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Bible Sanctification - "The Progressive Work of a Lifetime"

Confession

Step 5: "Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs."

Why Confession?

Satan has been encouraged in his special work for this time. Those who have erred in the past, and have not humbled themselves to fully confess their wrongs and make them right, will continue to move in their own spirit. They will call truth error and error truth. These workers will eventually be found on Satan's side of the controversy. (Ellen White, Manuscript 23, 1899, Source: https://m.egwwritings.org/en/book/14064.6791001#6791030
Oh! to have the approbation of high Heaven! This is what we want. Let us gain the spirit of humility. Let in a spirit of confession. Do not be so afraid that if you confess your sins, no one will have confidence in you. The apostle says, Pray one for another, and confess one to another, that ye may be healed. You want to let the spirit of humility right in here. You want to find Jesus. We want to triumph in Him here. We want a shout of the King in the camp. But we must first have Him in our midst. (Ellen White, RH 10/17/1869, par. 8, Source: https://m.egwwritings.org/en/book/821.951#961

4-Minute Confession Overview


From Isolation to Confession

I was very good at isolating myself from everyone. I lived in a world of fantasy. There was no way I would tell anyone about my secret life, and I minimized my own perception of my thoughts and behaviors.
But, in 1994 I was hitting bottom. I had sunk so low that I was in serious need of positive change in my life. It was in June that I discovered the keys to victory over my 25-year addiction (surrender to God, after realizing my own powerlessness and learning to trust God). The very next day after my first victory, I began to realize my great depravity. As a result of this introspective process, I was convicted that I needed to come out of my isolation and tell some human being my story. This was the greatest challenge of my life.
I had admitted these things to myself and to God, but the thought of disclosing my secret life to another person was excruciatingly painful. It was because of my desire for recovery and because of a great conviction from God, that I chose someone and began my confession. My words came very slowly. The whole process took hours. But this was the beginning of the end of my isolation. As I disclosed my issues, it was as if a heavy weight was being lifted from my heart. This was a vital step which helped release me from the bondage of the previous 25 years.
As I look back now, I can see that this was one of the best decisions in my life. My dirty secrets were no longer secret. I began to become accountable for my sins. By God's grace, I no longer live in isolation. And, even though my past is not forgotten, by God's amazing grace, it is forgiven. I thank God and praise Him for this ancient tradition of confession.
"If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:6-9). "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (James 5:16)
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"I Will Arise And Go..."

"And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." (Luke 15:17-20)
When I came to myself -- realizing the depth of my depravity -- I too was compelled to humble myself, through confession of my hidden life of sin. In so doing, I too was extended compassion, rather than condemnation. For me, it was the beginning of a lifetime process of coming to God as an errant son, seeking grace and healing.
God's response to me has always been that of the prodigal's father -- absolute, loving acceptance, with help and hope for tomorrow.
"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up." (James 4:10) "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:" (1 Peter 5:6)

How Are You -- Really?

"How are you? => Oh, I'm fine. How are you doing? => I'm doing good..."
That dialog often ends with each person thinking, "I'm glad they have it all together, but I'm a mess".
Have you ever wished that you could break out of that routine and just be honest about how you really feel? Do you realize that these feelings are Biblical? The Bible says,
"Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (James 5:16)
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Many Christians tend to shy away from confession. After-all, some believe in confessing our sins to a priest to receive forgiveness from God. And we know that forgiveness of sin can only come from God, which He gives freely (1 John 1:9). But does that negate James 5:16? Certainly not!
When we confess our faults to another person, we don't do it to receive Heaven's forgiveness. We do it because we truly are only as sick as our secrets. We don't do it because that other person needs to know (even though that other person often benefits from it). We do it because it is part of our healing process. It helps us to come out (and to stay out) of denial when we hear ourselves saying it. It helps to make us accountable, because, now someone else knows... Even if we stopped there, this would be powerful medicine to aid in our healing.
But James 5:16 invites us to take it a step further. When we confess our faults to a trusted Christian and that person prays for us, the power of God is unleashed on our behalf, and for our healing. And that is even more powerful medicine!
Do you participate in this ancient Christian tradition of Biblical confession? Do you have a safe person that you can trust, or trusted small group where you can practice the power of confession? If not, I encourage you to plead with God to bring you to the right person/group where your healing can be accelerated, through the power of God.

