If you haven’t read my previous blog posts about my journey in discipline this year, I would recommend starting by reading my introductory blog here, as well as my other update blogs which you can find listed here.
This past month’s Celebration of Discipline chapter was over the topic of confession, and for the first time in this challenge I encountered a discipline I had already had a major life-changing experience with. I highly value confession because it has been one of the most impactful disciplines I’ve practiced over the years. I’m so excited to share how it has marked my personal walk with Jesus with you today.
About two and a half years ago, I had just gone through quite a few major changes in my life, where I had moved cities and consequently church communities. I was sad, lonely, and had let my guard down allowing various sins into my life. Though I was a follower of Jesus, and had been for years, I felt distant from God and stuck in the muck that I had willingly chosen. This quote perfectly sums up how I had felt at the time:
“Confession is a difficult Discipline for us because we all too often view the believing community as a fellowship of saints before we see it as a fellowship of sinners. We feel that everyone else has advanced so far into holiness that we are isolated and alone in our sin. We cannot bear to reveal our failures and shortcomings to others. We imagine that we are the only ones who have not stepped onto the high road to heaven. Therefore, we hide ourselves from one another and live in veiled lies and hypocrisy.” (Celebration of Discipline, p.145)
I felt so isolated and full of shame that I didn’t want to bring my sin into the light. I would feel broken and half-heartedly confess before God, hoping that I wouldn’t continue to walk in the same sin that held me captive, willing myself to “do better”, but soon after these confessions I would walk right back into the same sins again and again, each time seemingly falling deeper and deeper into this bog that held me down.
In this season, there is one major lesson that I learned: I cannot heal myself; God alone can bring healing to my brokenness. There was no amount of trying not to sin that would keep me from eventually choosing sin again. I needed him and him alone to come and change me from the inside. And in his grace and immense, undeserved love for me, he did.
All of us have a story of healing from our own brokenness and salvation if we are followers of Jesus, and each of our stories involves confession. We start our journeys with God confessing our sin and need for his saving grace, and we continue to confess our sins as we work out our own salvations (Philippians 2:12). This confession can look different for everybody, but I felt in this particular point in my walk with God that he was directing me to set aside my pride and fear of rejection, and find a few dependable believers to confess my sin to.
This step of obedience for me was in no way easy, but looking back this choice that I made was the best possible thing that I could have done. I am so thankful that God gave me the grace to push through the discomfort to experience the fullness of healing that he wanted to give me.
There is so much more that I could talk about regarding the repercussions from this one time of confession, like how it opened the floor to let others walk into freedom with me and confess their own sin, or how it deepened the bonds quickly in my new community. Mostly, however, I just want to encourage you to step into practicing this discipline of confession if it’s not already a part of your life. Though it’s painful and uncomfortable for a time, the joy and freedom that comes from confession will transform your life if you allow it to.
Walking in Confession
If this discipline of confession is a newer concept for you, you might be wondering practically how to operate in it in a healthy way. As always, Foster goes into much more detail than I will here in Celebration of Discipline, but I’ll share a few of the things that stuck out to me below.
While I don’t believe there is any specific formula to the perfect confession – in my mind it is more about the position of your heart – Foster does give a helpful framework for what a confession should contain.
The first component is “an examination of conscience” (p.151). This is the willingness to open ourselves to God and let him reveal any areas where we’re in need of his healing. If there is no willingness in our hearts to let God correct us, we won’t be able to experience the healing that comes from this confession.
The second component is sorrow (p.152). This is a deep regret that we’ve offended our Heavenly Father. Sorrow is what shows that we are serious about the confession.
The last component is “a determination to avoid sin” (p.153). We have to be resolved to leave our former sin behind, otherwise we’ll go right back to our sin. “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly” (Proverbs 26:11).
Besides this framework that Foster gives us, he also shares a few tips that I found to be very helpful including who to confess to, and how to react when others confess to you. The point that stood out me the most, however, is that when you’re walking into confession, you should be prepared to deal with and take responsibility for definite sins. Foster writes, “A generalized confession may save us from humiliation and shame, but it will not ignite inner healing” (p.151). I can personally attest that this is true – any time I’ve held back details within confession in an attempt to protect myself or my reputation, I’ve come away no different. When I’ve walked in complete openness, on the other hand, shining light on all of my shortcomings, I’ve experienced true life change and healing.
Confession starts from a place of sorrow, but should end in joy. Because of the beautiful Gospel we get to confess our sins and receive full forgiveness for whatever we’ve done, and God’s promise is that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Only from that place of knowing the depth of God’s forgiveness can we truly walk in the fullness of life and joy that we have as followers of Jesus.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. As with every other discipline I have learned about this year, I have barely scratched the surface on the discipline of confession, so I’d highly recommend reading Celebration of Discipline yourself, and seeing what stands out to you. And whether you’ve been participating in this challenge yourself or not, I’d love to hear how you’ve practiced the discipline of confession in the comment section below. Have a wonderful October!