I can’t write a piece on confession without first being confessional.
I have a new life in Christ. He is restoring/recovering me from fear of rejection, people pleasing, and numbing out pain and fear regarding pornography. Oh–and that’s not before I placed my faith in Jesus, or started working in full-time vocational ministry, but after.
I woke up this morning praying that the Lord would give me strength to not walk in aforementioned patterns today.
Now I already feel like we know each other a little better. Jesus would call that true fellowship. In 1 John, the text says that if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship: growth in relationship, reminded of the finished work of Jesus.
Now it’s your turn. My name is____________ I have a new life in Christ. He is restoring/recovering me from______,_______, and _________ (list 3 things your heart has been drawn to other than total allegiance and obedience to Christ). If you don’t have any, list denial as number one. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).
Last week, I sat in my friend’s backyard with him and my mentor–both men on staff at The Well. I confessed my moral inventory with them as a part of a discipleship/recovery group that I am both leading and participating in. The moral inventory was quite thorough: it viewed my heart through six different windows, shining light everywhere to see where things have replaced Christ’s rightful seat on the throne of my heart. I listed all fears, resentments, harms done to myself, harms done to others, a full sexual inventory, and a catch-all category of anything else. Not only did I list out each thing or person involved, but also my response to each event, the nature of my response, and what my response valued (to designate possible idols).
Here are some big takeaways for me and reasons why the Lord offers the gift of confession to all of us for healing (James 5:16):
1. My sin and shame love to hide from God and His people.
As I was sharing I found myself making less eye contact at times and lowering my voice when I would say the same pattern over and over again. Yes, again I am saying that I resented someone and then medicated with pornography, fantasy, and avoidance. Yes, again I am saying that I care more about people’s opinions other than God’s approval.
My behavior reminded me of Adam in the garden after he rebelled against God (Gen 3:8-10). As God called out to him, “Where are you?”, Adam was hiding behind the trees (as if anyone could really hide from God). Adam, in fear of exposure, hid himself. I could see, as I confessed, that my sin and shame love to hide from God and His people; I wanted to stay behind the tree.
2. All of my sin is against God first.
I had always felt more shame about letting my ideal self down or being found out than I did about rebelling against my God, my King, and misplacing my highest affections on things other than Him. In the practice of true confession, my prayer life has radically changed. These are the confessions I pray now that I never would have prayed before:
“Lord, as I feel stress about writing this blog and worrying about what people will think of me I am tempted to be anxious, to find a way not to write it, or to escape to sexual fantasy in my head. Lord, in this moment, I don’t believe that your approval is better than people’s. Lord, I do not believe that your refuge and comfort are better than the one I can make in my mind. Lord, I confess I need your help and I trust you over my feelings, but help my unbelief. Help me honor you and love rather than fear.”
I never used to pray that way until I believed the truth that my rebellion was first against the Lord’s good design and that he is enough to satisfy my deepest longings. King David spoke of his sin this way: “Against you, you only, have I sinned” (Psalm 51:4).
3. I am not just confessing sins, but exposing deep-rooted patterns of my heart.
As I shared my confession of my responses to all the things done to me and all of these resentments I have held, it became more and more evident that I have chosen to protect myself by my own means. I have let people (even ones I don’t know) have more control over me than God for years. These are deep roots in my heart that display patterns of distrust in the Lord. But finally exposing these to the Lord, and agreeing with others about their damage, has allowed for healing.
4. I feel closer to the Lord and people.
Fear is a big deal in my life. Being fully known by God, my wife, and others terrifies me. What if they see all my darkness and reject me? But over the last three years of walking in ongoing light through confession with the Lord, my wife, and others, I have learned that I can experience true fellowship and deeper understanding. When I am real with Jesus, He reminds me that His blood, not my goodness, has covered me. He loves me, not some future better version of me.
I used to be so anxious with people and half honest with the Lord. Today, I stand 100% known by Jesus and people. I know perfect Love and have nothing to fear. I have found a new passion to keep light shining everywhere, as I long to live in unbroken fellowship with God and others (1 John 1:7-9).
5. Confession is for healing and repentance is for freedom.
As I have lived more and more confessionally with the Lord and others, I have experienced such healing and peace with God and people. What I have also found is that I still need to allow the Lord to reshape my mind and daily take those thoughts and patterns captive so I don’t return to old patterns of life. As Romans 12:1-2 shows, a transformation needs to take place. This happens by the renewing of my mind, a daily act of being honest with the Lord and walking towards Him for true freedom to last: the belief and choice to live as the new creation that I am in Christ, not the old self that has been put to death.
6. I was reminded I am NEW IN CHRIST.
In my confession, I felt self-hatred well up. How could I be this kind of person? I must be punished for this…I harbored the need to feel ongoing shame about what I have done, thought, and been passive about. But I was reminded by my friends of the TRUTH: “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
It’s all about His faithfulness, not mine. My sins have been paid in full and I AM NEW IN CHRIST! I stand not condemned, but free. And he who has been forgiven much, loves much. I must be worth much in His eyes for that sacrifice to be paid.
Take action! Now it’s your turn:
- Write out your statement above (Hi my name is______, I have a New Life in Christ, and I am recovering/being restored of ______,______, and ______). Leave this in the comments section on this blog and/or share it with another person in your life.
- Tell God what you are really trusting in more than Him today. Ask Him to shift your desires. Walk in light with Him.
- Believe this truth: your confessions are a record of the price Christ has paid for you. He loves you. You are not defined by your past. Claim your new identity in Christ and let others remind you of it.
- And believe this truth: God brings healing through confession (James 5:16). Take one step of action on that truth. There is healing as we bring even the darkest wounds and sins to light.
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José Manuel Ríos Valiente, Creative Commons