James 5: 13-18
Step 4: I have wronged and hurt others by my actions and words; I will commit to seek forgiveness and reconciliation.
What is Confession? It is the event of responding to the Gospel's message, then acknowledging our faith and recovery by asking those we have offended for forgiveness. This can even be done publicly with discernment and honoring of confidentiality. We must, for our benefit and the continual healing of our relationships with others and ourselves, realize our wrongs. I have wronged and hurt others by my actions and words; I will commit to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. As this passage so eloquently states, this starts with our mind, then our prayers and our surrender to God, who is our Higher Power.
We have to realize we cannot change the wrongs of our past. What's done is done. But we can seek healing and some degree of restoration. Some relationships can't be healed, but they and we can move on in a better way. In so doing, we will have greater joy, peace, patience, and healing!
Our confession becomes a continual process where we conform our lives to His Way so our faith applies to our lives and our battle with sin and dependency. This means we come to the grace, forgiveness, and authority of Christ; because of Him, we keep submitting by the application of His precepts to our lives that results in maturity and spiritual growth that fuel our recovery. This is a "grace" in that we receive the ability from Christ, and a "discipline" in that it requires the commitment on our part to own up to and acknowledge the sins that show our deep, hurtful flaws and faults. Thus, we also continue to lead a life that confesses wrongdoings and is accountable.
This means we change our minds and ways so we are souls at rest in Him, and so our motives, values, goals, aspirations, and plans are about seeking Christ's Lordship and standing firm in Him, not seeking our own personal agenda. Repentance is done before God; confession is done before God, then others, and also by having others hold us accountable to our faith. Why can't I just confess to God? Because you will leave a path of devastation without help and healing for those you have hurt. A real Christian would never do that! This also helps us learn humbleness and the release of our pride; that opens the floodgates of healing and recovery!
The distinction between confession and repentance is that confession is taking our repentance before God and telling someone besides God (of course you go to Him first and foremost!) to hold us accountable and help in restoring.
What happens when we do not confess?
The waywardness of our sinful nature will resume and take control; this allows us, as a "Christian," to go back to the bottle or the smoke or the extra piece of cake, or… So such things as peace, joy, and contentment will become lost, and bitterness, anger, and withdrawal will engage us to act the opposite of God's call! When we do not confess, we are not doing what is right; in fact, we are even fighting against God and our recovery (Matt. 4:17; 27:3; John 10:10; 2 Cor. 7:10-11). Confession helps us recognize the magnitude of what we have done. This is liberation and frees us; it is not pretense, bondage, or oppression!
Remember, His Way is better than yours! You do not need the bottle or the smoke or the extra piece of pie, you just need Him! Our recovery is enabled and strengthened by our communication and encounter with our loving, living Lord! Prayer is a call, not to bend our knees, but to bend our heart, and for this call, we need to know the veracity and importance of it (2 Peter 1: 1-4).
So, what can I do? Do not laugh at sin or your dependency or dysfunction, or rationalize or minimize it; rather, guard against it. This is where our confession in Christ and being held accountable helps us stay focused, grow, and be the person who is authentic in the faith. Thus, we must allow Christ's conviction and our accountably to others to assess who we are and who we ought to be. If we are in a self-indulgent life-style, with the desire to live and do as we please, we are headed back to trouble and for a life that is sad and pathetic. We may be Christians, sealed by His Grace, but do we serve Him as we "run" our personal lives? God wants us to "hear this word," not bow to our pleasure-seeking mindsets, so our personal aspirations of control are surrendered to Him, allowing His Lordship to be manifested in all parts of our lives (Isaiah 28:7-8; Amos 4:1).
Prior to beginning this step, seek out some same-gender people who are more mature and/or further in their walk with Christ than you, and ask them to hold you accountable (if you think there are none, you have pride, or fear, or anger, or perhaps the desire to stay in your sins clouding you, because even Billy Graham has such people in his life!). Perhaps your counselor, pastor or qualified mentor will suffice. We have many resources on our Small Groups Channel. Also, as in all these disciplines, be prepared to take "baby steps."
This step is also a picture of hope with a call to trust in Christ as LORD. He is our confidence and conviction over all, including our daily struggles of life. When we trust Him, we have His help and we are on our way to glory. It is a call to recognize who Jesus is and what He has done so we can be impacted by faith and be an impact for Him.
- What is a picture of hope that motivates you? How does the "world to come" give you hope?
- How do you feel that you have wronged and hurt others by your actions and words?
- How do you feel about this step to seek forgiveness and reconciliation?
- Why is it scary? What do you fear? Why do you not want to do it?
- How will this step help you recover? How will it help those who you have hurt?
- How does prayer go with forgiveness and reconciliation?
- How does the refusal to be responsible with our faith counteract our recovery?
- What is the cost to your recovery as well as the Kingdom of God when we refuse to confess?
- How much of your life is under Christ's domain and control? Where do you fail in your judgments and decisions and how can you improve?
- When and how will you commit to seeking forgiveness and reconciliation?
- How will confession break these barriers and help you recover? What do you need to do? To whom?
- Write out a list and commit to doing so soon (you may write it out in two columns, first with the names and second the offence. Just like the TV show Earl). This is to receive God's forgiveness before we can move to step 8 and seek the forgiveness of others.
Mediate on these passages for the next week or more: 2 Samuel 11; John 14:16-17, 26; 16:8-13; 1 John 1:9
The Serenity Prayer
GOD, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living ONE DAY AT A TIME; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace. Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen (Reinhold Neibuhr-1926)
© 1990, 2006, 2008, Dr. Richard J. Krejcir, Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org/