Session 9: Confession

So glad you’re back. Did you bring along a sister or two? Don’t forget your journal and pen. Let’s pray.

Lord, we are ready. Speak to us today. Open our hearts to Your truth.

Confession is our topic of conversation, today. Unfortunately, we can’t talk about confession without talking about sin. We want to make it clear, we do not expect you to share your specific sins and struggles, especially if you are still coming to grips with the fact they are sin or you have spent much time and energy in your life hiding them up to this point.

Today’s conversation is to help you process what God wants to do in your heart. But at the same time, we will not make a blanket rule: No confessing sin today! If God presses you to confess to those you’ve gathered with you, we trust He has made the way for healing and we don’t want to get in His way. So, know you’re in a safe place. Know you do not have to expose yourself today.

We began the week looking at what unconfessed sin does to our prayer life, to our relationship with God.

If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened…

—Psalm 66:18 NIV

Did you discover a cherished sin in your heart? We aren’t asking you to share it, but did you acknowledge one? two?

Without revealing your particular sin, what step or steps did you decide on to help change your mind regarding this sin? to repent? turn away from it?

Sometimes we love a sin so much we don’t recognize it as sin in our life. We enjoy it. It doesn’t seem to be hurting anyone. So what’s the big deal? Sin may even bring us comfort, cause us to feel protected or empowered. If it helps us cope, how can it be bad? Sin is always a big deal. Sin is always bad. It’s what Jesus came to die for, it separates us from God and others, it distracts from what He’s calling us to do with our lives.

Stacy says:

The heated discussion left me hurting… and angry. I wanted to vent, tell someone I was being mistreated. I called a friend… she didn’t answer. I walked around the house, thoughts swarming like flies. I rehearsed all my issues… I’m not being considered. I’m feeling left out. All I want is to be heard!

I called the sister and told her my struggles. Her response. “Go read Peter. Sit in His Word.” I didn’t want to. I know what those verses say. I didn’t want to, but I did.

I sat right there on the couch, read the words once… twice. I poured out all my “I’s” face down on the floor. I realized something there puddled up on the rug… all this hurt and anger was centered on one person. Me. How easily my self-centeredness works its way back into my life. I am good at becoming the queen of my domain. It’s pride really and I find myself cherishing it at times.

From the floor of repentance God gave me new perspective. He shifted my focus from me to Him once again.

Sometimes the sin of pride I cherish takes hold and I don’t even recognize it. I’m like Paul doing the thing I don’t want to do. And so for me, part of confession is trusting God to reveal my sin. Trusting He will never leave me in the midst of it.

The first step toward true confession is recognizing sin in our life. There is only One authority on sin, only One who has the right to define sin: God.

Sometimes we need God to convict us of sin we don’t recognize in our lives.

Carol says:

I love word games. There was a time when I was a bit obsessed with them, especially Text Twist. It’s an online game where you are given six letters to make as many words as you can in a certain amount of time. You move to the next level if you get the six-letter word. As long as you solve the six-letter word, the game goes on and on.

I knew it was a problem. A distraction anyway. I’d go to the study and think, I’ll just play one game… the next thing I know two or three hours had passed, I’d brushed off my kids needs multiple times and it was getting dark with no dinner plans. But, you know, it’s just a game, a way to relax a bit. Not a problem.

It was also during this season, Stacy and I began our relationship. She was helping me, mentoring me, in writing Bible study. One morning we spent a couple of hours on the topic of sin. Reading the book of Deuteronomy and all the blessings of obedience and the curses which go along with sin. It was a great session, we’d done some serious wrestling with His Word. So, when I got home I thought: I’ll take a little break before I move on to the next thing and play just one game of Text Twist.

I settled myself in front of the computer, brought up the game and looked at the letters: D, R, E, S, U, C. I scrambled them, played with them, found a few shorter words, then I got it, the six-letter word: CURSED! No lie. I gasped. Closed the game. Shut down the computer. Just as fast as my little convicted self could go. In that moment, God revealed my sin and broke my bondage to it, all in one fell swoop.

Is it still a temptation? Yes. Is it one I still cherish? No! Do I still play? Occasionally. But for me all word games need to be played in community, with other people, building relationship as I play. I cannot play solo anymore. It’s just not good for me.

Sometimes. We need Him to reveal a cherished sin. Sometimes. We need Him to convict our heart. And when He does. Nothing is ever quite the same.

We also need to recognize in some cases, what becomes sin for one person is not sin for another. Some people can drink alcohol and not get drunk or addicted. But others can’t. Some people can play a game of Text Twist and walk away. Others can’t. Sin is Sin. However, some of us can make sin out of things which were never meant to be sin. It’s just the way of our broken nature. We continually look for ways to fill our lives with something other than God and all He purposed us to do in this life.

