(9/1) Introduction - I wonder how you are doing. Are you exercising to become more like Jesus? Thatís what Paul tells us to do in 1 Tim. 4:6-8, "If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. 7 But reject profane and
old wivesí fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. 8 For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come." Exercise, strenuously work out, like in a gym.
I remember when I was a boy, I loved playing sports, so I went out for sports in Jr. High and High School. We did not have football or baseball at North Carroll in the 60ís, so I played church league softball and played soccer and basketball in High School. Before every practice and before most games we went through a series of exercises called
calisthenics. Most of them were not too bad, like jumping jacks, push-ups, sit ups, and the like. But the one that I hated was the one called leg lifts. It is where you lie flat on your back, hands behind your head and keeping your legs straight, you raised them 6-8 inches off the ground and held them there for about 10 seconds, and then repeat that about ten times. Your abs,
or stomach muscles would burn. I hated leg lifts.
I. Confession-A Hard Exercise. So far we have considered the exercises of
Meditation, prayer, quiet time, joy, obedience, but of all the spiritual exercises to do, todayís is one of the hardest. It is the discipline or exercise of confession. There is a radio drama on some Christian stations called "Unshackled," it is about the ministry of the Pacific Garden Rescue Mission in Chicago. The drama introduces itself by saying
that it makes you, "Face yourself and think." Thatís what the discipline of confession does. It makes you face yourself and God and think. You cannot grow in Christlikeness unless you practice this discipline on a regular basis. It is the exercise of bathing the soul.
II. A Necessary Exercise
When our Lord Jesus taught us to pray, what we call the Lordís Prayer, He said to say whenever you pray (Lu. 11:1), "Öand forgive us our debtsÖ." (Luke 11:4). Look at John 13:1-17 for a few moments. Luke 22:24, tells us that they had been arguing again for about the 3rd or 4th time about who would be the top dogs in the kingdom, when Jesus lovingly
washed their feet. Peter refused and Jesus addressed him and said, "If I donít wash you, you have no part with me." The relationship stifles right here and now. We cannot have a fellowship or maintain a friendship and you cannot participate in our partnership. This scared Peter and so He said, "Then give me a bath," because our friendship means so much to me, and I donít want
to lose that. Our Lord then says these words. "He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you." 11 For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, "You are not all clean." There is a play on words here. The word, bathed, is a word meaning a full head to foot shower or bath, but the word, wash, means to spot
clean. You can take a bath and then one of the children or grandchildren mess their diaper just before dinner, and so you change the diaper and then you wash your hands, but you donít need another bath. Just so, because of the dirt streets and animal exhaust, one could take a bath and then go next door to a neighborís house for dinner and need to wash his or her feet before
reclining around the table for dinner.
Our Lord intentionally used this to show that even though we are fully bathed when we come to faith in Jesus; that is, we are cleansed from all our sins, we still get dirty and need to spot clean. We still need to wash our face and hands or our feet, if we are to maintain an intimate friendship with God, or serve in a partnership with God. Unless you
do this regularly, you may maintain religion, but not your relationship with Jesus.
This is, I believe, why our Catholic friends have included this as one of the 7 sacraments of the church. The intent of Confession, as our Catholic friends practice it, is to help people remain reconciled to God.
III. Honest Facts
It is a just a fact that though we are Christians and have been forgiven and cleansed by Jesusí death and resurrection, our propensity to sin is still with us. We have to do battle with our own flesh and desires on a daily basis. Christians donít sin as readily as they used to but they still sin. You do and I do. John tells us that if we claim that we
donít, we are liars and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). The New Testament has 5 main words for sin.
1. Sin Ė which means to miss the mark, as Paul says in Romans 3:23
2. Trespass- which refers to an unintentional crossing of the line.
3. Transgression Ė which means an intentional crossing of the line
4. Lawlessness Ė A flagrant disregard of the law.
5. Debt- because sin always results in owing someone something. Sin places us in Godís debt.
And you that there are 4 ways in which we sin:
There is a better than good chance that not a day goes by but that we donít miss the target, and fall short in one of these areas.
IV. The Hard Consequences of Sin (James 1:15) Then, when desire has
conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death
Sin kills. I donít know how to say that differently. It destroys relationships, trust, reputations, and it hurts those we love or have sinned against. It affects our relationship with God. It is hard to pray, read scripture, worship, attend church, or even be around Godly people when we have sinned.
