Tag Archives: confession

Are you on a Confession Cycle? Stop It!

A passage in James talks about the effectiveness of confession.   It reads,

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed (James 5:16).

There was a period of time, about 3 years, where I faithfully attended a 12 step group for sexual addicts.   Every week I would confess my faults to other men going through the same struggles, and I would hear their confessions, too.  At the end of each confession the group would respond with an appreciative, “Thanks, Chad.”   I felt good for getting it off my chest, and felt safe sharing my struggles with these men.   There is something liberating about not having secrets.

But I’ve come to learn that liberating is not the same as healing.    Being an addict as I was, I became rather fond of the intimacy shared with a group of other broken people, just like I was, who could share our faults openly without fear of rejection or correction.   I knew that I could confess my sins and hear, “Thanks, Chad,” every time.

cycleI talk to a lot of people these days who have grown addicted to the liberating effects of confession yet have not discovered the healing such confession is meant to bring.  They are stuck, it seems, on a “confession cycle,” forever spinning their wheels, confessing the same sin over and over and over and over again, never knowing victory.  Is that how life is supposed to be?    As a Christian, I can’t believe it is.   I cannot believe Jesus died on a cross and sent us the Holy Spirit just so that I could struggle forever with the same sin until I die or he returns.

Sure we will have struggles. Sure we will be tempted and sure there will be times we fall.   But for the person who is maturing in their faith shouldn’t there be more victories than defeats?  Shouldn’t the spiritual fruit of self-control (Gal. 5:23) become more and more evident in our lives?    Is it true that if we walk by the Spirit we will not gratify the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16), or not?    Is it true that the reason Jesus came to live and die was to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), or not?

I am convinced the answer to all of those questions is YES.   Victory over the chains that have us enslaved is possible for every one of us!  God not only desires to set you free, but He has the power to do it.   But how?  How can you get off the Confession Cycle and start walking in victory over habitual sin?   James 5:16 directs us to at least two things:

1. Proper Confession.   James says that our confession is to lead to our healing (Confess your sins to one another…that you may be healed).   The word “healed” is the same word used through scripture for “cure” or “to make whole” or “to bring about one’s salvation.”   If we are not experiencing this through our confession it is not because God’s word has failed but because we are not properly confessing!     2 Cor. 7:10 reads,

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

If you are stuck on the confession cycle it may be because you have not yet experienced godly sorrow over your sin.  We have not yet seen that our sin is first and foremost an affront against a holy God.  We have not cried out like David, “Against You, and You only, have I sinned!”  (Psalm 51:4).   Rather, we are more concerned about our circumstances and the trouble our sin is causing our personal lives.

When we see our sin through God’s eyes we are filled with godly sorrow and our confession will lead to our healing.   Godly sorrow is not the same as feeling shame or guilt.   It’s a sense of being undone (Isa. 6:1-5). It is calling out with Paul, “Wretched man that I am, who will save me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24).   The answer comes no sooner than the confession rises from our heart:  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (7:25).

2. Righteous Prayer. The remainder of this verse on confession is often left out, yet it’s critical if you want to find healing.   James says that the prayers of a righteous person are powerful and effective.   James seems to expect that our confessions should involve someone who is solid in their faith and can point them in the right direction.  Who are you confessing to?  Is it someone you know to be righteous?  Are they striving to be holy?  Do they desire to be like Christ in all they say, do and think?  Has he or she experienced victory over sin?

12 Step programs are great in that they can connect you with a sponsor – a mentor of sorts – who can guide you through the steps, and who has some level of sobriety themselves.   While this is good, it is not best.   If you find yourself riding a  confession cycle I would encourage you to find a righteous person to walk beside you, who can pray for you and with you, and who will lead you to the only true source of lasting victory over sin: Jesus Christ.

The Confession Cycle is an exhausting, defeat-riddled existence to live.    It is not the life God has in mind for you.   He has given you His Spirit.   The same power that raised Christ from the grave is at work in you who believe (Eph. 1:19-20)!

Dear reader, God has so much more in store for His children than a defeated existence where we continually confess the same things over and over again.    Examine whether you are confessing properly and whether or not you have the right person or people around you who can pray in such a way the heavens open and all hell breaks loose!

Praying with and for you,

Chad

Tell Her Everything, Then Tell Her Nothing

This post is a follow-up to the last one which asked “Are you REALLY “struggling” against Habitual Sin?”    Recent events have convinced me that it’s time to be real about the sins that are killing us and hurting others, and my wife and I pray these posts will encourage you, challenge you, and give you hope for a future in Christ, and therefore in freedom.   

When you are ready to confess your sins to your spouse there are two things you need to know and do.

1.  Tell her everything 

Before we get to the specifics let me address a common question asked:   Do I have to tell her?   Yes.   You have been using your body in ways that suggest it is your own, and it is not.   If you are a Christian, your body belongs to God (1 Cor. 6:19-20) and if you are married, it additionally belongs to your spouse (1 Cor. 7:4).   When you are involved in sexual sin, whether online or otherwise, you are both desecrating the temple in which God dwells (your body) and depriving your spouse of a right that belongs solely to him or her.    So yes, you must tell your spouse, and you must tell her everything.

Everything inside of you will want to minimize.   Don’t do this.   You will be tempted to scale back what you have actually done.   And you will do this under the delusion that you are being noble and kind, sparing your fragile wife from pain she can not handle.  

