Summary: A look at the spiritual discipline of confession.
THE CLEANSING OF CONFESSION
Today we are continuing our series that you see on the front of your worship folder: A Dedication to Daily Discipline. Looking at spiritual disciplines that we want to begin incorporating into our lives on a daily basis.
We have looked at prayer, fasting, studying God’s Word. Still to come, seeking Godly guidance and the exciting discipline of celebration. But there is a spiritual discipline that has grown foreign to us in the protestant community. In fact, just the mention of this discipline would probably send the majority of us into a similar picture of imagination.
It would look something like this: an individual sitting in a very dark, solemn, and almost closet like room. On two sides, deep wood walls, to the front, a door, and to the left side a screen of some sort. The type of which provides enough transparency to recognize that someone is on the other side, enough transfer of air to allow for conversation, and yet an ability to feel like the other person can not see you or pick out who you might be. And then this picture in our imagination comes to life with the words, “Father, forgive me for I have sinned.”
In Catholic circles, the practice of the confessional can be very common, almost routine. However, in our evangelical protestant world, a unique thing seems to happen at conversion, and confession becomes a thing of the past. In fact, in the ministry, the lack of confession has almost become an occupational hazard.
Four preachers met for a friendly gathering. During the conversation one preacher said, “Our people come to us and pour out their hearts, confess sins and needs. Let’s do the same. Confession is good for the soul.” In due time all agreed. One confessed he liked to go to the movies and would sneak off when away from his church. The second confessed to liking to smoke cigars and the third one confessed to liking to play cards. When it came to the fourth one, he wouldn’t confess. The others pressed him saying, “Come now, we confessed ours. What is your secret or vice?” Finally he answered, “It is gossiping and I can hardly wait to get out of here.”
Is it any wonder that we are hesitant to actively participate in the spiritual discipline of confession? Especially within “holiness denominations” there seems to be a transformation that occurs at conversion that takes us from confession to cover-up. Or as Dave Stone has written, “Usually we become [are] more concerned with concealing, than confessing.”
It happened immediately following the first recorded act of sin in the Bible. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden the first thing they tried to do was hide their sin from God. And as you read on through Biblical history, you learn that in the New Testament church there were some in the church spreading lies about the nature of sin and how a believer should deal with sin.
Some of the people said that they were above sin and no longer sinned; still others said it didn’t matter; and a third group said that they didn’t have a sin nature anymore. And in the midst of this confusion and disagreement, John finds himself having to deal with these attitudes through the writing of a letter. We find this small letter, probably written around the year A.D. 90 to a circle of churches near Ephesus near the end of our modern Bibles. Beyond the Gospels and Romans, Hebrews and I and II Peter you will come to the letter which today we title I John.
Last Sunday Dave was sharing with us regarding the discipline of studying God’s Word. And during his message he highlighted the “If. . .Then” nature of many statements in the Bible. This morning I want us to look at one such statement. In fact, it is found in a series of “If. . .Then” statements in the book of I John, the first Chapter. I John 1:5 (read and break down through verse 10).
A series of “If. . .Then” propositions and truths. But the one I want us to clearly see today is found in verse 9 (read).
Is it possible? Could it be that in a world of beaten down people, beings who are bruised and battered emotionally, that in this short verse an answer to all their guilt and pain can be found? And in the reclamation of a centuries old spiritual discipline called “confession” that great freedom awaits?
There is no doubt that a huge hang up for many people in our world today is guilt. It keeps us up at night and controls our thoughts. Dr. Karl Menninger said he believed that the number one reason that most people ended up in psychiatric hospitals was guilt. If they could just confess their guilt and know they were forgiven, 75% of them could leave the hospital that day, he said.