December 18, 2017
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Confession and Forgiveness Print E-mail
Blessed is the one whose sin is covered.

I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin. - Psalm 38:18

Confession is good for the soul and forgiveness is a spiritual transaction that prepares one to be blessed. Confession must lead to forgiveness or it lacks its fullest purpose. Forgiveness is a great gift of God that offers atonement for sin that would otherwise separate us from Him.

Confession of sin is good for the soul. We are made in God’s image; designed to exist in community. We suffer when we carry a burden alone, and the weight of sin is great. When we share the truth it is as if that weight is lifted. “I’m so relieved to get that off my chest!” someone may say.

Psychotherapy and self-help groups may take advantage of this truth and see results, though limited. For instance, a counselor may act in the role of community to share in someone’s pain. Similarly, support groups invite open confession, often with a promise that it will be received without judgment. Sincere participants feel genuine relief.

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 - 1153) said that “God removes the sin of the one who makes humble confession, and thereby the devil loses the sovereignty he had gained over the human heart.”

Forgiveness is a spiritual transaction that brings eternal freedom over the weight of sin. It closes the gap between God and man, and allows blessings to flow freely to the forgiven one. This is the reason the Apostle James wrote: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)

Consider making a spiritual discipline of confession and forgiveness so you can practice it daily. Throughout Scripture there is a consistent correlation between sin and sickness, and between forgiveness and health. Forgiveness is good for your life and your after-life.

Awareness of Sin

There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin. - Psalm 38:3

Any part of my life that diverges from the nature of God is sin. God is love and power and life. Therefore His nature is mercy and order and completion and fruitfulness. Sin on the other hand is death. Therefore its nature is condemnation and decay and failure and barrenness. These are diametrically opposed which should make our awareness of sin painfully obvious.

In fact, our shorthand version of this truth is to say that any conflict between God’s nature and the sin nature produces pain. When you identify the pain it points to the divergence. Forgiveness removes the error and reconciles the person to the nature of God.

In the spiritual realm we discover our sin through the conviction of the Holy Spirit. This may feel like a guilty conscience or a sudden insight into God’s ways. Reading the commandments and meditating on the instructions found in the Bible are great ways to increase knowledge. Immerse yourself in the Word and learn about God’s nature, then you will have a basis on which to measure your own choices, attitudes and desires.

In the emotional realm we discover our sin through negative feelings. For instance, a sense of embarrassment reveals that something may be wrong. Shame and condemnation of self or others are also diagnostic of emotional pain. Hopelessness, depression, anxiety, fear, and anger point to responses of the flesh rather than the nature of God. Also, bargaining, rationalizing or withdrawal are emotional hiding strategies that should be investigated as indicative of sin.

In the physical realm we discover our sin through actions and responses. Physical pain is hard to ignore, but investigating its source is valuable. Psalm 38 says that sin causes the flesh to be unsound and the bones to lack health. Though our bodies are wasting away, we can become aware of sin by paying attention to our symptoms.

The physical realm is also where we may experience consequences for our sin, either from our surroundings or from other people. Internally we may notice discomfort that leads to distress and disease. Wherever there is physical pain it is appropriate to consider the presence of sin.

The most important tool for becoming aware of sin is prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any sin in your life, and then listen carefully to what He reveals.

Offense Audit

How many are my iniquities and my sins? Make me know my transgression and my sin. - Job 13:23

This prayer of Job is a great way to begin an offense audit, which is an intentional and organized approach for discovering sin in your life. Use Job’s sincere request as the opening for listening prayer. After you have invited the Holy Spirit to call your sin and offenses to mind, pay attention for responses in the spiritual, emotional and physical realms as described above.

King David said in Psalm 51:3, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.” Let me remind you that this was after Nathan the Prophet brought it to his attention. If you are new to the idea of an offense audit you may find some sins are “ever before you.” These are the heavy burdens you have been carrying. Praise the Lord, this is the time for you to release them and be set free.

Once you have taken care of the obvious sins, it is time to fine tune your discovery process. There is a blessing in store for the one that consecrates himself and keeps himself pure.

Here are the categories to investigate in your offense audit:

My Sin Against God. Ask where you have strayed from His ways in your life. These sins include what you have committed against Him. Transgressions are an act of sin or disobedience, and the offense of that sin is based on how it affects God. For instance, the one who steals (transgression) has offended God by not trusting Him as provider. Similarly, the one who covets (transgression) has offended God by not being grateful for what He has provided.

Sins against God also include the things you have failed to do. Omission is as bad as commission. For instance, the one who ignores the needs of his neighbor has failed to love. He has offended God by not accurately reflecting His character. These sins are more subtle, but the Spirit can bring them to your attention if you are asking in truth.

My Sin Against Others. Ask where someone has taken up an offense against you.

These sins include transgressions you have done against someone despite your intentions. They also include offenses someone has assigned to you. The one who holds the offense is the one who defines it. First ask God to forgive you for what you have committed. Then ask the person to forgive you for offenses they hold against you.

Others’ Sin Against Me. Ask where you have taken up an offense against someone else.

If you have anger, bitterness or judgment against someone then you have an offense against him. The sin may be an act of commission, or something that they did to you. It may also be an act of omission, or something for which they were responsible that they failed to perform. The purpose of this audit is to take an account of the sin so you can choose to forgive. When you release the burden of this debt you will be set free.

Others’ Sin Against God. Ask where others have sinned against God.

This audit level is for those that are willing to act in the role of intercessor, to make confession and seek forgiveness for the sin committed by someone else. Remember what Saint Bernard of Clairvaux said about how the devil loses the sovereignty he has gained over the human heart. This is a spiritual transaction that has wide ranging effect.

Daily Discipline

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! - Psalm 51:2

David’s request in this Psalm should be ours as well: “Wash me thoroughly from my sinful nature and cleanse me from my sinful past (paraphrased).” This transformation comes through confession and forgiveness. It changes things for the better in the spiritual, emotional and physical realms. It is a gift from God beyond comparison with anything else.

What is necessary for you to make confession and forgiveness a daily spiritual discipline? My Sunday School class came up with these things. It must be simple to do, perceived as beneficial, tied to a daily routine, uninterrupted, and prioritized.

I challenge you to establish this spiritual discipline. Schedule about ten minutes per day in a time and space where you can pray and listen. Then use these sample prayers to complete the spiritual transaction of confession and forgiveness.

My sin against God: “Lord, I confess that I (list offenses) and that these offenses are sin against You. I am sorry, and ask that You forgive me from these sins. Amen.”

My sin against others: “Lord, I confess that I (list offenses) and that these offenses were done against (list others). I am sorry, and ask that You forgive me from these sins. Amen.”

Others’ sin against me: “Lord, I confess that (name) sinned against me with these offenses (list them). I choose, by my own free will, to release (name) from this debt in the past, present and future. As far as I am concerned, (name) owes me nothing in this matter any longer. Amen.”

Others’ sin against God: “Lord, I confess that (names) sinned against You with these offenses (list them). I choose to forgive them for these sins, and humbly ask that You would forgive them as well. Please do not hold the debts against them, and give them freedom from the devil by Your forgiveness and mercy. Amen.”

May you be richly blessed as you find freedom from the tyranny of the devil and sweet communion with God.

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