Is the Discipline of Confession Working in You?
Principle Scriptures on the Discipline of Confession: Psalm 51; Amos 5:4-6; Romans 5:1-11; James 4: 7-10; 5:16; 1 Peter 2:22-24; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 1:9
Here is how you can find out. Take a careful look at this Discipline of Confession from God's most precious Word by examining your life and the passages above. Now ask yourself:
1. How do I exhibit a life of confession in my daily life now?
2. What can I do to better be willing, in discipline, to be a person who confesses to God, and also to allow trusted others to hold me accountable?
3. What blocks confession from working and being exhibited in me?
4. How can I initiate confession and be disciplined to continually carry it out?
5. What can I do to make confession function better, stronger, and faster, even in times of uncertainty and stress?
· Here are positive examples from Scripture: Lev. 5:5; Psalm 32:5; 51; Mark 6:12; Matt. 10:32; Luke 3:8; Rom. 1:16-17; 2 Tim. 2:8-11
· Here are negative examples from Scripture: Judg. 17:6; 2 Chron. 28:9-11; Isa. 3:9; Matt. 10:33; Mark. 8:38; John 12:42-43; 2 Tim. 2:8-11
The Discipline of Confession is the event of responding to the Gospel's message, then acknowledging our faith publicly. But, as a discipline, confession becomes a continual process where we conform our lives to His Way so our faith applies to our lives. This means we come to the grace, forgiveness, and authority of Christ; because of Him, we keep submitting by the application of His precepts to our lives that result in maturity and spiritual growth. This is a "grace" in that we receive the ability from Christ, and a "discipline" in that it requires the commitment on our part to own up to and acknowledge the sins that show our flaws and faults. Thus, we also continue to lead a life that confesses wrongdoings and is accountable. This means we change our minds and ways so we are a soul at rest in Him, and so our motives, values, goals, aspirations, and plans are about seeking Christ's Lordship and standing firm in Him, not seeking our own personal agenda. Repentance is before God; confession is before God, then having others hold us accountable to our faith. The distinction between confession and repentance is that confession is taking our repentance and telling someone besides God (of course you go to Him first and foremost!) to hold us accountable.
What happens when we do not practice this discipline? The waywardness of our sinful nature will resume and take control; this allows us, as a "Christian," to act one way on Sunday and another on Monday, so such things as gossip, bitterness, anger, and withdrawal will engage us to act the opposite of God's call! When we do not confess, we are not doing what is right; in fact, we are even fighting against God (Matt. 4:17; 27:3; John 10:10; 2 Cor. 7:10-11). This Discipline of Confession is not a ritual or a rigid ecclesiastical construct so others can manipulate us; this was the sin of the Pharisees and the Catholic (pre-Vatican I and II) Church. Confession is liberationnot pretense, bondage, or oppression!
1. How would you define The Discipline of Confession? Are you a person who desires to lead a lifestyle that allows the introspection of other mature Christians in your life? If not, why not?
2. What part does confession play in your relationships with church members, friends, coworkers, and family? How does your confession help you make the right decisions?
3. How does the refusal to be responsible with our faith counteract confession? What is the cost to the Kingdom of God when Christians refuse to confess?
4. What happens when your church does not engage in confession or teach and encourage its people to be people who confess?
5. What happens to your relationship with God, with others, and with the opportunities God gives you when you refuse to confess?
6. When have you exercised confession the most?
7. In what situation did you fail to engage in confession when you should have? What is the cost you have paid or could pay by not allowing others to hold you accountable?
8. Take a look at your conscience, your regret and grief, and your determination to avoid sin. Do they line up to His Way as they should?
9. Why can't we serve both our desires and God's will? Why do so many Christians try with all of their might? What will this double mindedness give them?
10. How much of your life is under Christ's domain and control? Where do you fail in your judgments and decisions and how can you improve?
11. What issue is in your life that would improve with more confession? Take the time to really, fully examine your life to see if there is any wayward way in you. How much of your life is under Christ's domain and control? Is Christ your all in all, your authority and LORD? If not, what is?
12. Think through the steps you need to take to put confession into action in a specific instance. For example, what can you do to improve your confessional life and relationship with Christ and others? What are the steps you would take to obtain a good mentor (if you do not have one already) to hold you accountable and also keep you encouraged?