Besides interfering with our relationship with God, unconfessed sin can make us physically ill, emotionally drained, and spiritually burdened.

Read Psalm 38:1-8

In our Confession homework, we considered the consequences of hidden or unconfessed sin as expressed by David in Psalm 38. Have you experienced something similar? Without revealing specifics of your sin, how did you respond to His heavy hand in your life?

Carol says:

Unconfessed, hidden sin. I’ve had some. One, in particular, I stored away in the recesses of my heart for years.

It was after I began walking with God when it came to mind more often. For many years when He pressed the issue I would shrug it off. Convince myself it had been so long it didn’t matter anymore and I could live life not thinking about it, for a time. Until He brought it up again.

Now I’m talking this was a decades old sin, but God in His timing continued to press. Place His heavy hand on my heart again and again.

One day He pressed and I could stand it no longer. He was pressing me to confess. To contact someone I hadn’t seen in decades, someone I never knew very well, to confess and make restitution.

It was a painful, humbling experience. I wrote a letter, included a check, and waited.

Then one day, the phone rang. The person to whom I confessed called. She was gracious. She didn’t even recall the offense and apologized to me for whatever fuss she made so many years back that caused me to carry it around so long. You see, she had been changed by Jesus too. She wanted to return the check. I said No. She wanted me to give her less. I told her No, this is what God placed on my heart. At the end of the conversation she said she would think about what to do and get back to me.

What I learned:

  • God remembers our hidden sins even when the one we sinned against doesn’t. Why? Because all our sins are against Him (Psalm 51:4).
  • God longs for confession and restitution to be made so He can have a closer relationship with us.
  • God prepares the way for what He presses us to do, where good will come out on both sides.

She called me back. She didn’t use the money for herself or her family. She set up a small fund to do good for others.

Confession: Painful. Humbling. Beautiful.

 Confession, orchestrated by the Holy Spirit, is an awesome experience. The desire for us to come clean weighs heavy on God’s heart, because when we don’t confess we separate ourselves from Him. We get a glimpse of how much He wants relationship with us through Jesus. But even when we see His love hanging on the cross, it is a step of faith to trust His love enough to confess.

Now, there is a difference between being sorry for sin and being sorry you got caught.

Read 2 Corinthians 7:9-10

What are the two sorrows?

Godly grief. Worldly grief.

What are the outcomes? what is produced in the heart?

Godly grief, sorrow over sin, leads to:

  • humility
  • grace
  • freedom

Worldly grief, sorrow over getting caught, can lead to:

  • bitterness
  • pride
  • spite
  • increased effectiveness at deception

Ultimately, these different heart attitudes lead to either life or death. One understands who God is, the other does not. One understands who we are before God, the other does not.

Have you seen either of these attitudes play out in your life? the life of a loved one? What did it look like?

Stacy Says:

Most of my confession as a young Christian had to do with one thing: not getting in trouble. I would hide my sin as long as possible and when I couldn’t see a way out of trouble, I would confess. It didn’t have to do with relationship. It was all about staying “saved.”

I confessed out of an unhealthy fear of being one of those Jesus looked at and said, “Get away from me. I never knew you.” Even as I type the words now I shudder a little. Fear motivated my confession… not faith. It left me weary and living in a joyless world.

God lovingly taught me confession has nothing to do with whether I’m a Believer saved by grace. Confession has everything to do with my relationship with Him. He convicts. I repent. I am filled with the joy of assurance that I am His… and He is mine.

 Carol says:

For me the painful, humbling, beautiful process of confession has led me to a place of freedom and grace.

I know what I’m capable of. I can identify readily with sinners. I know what I’ve been forgiven and the great lengths He went to offer grace. Having seen it, I’m much more ready to offer forgiveness and grace to others.

From Psalm 51 we learned God’s desire to forgive flows out of His steadfast love and abundant mercy. If we are truly sorry for our sins, He will not despise the offerings of a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17). The Hebrew translated as contrite in this verse literally means crushed. Those who are crushed under the weight of their own sin, will not be rejected by Him. This is the perfect mindset with which to run to Him ready to confess and receive forgiveness.

But too often, when we are in this state, crushed under the weight of sin, we run away from Him not to Him. It is not His Spirit driving us away, it is the enemy. It is the accuser saying: You are not good enough to go to God. It is the accuser saying: God will reject you. It is the accuser who wants us to hide sin in our hearts.

The truth is, if we have confessed Jesus as Lord, as the Son of the Living God, the Savior of our life, our sins are forgiven.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 

— Romans 8:1 ESV

In Christ Jesus, we are free from sin. We are free to run to our heavenly Father to receive forgiveness in Jesus’s name.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. — 1John 1:9 ESV

He already knows our sins. He already knows our needs. He’s simply waiting for us to trust Him with our confession.

If Satan, the accuser, can’t have us eternally he will do everything he can to make our lives on earth a living hell by convincing us to keep our sin in the dark.

