One of the many marks of a healthy community is a culture of confession. The bible calls us to confess our sins to one another. The bible calls us to pray for one another. These instructions are for our good and for our benefit.
We are called to confess our sin and to ask for forgiveness from our sin. Before healing can occur, confession must take place. An acidic environment in a church culture can exist because no one practices perpetual confession. The natural reaction of a physically sick person is to seek instant medical attention. It must be the same way for the spiritually sick person. Confession clears the soul and allows the blood of Jesus to once again restore the person into a right relationship with God.
In his letter, John urges us to confess our sins (1 Jn. 1:9). He assures us that Jesus is faithful and just. He assures us that Jesus is powerful enough to forgive our sin. He assures us that Jesus can and will cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The type of confession you need to demonstrate is commensurate with the publicity of the sin. For some sin, you should confess to a trusted brother or sister in Christ. For other sins, you may need to practice public confession.
But we need to remember: the reason for confession is not so that others may lord over you. The reason for confession is cleansing. The reason for confession is submitting to what Scripture teaches us. The reason for confession is much-needed healing. So that you and I can function as restored and complete individuals in Christ.
I expand on this concept during the following short video clip. Let’s watch it and continue our discussion:
What then makes people think twice before opening up to someone about their sin? What makes people hesitate to act upon the truth of Scripture regarding confession of sin? What makes people avoid or neglect this discipline as prescribed by James in his letter? (Js. 5:16).
I believe there are three reasons for this:
1. No Real Relationship. Before someone will confess their sin to you and have them pray over you, they want to have a relationship with you. You might be a great counselor and have all the right answers. You may have the biblical knowledge to help someone. You might have gone through a similar experience and are properly positioned to help out. But, if you do not have a relationship with another person, they will very rarely open up to you. This is why it is so important to develop relationships. Not just a relationship but rather a firm friendship founded upon the gospel of Jesus. If your community thrives on quality relationships, confession of sin and perpetual repentance will not be a haphazard occurrence but a healthy, gospel-centered reality.
2. A Lack Of Trust. Trust is created slowly and lost quickly. Trust is a lot like fine china or some other very fragile object. It will be built over time. It can only built when consistent integrity and honesty is demonstrated towards the other person. When trust is lost because of whatever reason, it will take a long time to gain it back. Why would I confess my sin to you if I do not trust you. Will you tell others about it? Will you use it against me? Will you now look at me through the filter of my sin? These are all legitimate questions a person may ask when confronted as to why they do not practice confession. If you want to cultivate a culture of confession and restoration in your community, you must begin to build trust with the people around you.
3. A Culture Of Manipulation. Many people simply do not want to confess anything to anyone because they have been burned before. They have opened up to others about their sin. They have sought help and cleansing from their sin. They wanted to follow the biblical model of confession (Js. 5:16; 1 Jn. 1:9). But here is what happens: The people to whom they opened up to used their transparency as manipulation currency. Because they now had this knowledge about the other persons secret sin, they feel empowered to manipulate that person. After all, they are the poor sinner who confessed about their issue or problem. This can now be used against them. The manipulation can go as far as using people in their own motives and agendas. If people disagree or do not submit, the past sin is brought up and the person is then forced to do whatever they are told. This goes in stark contrast to what Jesus taught about the forgiveness of sin. The goal of confessing to one another is not ambitious manipulation but deep grief over the sin and the pursuit of joy in the restorative work of the gospel.
We need to look at people not as they are but as Christ is. This is how God looks at us. He does not look at us as we are. With all of our transgressions and sins. He looks at us as Christ is.
If we want to regain or restore this one clear indicator of a healthy church community, here is what we must do today:
- Start loving people so much so that you are grieved over their sin.
- Weep over their condition in your fervent prayer to God on their behalf.
- Build trust by intentionally and sacrificially spending time with people; even when there is nothing in it for you.
- Repent of using other people’s problems as manipulation currency.
- Repent of elevating yourself over others and feeling good about your lack of a particular sin.
Question: What else would you say is needed in order for a community to be marked by perpetual repentance and confession — to one another and before God?