A Call to Honesty: The Gift of Confession

I actually said it out loud.

No. Not my occasionally snarky, internal, kneejerk response to certain comments.

No. It was that bad habit that I’ve struggled with on and off for years. My husband knows about it—how could he not? He lives with me. But others? No. I’m pretty good about keeping it quiet; keeping it hidden.

But I’d just shared it. Finally. And I asked this dear friend to be praying for me.

Over the past few weeks (here and here) I’ve looked at a few different aspects of confession. It has a rich tradition among God’s people in both the Old and New Testaments, as well as in church history.

The spiritual discipline of confession can take different forms.

  • We can name our sins to God, agreeing with His assessment of our sin.
  • We can pray a penitential psalm of confession like Psalms 32 or 51.
  • We can use a traditional prayer of confession.

The latter two can be done either individually or as a community. But we can also confess our sins to other believers. Actually, we’re called to it.

Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.                      

James 5:16

Back to my own confession? Let’s name it—it’s not just a bad habit. It’s a sin I struggle with. And I can’t take much credit for finally being honest and confessing it to a fellow believer. She had volunteered her own struggle with something similar. That made me feel safe enough to bring up my own struggles. Yes, I listened to the inner whisper of the Spirit to say something, whispering James 5:16 to my spirit.

Confess. Confess. Confess.

And I finally did. I knew this was a safe person. Someone who would come alongside of me and pray for me. Someone who would not use my confession as a weapon against me. Someone who would encourage me and maybe check in to see how I was doing.

Here, a new spiritual discipline—one that started with my personal prayers of confession to God—became one practiced in a very small way in community.

Why do I share this with you? Since that evening I haven’t really been tempted by that sin very much. Not because I know that I may be held accountable. That wouldn’t necessarily reduce the actual temptation. Accountability would seem to be more likely to give me the strength to withstand the temptation.

Instead, I think that my confession opened up a new and fresh experience of the Spirit working in my life—a sense of God’s presence in some of the little details of my day that I haven’t experienced in far too long. The peace of the Spirit far outweighs any temporary (and very short-lived!) pleasure that sin brought. In short? The experience of the Spirit’s work is far more tempting than my sin.

I’m not promising that confession will have the same result for you. I’m guessing that this practice may well have different outcomes for different people at different times. But we are called to it. Even more: we are commanded to confess our sins to one another.

Maybe that means that our cultural conception of sin as being simply personal, something between me and my God, needs to be reconsidered. Even if my sin doesn’t seem to have an impact on another person, how is the body harmed when I am not fully experiencing the work of the Spirit in transforming me into the image of Jesus? My sin may be against God, but by allowing my community into those places they are better positioned to help me grow in my discipleship.

Maybe that means that our cultural conception of sin as being simply personal, something between me and my God, needs to be reconsidered. Even if my sin doesn’t seem to have an impact on another person, how is the body harmed when I am not fully experiencing the work of the Spirit in transforming me into the image of Jesus?

How about you? Have you ever practiced confessing to others, either in a formal church context, with a friend, or with an accountability partner? How has it helped your walk with Jesus? I’d love to hear about your experiences with this spiritual discipline!

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Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

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