When I was in my twenties, I approached a couple friends from church and asked if they were interested in meeting together as a small group. I told them I was interested in being real with each other about life, sharing challenges and praying for each other. The first time we met, one of the guys said, “Fred, I’m really glad you suggested meeting to confess our sins to each other.” The other guy said, “Me too. A group for confession is a great idea.” I said, “Confession??? Did I say confession? I don’t remember saying anything about confessing our sins to each other.” But apparently, I had. And that’s what we did. Every week we met, we confessed our sins to each other and prayed for each other. The strange thing is, we never ran out of things to say! But we did experience the grace of Christ and the transforming work of the Spirit in our lives in big and small ways.
As of February 26, we have entered the season of Lent, a season about six weeks long leading up to East-er. Lent is traditionally a time for Christians to prepare spiritually to remember Christ’s death and celebrate his resurrection. Many Christians set aside Lent as a season of repentance, an invitation to recognize our need for for-giveness and all God has done for us in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
If you’re reading this issue of the Messenger, you are probably aware that you fall short of God’s moral standards and you are grateful for God’s gift of forgiveness in Christ. The sad truth is that despite our best efforts as Christians, and despite the real, transforming work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we still choose to disobey God in various ways until our dying days. Most of us, though, don’t like to admit the ways we sin. We may be embarrassed or ashamed, or we think we should be past that pattern of sin by now–so we avoid admitting our sin and weakness to others, to God and to ourselves. And yet here is the gift I stumbled upon in that confession group years ago.
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we con-fess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9-11)
“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 5:16-17
Notice the promise when we confess our sins to God; He forgives our sins AND cleanses us from unrighteousness, meaning he works to change our ways. When we confess to one another and pray for one another, we let the light into the dark places of our lives and invite the fresh wind of the Holy Spirit to blow in. I’m not suggesting anyone broadcast their sins and failures to the whole world or even to the whole church. I am suggesting making confession a regular part of your prayer life. And I also encourage you to take steps to try out mutual co-fession with a trusted brother or sister in Christ and praying for each other. Repentance is a gift that restores your intimacy with God and invites the transforming work of the Holy Spirit into your life.