This is the eleventh of the ‘One another’ sayings in the New Testament which we have discussed over the last ten weeks.
This week we look at James injunction,“Confess your sins to one another” (James 5:16). When we develop our spiritual discipline of confession we find freedom. Confession can be one of the most difficult of disciplines to develop, because it requires us to be completely vulnerable. Often this discipline goes hand in hand with submission, because both require us to be open to others in ways that can be scary. However, when we open ourselves up, we also find ourselves free of things weighing us down.
There is nothing more destructive than hiding our sins. Christians know that sinning in itself is an issue, but when we hide those sins from others we carry heavy burdens. We tie ourselves to those sins that continuously weigh on our minds and spirits. We know that sin saddens God, but we then start building up walls around us where we not only end up separating ourselves from other believers, but from God, too. When we keep our sins to ourselves we become isolated, making it easier to walk away from our faith.
We know our Christian walk is strengthened when we are accountable to others. Telling others when we are struggling can help us see how to fix what’s wrong. A good accountability partner will tell us when we’re off in our thinking or in our actions, but a really good partner will help us find a way to overcome our temptations to sin and back into God’s glory.
This is why it’s so important to be discerning in who we talk to about our sins. In developing the spiritual discipline of confession, we have to also think about who is listening to our confessions and giving us advice. If we go to someone who is not strong in his/her faith or someone who is less mature in their faith, we may not get the best advice. Also, if we completely close ourselves off to anyone who offers advice, we may miss an important message from God that could help relieve the burdens we keep inside.
One of the best parts of developing the spiritual discipline of confession is that we are able to live our lives openly. There is a transparency to our faith that is obvious to others. If we think about all the damage that fallen Christian leaders have done to the reputation of our faith, transparency is incredibly important today. Today’s non-believers need to see that all Christians aren’t perfect, that they are flawed people with a belief system. And as Christians, it helps our walk to know that others struggled with the same things and made the same mistakes. However, if we don’t confess our sins, it is hard to know that others have dealt with the same issues, and we then won’t learn all the ways we can walk away from our sins.
It can be hard to develop the spiritual discipline of confession if we don’t first learn to let go of ourselves first. Here are some ways you can grow in this spiritual discipline: First, find an accountability partner. In order to be willing to confess your sins, you have to find someone you feel comfortable confessing them to. You also need to make sure the person you choose to be accountable with is someone who will actually help you grow and learn. Second, list your sins. Yes, it can get depressing listing all the sins you commit, but at the same time, knowing what you do and identifying areas where you repeat yourself can help you grow and learn to be better. It will also help you when you confess your sins to be able to ask for help. Third, let go of your pride. The hardest part of developing the spiritual discipline of confession is to learn how to let go of your own pride and ego. Sin can be embarrassing. It takes a lot of trust to open yourself wide and be vulnerable enough to share the darker sides of yourself. When we think of ourselves first, we tend not to be so transparent. Fourth, keep your head up. It can be discouraging to hear yourself confess the same sins over and over. It can also be discouraging to realize you’re sinning, period. Keep your head up. God knows we’re not perfect. He will not be surprised. He will be glad you are willing to acknowledge the areas in which you struggle and will be receptive to you trying to make yourself better. Fifth, accept forgiveness.
Despite our own discouragement over our own sins, God is forgiving. If He can forgive you, you can forgive yourself. People are not that different. By confessing our sins we are asking for forgiveness from all around us. We should not always expect forgiveness, but we should always be willing to forgive ourselves and accept God’s forgiveness. Sixth, take ownership over your actions. By confessing your sin you are taking ownership over your own actions. No one forces us to sin. We all make our own choices. Yet, you need to take responsibility for your actions when you practice the spiritual discipline of confession.
One of the most glaring deficiencies among Christians today is the lack of genuine fellowship. Much of what passes for fellowship is not that at all. Fellowship means “a mutual sharing of something in common.” What Christians have in common is Christ. Therefore, Christian fellowship is the “mutual sharing of our lives in Christ.”
Unfortunately, what often passes for fellowship in Christian circles are our thoughts about the weather, sports events, social get-togethers, etc. Biblical fellowship involves the openness of our real selves to each other.
For fear that our words would come back to haunt us because of misunderstanding and gossip, we gather together for meetings, pretending that everything is quite all right, yet all the while hiding ourselves from each other and aching to get a few things off our chest. We remain burdened for fear of being considered unspiritual. For the Christian community has projected the theology that Christians are not supposed to have problems. So we go on living unreal lives. What a tragedy!
The purpose of confession is for healing of both our physical bodies and our souls. The reason why so little healing is taking place today is that there is so little confession. We remain physically and spiritually cripple because we are too proud to confess our sins.
By Rev. Eric D. Maefonea (SWIM)