Confession used to be a four letter word in my dictionary. It was icky. Sin was a part of my life, but it was a part that I pushed down and pretended wasn’t there. If I was forgiven, why would I ever dwell on my sinfulness? If I kept ignoring it and just focused on doing good and trusting God, surely it would disappear.
John Green wrote in his book The Fault in Our Stars that, “Pain demands to be felt.” Well, I’m here to say that sin demands to be dealt with. Ignoring our sin does not deprive it of its effectiveness, it deprives us of the remedy.
James 5 tells us to confess our sins that we may be healed. We cannot ignore it. No amount of pushing it down, doing good, or pretending will make it go away. Facing it head on is the only way to heal.
Thankfully, we don’t have to face this process alone. We are equipped by the Holy Spirit. He convicts our hearts and prompts us to repent. Jesus is our mediator before the Father. His blood is the propitiation for our sins. Because of His sacrifice, there is no fear in confession.
But sin cannot be ignored. Confession must be a regular part of your Christian walk.
The first time I participated in any sort of formal confession, I was afraid. Previously, I prayed to confess when random sins came to mind, but I didn’t make a practice of examining my sinfulness. Intentionally setting aside time in service, joining with other believers, and confessing my shortcomings was terrifying. But it was one of the most healing things I have ever done.
Recognizing who I was, a desperately wicked sinner in need of desperate grace, seeing other believers acknowledge this and knowing that I was not alone, and seeing God pour out His mercy and love upon His people, was a magnificent experience. There is no display of love quite like it.
I realized that, while corporately confessing my sins was a beautiful expression of my faith and reliance on God, this needed to become a regular part of my Christian walk. The problem was, this passage was so foreign, I didn’t know where to begin. Here are a few of the practices that have helped me begin incorporating this into my routine:
1) I Utilized Pre-Written Prayers
This may seem counter intuitive, but using the prayers of others helped me practice forming my own. It helped me form a habit of deep examination and recognizing my sinfulness and God’s grace. Specifically, Valley of Vision prayer book was a beautiful place to begin.
2) I Started Using Prayer Beads
This helped me find a balance between praising God for who He is and what He has done, confessing my sins, and petitioning Him for my requests. If you are looking to add balance to your prayer life, I highly recommend this route. Read more on why I developed a practice of using prayer beads here.
3) I Prayed Through Scripture
I have a terrible habit of minimizing my sin. Scripture simply doesn’t allow that. Praying through passages and recognizing myself in the sinfulness was a wonderful way to get into the Biblical habit of recognizing my sin. It was also a wonderful way to not only recognize your sin, but to remind yourself that Christ’s blood is efficacious and has cleansed you. Psalm 51 is a beauty passage to start with.
Confession is a beautiful practice. It is a wonderful way to be reminded of the beauty of what Christ has done and the depth of His forgiveness. While there are seasons, namely Advent and Lent, to focus on repentance, this season of Ordinary Time is a great opportunity to start incorporating the practice of a more regular time of confession.
Begin to set aside time and begin to make a habit of regularly examining your life and acknowledging the grace of God and the sufficiency of Christ’s work over your life. But go one step further. James doesn’t just tell us to confess, He tells us to confess our sins to one another. There is a need to bring others into our life so that they can hold you accountable. The beauty of the Christian Church is acknowledgment that none of us deserve the grace we’ve been shown. It good and right that we should come alongside each other.
Recognizing and repenting of the sin in your life isn’t dwelling on the negative, it’s recognizing the true depth to which you are loved.