When most of us think of confession, we get
some kind of idea about being in trouble. Images of
criminals being interrogated by the cops come to mind, high pressure
under bright lights breaks them into a sobbing heap. Or, they
confess to cut a deal with the DA., hoping to get less punishment.
Pretty negative pictures. Or, the quiet, dark confessional booth
with a priest that one never sees, hoping to get relieved of guilt.
No wonder we do not think of confession as one
of the most important ingredients in our spiritual and emotional
life, as something that we cannot live without. But in reality,
from the Bibles perspective, it is just that. And we can
promise you, from many years of experience with people in the
growth process, it is only the confessors who grow. The good news
is, that when properly understood, it is not a negative thing
at all. In fact, we think that it is a very liberating and positive
experience, and that the results are always a better life.
What It Is
First of all, though, lets take a look
at what it actually is. To confess, from the Bibles perspective,
basically means to agree with reality. It means to acknowledge
or agree fully with something. Sometimes, we are told to confess
Jesus as lord. (Rom. 10:9) But other times we are told to confess
our sins, faults, and brokenness, the negative things of life
(1 Jn. 1:9; James 5:16). Why is this so important? Simply stated,
it gets us in touch with the reality of who we are, and connects
that reality with God, others, and the healing process.
Lets look at what happens when we confess:
We connect the part that needs healing back to God
The reason we have problems in the first place
is because of separation from God, a la Adam and Eve. When they
got separated, they were cut off from the light of Gods
life, reality, power and truth. This is symbolized by the fig
leaf in Genesis 3. They were out of relationship with Him, and
the Bible equates that state of being cut off from God with death.
So, whatever parts of us are not confessed are
still separated and living in death. That is one reason we can
be Christians, and still be dominated by patterns of death in
many areas of life: we have aspects of our soul that still remain
in the darkness.
If you have pain, sin, needs, gifts, or any
other aspect of your soul that is in the darkness, it must be
agreed upon, with God so that He can touch it. When
it is connected to him through confession, then He can begin to
work on it and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1
Jn.1:9). This means more than relieving guiltit means
changing the problems themselves. If you can confess them, God
can begin to heal them. His power and His love can begin to change
The problem tends to be that a lot of people
confess mostly surface things. They confess petty sins, not the
real things that keep them in bondage. Begin owning and confessing
the darker things in your soul, like Jesus mentioned in Mark 7:20-23.
Talk to God about them. Those are the kinds of things that keep
us sick. In addition, confess to him the broken parts of your
soul that have been injured and hurt. In that process of acknowledging
the reality about some of the deeper aspects of yourself, you
will release Gods power to begin to change you and heal
you. As Ephesians 5 says, when we expose things to the light,
they become light. The confessional process itself changes whatever
is in the darkness of your soul.
We connect the part that needs healing and changing
with other people, and resolve guilt and shame
The Bible is pretty clear about confession being
done with each other as well as with God. As James tells us, Confess
your sins to one another so that you may be healed (5:16).
The word there for sins means your unintentional lapses as well
as your intentional, willful sins. In other words, whatever is
wrong with us, we need to acknowledge to each other. We need to
share with each other whatever is wrong, and it connects this
process to our healing.
We cannot in this article go into all of the
reasons why this process heals us. But a big reason is because
the parts of our soul that are the most broken need to be touched
by love and by understanding. The confessional process with others
does this. Other peoples love and their truth strengthens
us, heals wounds, grants grace and acceptance where we had only
judgment, isolation, fear, and the other aspects of the darkness.
The care of other people soothes even the deepest pain. In fact,
without them, we do not even experience all of Gods grace
(1 Peter 4:10).
In terms of the badness, confessing to others
heals the split of the proverbial shadow. We tend
to hide our bad parts from others because we fear a lack of acceptance.
Because we are afraid of judgment or a loss of love, we hide our
badness and become two people: the one we show to others and the
one we truly are inside. This split hurts us emotionally, functionally,
and can make us clinically sick. Confessing to each other brings
the split together and makes us one person. This is a simple cure
for many emotional problems because whatever pain or badness
has been hidden and expressed through symptoms finally gets processed.
In this process, because we are accepted by
others who are living out the grace of God (1 Peter 4:10), we
overcome guilt as well. Many times people will say that they have
confessed their sin to God, but they still feel guilty. This is
because their conscience is a lot stricter and more punitive than
God himself. And because the tone and nature of our conscience
is something that we internalize from others early in life, it
is healed in part by internalizing the acceptance of others that
live out the grace of God in our lives. We find that there is
more acceptance available that we thought.
God has given us each other for our healing,
but we can cut ourselves off from this healing by not confessing
to each other. We must open the door to be able to experience
the connectedness that the Bible talks about in so many places.
As Ephesians 4:16 tells us, we can be healed and built up by each
other, as we do our work in our relationships. But this can only
happen as we confess.
We get restored to the truth
As we confess, something happens. We come into
a deeper understanding of the reality of who we are in relation
to who we need to be. We experience the gap between
the standard that God wants from us, and who we are. And this
has a double effect. First, we get a deeper look at ourselves.
As James says, Gods truth is a mirror to us to see who we
are. (James 1:23,24) It is a lamp unto our feet, and it takes
its full effect when we get things into the open.
Secondly, as we confess and see the truth from
others as they give us feedback, we can align ourselves with the
truth. This is called repentance, and is the real fruit of the
confessional process. Repentance is the change involved when we
face the truth about ourselves. It is the structure of the changes
that we make. When we are truly in a confessional process with
someone, we are doing more than just telling the truth.
We are doing a deep examination of ourselves in light of Gods
truth and then making adjustments to that truth. We are changing
our minds in the process, which is the fruit of true repentance
and that changes who we are.
It is very easy for us to not really deal with
the gap between who we are and who we need to be when
we are not confessing. We just deny it, push the awareness away,
or eventually lose touch with the reality of who we are. This
is the beginning of soul cancer. But, when we are in the active
confessional process, we are continually exposed to the reality
of the gap. I am able to more and more see who I really
am, and how far I am from the truth of what He says I need to
be. When you begin to understand Gods truth in terms of
what you need to be in order for life to work, instead of what
you ought to be, then confession becomes more of a
life line to restore you to the truth.
We build intimacy
One of the things that we all need is true intimacy
with others. We need to be known. Most of the time, we think that
this is just going to happen by talking with those we love, sharing
life experiences, hanging out, etc. But the kind of connection
we truly need is the kind where we are known from the depths of
our being. Deep confession does this for us. People who are in
the confessional process with a few other people are not lonely
people, and they do not have the kinds of disorders that come
from a lack of intimacy in their lives. Confession gets us closer
to each other. It is one of the deepest processes of being known
that we can experience.
When you have a few people you are confessing
your badness, your hurts and brokenness and the other things that
reside in your shadow, then you will have intimacy.
But this does not come cheaply. Read the list of things in Mark
7: 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed
the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries,
deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality,
envy, slander, pride and foolishness, and then see how you
feel about sharing those aspects of yourself. That will tell you
how comfortable you are in the true confession model of the Bible.
Who have you told about your evil thoughts,
or your adulterous or envious fantasies lately? Who have you wished
evil or destruction towards and who knows about those feelings.
We all have them, but we dont confess them. When you consider
the true content of the things that ruin our souls, then you can
see why confession is something that not everyone does. But if
you could, and you can, then you will build a closeness with God
and others that is beyond anything you ever knew.
There is no spiritual life without confession.
The spiritual life begins with confession and is sustained by
it. It is the process that opens the door of our hearts and souls
to God, others and even ourselves. Begin to agree with reality.
It can truly save your soul and life.