October 17, 2017

IM Classic: Confession

Since we’re on the subject of confession, here is a look at the subject from the personal side. Today, Chaplain Mike presents this classic iMonk post that Michael wrote in October, 2008.

Some Christians love to talk about the sins of Obama or gays or the mainstream media, but get really animated when I suggest we need to talk about our own, even if they are listed in the Bible dozens of times.

If the Gospel isn’t grabbing you by the real sins in your real life, just exactly what is the Gospel doing for you? Or you with it?

I don’t like the fact that I can give a really good talk on prayer when I rarely pray.

I don’t like it that I can read Matthew 5:23-24 and, as far as I can recall, never take a single step toward obeying it.

I don’t like that I can sin and then condemn someone else’s sin in almost the same breath.

I don’t like it that I’m convinced people need to understand me, but I take so little time to understand others.

I regret that I’ve spent so much of my life seeking to make myself happy in ways that never led to real happiness at all.

I don’t like it that I’ve accumulated so much stuff I don’t need, and I’m so reluctant to give it away.

It causes me real sorrow that I’ve said “I love you” far to little in my life, especially to the people I love the most.

I don’t like the fact that some of my students think I’m a hero, when I’ve done nothing more than be an unprofitable servant.

I hate the difference between what I know and what I do.

I hate the fact that I can use words like “radical” describing what others should do in following Jesus when I’m the first one to want to play it safe.

I don’t like that part of me that thinks everyone should listen to what I say.

I wish I could see myself as God sees me, both in my sinfulness and in the Gospel of Jesus.

I regret using so little of my life’s time, energy and resources for worship and communion with God.

I despise that part of me that always finds fault, and uses that knowledge to put myself above others.

I am embarrassed by the words I use that come so easily from the tongue but have little root in the heart.

I regret taking so few risks in the cause of living a God-filled life.

I despise the shallowness of my repentance for sin that has caused hurt and pain for others.

I don’t like that part of me that can make up an excuse, even lie, almost endlessly in the cause of avoiding the truth and its consequences.

I don’t like that I can talk of heaven in a sermon or at a funeral, but very little of me wants to go there.

I regret that I have loved my arrogant self far than I’ve loved my self humbled in Christ.

I regret that so much good advice, good teaching and good example was wasted on me.

But I am glad for the endless mercies of the Lord, and the amazing fact that those mercies extend to me, today and every day.

I am glad that Christ my substitute took this sorry life, pathetic obedience and lethargic worship and exchanged it for his perfect righteousness.

I am glad that the Holy Spirit is remaking and raising dead men- even at age 52.

I am glad that one day I will look at all these failures and regrets and they will have been transformed into the very glory of Jesus Christ himself.

I am glad that God has cast the very things I most dislike about myself into the depths of the sea and has removed them as far as the east is from the west.

I am glad that when I return in shame and embarrassment, my Father meets me running, covers me with his gladness and throws me a party in the presence of the naysayers and pharisees.

I am glad that Jesus takes these things I loathe about myself and says “It is finished. Come you good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord. Today you will be with me in paradise.”

I am glad Jesus says “Before I have called you servant, but now I will call you friend.”

I am glad Jesus says “Who condemns you? There is now no condemnation because you are in me and I am in you. If I am for you, who can be against you? Go, and sin no more.”

Comments

  1. I regret that so much of what I read in this essay sounds like my own autobiography.

  2. Wow so true! The human condition is so frustrating sometimes! That gap between who we want to be and who we are never seems stay closed. I’ve always wondered how people who don’t believe in God reconcile themselves with that fact. But thank goodness there is hope for us with Jesus! And hope that one day we will indeed, “Go and sin no more”!
    Awesome post!

  3. I agree, JeffB. One of these days I have to get around to going to confession and I could just print this off and hand it to the priest, saying, “I didn’t write this, but this is me.” (I don’t think it works that way, though.)

  4. As someone who has exhibited those sinful tendencies written about above, I must say that this should be a wake up call to all who profess the evangelical faith. I find it funny (and even absurdly sad) that so many evangelicals these days charge the banner of traditional family values, pro-life, conservative politics, anti-socialism, biblical inerrancy, etc. and yet think that God is still “cool” with them even though they commit sins of slander, pride, selfish-ambition, envy, lack of compassion to the lowly, divisiveness, greed, etc. Yes, I do take a hardline stance against homosexual practice and abortion on demand. I also, however, believe that modern evangelicals in general have totally lost it when it comes to the doctrine of harmatiology. You want to know something that will also knock your socks off? Read Galatians 5:19-21. More than half of those sins that bar one from the Kingdom of God are attitudinal sins (or as Jerry Bridges calls them “respectable sins”). You ever wonder why Jesus warned us about how many false believers on the last day will say “Lord, Lord” but will not enter the Kingdom of God?

    • So as a Christian you do not do any of those?

    • I find that most Christians I encounter have a list of “acceptable” sins and unacceptable ones. Usually the acceptable ones strangely coincide with the ones that they themselves engage in. It’s also usually an excuse to disparage some other category of people in order to feel really righteous. I know this from experience 🙂 But it still irks me when I see people doing that.

    • I was attended a fellowship dinner at a Presbyterian Church and there were some intense discussion over bad Bush was, how stupid Sarah Palin and over how Fox News is not even News (there were Democrats for sure). On a humorous note, one old southern Democrat lady said that Jesus was a Democrat because He rose a donkey and hated Publicans.