The Discipline of Confession is the obedience to commit ourselves to leading a life that is worthy to be called Christian, as our new life is in Christ. So, is your life worthy? What do you want to do in your life? Does it correspond to God's Word? Our call in life is to please God. But, we have a disconnect happening, because the Fall of man defaced everything in this world, including our thinking, relationships, and faith! Our sin will block any attempt to seek our Lord; that is why the cross was, and is, so essential. This applies to everyone; even those of us who are fortunate to be saved by Grace are affected by sin. Christ's atonement means He covered the sin, but it still remainslurking, destroying, and causing us to replace good thinking with bad.
The Discipline of Confession will allow us to recognize, then confess our sins to God and allow others to hold us to it. Confession will motivate us to yield to the work of the Spirit within us. Our confession helps remove the blockage and allows His work to flow. His work is there; the question is, will we respond to it by faith? Sin and confession are not popular subjects. Who wants to be bothered and confronted, let alone be convicted? But, for us to grow and mature, we have to, lest we remain in those sinsand how sad that would be! Sin will cloud everything. It will blind us to truth and from seeing the will of God for our lives.
We have to be willing to declare: I, as a follower of Christ, bought and paid for by His shed blood, must acknowledge my own sinful nature. If this is not in your practice and in your mindset, you will fall way short of His plan and possibly even His redemption for you (not lose your salvation). All of humanity is fallen from God; we are corrupt in our thinking and actions. Unless God's Grace is not only flowing in us, but is also being emphasized and utilized, we will fail to make the right decisions. Our sinful nature directly relates to our daily lives and how we lead our church. Each of us must commit to ongoing confession in this area, from the trivialities of daily life to battling lust.
Being willing and able to confess sin will renew your mind and prepare you to be a more effective and used-by-God Christian, because you will have given yourself to Godmind as well as body. Just think through what He has done for you, the incredible amount of forgiveness you have received, and your response to what He has done. It should be gratitude that leads you to desire to purge yourself of sin. When we do as we see fit (Judg. 17:6), all we bring on ourselves is strife and confusion that leads to endless hurt. When we have purged the sin, and continue to do so as an ongoing venture, we will have no desire to copy the evil ways of the world. Rather, we will desire to be further transformed and renewed by God. We will be new persons, infused by the Spirit, so that all we think and all we do is pointed in His direction and call. Because of this renewal, we will know what He desires for us, what is best, and what is pleasing and perfect.
There are many preachers who like to turn the gospel of Jesus Christ into some kind of "easy-believe-ism," where confession is seen as not necessary. Even some good Reformed people do not like this discipline, mainly because of past abuses and that John Calvin opposed it. However, what Calvin opposed was "obligatory" confession, not confession itself; he saw it to be voluntary and a necessary and vital mutual consolation. As you can see from the passages cited, the Bible clearly states that if you want to be a Christian who gives God glory and pleases Him, you must confess! All that you do in life must be a reflection of a life surrendered to Christ. If you are so self-willed in your ideas, plans, and needs that you will not allow the wise counsel of others or God's introspection upon you, there can be no room for the living Christ. This may mean that others will use you, take advantage of you, get mad at you, ignore you, go around you, ridicule you, and persecute you! But remember, what they do to you, they do to Him! Make sure you are not the one persecuting the Lord by refusing to yield to wise counsel and the percepts of His Word!
The Discipline of Confession will allow us to take a hard look at ourselves and hear what others say, so we can better give ourselves over to Christ as Lord. We will be able to ask Him and others, where and how do I fail in my judgments? And, we will take the personal responsibility to work it out. When we have setbacks, as we all do, we must be committed to restart and continue.
How Do I Practice this Discipline of Confession?
So, what can I do? Do not laugh at sin or rationalize it; rather guard against it. This is where our confession in Christ and being held accountable helps us stay focused, grow, and be the person who is authentic in the faith. Thus, we must allow Christ's conviction and our accountably to others to examine who we are and who we ought to be. If we are in a self-indulgent life-style, with the desire to live and do as we please, we are headed for trouble and for a life that is sad and pathetic. We may be Christians, sealed by His Grace, but do we serve Him as we "run" our personal lives and His Church? God wants us to "hear this word," not bow to our pleasure-seeking mindsets, so we can have our personal aspirations of control surrendered to Him, allowing His Lordship to be manifested in all parts of our lives (Isa. 28:7-8; Am. 4:1).
