The Discipline of Confession

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Stop Look and Listen

So far we have looked at seven practices or disciplines:

  • Meditation (ruminate)
  • Prayer (talk honestly with God)
  • Simplicity (don’t love things)
  • Solitude (get alone and quiet)
  • Study (dig deeper)
  • Submission (not always your way)
  • Service (helping others)

We’re also reading through the Gospels during Lent. You can find a reading schedule here.

We now move to a more corporate kind of discipline: confession. Confession is simply the act of admitting your sin or wrong to God or to another person. Confession is necessary for the forgiveness of sins:

If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. (1 John 1:9)

All of us sin, all of us fail. All of us come short of what God requires of us. Fortunately, we have a loving and gracious heavenly Father who will forgive us and make us clean. Since Jesus is the only Mediator between us and God (1 Timothy 2:5), we don’t need a priest or someone to confess to in order to be forgiven. However, the Bible still talks about confessing to one another. Why?

We read in James 5:16 this command: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. In church settings, often the only time we hear about the sins of others is when people are whispering about them. People are afraid to reveal sin or failure, so as a consequence we often present the image that we are perfect and have no problems. We don’t want to spoil the “perfect” Christian image.

But we all sin and mess up. And it is a beautiful part of church life to be able to go to one another, discreetly, and confess our sins, and to help each other become whole as part of the process. Yes, God readily forgives, but sometimes we need help to forgive ourselves, and to accept the gracious forgiveness of God. This is why James says that confessing and praying can help in our healing.

John Sanford, a pastor and a writer, goes so far as to say “when we unburden our souls to another human being, there takes place a kind of catharsis. It is an extraordinarily healing experience. In fact, if we have never experienced this, our life is not complete.”

Another aspect of Confession is corporate confession. This is where believers who are gathered together, as in a worship service, confess our sins aloud and together. We did this on Sunday, where we read Psalm 51 together, and recited this confession (written by Scot McKnight) together.

The four steps involved in confession are:

  • Recognition of sin
    • Ps. 51:3 “I recognize my rebellion”
    • It is important to examine our consciences and our lives
    • Be specific
  • Sorrow
    • Ps. 51:4 “It haunts me day and night.”
    • We need to take sin seriously
  • Ask for cleansing and forgiveness
    • Ps. 51:7 “Purify me from my sins.”
    • Confession and forgiveness should result in change
  • Restoration
    • Ps. 51:12 “Restore to me the joy of my salvation.”
    • Confession results in forgiveness and healing!
    • The burden is gone!

They say that confession is good for the soul – the Bible says they’re right!

2 thoughts on “The Discipline of Confession

  1. Service was awesome Mike! Sometimes its good to be made
    to feel uncomfortable. Things don’t change much if we’re to
    comfortable. Hope to see all you MEN Saturday. Mike let me
    know what you want me to do to get ready for the party.

  2. Thanks, Arnie. I thought it was a very good service, too. It was meaningful to me. See you Saturday – I’ll call you about food and stuff.

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