Darkness is nothing. It’s the absence of light. Hell is the absence of God. If Satan’s efforts successfully keep us from confessing, we allow him to keep God’s light out of our lives now. We are kept in the dark because light is being blocked. The enemy blocks God’s light with lies. Yet another reason we need to be in His Word, to know the truth about light and dark. Bringing our sins out into the light of God breaks their stronghold in our lives.

Sometimes we’ve confessed our sins to God, but we feel no freedom or peace.

Carol says:

In my experience, I confessed a sin to God over and over, but never felt peace or forgiveness. It wasn’t until I confessed to others, those God called me to, that I experienced freedom from guilt.

I didn’t believe I was forgiven until I experienced forgiveness and grace in flesh and blood. In those who received me with mercy and compassion, I saw Jesus. I felt His forgiveness.

Confession to other Believers makes forgiveness real, believable, enabling us to experience true freedom and peace.

The followers of Jesus Christ have been given the authority to receive the confession of sin and to forgive it in his name. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:23). What a wonderful privilege! Why do we shy away from such a life-giving ministry? If we, not out of merit but sheer grace, have been given the authority to set others free, how dare we withhold this great gift!

—Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline

Being transparent with our lives and sharing our testimonies makes us approachable to others to confess their sins and experience flesh and blood forgiveness.

Are you willing to be transparent to make the way for confession and forgiveness? Why or why not?

Stacy says:

She was a junior and we were finishing up our shopping when she says, “Mom, my friend just can’t believe you ever were in a fight in high school.” In the moment I realized my daughter (and her friends) didn’t see me as real. I responded without much thought, “There are many things I did I’m not proud of now. I have confessed them and by God’s grace I’m the person sitting here today. Let me tell you about the three things I most regret.”

I shared with my teen daughter how a few of the decisions I made were wrong. And although I’m forgiven and free, if I would have known how they might affect my life in the long run… I might have chosen differently. I wanted her to know the person she saw in the car was no super-Christian… just an imperfect momma learning to walk in faith.

As I went to sleep I wondered if I made the right choice in sharing my teen stupidity. Would it give her a reason to do the same? Did it ruin who she thought I was?

She’s an adult now and just a few weeks ago she says, “Mom, remember when you shared your regrets with me? It helps me to know if I make a bad choice, I can come to you. Because you were willing to share with me, I realize you will not be judgmental.”

Confessing my sin to my daughter then, has made a way for her to connect with me now. Don’t misunderstand. I don’t think parents should share every bad choice as if they were badges of honor on display for the world. God moved me to confess my sin in this circumstance to make a way for relationship. Confession gives us the opportunity to experience grace in the moment and makes a way for us to offer grace to others. Oh, how infinite grace is!

Confession has another definition, which was alluded to earlier. Besides acknowledging our sin and guilt, it also means a formal statement of religious beliefs (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition). Living a transparent life and being approachable to others by offering grace is a way to profess our belief in Jesus. To offer a confession of what He means to us.

Confession is messy business. So is the way of forgiveness. God hates sin and took extreme measures to set us free. But what comes from it, in Jesus’s name, His broken body and poured out blood, is amazing grace.

There’s this whole beautiful dichotomy wrapped up in confession. The cross of Christ and the amazing grace which flows from it. The pain and humiliation of confession in His name leading to freedom from guilt, cleansing us white as snow, filling us with love and grace.

Carol says:

There’s a Christmas song I love. It’s an odd little song by a Christian alternative rock band. The last few lines, for me anyway, reveal so clearly this beautiful dichotomy of grace.

And I, I celebrate the day

That You were born to die

So I could one day pray for You to save my life

—Relient K, I Celebrate the Day

Jesus dreaded the cross. We see it in Gethsemane. But He trusted His heavenly Father with the process. We too will dread confession. Maybe even sweat blood over it. But we need to trust Him with the process.

Know He offers forgiveness because of His unfailing love and abundant mercy. Confession is not dreadful, it’s beautiful. Be filled with freedom, peace, and a heart of forgiveness and grace.

A perfect set up for next week’s act of faith: Thanksgiving.

We’d like to end today’s session confessing our faith together through the Apostle’s Creed, a Christian statement of faith from the early church. Believers have been professing this creed since late 300 AD.

One note before we begin, for those who might not be familiar with Apostle’s Creed. The words catholic church are used. This is not confessing faith in the capital C Catholic Church under the Pope. The lower case c catholic is used and means universal. So when we confess belief in the catholic church we are confessing faith in the universal eternal church of God made up of Believers who’ve gone before us, those living in the present age, and those we are still waiting on to come to faith.

Let’s profess our belief:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose aain; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

Amen.

Have a great week pursuing Him in faith.

Here’s the link for next week’s homework as a PDF: Week 9 – Going Deeper

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