When I think of confession, I am immediately reminded of the verse I memorised in my early discipleship: 1 John 1:9 ‘But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to purify us from all unrighteousness.’ I was taught that confession was a personal practice between me and God. Yet when we read the famous story of the prodigal son, we see that his confession was two fold. He came to his senses and confessed his sin to God, but then went the next step, the harder step of confessing his sin to his father. We could also add a third step in the process – that of restitution, where we ask the wronged person, ‘What can I do to help put this right?’ These are principles that we already know and should be living by. Only the other day I made a mistake in not involving someone in a decision and after they pointed it out to me, I was able to say – ‘You are absolutely right, I am so sorry.’ This should be standard behaviour as we recognise we have acted wrongly or communicated badly to one another.
I have heard a number of sermons on another kind of confession called ‘positive confession,’ that goes something like this: – no matter how you feel, declare out to God your standing of who you are as a child of God and overcome that negative mindset. This kind of confession can be good to help overcome doubts and to speak out the promises of God from his word.
There is another kind of confession, that is not so popular but just as important. This is the confession that moves us into a greater depth of relationship and community together. It involves voluntarily confessing our sins, weaknesses and temptations in the body of Christ? It is through this confession that we become real and vulnerable with one another and develop a deep trust and bond in relationship like nothing else. We hear that this kind of confession is good for the soul! It might be good for the soul but sadly it doesn’t seem to be part of our current lifestyle in or out of church or YWAM meeting. When was the last time you confessed like this to anyone?
When the reformation took place, the reformers in their passion and focus on a fresh understanding of grace, threw out some important aspects of following Jesus that had been a little corrupted. One of those practices was the important discipline of confession.
We read in James ‘to confess our faults to one another that we might be healed.’ The problem with confession is that our ego doesn’t like it! It takes humility to share a failing, a weakness, a sin that we are ashamed of or a behaviour that we feel we should have overcome. Our ego will tell us, ‘don’t go there, you will lose your influence, your respect, maybe even your position. People won’t be able to trust you again and your leadership will be over!’
John Wesley set up groups during the revival in England in the 18th century, that were based around confession. His class groups asked questions of one another – how have you sinned? How have you been tempted? What was your means of grace – what did you do to help your process of overcoming the temptation, what spiritual discipline gave you strength to turn away?
Wesley believed that there is ‘no personal holiness without social holiness.’ For Wesley, living holy lives required believers to share their lives in intimate fellowship on a regular basis. His development of small groups revolutionized 18th century England and provided a framework to help people grow in ‘holiness of heart and life.’ Small groups provided a context in which seekers could receive support, accountability, and encouragement. The class meetings and bands as they were called were small groups of people who met weekly and were ruthlessly honest about what was going on in their lives both in progress and mistakes, sins, temptations and inner struggles.
Do we have to wait for revival to get back to sharing our lives in this way and creating an intimate fellowship that ‘lives in the light with one another.’ If you have a small group of any kind, you have the opportunity of developing this kind of depth.
In your leadership team, if it is to be a real team and not simply a working or task group, you have the opportunity of developing a real sense of community through this discipline of confession. This kind of vulnerable sharing will help personal growth, develop trust and then enable the team to hear God, process decisions and work through problems easier. With no hidden agendas or jealousy in the group, you will be able to find a true unity and effectiveness.
We can also think of confession as a spiritual discipline. It’s good to think of it as declaring who we are in our humanness and weakness. We can confess how we feel about the day, about our kids, about the talk I just gave, about my performance as a father, husband or leader… If you are feeling sad, inadequate, frustrated or fulfilled and happy, bring your confession to the Lord. Ask him, ‘What do you want to say to me in my confession?’ When we get started there is so much to share, besides the actual list of sins! This isn’t a pity party but being honest about what is going on and asking the Lord to help us see a way through to fresh dependence on him. Confession like this needs to have a place in our daily rhythm with the Lord.
your next time with God, how about pouring yourself a coffee or favourite drink
and start sharing a confession with him.
Here is an example of one I wrote the other morning:
My confession – an example of how you can journal your confessions as well as speak them out: I confess that it is your grace, Lord, and perhaps the lack of others stepping up, that I have gained a role of respect as an elder in YWAM. I confess that I am humbled that people listen to me, make time for me, ask me to speak on certain topics, and look for my input and advice. However, I have to confess that at times, I can feel very unspiritual, uninspired, unanointed and soulish in my relationships and responses. I confess I am not as disciplined as I would like to be and find myself disappointed with my lack of prayerfulness for others, for the mission, for my own investment and for my family. I confess I have tended to rely on my own thinking and my own past experience, way too much. I easily fall into thinking naturally and not supernaturally and leave Jesus out of the picture. I confess that at the sight of trouble, storms or danger, I look for the comfortable way out. I confess I am not naturally servant hearted or go the extra mile without needing intentional thought. I confess encouragement doesn’t flow easily and I still have to be reminded of its importance to people…..
After I had finished my confession, I took time to be still and silent. I relaxed in my spirit as I unloaded some of these inner tensions within me. It felt good to simply be real and receive forgiveness from the Lord. I then listened for how Jesus wanted to encourage me and if there was anything I needed to follow through on with others.
The more we confess, the easier it becomes. Our ego loses its power and we become what Romans 12 refers to as living sacrifices. Let’s make confession a friend and be regular in our confession to God and to others.
A lovely picture of confession is the prayer plant, whose leaves close up during the night and then open during the day. As we confess each night, we are renewed to open up for a new day.
Until next month