Therefore, confess your sins to one another,
and pray for one another so that you may be healed.
The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
We’ve come to the set of disciplines that I have been dreading—the corporate disciplines. These are disciplines that involve other people. Not that the discipline of service didn’t involve other people, but that’s different. This is more about fellowship and sharing your life with other believers. These are disciplines that I find hard or overwhelming to practice.
Take the spiritual discipline of confession for instance.
While the act of confession can remain between just you and God, for only God can forgive your sins, we are also advised to confess our sins to each other. James, the brother of Jesus, in his letter to his fellow Israelites, wrote that we are to confess our sins and pray for each other so that we can receive healing.
I think that this requires a lot of trust. It usually takes me awhile to get to a place in a friendship where I feel comfortable enough to trust a person that much. That is why I find this discipline so difficult.
Oh but how necessary confession is!
1 John 1:9 says that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” It is through confession that we find forgiveness. “Though [our] sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow.” Isaiah 1:18
In Proverbs 28:13 we are told that “he who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.” Through confession we find compassion. Note that we must not just confess our sins but also forsake them. In other words, we must repent our our sins. We must turn away from them and be holy.
In his book Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster says that there are three characteristics of a good confession:
- An examination of conscience. We must invite God in to reveal our sin to us. “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.” Jeremiah 17:9-10
- Sorrow. We must have “an abhorrence at having committed the sin, a deep regret at having offended the heart of God.”1 “For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin” Psalm 38:18
- A determination to avoid sin. We should yearn to be holy and live holy. “I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean…” Leviticus 11:44
Confession requires honesty and transparency. I have difficultly being transparent but confession leads to change and I desire change. How about you?
What are your needs when it comes to the discipline of confession?
Have you ever experiences the healing that comes from confession and prayer?
1. Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline (New York: HarperOne, 1998.) p. 152.