Have you ever been caught in a big lie, one that had gone on for far too long?
In these situations, we know that the whole time we are trying to keep this lie a secret, we are a lot more paranoid, a lot less trusting, and a lot less happy.
Someone finds out the truth.
In this moment, you feel embarrassed and you’re not sure what to say. After it’s all over, though, something strange happens. It might take a while, but no matter how long it takes, there’s a feeling that settles in: relief.
After the lie is no longer a secret, it’s as if you’ve shed a hundred pounds. You can walk free from the paranoia and the shame.
It’s an amazing feeling.
For some reason, even though we know it’s so much better to not have to cover up a lie, and we know exactly how to get to that freeing place, we choose to remain enslaved to the lie.
The answer shouldn’t be surprising, and it kind of stings to hear, but it’s so important, that it has to be said.
We choose to remain enslaved to the lie – or sin in general – because we desire the approval of people more than we desire intimacy with God.
We would rather sacrifice intimacy with our Heavenly Father – who loves us unconditionally – than sacrifice approval from people.
It sounds wrong. Surely, given the opportunity between people liking us, and being even closer to God, we would choose to latter, right?
Unfortunately, our actions prove differently.
This isn’t simply about a lie (big or small), rather, it is about all the sins we choose to keep to ourselves because we don’t even want to think what it would be like if someone found out these secret sins.
This is a problem, and it’s eating away at the one thing we desire the most: intimacy with God.
Each sin that we choose to keep hidden is a sin that flourishes; it’s a sin that systematically eats away at our souls. These hidden sins, though not costing us any relational currency with people (yet), are damaging our intimacy with God thus making our souls more downtrodden, alone, and depressed.
What can we do?
How can we combat these secret sins?
The answer isn’t surprising.
We need to refuse to keep them hidden anymore; we need to take these sins out of their comfortable habitat, hidden deep within our psyche, and we offer them up to God so he can crush them.
Simply put, we confess.
Many people have differing views on what confession is. For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll define confession as telling someone about your sins.
We can separate “someone” into two groups: God and humans.
First, we must bring our sins to God.
Confessing your sins to God – the ultimate healer – is the best way to find healing from those sins. The Apostle John tells us in 1 John 1:9 that if we confess our sins to God, “he is faithful and just to forgive us…” God is faithful and just, and he forgives the repentant, confessing sinner.
Christians, in this passage and others, are called to confess their sins to God.
Why, though, do we need to tell God our sins when he already knows them?
Wouldn’t it be pointless?
Far from it! God doesn’t call us to confess to him for no reason. No, it is for our good! It is for our joy.
When we spend time in prayer, confessing our sins to him, even recounting them to him, we are exercising humility and a recognition of his amazing grace.
God doesn’t need to know what we’ve done, we do. We need the reminder of how sinful we really are and thus how amazing God’s grace is. When we recount our sins from, for instance, the previous day, we can remember how much grace God has given us in the past day, let alone our life time!
It’s an exercise in humility.
It helps us appreciate his grace.
Isn’t it a bit legalistic though? Isn’t this too demanding?
Far from it. Legalism, in its basic form, is attempting to earn God’s favor by doing what we think he wants us to do.
Legalism tells us that we need to be good enough and then God will love us.
This is far from legalism.
It’s like a father wanting to hug his young daughter when she’s in some sort of pain. If she embraces him, tells him she loves him, and squeezes him really tight, he feels an incomparable warmth and satisfaction. However, if she reluctantly gives in and gives him a short, half-hearted hug, and doesn’t desire his presence, he’ll feel a deep sadness, all the while loving her just as much.
Like the father and his daughter, God desires and loves his children, no matter how intimate they choose to be with him.
When we choose to bring our sins to him, we are choosing intimacy with him. When we choose to neglect this, we choose to distance ourselves from him, and this weakens the intimacy. Just like the earthly father, God chooses to love his children even if they choose to reject his offer of help and intimacy.
