Confessing sin to one another

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1 Confessing sin to one another James 5:16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. NKJV When we hear someone talk about confessing sin, the first thought that comes to mind is someone who has committed some major indiscretion and are responding publicly at the end of a sermon. There is a time and place for that type of confession - at the end of the sermon. However, what is even more important is the ordinary, day-to-day, informal confession of sin to one another. Sadly, I m afraid this is almost non-existent in the lives of many Christians. And the fact that many are not confessing sin to one another should concern us in the church. The fact that we re not confessing sin to one another is not evidence we re not sinning; it is evidence we re keeping our sin a secret. Chances are there are Christians in our congregation who regularly look at pornography, abuse pain medications or illegal drugs/alcohol, or are engaged in sexually immoral relationships. Or perhaps they re struggling with more socially acceptable sins like greed, gossip, prejudice, bitterness, or pride. Either way, their sin is destroying them spiritually and emotionally. They may be fully aware they have a problem, but they re not saying a word. Maybe you are the one secretly struggling with sin, but you are terrified to confess it to anyone. Every Sunday people ask, How are you? You smile and say, Doing good or the classic statement: I m fine! But inside you re saying, I m not doing good at all. I m a mess, but I d be devastated if anyone knew that! This is not healthy. More importantly, it is not Christ s plan that Christians struggle secretly and silently with their sin, terrified to confess it to anyone. I would go so far as to say, a congregation in which there s little to no confession of sin is a congregation in which there s little to no understanding of the gospel or what it means to be a church family. The church is a group of people who are in the state of being saved (1 Corinthians 1:18). However, we are not being saved because we are good people. We are being saved because we realize our need for forgiveness and are clinging desperately to the cross of Christ. Our ongoing need for cleansing is something we must continually bring to the forefront of our minds through confession. If we don t confess our sins, we become self-righteous. And the self-righteous will not inherit the kingdom of heaven! 1 John 1:8-10: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. NKJV But I m sure someone is saying, But that doesn t say I have to confess my sin to another person. Why can t I just confess my sin privately to God. Why can t I just say: Luke 18: God, be merciful to me a sinner. NKJV 1

2 You can and you should confess your sin privately to God. But you need to ask yourself this question: Do I want to confess my sins privately to God because I want others to think I m better than I really am? We often say, No one needs to know about my sin except me and God, because we want to keep others in the dark about who we really are. If we re not careful, this can easily contribute to a cycle of hypocrisy and self-righteousness in ourselves and in our congregations we can become judgmental Pharisees! Luke 18:9-14: Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: I thank you, God, that I am not like other people cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income. But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner. I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. NLT Emboldening others to confess sin: When a Christian friend confesses sin to me, they are usually wondering, Will I still be loved and respected? Will he think less of me? Ironically, I always love and respect them even more. I admire their courage and their humility. Their confession makes me want to be like them. Confessing your sin to someone else isn t just about you. It s also about them! Your confession gives them the courage to come clean too! Your story is the key that can unlock someone else s prison! When a congregation has Christians who are regularly confessing their sin to one another, it creates an environment of courage, grace, and healing! People know they don t have to struggle in secret. People understand they will still be loved even when others know who they truly are. I m not talking about going in front of the whole congregation necessarily. I m talking about you building relationships with a handful of Christians (or even one) with whom you can be real. And when you confess your sins to them, you give them permission to do the same. Someone has to be courageous enough to go first. Sharing with another person makes it real in a new way. When we confess to another person it prevents our lives from becoming a private little secret between God and ourselves. Experience has shown that we can manage to hold on to much of our denial if our confession is only to God and to ourselves. Making a full confession to someone who understands, who is compassionate, and who shares experiences similar to our own helps keep us honest and on track. Admitting our faults is often difficult for people. Some ask, Why do I have to admit my wrongs to another? Many of us have been keeping secrets almost all of our lives. Every day those secrets take a toll on us. The toll we pay is loss of self-respect and energy and bondage to old codependent habits. Admitting - out loud - those secrets - strips them of their power. They lose much of their hold on us when they are spoken. Talking about the problem causes the problem to loosen its grip on your life. 2