      It made me think, though. Do Christians choose their church or denomination based on their politics (conservative, liberal, etc), or does their politics grow naturally out of their faith in Christ? For many on all sides of the aisle, I believe it is probably the former. For me, it usually was.

      By God’s grace and mercy I finally realized that life does not start with one’s stance on social issues, but with the cross and resurrection. That is the meat and potatoes of the Christian life, in my opinion, and everything else is just gravy. 😉

    • Had to look that one up. It’s “hamartiology”. I stopped short, because “harmata” is “cannon” in Ukrainian (and other Slavic languages?).

  5. Jerry Bridges wrote a whole book on this subject: http://spedr.com/1ix7s
    Excellent article and gets to the heart of things just as Jesus did to the ‘religious’ of His day.

    Is it ok to reprint this as a church bulletin insert?
    JB

  6. They all apply but especially this:

    “I despise that part of me that always finds fault, and uses that knowledge to put myself above others.”

    But thank God for this:

    “I am glad that God has cast the very things I most dislike about myself into the depths of the sea and has removed them as far as the east is from the west.”

  7. It’s a strange tightrope that we’ve been called to walk. One on hand, to be brutally aware of our sinfulness and wretchedness and selfishness without letting that paralize us with despair or apathy — and on the other hand, to believe in Christ’s promise that we are indeed being transformed into His likeness and will someday judge angels, all without letting that be a cause for arrogance or vanity.
    Sometimes I just have to shut all that out and focus on getting through the day without self destructing in one way or another. And sometimes I feel the need to take a break from spiritual or theological considerations of any kind and just be a person without the weight of heaven and hell on my back. But I think that God understands that the gravity of spiritual realities can be a bit overwelming — and I think He understands that none of us are grown up enough to handle the fullness of His light and truth without some ultra-dark sunglasses and an occassional fig leaf to hide behind..

  8. I remember this post. I remember it being about me in a terrifyingly sober yet good way. I remember appreciating Michael’s courage to post publically what I only dare journal in secret. I remember being struck by the contrast of our ongoing confession of how ugly my sins can still be as a Christian and yet our ongoing confession of the grace and mercies give us by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I re-remember today that I desperately need the Holy Spirit to reconcile and live out the full spectrum of this prayer in my own life and share this Good News with others.

    May the Lord be with you Michael in your hour of need. We pray for your healing in Jesus name.

  9. I regret that most of my regrets are about how I’ve hurt myself, and far less about how I have often hurt others.

  10. I love the honesty of this post the first time around, and this time. It’s no less true with time. I often wonder if I’m the only one in our little church who has a hard time (or sometimes doesn’t) sing the lines of contemporary (shallow) worship songs that proclaim we are “fully devoted” or “pursuing only You,” etc. For me, they’re not true. I’m working on it most days, stumbling sometimes, relying on God, but not there yet. Perhaps that struggle isn’t so easy to put in a song lyric, but I wish someone would at least try.

    • I’ve always felt the same way. It’s not that I want to go around being morose, but I find it hard, when I feel so many of the “regrets” in this essay, to come to church and suddenly be asked to start clapping and singing about how everything is happy and wonderful and how devoted I am, etc. I like the fact that many liturgical services start off with confession so that by the time you get to the “happier” parts later on, you can do so having addressed your sins and your guilt and been given the chance to receive forgiveness—the happiness expressed then feels deeper and more genuine.

  11. I like this post!

    • Look! Common ground!

      We’re all broken human beings and only thru Christ can we be truly healed.

      I was listening to someone the other night, forget who, that reminded us of God’s love for us by saying that Jesus didn’t come down and tell us the truth, that “You guys are all a bunch of bums!” I think it was Fr. Benedict Groeschel, based on the tone (definitely sounds “Bronx” to me.)

  12. “Some Christians love to talk about the sins of Obama or gays or the mainstream media, but get really animated when I suggest we need to talk about our own, even if they are listed in the Bible dozens of times.”

    There’s no room for pride in salvation. Jesus came to save us, because we were screwed on our own. There’s no grounds to look down our noses at others, or use our confidence in Christ as grounds to do and speak all manner of evil against others. There also is no reason to hide our sinfulness and weakness behind masks of piety and self-righteousness. We should lead the way to the throne of grace. Instead, as Jesus chastised the Pharisees, we block others from entering in and we refuse to enter ourselves.

  13. “I regret that I have loved my arrogant self far than I’ve loved my self humbled in Christ.”

    Ouch! That one hurt.

  14. I love this post. I hear so many of my brothers and sisters in the evangelical community say ” I don’t feel like what I did was wrong.” I bought that line also until I learned that I was guilty of many sins that hurt several people and there were some I was just guilty by association. When I brought this to several brothers and sisters attention the first thing I heard was “I don’t feel like what I did was wrong.”

    I took a hold of scripture in Proverbs 28:13 He who conceals his sins does not prosper,
    but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

    The minister of our class was floored when I confessed to everything I had done. I will have to say I found mercy.

    I will have to say I am convicted more when I do sin now. I still have 2 major sins I struggle with and God has convicted me that most my sins come from gluttony and sloth.(2 of the big 7) My source of happiness is in His mercy and I wish more people could find this mercy through confession.

  15. Ethan Hval says:

    I regret that I have so proudly spouted my own opinions and criticisms without having the ears to hear what others have to say about me.

    I am glad that Christ was able to speak the truth into my life and I am able to speak the truth of God’s Word to others in a respectful way.