Summary: The second in a series of four sermons entitled, ‘Prayer as a Second Language’
Slide 1 The story is told of a prominent Washington DC area priest who was honored one evening for his ministry and service. One of his parishioners, a prominent politician was to serve as the emcee for the evening but was unavoidably detained.
So a fill-in was arranged and began to heap honor after honor upon the humble priest. Finally the priest was able to speak and he said, ‘The seal of the confessional can never be broken and therefore I can only hint of my impressions since coming to Washington twenty-five years ago.’
‘At first, he said, ‘I thought that I had come to a terrible place as the first man who entered the confessional confessed to graft and corruption. But as time went on, I knew that I had become a part of a great community and it has been an honor to serve you.’
About that time the politician arrived at the dinner and rushed to the front to apologize for the delay and said, ‘I’ll never forget the first day our honored guest arrived at this parish. In fact, I had the honor of being the first to go to his confessional.’
What is confession to you? A place? A religious habit? Something that you do on the fly? Something that is a part of Communion Sunday?
There are two things that I want us to remember today about confession and this is the first thing:
Slide 2 Without confession there is no forgiveness of sins.
Let’s spend a few moments thinking about this important aspect of prayer by watching and hearing the following passages of scripture being read aloud.
(Slide 3 Video Clip from ‘Making Prayer A Second Language’ on Confession)
Slide 4 We are spending this month learning and re-learning an important second language, the language of prayer. Last Sunday we were reminded that adoration is a very important part of prayer because adoration of who God is assures us of what God does and that is life change through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
And today we focus on how that personal relationship with Jesus is made possible through the important act of confession.
Can you remember being so dirty that you would have given anything for a good and hot shower or bath? Can you remember the wonderful feeling of clean when you did get that hot shower or bath?
Confession is like a good hot bath or shower… it removes the dirt and grime from our souls. It removes our sins and shortcomings. It frees us up with an inner peace and joy that comes from having our sins forgiven.
In our main text for today we read very plainly, ‘But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.’
We need to have some important background to this verse because it helps us to more clearly understand, believe, and practice the truth that this verse contains. By the time John wrote this book, probably between 85 and 90 AD, Jerusalem had been destroyed 15 to 20 years earlier and Pentecost had taken place 60 years ago. So Christianity had been in existence for a generation or so and it was facing several challenges from various groups about key beliefs. To counteract the incorrect teachings of these groups John wrote this letter to remind the Christian church of the basics of the faith.
One of the truths had to do with the reality of sin. Some groups denied that there was sin in humanity and therefore no need confess it. But in 1 John 1:6 and following we read, ‘So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness. We are not living in the truth. But if we are living in the light of God’s presence, just as Christ is, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from every sin.
If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.’
If there is not such a thing as sin, then what do we call, among other things, domestic violence, abortion, murder, cheating, and child abuse?’ Again I remind us this morning we only look at our local paper to see the effects and results of living contrary to what God has intended.
Sin is more than wrong behavior or bad language or ‘whatever you want to call it by filling in the blank.’ We need to see beyond our narrow definitions of sin to the wider and more Biblical view of sin as both an act and an attitude of rebellion against God. This rebelliousness, this self-will, is what has gotten the human race in difficulty.