And our sin directly affects our physical and mental health as we deal with the need for secrecy and hiding our guilt. Look with me at Psalm 32:1-4
The Living Bible paraphrases that this way, "There was a time when I wouldnít admit what a sinner I was. But my dishonesty made me miserable and filled my days with frustration. 4 All day and all night your hand was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water on a sunny day."
Look at Psalm 38:4-11, The New Living Translation says it like this: "My guilt overwhelms meóit is a burden too heavy to bear. 5 My wounds fester and stink because of my foolish sins. 6 I am bent over and racked with pain. All day long I walk around filled with grief. A raging fever burns within me, and my health is broken. 8 I am exhausted and
completely crushed. My groans come from an anguished heart. 9 You know what I long for, Lord; you hear my every sigh.
10 My heart beats wildly, my strength fails, and I am going blind. 11 My loved ones and friends stay away, fearing my disease. Even my own family stands at a distance."
That is the weight of guilt does when we know we have sinned.
Add to that we become cynical, and we believe others have found us out and are treating us weird as a result (Poeís Tell Tale Heart). We become judgmental of others and criticize them in order to make our faults not seem so bad.
Many also, will turn to drugs, or alcohol to try to mask or cover the pain. The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous considered confession as one of the major steps to recovery from addiction. In fact of the 12 steps, 8 are directly about dealing with sins. (Read steps 4-10, from last page)
Go back again and notice how David found relief? He said in Psa. 32:5, "I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord," And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah. Sadly, David did not come to this on his own. It took a visit from the preacher and a direct confrontation (2 Sam.
13). But to his credit he didnít deny the sin, nor did he blame others, nor did he try to rationalize or justify what he had done. And the relief was quick, but the consequences were lifelong.
Look at his counsel to us in verse 6ff. Learn from me. Follow my example. Donít be stubborn like a mule, find the joy and freedom of confession and the grace of forgiveness. John tells us in 1 John 1:8-10 a similar thought. God has adequate grace for your sin, but you must talk about it with Him.
V. The Exercise of Confession Ė
A. The following is my suggestion for you. You need to have a quiet time and
place to be with God. A place where you can talk. Somewhere in the course of your conversation with your Father. There needs to be a time of introspection.
Whether you follow the PRAY model, the ACTS model, or pray the Lordís Prayer model, or no model, there needs to be a time when you ask the Holy Spirit of God to search your heart, like David does at the end of Psalm 139, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; 24 And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the
way everlasting." AA calls this a fearless moral inventory. Ask Him to review the last 24 hours, or however long it has been since you have confessed to God.
1. Ask Him to search your Thoughts, your attitudes, and your fantasies. Have they been honoring to God?
2. Ask Him to search your Talk. Were they always truthful, kind, encouraging, or were they deceitful, bitter, hurtful and destructive?
3. Ask Him to review your Actions. Were they honoring and helpful, or selfish and hurtful?
4. Ask Him if you were negligent in any area. Did you keep your word when you made a promise? Did you know to do good but ignored it?
You may want to run the Ten Commandments through your prayer.
ē Have I placed anything in my life above God or equal to God?
ē Have I tried to bring God down to my level?
ē Have I dishonored Godís name in any way, or treated it as an empty thing?
ē Am I taking the time, each week to rest and be with my God?
ē Am I honoring and caring for my parents?
ē Do I have hate in my heart towards anyone?
ē Did I cheat or take anything that didnít really belong to me?
ē Have I been honest and truthful with my words?
ē Have I been with someone of the opposite sex in an inappropriate manner either in reality or fantasy?
ē Am I jealous, envious, or fixated on what other people have? Do I wish they didnít have it? Do I want to have one up on them?
B. Call it what it is. It is Sin and it is wrong! That is what the word Confess or confession means. It means to say the same thing as, or to agree with, or to acknowledge, as David says in Psalm 32:5. When we confess our sins, as 1 John 1:9 says, we agree with God that what we have done, said, or thought, or neglected to do is wrong and we want to get
it out of our life. It is an affront to the holiness of God and was the reason that Jesus suffered and died on that cross. It is contrary to the new nature and character of Jesus that God wants us to morph into, and we donít want that as part of our lives any longer.
