Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Confession

Let’s tackle another auto-pilot verse. This is one of the ones we learn early in the Christian life, whether it’s in Sunday School, VBS, or a new believer’s discipleship class.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

(1Jo 1:9 NASB)

I carried this verse around with me for most of my Christian life, thinking that this meant, “When I sin, I’ll just pray a little confession prayer, and my sin is gone. Nobody else ever has to know, and it’s as if I’d never sinned.” If someone questioned me about my sin, I could lie my way out of it. Now that’s another sin, but of course it’s again easily remedied by my little confession prayer.

Reading it in context provides a different perspective on John’s meaning in this verse:

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but 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 that 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 that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

(1Jo 1:5-10 NASB)

Notice the “one another” buried in the middle of that passage. I am beginning to realize that the confession that John is talking about may mean more than confessing in a private prayer to God. The fellowship spoken of here is both with God and with His church. The more I meditate on this passage, the more I am convinced that John is prescribing the antidote to the masks that we wear in the church. An earlier letter to the church says:

Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

(Jam 5:16 NASB)

Fellowship comes from walking in the light together. If we withhold our sins from one another, we lose fellowship, and we lose the opportunity for healing. Perhaps fellowship is the instrument that God uses to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

It’s a scary thought, living in that sort of transparency. But the steps I have begun to take in this direction have helped me to look at this as more of an invitation than a command.

In any case, it’s not what I learned in Sunday School. Your thoughts?

7 comments:

Jeff said...

David,

Hello, my name is Jeff. You've probably seen me at Alan's place. I hope you don't mind me commenting on your post.

First of all I love your music. I checked out your website a couple months ago. I wish I had a fraction of your talent.

I think you wrote an excellent post. I was reading in Leviticus how once a year, the tenth day of the seventh month, the high priest would offer a sacrifice of atonement for all sins. I’m sure they anxiously waited for this day. And what a relief to them the moment the sacrifice was made. But then as every day after that passed by more and more sin would again begin to pile up needing atonement.

I don’t think this is the case with Spirit filled believers today. The Spirit of God cannot dwell in a sinner. So every time we have an unconfessed sin does the Spirit exit, and then once confessed does he re-enter us? I think that would be an example of crucifying Him again, and again, and again, like it talks about in Hebrews. If we have confessed our sin and He has cleansed us once and for all than we no longer have sin.

1Jo 3:9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

Hbr 10:16 "THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM," {He then says,}
Hbr 10:17 "AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE."
Hbr 10:18 Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer {any} offering for sin.

I think once a believer realizes they can no longer sin, but it is sin that dwells in them, it is extremely freeing. There is no longer any condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.

1. Rom 7:19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.
Rom 7:20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
Rom 7:21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. Rom 7:22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,
Rom 7:23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.
Rom 7:24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?
Rom 7:25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

So if our sins are forgiven once and for ALL, why would James say to confess our sins to each other? Is James speaking of Spirit filled believers? Is he talking about those who are still in sin? What benefit would confessing our sins to eachother have?

Sorry for the long comment.

Lord bless,

Jeff

David said...

Thanks for the long comment. It shows consideration, and I appreciate that.

If you read the book of James, it is fairly obvious that he's talking to Spirit-filled believers, and members of the church. So yes, we have the question, why would James say something like that?

I think John and James are describing the truth in these passages. I am a believer in Jesus Christ, filled with His Spirit. I still sin. Whether or not we say that it is sin in me that is sinning, you will still find, for all intents and purposes, David Regier still sins. Paul doesn't let my sin off the hook by my saying that it is sin in me sinning.

The Holy Spirit convicts me of this sin, through God's word. And as I John 1:9 says, if we confess our sins, God is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us, and we're calling God a liar.

The we go on to I John 2:1-
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (ESV)

John is writing this so that we can stop sinning. It's an extremely mundane and practical purpose, really. We're looking for some sort of "spiritual" reality to take place here, and get the shivers or something. But John just wants us to stop sinning.

And here's how:
Find a close Christian brother, preferably older and more solid in the faith than yourself (in the best case scenario, an elder of the church who really understands forgiveness). Read through the James passage with him, and say that you'd like to try this. Then for a period of time, confess your sins to him. Be honest, as honest as you you can bear to be.

