The Beauty of Confession

 

John 20:19-23, Isaiah 55:6-13, 1 John 1:5-10, Psalm 32

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

This morning we’re going to approach something critical to every Christian, the great gift of confession. I call it a gift because, without it, there can’t really be any kind of absolution. They say when a person wants to get better as an addict, they must first acknowledge that they have an addiction. So it is with our addiction to sin. If we want absolution, we must first be willing to admit that we have a problem.

If anyone was an expert on confessing sin, it was Martin Luther. “In the monastery, Luther spent up to six hours a day confessing his sins to a priest. But later, he would always remember sins he had forgotten to confess. Questions nagged at him. If only confessed sins were forgiven, what would happen if he forgot one? What about all the sins he might have committed in ignorance?” (Christian Communicators).

Martin often referred to the confessional as a torture chamber for troubled souls. He saw it as necessary but distasteful. He said later, “In the papacy I so tortured and spoiled myself by confession and making satisfaction that I looked for foreign sin, which I had not committed; because of my remorse I never had any rest nor a clean and peaceful heart.”

And, today, people still struggle with confession because it’s such a chore for our human nature. No one likes to admit they were wrong. If they did, my confessional would be worn out from the knees placed upon it. I bet most of you didn’t even know that I have a confessional in my office.

Martin understood this. He said, “All people are so minded that they do not want themselves and their dealings to become publicly known. All can bear to have us say that God is benevolent, and who in the world would deny that God is just and always right? Yet people cannot bear to be rebuked. No one wants to be a killer, thief, or miser before the world, nor be stained with gross vices. Who, then, is the man who hates the light? All of us! For not one of you would want his story written on his forehead.”

Yet he is the same man who said, “When I urge you to go to confession, I am doing nothing else than urging you to be a Christian.” Though he found it distasteful, he knew that only by confessing our sins could we ever hope for the forgiveness we cherish or the relief from guilt that we treasure.

I need to make a confession of my own. I’m not real fond of it either. Every night I start by confessing my sins and, some nights, when my day has been especially bad, I resist going to bed for that reason.

Yet, every time I do so, it releases me from the tension that I once carried and I sleep peaceful in the knowledge that my forgiveness is assured.

As he read Scripture, Martin Luther’s attitude toward confession changed radically. Though he still found it a burdensome chore, he finally had found the beauty in it. He saw that, properly used, it had great value. Listen to these words from the same man who once spoke of confession as torture, “When you feel in your conscience that you are guilty, be very, very careful not to contend with either God or men in an effort to defend or excuse your sin. Rather, do this: When God points His spear at you, do not flee from Him; on the contrary, flee to Him with a humble confession of guilt and plea for pardon. Then God will draw back His spear and spare you. However, the farther you try to flee from God by the denial and excuse of your sin, the closer and more hostile God will follow and press you. Therefore, nothing is better and safer than to come before God with a confession of guilt; for so it comes to pass that while God conquers us, we also conquer through Him.”

There is an old Scottish proverb that says, “Confession is good for the soul.” And so it is. No one knew this better than King David.

It is He who said in our Psalm for this morning, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”

Let me explain what prompted David to write these words. This was soon after Nathan had approached him concerning his grave sin of adultery with Bathsheba and the murdering of her husband Uriah so that David might take her as his wife. Nathan was blatant in his condemnation and it brought David to his knees in confession and remorse. Soon after these events took place, David wrote this Psalm. In the heading, it is referred to as a Maskil of David. The word maskil carries the idea of a lesson or a teaching, so right up front we learn that David has written this to teach the reader something. That lesson was the value of confession. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.”

From our New testament lesson, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” John was writing this letter to combat the beginnings of a movement called Gnosticism, which was spreading rapidly throughout the 1st century church.

They believed that they had such a high relationship with God that they were above the command of God. They believed they had a higher knowledge than others, so much so that those who didn’t follow them were condemned. It’s sad that there are still some churches today that teach similar messages. These are the lies John wrote to combat.

Let’s look especially at verse 9 of the text, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The basic idea is pretty clear. If we confess our sins, our God is faithful and just to forgive them. But if we take a deeper look, we separate for study the word, “faithful.”  Numbers 23:19 reminds us that, “God is not a man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not fulfill?”

But, just as God is faithful to forgive our sins, no matter how many or how terrible they are, we Christians are called to do the same. If God is faithful to forgive ours, we too must do the same towards others. If God is faithful enough to forgive even our most deviant sins, we too are not to put a limit on what is forgivable and what is not.

Some find forgiveness even harder than the confession itself. John understood what the Gnostics didn’t. He understood that we all are in need of confession because we all fall short. He is saying, essentially, that there is no special wisdom that gives us a get out of jail free card concerning sin. Confession is vital because forgiveness is vital. The two cannot be separated because we feel were above the law or that we possess some special insight above all other people. The truth is that we all fall short of the glory of God, even those who think they possess some greater knowledge or prophetic gift.

So, we should cling onto confession for the wonderful gift that it is. James 5:16 says that we should “Confess our sins to one another….that we may be healed.” Proverbs 28:13, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”

The benefits of confession are many. In our catechism is says we should confess, “So any heart that feels its sinfulness and desires consolation has here a sure refuge when he hears God’s Word and makes the discovery that God looses and absolves him from his sins.

Confession offers refuge with the certainty that forgiveness is ours from a faithful and just God.

Confession loosens the grip of guilt and shame so that we might rejoice in the relationship we have with our Father in heaven. Confession capitalizes on the grace of God to lift us from darkness into light toward the understanding of His mercy.

The cold truth is that we are all sinners and none of us want to share our weaknesses through confession. Some would rather bear the guilt and shame just so that don’t have to go through the trial of knowing that others know how weak and sinful they really are.

This is how people slowly collapse under the weight of their own making. Confession rids us of this. It begins the process of reconciliation. It approaches things honestly and with integrity, not under shadow and restrained. It starts the process of forgiveness and opens up the doors we have hidden behind because of our unwillingness to let people in.

Jesus Christ urges you to trust in what He has done for you enough that all our closets may be empty of the sins you have stored in them. He wants you to trust in His understanding and love. He wants you to place all those unconfessed sins at His feet so that you might be free to come to Him in worship and praise for all He has given you. He wants you to confess your sins to others so that His words might bring you comfort.

My door is always open to you and God’s absolution is always eagerly waiting to be given. Trust in God to take away even your greatest sins. Do not let them rule your life any longer. Come to God in confession so that He might give you the freedom He has promised you. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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