are no apologies in the Bible.
Ethics is man’s other way the deal with guilt. It is different from an apology in two ways. First, its focus is not on the individual, but on society. Secondly, it doesn’t even acknowledge the guilt. It tries to completely avoid this need to remove guilt. Society simply declares the immoral action that caused guilt to be allowable. In order to look at ethics, let’s first define morals.
Morals are a set of principles that result in profitable actions in the Big Picture and Long Term. They are actions that create something of Long Term value regardless of the location or the era. Specifically, they are actions that would be profitable regardless of when a person lived or under what culture (where) they lived.
For example, we can all agree that individuals should not abuse each other physically for their own personal benefit. This is pretty much true for every culture that has ever existed.
Ethics are a set of principles that result in actions that are accepted as correct by a specific society for a specific location and time in history. Even though the actions result in one person losing profitability through coercion, the society agrees there is no need for justice to equal out this specific case.
Ethics is man’s way of removing guilt for not being moral. Basically, groups of people agree it is okay not to be moral as long as we act according to an accepted, special code of conduct. The best example of this is business. People who aren’t moral in their business dealings rationalize the guilt by saying they are following “business ethics”. However, the guilt still remains.
The process of becoming more right is a contrastive process. First, you must actively look for areas where you are wrong. Then you have to change your beliefs. Notice that confession (identifying and admitting you are wrong) and repentance (changing your beliefs and actions) mesh with the process of becoming more right.
Notice it takes word (confession) and actions (repentance) in order to get the value…just like faith and grace were shown through word and actions…just like the salvation process is initiated through confessing with your mouth (word) and believing in your heart (action). Also, confession and repentance are intentional actions that are in our control.