"I have sinned"

"And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry." (Luke 15:20-24)
That's my God! He doesn't even wait for our confession. He loves us so much that He runs to meet us wherever we are, no matter how low we have sunk, throwing His arms of love around us. Not only God, but "Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." (Luke 15:10).
So, why is it that we tend to be so reticent to be honest and confess to our self, to God, and to at least one other trusted human, our true condition? For me, I think the answer can be summed up in one word -- fear.
We all have a deep need to be accepted, appreciated and loved. Also, we all have a tempter -- an enemy. Satan and his evil host will do everything they can to take us down with them.
Just as the Prodigal expected to, at best, become one of his father's servants, so the enemy tells us that we will be rejected and hated if we come confessing our faults -- being honest about who we really are. But nothing could be further from the truth.
"... the devil... was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.(John 8:44)
Satan is a liar, my friend! This is the truth: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9). Not only that, but healing also comes as we confess (in a safe venue) to others. That's why the Bible says, "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (James 5:16).
Christian 12-Step, other confidential small groups, and trusted Christian friends provide that kind of safe place where we can confess and be prayed for. Praise God for small spiritual groups!

Being Honest About Me

Jesus says, "But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted." (Matthew 23:11-12)
The temptation is often to speak of our own "great works" -- trying to make ourselves look good to others -- maybe even in an attempt to make ourselves look better than others. We may even do it to try to make us feel better about ourselves. But Jesus gives us a strong warning against this kind of communication. Why? Well, I don't think He is being arbitrary. I'm convinced that He only wants the best for us.
When I try to hide the real me by focusing only on my good points (I might even exaggerate), those sins that so easily beset me gain power in my life. Worse yet, when I deny the existence of those weaknesses, there is no way that they can become strengths. It is only by facing my weaknesses and dealing with them -- in the strength of Jesus Christ -- that those weaknesses can be changed into strengths. That's why, in recovery circles, it is often said that "we are only as sick as our secrets".
When I give others a false picture of my life, it does them no good either. It could make them feel more inadequate and worthless if they think I have it all together, when they are hurting so badly as well. So what good is that?!
Why do we play these foolish games anyway? Why don't we just be honest with ourselves, with God, and with those we trust? When we do that, our weaknesses begin to loose their power over us and others will gather hope as they see the change in us. Then we can all praise God together :-)
"Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (James 5:16)

Healing Through Confession

"He that covereth his transgressions shall not prosper: But whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall obtain mercy." (Proverbs 28:13)
"Perhaps the single greatest barrier to recovery is the inability to be honest". (Steps to Serenity, page 46)
"The only reason why we do not have remission of sins that are past is that we are not willing to humble our hearts and comply with the conditions of the word of truth. Explicit instruction is given concerning this matter. Confession of sin, whether public or private, should be heartfelt and freely expressed." Ellen White (Steps to Christ, 38)
My unresolved issues isolated me from other people and from God. But, as I began to be honest with myself, God and with others, those barriers of isolation began to come down. I started to feel better about myself - my sense of shame was reduced. A common saying in 12-Step is, "We are only as sick as our secrets". There is a lot of truth to this.
Friend, if you are encumbered with a load of guilt and shame, I invite you to enter into this ancient, Christian tradition of confession. Jesus died on that cruel, old rugged cross to pay the penalty for your sins, and mine. And He is longing now to bless us with a new and better life, but He needs us to come out of denial and confess our sins.
"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:8-9)

Three Confessions

After taking an honest moral inventory of our lives, it is tempting to take on a great deal of shame, as we begin to realize how horrible our behaviors have been. If we stop here, the weight of this shame and guilt can be too much to handle. It could even push us deeper into our addictions, or worse. That's why we need to do more than just admit (confess) these things to ourselves. There are two additional Bible principles we need to consider.
Second:"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:8-9)
Wow! That is so powerful! God says that, just admitting our mistakes to Him, is enough to have forgiveness from Him. To know we are forgiven greatly reduces our shame and guilt. So, why not go ahead and enter into this ancient Christian tradition of confession? God knows you better than yourself, so what do you have to lose? The only thing I lose, when I confess, is my guilt and shame. What I gain is forgiveness and peace. By this act I also become more accountable to God. As a result, I'm less interested in doing the same bad behavior again.
Third: Not only should we admit our mistakes to ourselves and to God, we must also: "Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results" NLT(James 5:16).
By admitting my weaknesses to at least one other person, I become more accountable. I need that. I really believe that you are only as sick as your secrets. By being more open about these things, we tend to be less bound by the sins that have so easily beset us. A safe place to make these confessions is at a 12-Step meeting. This is one of the biggest reasons I like 12-Step groups. It gives me a place that I can be honest, without fear of gossip.
The control that our sick behaviors have over us can be broken through confession. Please don't let your secrets destroy your life any longer. God has a better way :-)
"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up." (James 4:10) "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:" (1 Peter 5:6)