Don’t do that.  It’s not for you to decide what your wife can handle.  You forfeited that right when you started looking at things you shouldn’t be looking at, and touching things you shouldn’t be touching.

This means instead of telling her you simply look at porn “every now and then” you tell her the truth, which is more like, “I look at it every chance I get, and when I’m not, I am thinking about when I can.”   Instead of telling her that you have been with one woman but only briefly and it meant nothing, you tell her the truth, which is more like, “I’ve been with 9, and I had feelings for one.”

My wife puts it this way:

When you first reveal your sin, it’s like cutting her heart with a knife.  It’s incredibly painful.   During this time you (the betrayed spouse) wonder if you can ever trust again.   When later, it is discovered that there is more involved, that you only got part of the story, it’s like taking that wound and pouring salt into it, and the question of whether or not I can ever trust again is magnified 100 fold.

And be sure of this, the whole truth will come out.   Jesus promised this…

Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.  Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops (Luke 12:2-3)

I have proven this to be true countless times!  So tell your spouse everything.  To stop short here only defrauds the entire process, making a sham of repentance and thus closing off the power of God to restore what your sin has broken.

2. Tell her nothing

After you have confessed everything, offer no excuse.   Do not attempt to rationalize what you have done, minimize it, or justify it.   You have basically three responses from now on:

I’m so very sorry, and, You’re right, and, I love you.

sorry

Whether or not you are truly broken over your sin will be evident by how willing you are to bear the pain, the shock, the hurt-filled and angry words that your spouse is about to unload on you, not just after the initial confession but for days, weeks, months and perhaps years to come.   Yes, it gets better, but how better it gets and how quickly it gets there is determined in large part by whether you are experiencing godly sorrow over your sin or just worldly sorrow (see 2 Cor. 7:10).  Godly sorrow reckons with the fact that your sin has been against both your wife AND God, and you are desperate to make amends because you desire nothing more than to be in fellowship with Christ.   As such, you will look like Christ who bore your sins without uttering a word, without defending himself, but became a meek and lowly lamb.    This is the posture of the truly repentant.   If you are merely worldly sorrowful, then you are really only sorry that you have been found out and that which you truly love (your sin) cannot be indulged in any longer (at least not for now). You can be assured that you will be back in the pig sty before long.

How do you know if you have godly sorrow vs. worldly sorrow?   It’s easy:  You won’t care what becomes of your life from here on out, so long as you have Jesus.   You won’t care if the entire world crumbles around you, that you have to give up your plans for the future, or that you have to even die for your sins, so long as you can be made righteous.  You will want so badly to bear your wife’s pain and suffering that you will take any abuse that might come your way, no matter how she might respond (yes, even if she responds in kind in order to “get even”), because you own the fact that your sins have brought this upon your house, and now you must make restitution.

So you tell her nothing, apart from I’m sorry, I love you, you are right, and so on.

Do these 2 things.  And may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Stay tuned for how to win back his/her trust.

Is It Well With Your Soul?

I am reading a book on John Wesley’s theology for today titled, The New Creation, by Theodore Runyon.   A passage about assurance, and Wesley’s quest of it, spoke to me because it named what I think was once a cancer in my own heart not very long ago. 

In the years leading up to Wesley’s conversion experience, where his “heart was strangely warmed” and he knew that Christ had died for him, for even him, he was convinced that there must be some inner witness of the Spirit with his spirit that he was a child of God.  Yet he didn’t posses it.  

Image

August Spangenberg, a Moravian leader, posed questions to Wesley which unsettled him.   Questions like, “Have you the witness within yourself?  Does the Spirit of God bear witness with your spirit that you are a child of God?”   Wesley reports,

I was surprised, and knew not what to answer. He observed it, and asked, “Do you know Jesus Christ?”  I paused, and said, “I know he is the Savior of the world.”  “True,” he replied, “but do you know he has saved you?”  I answered, “I hope he has died to save me.”  He only added, “Do you know yourself?”  I said, “I do.”  But I fear they were vain words.  

I identify with the father of Methodism in these words above.   I recall preaching and speaking of Jesus being the Savior of the world, and believing it to be true, yet not truly laying hold of this for myself.   The cross was good news for my listeners but I did not know it’s power in my own spirit.  

How difficult it is to lead anyone where you yourself have not been.  

It is so easy to get swept up into the tidal wave of causes, of programs, of things that in the end are nothing but works and in the doing of all this stuff we gain a false sense of assurance that we are children of God.   As Jesus said, we should have the one but not neglect the other.  We ought to be concerned with our neighbor but this ought to arise out of a deep love of God.   Holiness, what Wesley defined as a “recovery of the image of God, a renewal of soul after his likeness,” must become the heart’s cry of us all, particularly those of us who bear the name “pastor.”  

I have great respect for Wesley because he saw the deficiency in his own heart and was honest enough to confess it, and repent.   On May 24, 1738, he found that assurance he so desperately desired and as a result the world was turned upside down through the preaching of a man who laid hold of God, convinced that God had laid hold of him.  

So I ask you, as I ask myself:

Do you know Jesus Christ died for you?  Do you know that Jesus shed his blood for the forgiveness of your sins?   Does the Spirit of God, the same Spirit that rose Christ from the dead, bear witness with your spirit that you are a child of God? 

Lord, may Your grace and mercy give us no rest until we can say with assurance, Yes!  It is well with my soul!