Tag Archives: freedom

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.

 

Confession

 

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.


True freedom in worship

The phrase “freedom in worship” can mean something different to each of us.  Some people are afraid to express themselves to God in worship, both privately and publicly.  Some denominations jokingly refer to themselves as “the frozen chosen.”  Some people look down on liturgical style churches as being stuck in ritual and tradition, even if it’s meaningful to them.  Others look at charismatic styles of worship and think it’s out of control and too emotional.  But the idea of freedom in worship needs to allow for true freedom:  to worship and spirit and in truth, in whatever style you feel comfortable.

My college President, Dr. Mark Rutland told this story in a chapel service.  He was a guest speaker at a charismatic church, and at this church the pastors all sat on the stage for everyone to look at them.  During the greeting time, a woman approached Dr. Rutland and said “you aren’t dancing.”  He was confused and taken aback.  She continued to tell him that in this church, they dance.  And if he’s not dancing then it shows them he’s not “one of them.”  (cue the song “Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats:  “’Cause your friends don’t dance and if they don’t dance, well they’re no friends of mine.”)

Dr. Rutland then told the woman, “well even if I wanted to dance, now I can’t.”  She didn’t understand, so he continued.  “Now if I dance it will be to please you, and not God.”

A lot of times, people’s idea of “free to worship” means do exactly what we do or else you’re not really worshipping.

I’ve heard many charismatic worship leaders encourage the crowd to be free by lifting their hands, jumping up and down, dancing or shouting.  I’ve also seen more subdued churches where that kind of worship style is frowned upon.  They will joke about “we’re not that kind of church.”  They may even specifically state that in this church, we clap or raise our hands if we feel like it, but “we don’t get crazy.”  We have little subtle ways to criticize other styles of worship that we don’t prefer.

Churches need to be a place of freedom to worship in spirit and truth, being genuine to our personality, mood or an encounter we might be having with God.  That could mean any variety of worship styles, even all within the same service:  sitting quietly, kneeling, journaling, dancing, clapping, jumping up and down, looking at visual reminders like icons, statues or paintings.  You might walk into a service desperate for God and going through a rough time and just want to sit or kneel with your eyes closed and let God’s presence wash over you.  Other times, you might be excited and full of joy and want to jump up and down and shout to God.

In genuine Christian community, we should be free to express ourselves in worship to God no matter what the style.  And shame on leaders who make people feel embarrassed to worship God the way they feel comfortable.  Of course, there needs to be order and it shouldn’t be a distraction.  You may want to find a place to sit that doesn’t distract or interfere with others around you.  Anyone who’s ever attended a charismatic church knows to avoid the people who swing their arms like they’re in the mosh pit, or to place the flag wavers in the corner or the back to not be distracting. 

But ultimately, we should not be hindered in our worship; we should be truly free.  Are we trying to please man?  Or God?


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