Confessional Living: beneath the symptoms

mads 11th bday cake

This has NOTHING to do with this post but is a pic of Maddie blowing out the candles on the birthday cake made for her by her older sister, Emily.

In the last “Confessional Living” post, I wrote about the joy that comes through confession.

I suggested it is possible for this joy to be a constant state if we live in continual recognition/confession of sin–Martin Luther’s “life of repentance.” To do this, though, we must understand the concept of “sin” more deeply–beyond its obvious symptoms to its core, where we always put “self” ahead of God and/or others. A few weeks back I was at a morning retreat run by our church (Church of the Resurrection), and Bishop Stewart Ruch spoke about the chronic disease of sin and the different ways it reveals or presents itself in our lives. I found his list very helpful, particularly in relation to the studying/thinking I’ve done for the Confessional Living series, so I am sharing it here.

1. the disease to meet our own needs–no matter what; ahead of others’ more pressing needs; for being flattered, noticed, taken care of, pampered, etc. Stewart suggested that people struggling with this particular sin disease are often magnetic or subtly manipulative personalities; they have figured out how to get others to want to meet their needs.

2. the disease of self-deception–living as if we have no sin/not seeing our own sin. This is why it is very, very dangerous to live outside any spiritual authority. It is too easy to ignore and become blind to our own sin.

3. the disease of introspection–This is not reflection but is a constant consciousness of ourselves, of how we are presenting ourselves to others, of how others are perceiving us. A continual awareness of SELF.

4. the disease of unbelief–of doubting the truth of God’s Word, of HIM. Of doubting the Gospel. Of ALWAYS questioning/pushing off acceptance.

5. the disease of perfectionism–In this, we have an illusion of the possibility of self-goodness and being completely RIGHT. It leads to brutal self-standards and terrible judgment of both self and others. Perfectionists are exhausted themselves and tiring to be around.

6. the disease of non-acceptance–We do not accept what God has given us to do or be. We don’t embrace it and instead long for something else.

Mad's 11th bday cakeThese were very helpful for me. A friend who also attended the retreat went with me on a long walk, and we discussed the realities of these diseases in our lives. We recognized many of them! They bring theoretical sin into the nitty-gritty and allow me to see the wrong in very subtle attitudes, actions, or thoughts. When I am in a group, and I find myself slightly amending a statement or story just before I say it so that I will appear more likable/knowledgable/competent–I can see that this springs from a sin disease and needs to be brought to the Lord. When I fuss at two of my children for squabbling in a store, it allows me to see that underneath the good desire for these children to care for each other is a sliver of hurt pride at having others’ perceptions of my parenting tainted by my children’s actions.

And when I become conscious of these things, I am more in awe of Christ–who didn’t exalt Himself but instead humbled Himself to the cross, –who loved and died for us while we were still dead and rotten in our sins.

With great gratitude I remember that for our sake “God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”

Confessional Living: the joy of humility

The psalmist said, “When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.” Psalm 32:3-4 NLT
God went to great lengths to draw the psalmist into confession. The Message paraphrases the above verses like this: “When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became daylong groans. The pressure never let up; all the juices of my life dried up.”
Why was God so hard on him? We learn the answer to this question later in the same psalm (32) when the psalmist can no longer stand his misery. “Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, ‘I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.’ And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.”
The relief was so great the psalmist said: “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!” The Amplified puts the second part this way: “Blessed is he who has forgiveness of his transgression continually exercised upon him, whose sin is covered.”
God knows this kind of joy results when we honestly confess and experience His beautiful forgiveness. He doesn’t want this joy to be something we only experience after committing “big” sins; He wants us to live in this kind of joy all the time. This simply isn’t possible when we think we’re “doing okay.” When we think of our sinfulness merely in terms of “big” sins and only engage in confession when we’ve “really messed up,” we become flat and joy-less. Confessional living requires that we walk daily in the light of God’s truth, allowing it to continually reveal our own selfishness, our hidden sins, and our lack of trust—those ongoing sins that are at our very core. I John 1:9 tells us, If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
Confessional living requires humility, and we humans don’t generally like humility. We think it will make us unsure, sad, and weak. But that’s not true. When we walk in humility with the Lord, regularly asking the Holy Spirit to convict us and taking all that is revealed to the Lord, He continually purifies and heals us, and we live strong and free and joyously in Him.
Gideon is a perfect example of this (Judges 6-8). After Gideon turned from his “big” sin of idolatry, he still struggled with doubt and fear. He could have hidden this, but instead he regularly admitted it to God. He told God he simply couldn’t do the task God had called him to. He asked for first one sign, then another, then another.
You’d think God would have gotten tired of Gideon’s lack of faith and progress.
But no.
Not once does God rebuke Gideon for being fearful or for admitting his fear. Not once does God express frustration. Instead He shows his acceptance of Gideon just as he is. He reassures him again and again. He meets him in his fear. After God has answered all Gideon’s requests, He tells him, “If you’re afraid (and I know you are), I’ve arranged yet another sign for you down in the enemy camp. You can sneak down there at night. Just stay outside their tents. You’ll hear all you need to know. Oh, and, by the way, take your servant with you if you need a partner to bolster your courage.” (my paraphrase)
Gideon doesn’t protest. He follows God’s directions–and then he worships!
Gideon’s willingness to acknowledge his own faults makes him more aware of God’s greatness.
Then he is able to accept God’s power and peace and joy and go out to do battle in the Lord’s strength.
If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action]. I John 1:9 Amplified

Odds and Ends: a recording, a verse, a suggestion

A RECORDING: If you didn’t read the last post, a poem by Wheaton Academy student Tyler Jackson, please scroll down below this post to see it (or follow the link above). The more I read her poem, the more I am influenced by it, so I made a recording of it in case any of you would rather hear it (poetry so often has a different effect when it’s listened to) or listen as you read along. Here’s the recording:

A VERSE: In my latest post in the Confessional Living series, it was implied but not actually stated that the Holy Spirit most often uses the very Word of God to make us aware of our hidden (or not so hidden) sins. Hebrews 4:12 is a oft-quoted verse about the power of Scripture. I’m putting it here in the New Living translation because it makes the verse new and fresh even to those who have quoted it since they were children. I am also including verses 13-16 because the Gospel, hallelujah, goes beyond our sin to the Savior who rescued us through His own sacrifice.

Hebrews 4:12-16 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable. 14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

*Here is Hebrews 4:12-16 in several different versions/paraphrases.

A SUGGESTION: Are you wanting to read Scripture more and allow God to use it to change you? Bible Gateway has recently added a section to its website titled “Scripture Engagement.” Here’s the first paragraph on that page: “This section of Bible Gateway, created in partnership with the Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement, outlines a set of practical exercises and activities you can undertake to interact more meaningfully with the Bible.” I would encourage you to check it out by following the link above.