Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
I have been working through Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s Bible study, Seeking Him. The basis of the study is experiencing personal revival in our walk with the Lord. This week has been all about being honest with God, ourselves, and other believers. She has challenged believers to be real about ourselves with others, which includes being honest about where we are spiritually and being willing to confess our sins both to God and others. I have heard humility defined like this — being honest about who we are — because when we realize what we truly are in relation to God, we have little reason to be proud!
I’m getting side tracked, though. I titled this confession, because as I have been thinking about confessing to other believers, I thought how little I see it happen. I know that confession does happen between believers, particularly on occasions like retreats, however, I don’t think that it is a way of life in the church anymore. I find myself wondering, why is that? I think that there are several reasons.
One reason is that we don’t want to hear other people’s dirty laundry aired. I think about the few times that I have had someone confess something to me or that I have heard a confession given to a group. My response is usually to be convicted about something in my own life. Though it is the desire of true believers to be more like Christ, we still have a fleshly aversion to seeing the sinful ways of ourselves. Our pride causes us to want to deceive ourselves, God, and others into believing that we are better than we are, so we don’t cultivate a culture of humble, honest confession before God and the body.
Another reason, perhaps, that we do not confess to others is fear of man. What will people think of me if I confess this thing about myself? This fear, is rooted in pride (as so many sins seem to be!) and causes division in fellowship between God with His people as well as believers with one another. Unfortunately, there is a bit of a good reason for this — how many times have we looked upon people with critical spirits because they struggle with a sin that we do not? Yet our response to God working in the lives of others should be to pour out His grace and love, just as He does for us daily!
Finally, I think that we don’t confess because we are deceived! Satan is the father of lies and he has deceived us into believing that we will be more successful leaders, servants, and people if we hide the ugly truth about ourselves. But God says that He delights in truth in the inward being (Psalm 51:6). There is much more that the Bible says about His people being honest about themselves — which is nearly synonymous with confession.
- If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. — 1 John 1:9
- For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. — Galatians 6:3
- Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. — Ephesians 4:25
I wonder what would happen in our churches if people began really getting honest with one another about their sin struggles? I imagine that we would become more closely knit. I think that our love for one another would grow and that the body would begin to truly reflect His glory and reach the fallen world around us for Him.
I experienced this in a small way this week. To my shame, I said something that was disrespectful in regard to another believer. Though she was not in proximity when I said it, and as far as I knew, knew nothing about what I said, I was repeatedly convicted to seek her out, confess my sin against her, and seek her forgiveness. I have to admit that I was scared! What if she got mad at me and yelled at me and refused to forgive me? What if she no longer liked me as a person or even worse, what if she began to despise any of the service that I might carry out in the church, for the Lord? It took me almost the whole week, before I finally picked up the phone and called her. But when I finally obeyed the Spirit’s command, He abundantly blessed. She had no idea that I had said anything, but immediately forgave me. In the brief moments of conversation that followed, I believe that our hearts were knit more closely as followers of Jesus as we allowed walls to come down and embraced one another as imperfect beings striving to walk in His grace.
It is my prayer today that the body of Christ would humble itself before the Lord and one another. And that in doing so, the Church would cultivate a culture of confession that is responded to in love and grace in the way that He does with us daily!