Being overseas for extended periods of time, you get accustomed to being around people who speak several languages. Sometimes you even speak 2-3 languages in a single conversation. Some things just sound better in a certain language. Then when you are in an environment where there is only one language spoken, you feel restricted, even like you can not fully express yourself. If you only speak one language you probably don’t know this feeling, that’s okay but you don’t know what you are missing.
In a similar way, most believers in churches today only speak one language. They do not know the benefits of speaking the language of confession. It really is like another language, you have to learn how to do it. We usually stumble through it at first, but with time it becomes part of how we express ourselves. Let me share how I learned Confession as a Second Language.
I think my first taste of real freedom in the church meeting came when I began learning to confess. I had been a leader in church circles since I was in high school. When you are in leadership, there is a certain unwritten decorum that you must keep up. It basically portrays that you have your stuff together. You are not struggling or in sin. You are worthy of being looked up to. You, of course know this is a lie. But you convince yourself that it is necessary to keep up the façade in order to not be a stumbling block or lead others into sin. After all, they look up to you. You don’t want to let them down.
The first time I revealed my real self in a meeting was after my accident. I was in a meeting with several other believers. I was struggling with my recovery and submitting fully to Him so I was ignoring God. I had gone for several weeks without reading the word or speaking to the Lord. As I was in the meeting the Lord began to convict me, I truly wanted to repent and turn to the Lord. The conversation went something like this:
Me: Okay Lord you are right, I will get back to your Word and we will start talking more.
God: Confess this struggle with the group.
Me: Whoa! I don’t think there is any reason to go that far! We will work this out on our own Lord.
Me: Lord I have not sinned against them. Let’s just keep this between us.
God: It has and does affect them. Confess it.
Me: Yes, sir
So, I let it loose. I told them, I haven’t read my Bible. I haven’t prayed in who knows how long. I am just keeping up this appearance of a Godly leader but it is a lie. I am struggling. (I winced inside thinking I would hear gasps, I thought I would open my eyes to gaping jaws and disappointed looks) But as I looked around I saw understanding from everyone. And guess what happened, everyone else started confessing their own personal struggles. We had a beautiful time of revealing ourselves and our sin before the Lord. We testified to one another that none of us have arrived, we all still need Jesus.
And guess what else happened? The body didn’t let it end with my confession. They took it further, they prayed for me that night. They commited to pray for me over the next few weeks. They kept me accountable and checked on me to see if I was in the word, how was I living, etc. and honestly they helped me get through this rough patch in my walk. This experience helped me to understand the passage in James 5:16 “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”
One of my mentors once told me of the dangers of hidden sin. He always said “Confessed sin we can deal with, but hidden sin is so destructive because it controls us.” It controls our behavior because we are afraid we will be found out. But once you are found out, you are free. You can begin to deal with the issue or be healed instead of expending all of your energy in hiding it.
As missionaries we often have to deal with the Christian Superhero syndrome. For some reason, people think missionaries are better christians, that we do not struggle or doubt. It always makes me feel awkward, like I have been caught in a lie. After seeing how things worked out when I shared my real self, I determined to learn the language of confession. I will show the world who I really am, So that Jesus can be more glorified in me, a poor wicked sinner. I try to take every opportunity I can to glorify Christ through my confession. When I am in small groups or even speaking in larger settings, I search myself asking the Lord to reveal in me things that do not please him. If it is appropriate for the setting I will just confess it, ask people to help me. Most people no longer see me as a better Christian, just another loser saved by grace.
These were my first experiences with confession, they mostly dealt with simple things. The Lord decided to take me a bit further down this road. but I’ll save that for tomorrows post.