As a kid I, L to the O to the V to the E to the D Dodgeball! Yes a skinny white girl loved that game. What I loved most was the thrill of pegging people with the ball and getting them out. (Now if my first statement didn’t shock you, that probably did. :) And to be honest, I wasn’t great at it and I was lucky to hit another kid once in a game. But I did find something exhilarating about knowing I took someone out. And as an adult, I struggle with having that same feeling. But I’m no longer doing it in the game of dodgeball, I’m doing it in my mind or in a discussion with friends. Hello my name is Alexis Sparks and I struggle with judging others. WHEW! Seriously though, I can’t make this blog about confession and not confess something. :)
It really is unfortunate that I do this and the sad thing is I know I’m not alone. How do I know this? Because I’ve found other friends to do this with, but this isn’t about them or my considering it a “good time” doing it with them. Instead, this is about how confession to God and to others really squelches your desire to size people up, judge others, or whatever you want to call it.
I don’t know what’s pulling the cart: our pride or our culture, but I know as the church we need to STOP this. Not because it’s unchristian like, but because for one it keeps us in more captivity. I’ve noticed a trend in my own life and maybe you’ve noticed the same in yours, but when I am confessing my faults, failures, struggles, shortcomings, or whatever you name it to God, then I am receiving the grace that Jesus died to give me. And when I receive that grace I then freely give it to others. That’s what Jesus meant when he told the Pharisees “those who have been forgiven much, forgive much, those who have been forgiven little, forgive little” (Luke 8:47, but seriously read the whole story). He wasn’t saying we all have different levels or amounts of sin, instead when we acknowledge our sinfulness and our desperate need for grace, then we are willing to freely offer it to others (even if the “others” have hurt you immensely. Please hear me when I say this friend: I hate that a sinful person has hurt you and I COMPLETELY feel your pain and acknowledge your pain is justified. But there really IS freedom in working through forgiving others who have hurt you. And yes, it is a process, at least it was for me. If you need a shoulder to cry on or a face to throw a ball at, I’m your friend).
When we confess our sins regularly to God it does not feel like “work” to forgive others, because you think to yourself, “hey, I suck too!” The confessing our sins to God allows us to acknowledge our need for God and the forgiveness He offers to us through Jesus. So how can we elevate ourselves above others when we realize we’ve messed up too? We will continually struggle to realize our need for God if we don’t practice confession. But please know, I struggle with this as well. No lie, a few months ago I was in a time of prayer and I thought “hey, I need to confess my sins because that’s what Christians are supposed to do” and a few seconds went by and then a minute and I thought to myself, “sheesh, I can’t think of anything I need to confess” and BOOM, the conviction settled over me. Um, let’s start with confessing my pride. :)
The more I confessed my sin to God the more I was able to love others well. I think it was because I no longer saw myself as put together. I truly saw the faults and frailty of my own flesh and I could love others well because I was just like them. Where as un-repented sin, which keeps me inflated, and thinking more of myself than I should (very funny actually to think that ignoring my sin makes me feel better about myself).
And this leads me to my next venture: confessing our sins to one another. Some of you are probably going for the “close this tab” button right now thinking I’ve taken it one step too far. And I get it, but please keep reading. This is actually a step toward more freedom for YOU. I’m not sure why exactly this is so hard for us in the American culture. Could it be our pride? Nah!(um hello pride again). Could it be that we have a desire to present a perfect image of ourselves, um everywhere, even on the internet? Nope, that couldn’t be it. Could it be that we live in a culture where perfection is desired, so much so we edit pictures to change the way another person’s body looks so it can sell more products? Surely not.
These might all be issues within our culture, but they need to quickly find their way out of the church. In Numbers 5 God tells the people that when they wrong someone they MUST confess that to someone else and then present a restitution offering to pay for that wrong doing. He called the Israelite’s to do this so it would set them apart from the other nations/cultures. He wanted His people to do life differently. And it’s not just an Old Testament thing, the first church that is detailed in Acts shares how those believers confessed to one another and this confession helped the church thrive. They didn’t pretend they had it all together and then secretly go home and attempt (*Note the word attempt) to battle their sins alone. Even Jesus’ brother James gave us the command, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” James 5:16
This is not easy and the thought of might even be very frightful because it is being a whole new kind of vulnerable. And it’s not easy to be vulnerable when you aren’t even really sure if you like you, so why would anyone like you and then the junk side of you on top of that. I know, I get it. Hello my name is Alexis Sparks and I am recovering from seeking the approval of others. And let me explain, I’m recovering today, but tomorrow I might be struggling again. But recently I experienced this in full force and it was beautiful!