3 Still, we are afraid to reveal our secrets to another person, even someone we trust. We somehow feel like we have everything to lose and nothing to gain. Do you know what we really have to lose by telling our secrets and sins to another? We lose our sense of isolation: Somebody is going to come alongside us. Our sense of aloneness will begin to vanish. We will begin to lose our unwillingness to forgive: When people accept and forgive us, we start to see that we can forgive others. We will lose our inflated, false pride: As we see and accept who we are, we begin to gain true humility, which involves seeing ourselves as we really are and seeing God as He really is. We will lose our sense of denial: Being truthful with another person will tear away our denial. We begin to feel clean and honest. Now that you know what you have to lose when you admit your wrongs to another, let me tell you three benefits you will gain. We gain healing that the Bible promises: James 5:16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. NLT James 5:16 - Admit your faults, to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed. TLB The key word here is healed. Notice that the verse doesn t say, Confess your sins to one another and you will be forgiven. God forgives you when you, as a child of God, confess your sins to Him. Proverbs 28:13 You will never succeed in life if you try to hide your sins. Confess them and give them up, then God will show mercy to you. GNB Psalm 66:18 If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. NLT Psalm 86:5 O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help. NLT To be forgiven, we must confess our sins to God and ask for forgiveness! To admit or to confess means to speak the same thing about your sin that God says about it! Confession means agreeing with God! God wants us to come clean and admit that wrong is wrong, that we are guilty as charged. He wants us to own up to our sins. We must say, God, You re right. What I did or am still doing is wrong. Now God says you will begin the healing process when you confess your sins to another. We gain freedom: Our secrets have kept us in chains - bound, frozen, unable to move forward in any of our relationships with God and others. Admitting our sins snaps the chains so God s healing power can start. Psalm 107:13 14: Then they cried to the Lord in their troubles, and he rescued them! He led them from the darkness and the shadow of death and snapped their chains. TLB 3

4 Unconfessed sin, however, will fester. Psalm 31:9-10: Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am in distress. Tears blur my eyes. My body and soul are withering away. I am dying from grief; my years are shortened by sadness. Sin has drained my strength; I am wasting away from within. NLT Psalm 32:3-4: When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. NLT It was once said, If you want to clear the stream, you need to get the hog out of the spring. To do that we must admit and turn from our sins. Remember that the only sin God can t forgive is the one that is not confessed. Psalm 38:17-18: I am on the verge of collapse, facing constant pain. But I confess my sins; I am deeply sorry for what I have done. NLT Psalm 32:5 Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, I will confess my rebellion to the Lord. And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. NLT We gain support: When you find a small group or a trustworthy person who will challenge you, you get support! The group/person can keep you focused and provide feedback. When your old friend denial surfaces and you hear Satan s list of excuses - It s really not that bad; they deserved it; it really wasn t my fault, your support person can be there to challenge you with the truth. But most of all, you need another person simply to listen to you and hear what you have to say. Why can t I just admit it to God? Why do I need to drag another person into this? Why must another person be involved? Why do I need to tell another person? Because the root of our problems is relational! We lie to each other, deceive each other, and are dishonest with each other. We wear masks and pretend we have it together. But we don t. We deny our true feelings and play games largely because we believe, If they really knew the truth about me, they wouldn t love me. We become more isolated than ever. It isolates us from each other. We end up living with shame and it makes us sick. We keep all of the junk of our past inside, and we get sick. There s a saying: We are only as sick as our secrets. The secrets that we try to hide end up making us sick, but revealing your feelings is the beginning of healing. The thing to do with sin is to do what Nicodemus did - go and search out someone with whom we can talk privately and frankly. Tell them of these things and, with them as witness, give these sins and our old selves with them, to God. You say that you can do this alone with God; and I ask you, Have you succeeded in doing so? I said I was going to do that for years, but it never happened until I let a human witness come in on my decision. Samuel Shoemaker, National Awakening When you follow God s instruction to admit your faults to one another, when you risk honesty with another person, all of a sudden, a wonderful feeling of freedom comes into your life. You begin to realize that everybody has problems, and many have the same ones you do. You don t need more than one, but everybody needs at least one person in their life they can be totally honest with. There is something therapeutic about admitting your faults to another person. It s God s way of freeing you. You don t have to tell everybody, just somebody. And all of a sudden the secret that s been making you sick, stops making you sick, because you start sharing it. 4

5 Remember, be specific. The secret you want to conceal the most is the one you need to reveal the most because that s the one that will heal you, so you can experience God s grace. United in the battle against the flesh: Don t get the impression we should create an environment where we all simply sympathize with each other s sins! Sometimes another person s confession comforts us because we can walk away saying, Good, I m glad to know I m not the only one who struggles with that. We need to seek out Christian friends to whom we can confess our sins, who will sympathize with our struggle, and who will join us in holy hatred for our sins. We need sympathetic ears, but we also need brothers and sisters in Christ who will not just say, Thanks for sharing that. We re all struggling with things like that. We need brethren who will join us in the fight against our flesh so we don t just admit our sin, we STOP our sin! Jude 22-23: And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives. NLT When we confess our sin, we need to think of it like going to a doctor and saying, Cut out my cancer. Destroy it. I don t want this in me. We need to realize our need to be taught, encouraged, and admonished. If a person says, I m struggling with They don t just need to hear, Aw, I m sorry. They need to be given advice on how to get rid of the problem. They need real love. They need accountability. Galatians 6:1 Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. NLT Save as many people as you can - through Jesus Christ - before this world is wrapped in flames! David Hester Sometimes real ministry doesn t mean going across the world, but going across the room. 5

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