A Community of Confession within the Fellowship of the Forgiven
Psychologists and pastors have inadvertently carved out social territory that primarily belongs to the family and the church. Both church and family have a socialized emotional response that keeps them from openly talking about their emotional feelings. Pastors and counselors are a poor substitute for family and church, but thank God for pastors and counselors with whom we can discuss (confess and repent regarding) our conflicts.
Unfortunately, most people just keep things to themselves and don't even discuss them with God. After all, God's children should be seen and not heard. After all, He knows everything and nothing seems to be quite right, so perhaps silence is golden? Or, is it time for the church and family to be reclaimed as a communities of confession within a fellowships of forgiveness?
Jesus stands at the door of our hearts and begs entrance. There is no lack of forgiveness on God's part. He has put no restraint on the water of Life. There is no limit to what faith can accomplish. There is no place where His presence and providence cannot reach. It is left to us to decide whether we will open up and allow His presence to abide within our hearts and minds.
The baptism of John was accompanied by confession and repentance. His mission was to prepare the way for Christ, who still baptizes with the Spirit and fire.
The church of our day, like the world in which it is embedded, is characterized by denial of our nature. Denial is accompanied by avoidance of pain. How can you confess and forsake something you deny and avoid?
Paul said, 'Jesus Christ came to save sinners, amongst whom I am chief.' He admonished us to have the same attitude and confession. In our search to avoid awareness of our painful condition, we teach an unholy forgiveness. We endorse a 'forgive and forget' forgiveness that falsely considers that God blesses amnesia. Since we believe this is characteristic of God, we wholly endorse it for ourselves. Denial and avoidance characterize us. Denial and avoidance characterize all emotional illness. As Isaiah (chapter 1) admonished, we are all wholly sick and in need of healing. We need to cultivate confession and repentance, and drink in the fullness of God's love.
Love has no denial. Love experiences the deepest sorrow and greatest joy simultaneously. On the cross Jesus experienced the deepest agony from our sins separating Him from the Father. During that same time, He rejoiced to accept the crucified thief. The thief, as he finally opened the door of his heart, confessed that he deserved to be on a cross. The cross is where God meets with all of us, as that is where we reside. We will either die alone at the cross or walk with Him in newness of life at the cross. We do not leave the cross until he ceases to minister in our behalf.
Let's engage a reformation. Let's turn to God with all our heart. Let's confess our sins as we turn to be baptized with the Spirit and with fire. Let's prepare our hearts and our churches with love. As Jesus said to Simon (see Luke 7), "The one who is forgiven much, loves much."
Sex and intimate relationships are a predominant areas where silence has tarnished the gold of Christ's character within. Seventh-day Adventist pioneers, Ellen and James White, spent quite some time addressing their concerns about masturbation. The science they incorporated into their teachings was poor; full of erroneous causal conjecture. The book they wrote is out of print and seldom distributed. Today, we rarely discuss masturbation at church or in the home. The Ellen White's “Testimonies to the Church” are replete with relationship counsel, given at a most personal level. Regarding relationships, we toute a value system that is superficially practiced and little discussed; from both a sexual and interpersonal perspective. Proper discrete personal disclosure and discussion is what I seek to promote when I refer to 'confession.' Discretion is greatly needed. Although, today we haven't needed to worry as much about discretion, as long as denial and non-disclosure characterize our communications.
I agree the distinction between secret and public sins needs to be made. A person can identify their major issues in spiritual growth without being too inappropriately specific. A most sensitive issue in our society is found under the label of “sexual addict.” Though sensitive, this label is somewhat non-specific. It does not identify whether the sexual focus is simply fantasy and imagination or is enhanced with pictures, stories, or porn. Or whether it has been acted out with masturbation or liaisons. No one is coerced to make confession or to identify all when they do confess. However, confession or admitting is the first step in allowing that area of one's life to be sanctified.
Irrespective of the locus of the issue confessed, the purpose of the compulsive or confessed behavior is fairly the same. We are more alike as humans than otherwise. The core is selfishness and self-control. We seek to take responsibility for whatever happens in our world. Self-centeredness is the core of sin. 'What we can do, have or control' is at the core of our carnal nature, which needs to die daily. Unconditional love is at the center of the divine nature which we need to daily receive by faith. Ms. White often wrote letters to individuals who were privately practicing compulsive behaviors. She did not put people on public display. Our great problem socially is that we seem to others as if we had few struggles and that we are generally OK. Reality is that no one is good (or generally OK) but God.
"I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. But not I, but Christ, lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loves me and gives Himself for me." This statement is as 'good' as it gets for us. We need to learn to depend daily on Him. We are to learn to live by faith; the substance of things not seen and the evidence of things hoped for. We are not to look to ourselves, but to Him.
Confession of our weaknesses allows for others to stop pretending and turn to God for healing even as we are doing. The spirit the disciples began to engage at the time of Christ's great sacrifice, needs to be ours. When Jesus said, "One of you is to betray me," there was an echo that went around the table. Peter didn't want to engage in the echo, any more than most of us. Jesus noted how he wouldn't go even for the rest of the morning without denying Him three times. The echo needs to be our confession of faith. It is I who betray Christ with my self-centered actions. My seeking to protect my 'dignity' only keeps me at a distance from Christ, as were Nichodemus and Joseph until the crucifixion of Christ.
My seeking to protect my dignity keeps me from the freedom of the witness enjoyed by the healed demoniacs. It wasn't until after the crucifixion that many disciples found such freedom of witness. Jesus knocks on the door of my heart and your heart, seeking an opening, so he can abide with us in every aspect of our lives. Confession and repentance have to do with the opening of the door. We can't receive forgiveness for what we do not acknowledge or confess.
Our confessions need to be circumspect, and not war stories that might serve to glorify sin or to enlist others' minds in the act of sin in which we have engaged. The description needs to involve the struggle to turn in faith to God, and not details of how we have sought other comforters. It is our sin nature, not just a specific sin in and of itself, that needs to die daily. If we fight sin, we behold it and become more like it. If we fight the fight of faith, we behold Christ and become more like Him.
Simon, the pharisee (per Luke 7), evidently was no longer involved in certain sins, but neither had he received much forgiveness. We need to discard self-righteousness. We need to wear God's righteousness. Jesus did not list Simon's sins, nor the woman's sins. He said, "this woman's sins, which are many, are forgiven." She showed this by her demeanor toward Christ. Simon showed that his many sins were not forgiven, per his demeanor toward Christ. "Jesus Christ came to save sinners, amongst whom I am chief" is a verbal confession Paul recommends to us all.
I am not recommending some exercise of show, or some level of verbal confession by which people can know they have forgiveness. I seek for us corporately to break free from the denial in which we are enshrouded, which limits our love for ourselves, God and others. I wish for the water of life to be unrestrained in our lives and to freely pour forth. I want that for myself as much as for others.