Summary: God’s call for you and I to confess. Part 11 of 13 on Spiritual Disc.
Spiritual Disciplines: Confession
Sermon Number 11
March 9, 2008
John Ortberg tells the story about the time he and his wife Nancy bought their first piece of new furniture: a mauve sofa. He explained it was more the shade of Pepto-Bismol, but “mauve” sounded better.
The furniture salesman warned John and Nancy that this is not a good color to get when you have 3 young children. However, the Ortberg’s believed they could hand the situation and their children, so they purchased the mauve sofa.
From that moment on, the number one rule in the house was ‘don’t sit on the mauve sofa. Don’t touch the mauve sofa. Don’t play around the mauve sofa. Don’t eat on or breathe on, look at or even think about the mauve sofa.’
The rule was similar to the prohibition in the garden of Eden not to eat from the forbidden tree. “On every other chair on the house you may freely sit, but upon this sofa, the mauve sofa, you may not sit, for in the day you sit thereupon, you shall surely die.”
Of course, you know what happened next, the FALL.
One day a stain appeared on the mauve sofa. It was a red stain, a red jelly stain.
So, Nancy, who had chosen the mauve sofa and adored the sofa lined up their 3 children in front of the sofa; Laura, 4, Mallory 2 ½ and Johnny, 6 months. She asked the children, “do you see that? That’s a stain. A red stain. A red jelly stain. The man at the sofa store says it is not coming out. Not forever. Do you know how long forever is? That’s how long we’re going to stand here until one of you tells me who put the stain on the sofa.”
Mallory was the first to break. With trembling lips and tear filled eyes she said, “Laura did it.” Laura passionately denied it. Then there was silence, for the longest time. No one said a word. The children had never seen their mother so upset. They wouldn’t talk, because they knew if they did, they would spend eternity in the time-out chair.
John explained he knew they wouldn’t talk, because he was the one who put the red jelly stain on the mauve sofa, and he knew he wasn’t going to say anything. He would find a safe place to confess.
We actually have a similar situation in our home. We have two very off-white sofas. We are not allowed to sit on them, we cannot eat on them, and in fact, one has been sat in so much, that we are not allowed to sit on that sofa, we need to sit on the other one. We have scotchguarded that sofa and fortunately when Debbie’s sister spilled grape soda on it, it came off.
Have you ever been there? You made that stain, you committed that sin, you messed up somewhere along the way. You see, the truth is, we have all stained the sofa. Some of the stains are small and barely noticeable. But some of them bleed through the entire fabric of our lives. They are the stains we regret in the wee, cold hours of the night as we lie in bed staring at the ceiling, wishing we could go back in time and relive some moments and get things right.
All of us will have to log some time in front of the sofa. However, strangely as it seems, many of us struggle with living in the reality of God’s forgiveness. It seems that we can intellectualize God’s liberating forgiveness, yet the reality of it, doesn’t really work its way into our everyday living.
This inability to accept the reality of forgiveness is the reason that God has given us the practice of confession. Sometimes people wonder, ‘If I’m a Christian and God has already forgiven me, why should I have to confess?’ It’s a good question.
Confession is not primarily something God has us do because He needs it. God is not clutching tightly to His mercy, as if we have to pry it from His fingers life a child’s last cookie. We need to confess in order to heal and be changed.
Confession also is not simply a God accounting procedure where we confess our sin to God and the sin is moved from the debit side to the credit side. When we do confession the right way, it helps us grow and become more and more transformed into Christ-likeness.
When we practice confession well, we are liberated from our guilt; and we will be less likely to sin in the same way in the future. Sin begins to look and feel less attractive.
There are two audiences we come before when we seek confession. In James 5, James has been telling the people to offer prayers for one another and which can bring healing to those who are sick. Then James said, “... 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” (James 5:16).