A few weeks ago I attended an event called Celebrate Recovery with a fellow believer in Christ. I was going to “be supportive”, but quickly acknowledged there are areas in my own life where I have been deceived and I am not really walking in freedom. Celebrate Recovery is a program through church’s where anyone with any hang-up, bang-up or addiction can go and do life authentically with others. They offer 12 step programs, but it is all Christ centered (I’m probably doing a horrible job explaining it, so if you want more information go to www.celebraterecovery.com). Even if you don’t have an addiction, it is a GREAT place to go. Before any one speaks they first introduce themselves and say “I’m a follower of Christ and I’m struggling with/recovering from….” This is what you would see at an AA meeting, but the difference at CR is what is said. The issues could be anger, self-loathing, need for approval, addiction of any kind, sexual abuse (recovering from that), etc. What is beautiful about this is it levels the playing field. No one is pretending, so no one feels they have to have it all together. You are free to be your messed up self because you know you are in the presence of other messed up people. CR would not be a successful program though if a bunch of messed up people who are pretending to have it all together came together once a week to listen to a messed up speaker (the only one in the room). In fact, people probably wouldn’t go at all. No, they are probably drawn and have success because they can finally be real. It’s a place where I can sit down, take a big sigh of relief and let down all my baggage like I’ve been carrying 100-pound bag through a 2 mile terminal. It feels good to finally let it all down.
CR has created that atmosphere for that to happen, but it is not happening in church’s on Sunday morning or in small groups as well around our country (I do realize some church’s are doing this very well, I do attend a church where this is something we strive for). Now I’m not encouraging you to go and share all your baggage with just anyone, unless you’re willing to be judged, criticized or even offered unsolicited advice. But to the Pastors/church leaders out there, this is something that needs to be modeled and reproduced. Even you Lifegroup leaders/mission leaders/Sunday School teachers, what ever your title is for you who lead a group of people to look more like Christ is, this is something that needs to be started in your group. And unfortunately you’re going to have to be the one who starts it.
I have a group of ladies I meet with once a week and I let it all out around them and they love me and I love them. We love each other despite our junk. It’s amazing to feel loved by those who know you aren’t perfect. Another, and even more beneficial aspect, is that when we confess our sins to one another we no longer feel the bondage of our sin. We no longer feel the ropes are tied tightly around us keeping us in our sin. No, instead we see ourselves as God described Zion in Isaiah 52 “Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for there shall no more come into you the uncircumcised and the unclean. Shake yourself from the dust and arise; be seated, O Jerusalem; loose the bonds from your neck O captive daughter of Zion.” (Isaiah 52:1-2) You are Zion and confessing your sins to fellow believers lets you see that the chains are actually not locked and they haven’t been since you accepted Christ.. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1). You are truly able to stand up, let the chains fall to the floor and walk through the cell door. Your struggle is no longer a secret, it has been brought toe the light. And when our sin hits the light it trembles. (I’m not saying you will never struggle again, but you will not feel in so much bondage to the sin, you will not feel like you are a slave to the sin).
Know that today you have the ability to either take some people out or you have the ability to run in freedom: living in the grace of God and walking in the freedom Christ provided you. It’s not easy to give some charge here, so I highly encourage you to be in prayer about this. First start with confessing, confess that you haven’t confessed in a while. Then pray what David prayed “search me and know me” (Psalm 139:1), be still to let the Holy Spirit gently bring up things you need to confess. And then pray for people you can walk authentically with; either in your small group or at a place like Celebrate Recovery. Those are two prayers God would love to honor because they allow you to draw closer to Him. Friend, God has already paved the path for you to draw close to Him. Stand up now and let the chains fall down and walk into His arms.
Some examples of confession:
- “I am having a hard time loving my husband”
- “I spanked my child out of anger”
- “I don’t want to spend time with God”
- “I find myself seeking the approval of others and I want to stop.”
- “I bought a $100 of ___________ that I really didn’t need”
- “I sometimes wonder if _____________ (alcohol/spending etc.) has control over me instead of me over it.”
- “I’m really unhappy with my life. I don’t like the plans God has for me.”
- “Sometimes when I’m at work I can spend my time doing non-work related tasks but lie and say I’m working.
These are just examples, your confession will look unique to your own situation.