You will find that it's hard to confess. It's hard to bring the same thing over and over to a person who has a face that you can see, especially if you deal with a habitual sin.

But as you go on, when you see the love that brother has for you, it becomes easier to confess, and harder to sin. The reality of confession enters your mind when you're tempted, and the Spirit prompts you to perhaps call that brother before you actually fall into sin.

I think that's why James says to confess our sins to one another, so that we may be healed.

I'm writing this as a practiced reality. I have brothers that I confess my sins to. We pray for each other, and we find that sin doesn't hold the same attraction that it used to.

This is something that God, in His wisdom, by His Holy Spirit, put into place by His word. James and John were as inspired as Paul. Paul also chastised Spirit-filled believers who sinned. If a passage of Scripture causes you a question about your theology, question your theology first.

Thanks again for reading! And thanks for your kind comments about my music. May God alone be praised.

Steve Sensenig said...

Well, my comment will be short, but not because I haven't given your post consideration! hehe

Rather I just simply want to say that you have given this passage (1 John 1:9) an angle I never considered before, and it's given me something to chew on.

Thank you! :)

Aussie John said...

David,

Thank you for a thoughtful post which reflects many of my thoughts in my younger days.

May I share my own thoughts on the matter, which are in no way meant as a contradiction or rebuke.

I have, through my own experience in those days, and that of others in later life, modified my thinking to a large degree. I like to think that the Biblical idealism of my younger days has been been balanced by a healthy Biblical realism, which is not at all cynical.

I am reminded of Solomon's words, "If you are wise, you are wise for yourself, And if you scoff, you alone will bear it."(Prov.9:12)

I was warned by a wise older brother to never share the deep things of the heart, such as you speak of, with another brother unless he had proven himself trustworthy, and then, with only one,whom you know will conscientiously honour your trust, and bear your burdens with you. I confess I privately scoffed, and I did have to bear it, for many years to come.

Our Lord's words to the disciples mean much more to me in these days, "I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves."

As much as I loved, and was loved in return, by the congregations I served for many years in Jesus' name, there are still only three or four people with whom I would share my confession.

During my years I have seen lives, literally destroyed, families damaged, simply because Christians are imperfect human beings, who, without intent, malice, or any other purpose, thoughtlessly leaked a confidence shared in confession.

Lord bless you,

Aussie John

David said...

Thanks for your comment, Aussie John. Welcome to my blog.

You're absolutely right that the deep things of the heart should not be shared lightly. Preferably with a trusted elder or group of the same gender that is equally accountable to one another. The deepest things that I am concerned with here, I only confess to one other person.

I no longer have any use for biblical idealism, as you call it. The bible reveals truth to us; living, walking, breathing truth.

It is imperative that we walk in this truth. I, by faith, which means by risk, am testing this truth. Not testing God, but proving the integrity of His word by acting on it. There are so many scriptures that people claim to take literally, and yet they refuse these simple commands.

And yes, it is difficult. Yes, it may have some fallout. But if the body of Christ is the body of Christ, then it needs to be the body of Christ.

Bino B. Manjasseril said...

My name is Bino. First time reader and first time commenter.

Very interesting thought on 1 John 1:9 a verse many struggle with. Though it is a fact that Christ died for all our sins once for all, this verse seems to be a contradiction to many. So far I have come to a conclusion that this verse was not for believers but towards unbelievers who were claiming to have no sin.
But your interpretation provokes thoughts in a whole different angle. Very interesting...
I think I will spend some time on this in the coming days...

Great post though!

David said...

Thanks for stopping in, Bino! I appreciate your comment. I whole-heartedly believe that Jesus Christ died once for all of our sins. However, we live in the reality of time. There are sins that I commit. That much is very clear to me, and it is clear to God. He does not lie. If I say that I never sin, I make Him out to be a liar.

But if I confess my sin, He is faithful and righteous, and will forgive me, and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. The act that enabled the forgiveness was one time in history, but the reality of forgiveness and cleansing proceeds throughout time. I take part in the forgiveness as I confess my sin.

That is the importance of the "one another" in John's scripture (indeed, through the whole New Testament). We are called to fellowship with one another. That is how God carries out His kingdom in this world.

May God bless you as you read and re-read this passage. He will speak to you better than I can.