The Spiritual Discipline of Confession

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Today we’re going to be talking about the spiritual discipline of confession. Before we dig into what confession is I really want us to look at what confession is not, or some misconceptions we have about confession. Confession is not primarily something we do for God. Second, sometimes we think it’s simply an accounting procedure. We think of sin as being on the debit side of our ledger but then once when we confess it, it’s erased. That’s not accurate either. Third, sometimes we think it’s mechanical, but it’s not something that is like a machine that we just go and do.

So what is confession?

Confession is an aid for us to be healed and be changed.

If we do it, it really helps us with healing. We usually go through a process of realizing and repentance and then restoration and reconciliation, but then there’s healing that needs to happen and I believe that once confession happens all of those things can be complete.

It is also a practice that, if done wisely, will help you become transformed. There are three ways that can take place. First, we are liberated from guilt. Second, we will be less likely to sin and to continue living in that sin if we confess it. Conversely, if we don’t confess it, then we’re a lot more likely to just keep living in that sin secretly. So confession is good for us and our transformation and our walk with Christ. The third way it helps us be transformed is that sin will look and feel less attractive. I think that when we confess sin and we surround ourselves with people to confess it to, I think that we will see it is less attractive.

Most of us realize that we’re supposed to do that but perhaps that’s not something that you’ve really looked at in your personal life a lot. If that’s the case, here is a six-step process for spiritual stain removal that might help you, adapted from John Ortberg’s book, The Life You’ve Always Wanted:

  1. Preparation – Placing ourselves into the care of the Spirit and asking for help
  2. Self-examination – Taking time to reflect on your thoughts, words, and deeds and acknowledging that we have sinned
  3. Perception – We need a new way of looking at our sin, a new understanding of it. Why did I do what I did? What happened as a result of my sin?
  4. A New Feeling – True confession is not just an exchange of information. It involves entering into the pain of the person we have hurt and entering into God’s pain over sin.
  5. A New Promise – Confessing to the wrong of the past and to a different future, looking forward as a new promise is given to us
  6. Healing Grace – Giving life through grace

So we’ve looked at what confession is not. We’ve looked at what confession is. We’ve looked at a process of confessing and how to do it. So the next question is who? Who do we confess to? We see in James 5:15-16 it says, “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (ESV). So who? We should confess to one another. We should confess to someone we have a relationship with, who we have invested in and is investing in us, someone who we can trust, someone we know will be praying for us and has our best interest at heart. The second person we should confess to is God. 1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

So we’ve looked at what it’s not. We’ve looked at what confession is. We’ve looked at a six-step process of preparing yourself and getting of confessing and what it should look like. And then we’ve looked at who. We should look to each other and we should look to God. I hope that today has been helpful in your journey as you walk through life – not only in ministry but in your life and your personal walk with Christ. The spiritual discipline of confession is an important one. We should not take it lightly.

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