Another reason, however, that many Christians do not bring their sins to God, repent, and experience greater intimacy, is because many Christians do not spend significant amounts of time in prayer. For help in this, read, “The Most Important Part of Your Day: Prayer.” It’s sure to help you start an intimate and long prayer life.
So, we confess our sins to God as he is faithful and just to forgive us. But there’s something else, and this part is more difficult.
We need to confess our sins to others.
This is one of the scarier parts of being a Christian. No other philosophy or religion asks this level of vulnerability.
This vulnerability is not something most of us are good at. We’d love it if we could keep our sins between us and God, and continue living our lives.
The problem is, we’re missing out on an incredible gift that God has offered us. Let’s take a look at what the Apostle James, in James 5:16. ESV, wrote:
James tells us that by confessing we can be healed.
This is amazing!
All of us – on this side of heaven – struggle with sin. We will never rid ourselves of that struggle. We are human; we are fallen. However, God does provide healing to us, and one way he does this is through confession to other Christians. Notice what he says about what happens when we confess and when those to whom we’re confessing pray for us: “The prayer of a righteous person,” (the one to whom you’re confessing) “has great power as it is working.”
It might be tempting to merely gloss over that last part, but we would do well to reflect on the words James uses.
He is telling us that with regards to our confession, the prayers of other Christ-followers have great power.
James was a man who witnessed the miracles of the early church. He had witnessed true supernatural power. A power that most of us have only dreamt of witnessing. This witness to all the powerful things we read about in the New Testament is telling us that when our Christian friends pray for us and our sins we confess to them, their prayers have great power.
Are you tired, weary, and sick of struggling with a particular sin?
Do you wish that you could have relief from that sin?
Tell someone you trust about that sin.
Why don’t we do this? What is the big problem with telling someone you’re struggling with sin?
We Christians are very quick to point out that “nobody’s perfect,” and “we’re all sinners,” yet we live as if we only struggle with things like little white lies and bouts of anger.
We’re so afraid of what people think that we’ve denied ourselves the healing from our sins that God promises us in his word!
This is, in a sense, idolatry. We are like the people John describes in John 12:43:
When we neglect honest confession with our closest friends, we think we are pursuing harmony and self-fulfillment. Ironically, we are slowly robbing our soul from what it desires most: intimacy with God, and intimacy with people.
It hurts our intimacy with God in that it shows we don’t trust him. We don’t trust that no matter what we’ve done, he has forgiven us. We don’t believe that his view of us matters more than what people think of us. We don’t trust that what he promises us in his word (James 5:16) is true.
It hurts our intimacy with people in that they aren’t loving our true selves. They don’t know who we are. They’re loving some made-up version of ourselves.
Our souls cry out for intimacy with God and other people. We thwart our souls’ need for intimacy by offering up some plastic version of ourselves. One that everyone – especially us – knows is fake. When you can look at your close friends and know who they are and love them anyway, you are experiencing what it’s like – in a small sense – to be loved by the Father, regardless of what you’ve done.
So, how do we confess to friends?
I think the most practical way to do this is to set up confession with a close friend; one you can trust. One that’s not afraid to see the dirty side of you. One that’s not afraid to get messy and know the real you.
Make an appointment for it. Meet or talk to this person on the phone or in person and confess to them your sins. This person doesn’t need to give advice – we all know that we aren’t always equipped to give good advice – rather, they are an opportunity to resist what is one of the more dangerous temptations facing the Christian: the desire to please man rather than God.
The challenge for us this week is to set up that appointment. Pick one friend, or a few, and ask if he or she would be willing to prayerfully consider allowing you to confess to them one time every week. Ask them to hold you accountable to confess consistently and honestly
Again, this isn’t some legalistic effort to be a better Christian so God will love you more.
No, it’s an opportunity to move into a deeper intimacy with God.
Confess to God, and confess to others.
If you practice confession currently, what does that look like?
Let us know in the comments!
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