As we quiet our hearts during Lent, we’ll hear from the women of our church on their practice of spiritual disciplines. Every believer is on a transformational journey to grow in our relationship with the Father and become more like Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. Our own efforts cannot accomplish this, but we do get to participate in the process. Even though the Bible doesn’t lay out a concise list of spiritual disciplines, the life of Jesus is our powerful example. The spiritual disciplines can usually be organized into two categories: abstinence (giving something up) and action. As we look forward to Easter, let’s see how we can pause certain parts of our lives in order to pursue Christ. Check out our previous posts on Contemplation, Stewardship, and Fasting.
When Melissa contacted some of the blog writers about doing a series of spiritual disciplines for the lenten season, I was late to respond. (I could say there’s a lot on my plate, but isn’t that true for all of us?) When I finally replied and asked which topics were available, she told me that confession was wide open. Of course it is! Confession can be uncomfortable, but it is part of the healing and restorative processes God has instituted to reconcile ourselves to Him, which is why it should be incorporated into our spiritual disciplines. And compared to the levitical laws for confession and atonement, our prayerful confession is much less involved, but should be just as contrite. Often in our spiritual disciplines, we need to layer them in slowly, as trying to dedicate ourselves to doing them all at once can be daunting, if not impossible. Confession, however, can be layered into your practice of other disciplines pretty readily (in prayer and fasting, for example).
Our sin makes us so uncomfortable, either in our pride or shame, that we would often prefer to pretend it doesn’t exist or otherwise be non-confrontational about it. Doing so means admitting we were wrong, have done wrong, or are otherwise imperfect. We know each of those three things is true for every human except Jesus himself, but we often would rather hold on to our unconfessed sin than deal with the act of confessing, either to the Lord or to another believer(s). We hold on to it and let sin continue to fester, instead of confessing our sin to the Lord, or to another trusted believer. Worse yet, we don’t dare ask the Holy Spirit to reveal our sin and the root of it, so we keep on sinning, and are spiritually stunted.
The Word speaks for itself on the importance of confession of sin to Lord and on prayerful confession of sin among believers.
On confession of sin to the Lord:
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in him. If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say, “We have not sinned,” we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the righteous one. He himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world. (1 John 1:5-2:2 CSB)
We should mourn that the consequence of our sin put Jesus on the cross in the first place, and we should rejoice that the Lord is faithful to forgive us again and again!
On confession of sin to others:
Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up; if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect. (James 5:13-16 CSB)
Note that this is not recollecting the ways you fell short, either in complaint or subtle brag – but this is a prayerful confession to God among believers which breeds accountability, rooted in His love. Not all people deserve our confidence or can bear the weight of our confession, but we also can’t use fear judgment over us be an excuse for not confessing when prompted by the Holy Spirit. As believers, built for community and communication with the body, we are not meant to bear this walk alone. Satan wants our unconfessed sin to fester and keep us from a right relationship – he’ll use that to condemn and guilt us away from a right relationship with Jesus, and scripture is clear that confession among believers is meant to be used for the edification of the entire body of Christ.
Let’s commit to confessing our sins, sisters, and taking confessions from our fellow believers – thanking Him that He is good to work out repentance in you and with you, and that He has already forgiven you. Move forward in freedom – free from the bondage of sin!