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My Confession About Confession

Phil Miglioratti

The http://Reimagine.Network

I have a confession to make.

My understanding of confession has been too narrow. Not what I teach from the biblical text but how I disciple Christian believers to pursue confession in their obedience to the biblical teachings.

 

DEFINITIONS - DESCRIPTIONS - DISCIPLINES

Confession is defined as a written or spoken admission of guilt in a crime (legal) or a telling of sins to God or to a priest (Merriam-Webster.com)

Confession in the Bible is “to say the same thing” and then “agree, admit, acknowledge” (Greek) and “to know” or  “to make known” (Hebrew).

A confession is simply saying the same thing about my action that God says about it. It is knowing that what I have said or done (or not done) is considered sin to God. When I confess, I am agreeing with God's assessment. I know I need to confess because the Holy Spirit has made me aware of my guilt (conviction; John 16:8). Authentic confession is stating a fact. 

 

Contrition is the emotional response of remorse for disappointing God, myself, and others.. Confession without contrition results in easy relapse to the same temptation. 

Confession for "sin" (the spiritual disease for which we need salvation) is different from the confession of "sins" (the symptoms of that disease which prove we are sinners in need of a savior). Salvation is received when we believe in the Lord Jess the Christ (John 11:25; Romans 10;9). The penalty of our sin is paid when we confess our need and belief in Jesus (Romans 10:9-10). Though forgiven, we daily struggle with the presence of the temptation to commit a sin, which is the reason we must confess our sins. We confess sins, not to obtain or preserve our salvation but to keep us holy, committed to living righteously (1 Peter 1:16). When "we acknowledge our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Unrighteousness is the result of our wrongdoing, everything not in conformity with God's will and purpose (1 John 1:9). Confession for the disciple is the spiritual discipline that keeps us striving to obey God's will so that we do not run from nor hide from God (Genesis 3:8-9). 

 

DECLARATIONS 

For many Christians, confession is limited to:

  • private conversations with God or,
  • confidential confession to a spiritual leader (pastor, priest, elder) or,
  • corporate recitation of creeds or confessional prayers with the congregation

The disciple-making process should include biblical texts and teaching on the spiritual discipline of confession so that believers understand the full purpose and meaning of the act. Believers active in a congregation have invitations to participate in the confessional mode of that tradition or their style of worship. 

 

But, I contend building mature disciples should include information about and opportunities to experience true confession in a variety of settings. Ministry leaders must be trained that "saying the same thing" about myself is appropriate in any  Spirit-led, scripture-fed setting. A fresh reading of Acts 2:42-3:1 reveals the variety of settings in which the early church connected (homes, public settings, in worship, "on their way to..."). They lived life together; it is not unreasonable to believe confession was taking place as they assembled to eat together, give praise, listen to teaching, share resources, and pray.

Is anyone among you sick?

Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 

And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up.

If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:14-16

 

James, possibly reflecting on some of those experiences, instructs us to confess our sins to each other. Not for salvation, but for healing. A straightforward directive to acknowledge our sins not only in the private conversation with our Lord but in the presence of other believers. And, not as they listened to someone making a personal confession to God during a group prayer but hearing it spoken directly to them.

 

By "saying the same thing" about a wrong choice or a disregard for God's statutes in the presence of others is to admit to and renounce a sin that has been overpowering. The sin need not be extreme. It may seem minor but it is the obedience of confessing and wanting cleansing that is vital, regardless of the severity of the sin. Confessing to another believer does not by-pass or eliminate the need to confess to God. It offers a pathway the Spirit may use to bring  the conviction that my actions require confession. Confession to another human being to which I have some accountability for my spiritual walk may actually be more effective than to share it routinely in secret with God.

 

It seems reasonable, given the directive in 1 John 1:9, that "if we confess our sins" refers not merely to God in private prayer but to others.  The text does limit the confession of sins to God alone. This gives us freedom to acknowledge our sin to God by revealing it to a person whom we trust will give us wise counsel, sharing our failure to a group that knows how to pray effective prayers (and not gossip), or even to the person we have sinned against. To confess to another person or persons is not to ask them to grant the forgiveness of salvation but to benefit from their response of wise counsel, personal forgiveness (when they were the person we sinned against), and from hearing them declare (in prayer or in reply to the person confessing) the forgiveness that comes to us from God through Christ. God hears every confession; silent in prayer or written in a journal or voiced to a small gathering or to a congregation.

 

Confession may take place whenever two or three or more have gathered in Christ's name (yielded to God's authority) in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (yielded to God's guiding and guarding). The setting may be announced as appropriate for confession.

 

I have experienced both. Being prompted to confess what I just shared privately to God in prayer, to someone who can help me take the next step of faithful obedience. Being prompted by the Spirit to bring my confession just stated to a person or group, directly to the Lord in prayer.

 

Giving permission for believers to confess in a variety of settings will open the door to persons with reticence to share in the default mode of their church or ministry. Some need help sharing authentically with God in private prayer. Small groups of trusting friends in the faith give others a safe place to share openly. Some need better explanations of public recitation to feel truly invited into the public confessional.

To reimagine confession, is to reimagine how we go about making disciples who seek to mature in their faith by being responsive to conviction when they have sinned. Discipleship is more than the study or repetition of sacred texts. It must go beyond inviting confession through corporate recitation. Believers (recent to the faith or a long-term follower) must be guided in how to respond to the leadings of the Spirit in worship (private and public), in small group  fellowship, even in counseling and conversations. "Saying the same thing" is an application of "speaking the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15). The discipleship journey must encourage reaching out for help; in small groups, to leaders, to professionals who can hear an admission of guilt (or failure, weakness, brokenness, guilt) with biblical love and wise (personal or professional) counsel. We must make disciples who are mature in their faith because they are sensitive to the prompting of the Spirit to confess sins. 

 


The one who conceals his sins will not prosper,

but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy.

Proverbs 28:13

God, examine me and know my heart;

    test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any bad thing in me.

    Lead me on the road to everlasting life.

Psalm 139:23-24

= = = = =

New thought...

Think of confession along a spectrum:

Private - - - - Personal - - - -  Professional - - - - Public

  • Private: alone with God
  • Personal - sharing with a trusted person
  • Professional - in the context of a formal counseling relationship
  • Public - with trusted cohorts (small group) or with the congregation

Always, as prompted and guided by the Holy Spirit and Holy Scripture

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Reply from Featured Contributor on Pray.Network - -

This material is biblically sound and crucial understanding for our churches and for our spiritual lives.
I was moved by it. 
Incidentally, confession of sins to others is always an element of revival. I believe it especially important in these days when we seem to spend so much time pointing fingers at those we oppose or despise.
I suspect it is too late to make additions. But you might consider describing a small group setting where someone confesses a sin and the other pray for the person. 

Dave ... Yes! ...Small Groups should be designed to include opportunities of confession.

Believers who can declare God's forgiveness based on Scripture. Ongoing, supportive relationships that will allow the act of confession to unfold as a step forward in discipleship. 

Phil



Network Creator / Coordinator said:

Reply from Featured Contributor on Pray.Network - -

This material is biblically sound and crucial understanding for our churches and for our spiritual lives.
I was moved by it. 
Incidentally, confession of sins to others is always an element of revival. I believe it especially important in these days when we seem to spend so much time pointing fingers at those we oppose or despise.
I suspect it is too late to make additions. But you might consider describing a small group setting where someone confesses a sin and the other pray for the person. 

New thought...

Phil Miglioratti

Think of confession along a spectrum:

Private - - - - Personal - - - -  Professional - - - - Public

  • Private: alone with God
  • Personal - sharing with a trusted person
  • Professional - in the context of a formal counseling relationship
  • Public - with trusted cohorts (small group) or with the congregation

Always, as prompted and guided by the Holy Spirit and Holy Scripture

Great article!  Probably could have added confession to the list of signs of an authentic Christian in the latest blog post - http://meettheneed.org/blog/2021/08/proving-christians-actually-kno...

#ItSeemsToMe… The ongoing confession of sins is not to obtain or secure our salvation.

Then what is it for?

Well it certainly isn’t to inform God of what we’ve done wrong because God is omniscient, knowing everything about us.

Instead God wants us to confess our sins because we cannot confess them (“say the same thing about them“ that God would say) without being aware we have committed a sin. We have disobeyed a command or instruction of Scripture.

So when we realize that confession of sins is more for us in our self awareness and spiritual awareness, then it becomes a ritual that is an important part of an ongoing conversation  in our relationship with God. In order to truly confess we must be convinced we have sinned, and are convicted that what we’ve done is wrong – when we do this it refreshes our relationship with God … because God cleanses us from all the unrighteousness that was president in our lives.

A REQUESTED RESPONSE TO MY ARTICLE . . .

     , Phil Miglioratti published an article entitled "My Confession About Confession". He has asked me to comment on it and post my comments on this forum. Because of the length of my comments, I decided it was best for me to write an article in response to his.
 
     As I see it, my response does not oppose what Phil has said. I agree with him that the Bible teaches that Christians should confess their sins to God and to one another. I neither oppose nor discourage these practices.
 
     However, if I am not mistaken... [CONTINUE READNG HERE>>>]

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