Prior to beginning this discipline, seek out some same-gender people who are more mature and/or further in their walk with Christ than you, and ask them to hold you accountable (if you think there are none, you have pride, or fear, or anger, or perhaps the desire to stay in your sins clouding you, because even Billy Graham has such people in his life!). Perhaps a small group or a mentor will suffice. We have many resources on our Small Groups Channel. Also, as in all these disciplines, be prepared to take "baby steps."
Take a look at your conscience and counsel from others, your regret and grief, and your determination to avoid sin. Do they line up to His Way as they should? Then, realize God's care, love, and presence is upon you to guide you through this! This is something in which you are not alone; you have Christ and others!
The practice of the Discipline of Confession means we are "on guard" with our faith! We can be aware that when we slip, there are others to help catch us. Of course, the key is to be open and honest to face what is seeking to harm us. We also need to beware that sin is usually gradual and we do not notice; sometimes, we do not care or see this as a problem until severe damage is done. So, realize that this is serious business and we need one another!
What happens when we practice this Discipline of Confession?
When we draw near to God, the ways of the world, the devil, and our pride are pushed further away and we mature. If we draw near to our desires, we seek to serve ourselves and even the devil; then God is pushed further away. Your ability to confess will help you go in the right direction, the choice is up to you.
· Our confession gives us true piety and holiness as we grow further in Christ; it is produced by the Spirit's lead and our learning, the ability to give and receive forgiveness, and this produces a life of contentment.
· Confession helps us to see how heinous our rebellion and sin are in God's eyes, so we can see how wonderful His providence is to elect us anyway. God wants us to confess!
· We are to also confess our indifference and lack of trust in Him (John 10:28-29).
· Our confession is a starting point to build and develop character, patience, and dependence on God's grace, as Abraham did by faith; we are accountable for our choices.
· There is forgiveness when we fail−and we will! If an individual or a church (collectively) repents, they can be saved and rebooted to serve and glorify Christ. If not, a church or an individual Christian will close and be a rotten memory to the community and to Christ!
· When we try to live to and by ourselves without Christ, or even try to serve Him without relying on Him, we are showing an incredible amount of disrespect!
· We need to have the right focus and perspective so we can know what God wants us to do! We can do this by learning about our Lord, His obedience, and being willing to go through times of waiting, discouragement, and even suffering, and see them as opportunities of personal growth and faith building and strengthening.
· We need not be frustrated or filled with worry when we have Christ (1 John 4:17-19).
· We have to make a commitment to acknowledge our fallen nature, and be willing and able to confess our sin and repent, which means we do not do it again. It also means to have someone hold us accountable, and that we confess our sins to God.
· When we are not accountable to God and to others, such as a spouse, pastor, mentor, or friend, we are free to sin, which will lead to social and physical disaster. Refusing to deal with sin will lead to pornography, flirting, inappropriate lust, jealousy, and then sexual encounters, relationship breakdowns, and perhaps, the break-up of a marriage that God brought together.
· Are you showing true acceptance of Jesus as your Lord? You can know this by doing what He says (Luke 6:46).
· Living a surrendered, redeemed life is about seeking the Lord's will, and seeking to glorify Him!
As with the Discipline of Repentance, since these disciplines go together, I have found the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1-17), as well as the Fruit of the Spirit and "the flesh" (Gal. 5: 16-26) are excellent templates to use as tools for our assessment.
Scriptures on acknowledging our faith: Lev. 5:5; Ps. 32:5 Matt. 10:32; John 1:20; Acts 24:14; Rom. 14:11; Heb. 11:13; 13:15
Scriptures on accountability: Proverbs 25:12; 27:17; Ecclesiastes 4:8-12; Romans 14: 13-23;2 Corinthians 12:19-13:6; Galatians 6:1-6; Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 4:9-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; James 5:15-16; Hebrews 3:13
Additional Scriptures on the Disciplines of Confession and Repentance: 2 Chronicles 7:14; 30:6-9; Psalm 34:14,18; Isaiah 22:12; Jeremiah 7:3-8; Matthew 4:17; 6:33; 23:12; John 20:23; Acts 17:30; 20: 17-21; 24:14; Romans 2:4; 3:9-4:8; 2 Corinthians 7:8-12; Ephesians 4:13; Philippians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:6, 8; 2 Timothy 2:5; 1 John 4:19