Anyway...on with the blog!
For the last few weeks we've been looking at the lost art of confession and also taking a closer look at what sin actually is. This blog outlines some of the key themes that came out of these discussions and some of the key scriptures. It's been a really challenging and stimulating topic that has the potential to lead us into really REAL community again. The real question is whether we have the courage for it. Read on and see what you think...
We kicked off with this awesome song from Sinead - the lyrics are well worth a listen. Captures that picture of someone desperately wanting redemption from their sins but worrying that church will be another one of those places that hurt. People suffer under the weight of their sin - it hurts them. How do we become a community where love flows so strongly that people feel they can come and confess their sins here? It starts by role modelling it ourselves. Let's kick off with James 5 and explore the links between confession and wellbeing.
"Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray...
Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders...
...and the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well...
..if he has sinned he will be forgiven.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.
The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."
There's a whole lot about prayer we don't see or understand - there's a lot about it I really don't get. But, I do believe it's more important than we realise and the Bible outlines several things that will actively hinder our prayers:
1. Mistreating our wives (1 Peter 3:7) [Lots of pointed looks from the women in The Local were being thrown around when we found this verse!!!]
2. Cherishing sin in our heart - keeping it to ourselves and holding on to it (Psalm 66:18)
3. Closing our heart to God's 'Way' - literally 'turning a deaf ear to the law' (Proverbs 28:9)
The surrounding verses make it clear that confessing our failings on these counts is the way to remove the blockages that are hindering our prayers. Wow - prayers seem to be being ignored? This might be something to consider.
Similarly there appears to be a direct relationship between confession and healing.
Sin opens the door for guilt and condemnation...it creates a burden or a 'weight' that we carry. You can see this in people who are literally weighed down by their past (either by their own sins or the things they've suffered as a result of the sins of others).
- In Psalm 38:18 David tells says "I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin."
- Similarly, 1 John 1:9 urges us that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will "forgive us and purify us from unrighteousness."
Again, as it says in James 5:1: "...confess your sins to each another and pray for each other so that you may be healed."
It's not complicated...it's just scary for us. Will people still accept me if I confess 'who I really am'? (Note some of the lies in these questions though - it suggests that our sins are who we really are. Not true - it's actually the opposite: our sins are where we fail to live up to who we really are in God). That fear of rejection is one of the most powerful tools of the enemy that keeps people from confessing their sins.
That's why it's crucial we become REAL church together, not one of "the ones that hurt" as Sinead said. We need to help each other push past that fear - it's crucial that we do.
Confession is typically the first step to redemption. In fact, so much so that everytime there is a major sin in the Bible, God's first action is to give people an opportunity to confess. Check it out:
- Genesis 3:8-13 - God asks Adam and Eve: "Where are you?" followed by "Who told you that you were naked?" and finally, "What have you done?" Opportunities to confess - that Adam instead used to blame Eve and Eve used to blame Lucifer (who appears to have been their guardian, rather than an evil snake-thing - but that's a tale for another day).
- In Genesis 4:9 he asks Cain where his brother Abel is.
- In Exodus 32, after the Israelites have melted their gold into idols, Moses asks Aaron "What did these people do to you, that you led them into such sin?" (And Aaron somewhat bizarrely claims that he threw their gold into the fire and this golden cow just jumped out somehow :).
- In Acts 5:7, Ananias and Sapphira have lied to the church about the money they offered as a result of selling their property (they could have given whatever they wanted, but instead they made up a lie to make it more comfortable for them to give less). Ananias has already been literally struck dead for his lie when his wife turns up. She doesn't know what has transpired and before anything happens, Peter asks her to confirm if their offering is the truth. She confirms the lie and joins her husband in his fate.
In each of the cases above God's first act is to give us an opportunity to confess. So many times the opportunity is missed or declined and things get worse. (David is one of the few examples we have of someone who grabbed the opportunity with both hands - and perhaps as a result he retained God's annointing). How will we respond?
I'll let you look up the rest of the scriptures in the slides below, but let's add one last thing in closing.
In the Bible there are four things that are confessed - three 'negative' and one 'positive':
1) Individual sin (Leviticus 5:5)
2) Collective sin - including the sins of our ancestors (Leviticus 16:21)
3) We are not God (John 1:20 - John the Baptist's confession)
4) Jesus is God - he is the Messiah (Romans 14:11).
Let's stop there for now. I'd like to suggest that these four confessions are intended to be a regular part of our life AND that if we put that into practice we will see a degree of health and healing and unity that has previously been closed to us...and perhaps then the world will truly know that Jesus is real (see Jesus' prayer in John 17).
I don't know what that looks like for us in The Local or how exactly we put it into practice.
Can I invite you to think about it?
It's too important and it's effects are too powerful to ignore - I believe it's something our enemy has sought to remove from the church.
Whatever courage we need - let's find that so we can reclaim these practices.
What it does NOT mean is glorifying our sin or spending over long on public readings that list out all the things we've done wrong in glorious technicolour detail.
Confession must always glorfiy God, not the sin.
Understanding sin a little better might help with that...and that's the topic of Part Two. See you soon.
Please start thinking and praying about this - we need to find a way to practice it.
Bless you all heaps - thanks for being brave enough to join the dialogue together. It will change us!