Confession: No Longer Hiding

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    We Christians know that sin is ugly. Our response to that truth, however, is misguided when we hide our sin or fail to admit that we are real sinners. We like to point the finger at adulterers and murderers and homosexuals and smugly feel better about ourselves. The following, however, is the awful truth: We are no stronger. We are no holier. We are no more deserving of God’s love. We live our lives masked, in make-believe, pretending that we are closer to God than even fellow believers because we do not do X, Y, and especially not Z. We are no different than the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable of “The Pharisee and the Tax Collector” when we treat others this way. We ought to be humbly confessing our own sin and putting an end to our judgment of others. “Instead he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner’ ” (Luke 18:13).

    Confession is the acknowledgement that we have sinned in order to reconcile ourselves to others and to reconcile ourselves to God. We must always confess to God, for it is he whom we primarily offend when we sin. “Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4). In the discipline of confession, however, let us also explore confession to one another—not to the person offended, but confessing our sins to a godly, mature believer. James says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). This verse speaks about confession in the context of sickness. Guilt and depression, however, plague the body as sickness does and I believe that a public confession can help free us from these problems. (Realize, however, that this person does not serve as a mediator, for Christ alone is our mediator.) Not just any believer will do. It would not be wise, for example, to share your sin with someone who gossips or with someone who has a judgmental and critical spirit. These individuals would not be the ideal candidates, regardless of how close a relationship you share with them. Instead, find someone who is humble and full of grace; someone who knows that each of us is a sinner. Then you will experience Christ in your brother’s or your sister’s speaking God’s forgiveness. That experience is truly freeing, especially if you have been suffering under great guilt and the overwhelming weight of depression due to sin.

    There are two equally wrong perspectives that keep us from confession. The first is presumption. Sometimes we get out of the practice of confession because we believe we are good (though the only good in us is Christ). Slowly, we become blind to our sin and confess less and less and cheapen the costly and wonderful grace of our God. The second attitude is an attitude of wretchedness. Perhaps we continue to struggle with a particular sin; we find ourselves beginning to doubt God’s grace. We wonder if he could possibly still love us—for he is so holy. Let me tell you a secret: Nothing can separate you from the love of God—not even the vilest sin. God’s grace is greater than our greatest sin. Therefore, do not cheapen God’s grace through presumption, and do not ever doubt God’s love.

    Confess your sins to one another and not only will you feel the peace and freedom that comes through confession, but you will also experience the equally powerful phenomenon of grace, not judgment, between believers. And perhaps, when true confession occurs among believers, there will be an end to pretense. Yes, positionally (in Christ) we are saints, but we are not always saints practically. We do not follow Jesus as we ought to. We all struggle with pride and selfishness and a multitude of other sins. So repent and rejoice. We are not pretend sinners, and therefore God’s grace is not pretend. We are the real deal, and therefore God’s grace is also the real deal. Accept God’s love and do not abuse his grace. Unmask yourself, drop the pretense, and humbly confess your sins, one to another.

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