C. Do Not:
1. Blame others for your sin Ė (Adam and Eve)
2. Minimize the seriousness of sin (Not as bad asÖ.)
3. Rationalize the reason for your sin (I know it was wrong, butÖ.)
4. Justify your sin (I had to; anyone would have; everyone else does!). Sadly, we live in a time when as Isaiah 5 says, everyone is calling evil good and good evil. What God calls an abomination, we now call normal and good. See it as God sees it and not as society now accepts it.
D. Humbly and Sorrowfully ask God to remove and forgive your sin. Paul tells us in 2 Cor. 7 that there are two kinds of repentance. There is Godly repentance which is humble and sorrowful because the sin is wrong and contrary to Godís nature and the reason for which Jesus died, and there is worldly repentance which regrets the penalty that the sin has
incurred, but not the sin.
E. Consider confiding in another person. This could be a pastor, a small group, a close friend, or a prayer partner. Some people belong to an accountability group to help them stay clean. This is big for those in recovery and the reason for attending weekly or daily meetings. Give that person permission to ask you tough questions. I will also tell you
that confiding in another person will help that person or group to be honest and able to share their own short-comings. I have been in more than one meeting where a man has shared a problem and said something like, "I know you canít identify but I have a problem withÖ." And others would say, "Man, that is my story too," or "I donít have that problem but I struggle withÖ" I
think that is the reason why James says, Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. (James 5:16) You may want to find a person to hold you accountable and give him or her permission to ask the tough questions to you as well as to pray with you. Obviously this step has
its risks as well as its rewards.
F. Where your sin has affected another person, you need to make amends. That may be simply apologizing and asking for forgiveness. It may mean making restitution for the items taken or destroyed. It may mean telling the truth or apologizing publically if the offense is public. I remember more than once being attacked publically but apologized to
privately. In Acts 16 Paul was arrested and beaten publically and placed in the Philippian jail. When the officials found out that Paul was a Roman citizen they wanted to release him privately out the back door, and Paul said, "No way. Tell them , we came in the front door, and they can let us go out the front door. (Acts 16:35ff).
Zacchaeus knew he had cheated people. When he came to faith in Jesus he knew he needed to make amends to those he had wronged (Luke 9). When David thought that the preacher was referring to a sheep rancher, he vowed that the man would have to make restitution according to the laws of Moses in Lev.
G. Ask God for the power to say, "No," to this sin in the future. Psalm 19 is a powerful Psalm about the Revelation of God in nature and in the Bible, and it closes with these words: Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. 13 Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be
blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.
H. Resolve to not repeat this sin. You need to tell God and the person you sinned against that your promise or resolve is to never repeat this again.
I believe with all my heart that these are necessary steps in the discipline of confession and our growth as Christís followers. It can be as painful as the leg lifts our coach made us do, but it is necessary, as Jesus said, if we are going to have a relationship with the Him. But there are 3 more things, you need to do.
1. Accept Godís grace and forgiveness. 1 John 1:5-2:2 reminds us that Jesusí blood keeps on cleansing us from sin; that Jesus stands as our defense attorney; and that God will always forgive and cleanse and restore His child who confesses his or her sin. Even if the person you offended doesnít forgive you, you must know that God has. This is also
important because your mind doesnít forget some things. David said in his song about seeking forgiveness (Psalm 51) that my sin was ever before me. His guilt would haunt the remainder of his life, but Godís grace and forgiveness would sustain him. Whenever the memory surfaces, remember Godís grace.
2. Expect Satan to attack you. He will attack you with temptation to repeat the sin. He will attack you with accusations and reminders of your guilt. He is an accuser, but Jesus is your advocate, your defense attorney. Satan will tell you that you will never change; that you canít change; that you arenít worthy of Grace. But Jesus is your defense.
3. Remember your sin did not surprise God. Peterís sin did not surprise Him. And a fall doesnít mean that He is through with you. That sin and Godís grace may just be what He uses to help others. He told Peter that when he recovered he was to strengthen his brethren (Lu. 22), and in John 21 He tells Peter to be Pastor, or a good shepherd to His sheep.
Help somebody! Embrace Godís Grace.
Letís Pray about it.
Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman