Tag Archives: confession

The Freedom of Confession

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

–1 John 1:9

“The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works.”

–St. Augustine

Call it a cultural thing, or societal, generational or even part of the natural human condition.  But people generally don’t like admitting they’ve done anything wrong.  Usually confessions are actually celebrating bad behavior such as in a made-for-TV movie or a “tell-all” book.  However, there is great power and freedom in confessing your guilt and admitting your need for forgiveness.

The mother of a murdered child forgiving the man that pulled the trigger.

A pastor stepping down from his position and stepping up to admit his need for counseling.

A parent asking a child for forgiveness for wrong doing.

Being the first to make contact after years of not speaking to someone.




When it comes to our spiritual life, the Bible says that if we confess our sins before God he forgives us.  He is a just God that demands holiness yet we don’t have to fear confessing our sins before a holy God.  John 3:17 tells us:

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Confessing sin frees us from guilt, from shame and from the trap of counting rights and wrongs and hoping the good outweighs the bad.  The Bible tells us not only to confess to God, but also “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other.” (James 5:16)

Every week at my church, we read a confession together out loud.  I think this is one of the most important and powerful aspects of our weekly worship.  Sometimes as I’m praying the words displayed on the screen I wish that skeptics and people burned by church would be there to witness it.  We confess that we don’t show the love of Christ to people like we should, that we judge people or treat them unfairly, that we let our anger or bitterness get the best of us, and other things that are openly admitting we’re fail as followers of Christ and as the Church.

People usually say they stay away from church because of hypocrites who don’t practice what they preach or have a “holier than thou” judgmental attitude toward others.  I wish those people would hear the Church confess these things and see humble people admitting they fall short but strive to do better with God’s grace.  Now imagine we had a humble spirit and confessed to people in our lives that way.  Imagine the impact it might have on people.

Confession frees you from guilt, builds accountability with close friends and family and can even be a powerful witness tool to share the Gospel.


Get Real – Sin is messy

Remember the pastor who had to plan out how to not give me a fake hug?   Early on in the church plant, he started a weekly discipleship and accountability meeting with the staff.  That sounds great doesn’t it?  That’s definitely what church leaders should be doing.  So in our first session, he says we need to confess our sins to each other and hold each other accountable.  So around the room we go, each sharing about lust, anger issues, marital problems, and other sins we were dealing with.  He, of course, went last.  At this point, you may realize that this was a fishing expedition to find out the dirt on his staff and what skeletons are hiding in our closets, with no intention of sharing something real of his own.  You would be right.  So for his turn, he sat up straight and tall and confessed to us:  “I just don’t spend enough time thinking about Jesus.”


I’ve sat in countless services where a pastor has attempted to relate to the congregation by revealing some flaw or struggle or sin so they can appear to be real and not sitting in an ivory tower.  And some of them are genuine and transparent.  Others, not so much.  I heard one pastor talk about his addiction to diet coke.  Wow, someone call Dr. Drew and get this guy in rehab.  You’ll hear a pastor share a cute little story about a disagreement with their spouse that is the equivalent of a tickle fight, so that we can know their marriage isn’t perfect.

The Bible is full of stories that are messy and full of sin.  It doesn’t hide anyone’s faults.  Great leaders who were used for God’s purpose fell victim to horrible moral failures.  There’s a long list of people who would never pass the interviews of our Pastoral Search Committees today.  I think one of the reasons for many devastating moral failures is that too many pastors are afraid to be honest about their struggles with anyone.  And congregations expect their leaders to be perfect and hold them to a high standard, and forget they are human.

Pastors often don’t know who to talk to.  If they open up too much, people will judge them and think they’re not holy enough.  If they don’t share enough, they’re out of touch.  People need to lift up and encourage their pastors and make them feel support.  Deacons and elders and other leaders should be able to hear the confessions of their pastor and be a strong support system, instead of using it against them.  We need to build an environment of grace, where anyone can share their struggles and receive love, encouragement, forgiveness and grace in return.

It’s not just pastors.  Christians have battled this syndrome forever:  wearing a mask to appear one way to others, while hiding so many scars.  Yet we tell people, especially non-Christians, that God accepts us for who we are, and we’re all just broken people who are in need of God’s grace.  The more we hide our struggles, we’re left alone to feel guilty and continue down the path of temptation.  Confession frees us, gets the sin out in the open, allows others we trust to pray for us and give us accountability.

We’re not going to start standing up at the church pot luck and announce our worst sins to everyone.  But we do need to find trusted brothers and sisters in Christ that we can share with.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”  James 5:16





It’s time to get real

When MTV launched the first of the modern reality shows of its kind in 1992, each episode began with the following introduction:

“This is the true story… of eight strangers… picked to live in a house…work together and have their lives taped… to find out what happens… when people stop being polite… and start getting real…The Real World”

Television has since become saturated with sleezy and trashy reality shows, and many are now scripted and full of “cast members” looking for their big break in entertainment.  But those early episodes of The Real World were pretty authentic.

Unfortunately in the Church, we’re all fake.  I’m fake, you’re a phony and just about everyone you meet in church is putting up a front.  We don’t want people to know what is really going on with us.  Many of us have gotten up the nerve to share something in the past, and the person on the receiving end has not been faithful with it.  It’s turned into gossip, or judgment, or ridicule.  It’s important to be careful with whom we share our personal details.  Someone should earn that trust.  It can be risky to open up and share with someone.  I normally test it by sharing something smaller and less significant and see how they handle it.

In order to have genuine Christian community, it’s important to be yourself.  That doesn’t mean airing all your dirty laundry the first service you visit a church, or unload all of your problems on people when you meet them.  But you can be yourself, be comfortable and confident in who you are, and give people a chance to get to know you.  And if you’re not interested in hanging out with someone, don’t lie and tell them “we should get together sometime.”  Just be polite, be Christ-like to everyone, and focus on being friends with those you really get along with.  But there’s no need to be fake with people.

It’s time for the Church to see what happens when we look in the mirror at the mask we’re hiding behind, take it off and start getting real.  We need to stop playing church and start taking discipleship seriously.  We need to stop gossiping about others’ sins and start praying for them.  We need to find someone we trust to help keep us accountable.  Someone who can both encourage us, and also call us out when we’re being fake.  We don’t need to stop being polite…but definitely need to start getting real.

For more posts in the series “Get Real: Authenticity” click the catagory on the right sidebar.

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