We Are As Sick As Our Secrets

"We are as sick as our secrets. Our ego takes over control of our lives and when that happens our minds get very sick. Then we hurt people and our minds will always justify our actions. Our minds will give us rationalization and excuses that we are justified in doing what we are doing." (Audrey Shenandoah, a member of the Native American tribe: Onondaga)
"People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy." (Proverbs 28:13)
I was a master at keeping the real me concealed from most everyone who knew me. But those deep, dark secret areas of my life were eroding my mind, my soul, and likely my body as well. As long as I was unwilling to be honest about what I was really like, what I was really feeling, my life only got worse.
But as a result of a deep moral inventory, I began to admit to myself just how much garbage had collected in my soul. And, not only did I cry out to God in contrition and confession (1 John 1:9), but I also became more and more convicted that I must confess my faults to another human being (James 5:16).
This was probably the most painful time of my life. I don't know who coined the phrase "No Pain, No Gain", but I've found it true in so many areas of my life -- especially when it comes to recovery. I testify to you today that "gain" in cooperating with God has been much more than, worth the pain of surrender.
It wasn't until I began to be honest with myself, with God, and with at least one other human being that my healing began. We are promised that we will be healed as we confess our faults to one another and pray for one another (James 5:16), and I've found this to be true.
But at that time, I did not know that relief would come as a result of my confession. I only knew that I had a deep conviction that I must do it. Satan wants to hold us in bondage through our isolation. He knows that if we let our secrets out, he will begin to lose his hold on us. Friend, I invite you now to break satan's hold on you by entering into this ancient Christian tradition of confession. "It works, if you work it, and YOU ARE WORTH IT!"

Benefits of Confession

After taking an honest inventory of my life, the conviction to accept the truth and honestly confess these things was huge!

The forces of evil desire to hold us in isolation, with the deep, dark secrets of our lives hidden. Why?
The ancient Christian tradition of confession encourages us to come out of isolation and into the light of God's immeasurable grace by being honest about our true condition.
Being honest is often hard. I don't want to look like I'm a bad person. I want to have a good reputation. But, I've found that the benefits of practicing confession far outweigh the risk of looking bad. Why?
"People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy." (Proverbs 28:13)

Extreme Makeover Through Confession

I remember well how hard it was to admit my issues when my recovery process began back in 1994. It was probably the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. After my first real victories in the Lord, I began to get a clue as to how bad my behaviors had become.
As I confessed these things to God, I believe it was Him who convicted me that I must also confess my problems to another human being (James 5:16). You see, at that time, I knew nothing of the 12-Steps and I had a negative opinion of the program. Yet, there was this incredibly strong force within convicting me of my need to talk about my issues with another person. But, the fear of doing that was nearly overwhelming. Much of my dysfunction was hidden to most everyone. So the idea of coming out of that isolation was very frightening.
When finally I became willing to talk, it took hours to make my confession, but it wasn't because my list was long. It was because every word that came out of my mouth was strained with fear and enveloped with sobs of sorrow.
One might wonder, "Is it really worth all the pain?" Looking back on that experience now, I have to say that I don't believe that my recovery process could have continued without it. So yes, it is worth any cost.
This is just one way in which I have co-operated with God in His extreme makeover of me. All the credit and glory go to Him. He's not finished with me yet. This extreme makeover is the "progressive work of a lifetime"(3SM 202)-- sanctification(1 Thes 4:3). I can't do it without God and He won't do it without my co-operation.

Fear to be Honest

Once we've begun to come out of denial about our true moral condition, and are learning to put our full trust in God, it is likely that we will experience a conviction to be fully honest with ourselves, God, and trusted friends about those sins that so easily beset us (Hebrews 12:1).
The thought of confession may bring us a great deal of fear. Are we now willing to take ownership of our weaknesses, or is fear of the unknown persuading us to stuff all this mess back into those dirty closets of our lives that we just pulled them out of during our introspective processing?
We may be fearful to admit these things even to ourselves because we're not sure that we can forgive ourselves. But, as we choose to accept our past and current issues as our own, we take yet another step toward freedom. Our load of shame is reduced. (Romans 12:3)
We may be fearful to admit our ungodliness to the Holy God of the universe. But we must remember that He already knows anyway. And even so, He loves us so much that He came into this sinful world as a man and died to pay the penalty for our sins. Our God loves us so much that He accepts us just the way we are, no matter how low we've sunk into our foolishness. But, we need not fear to confess to God the exact nature of our wrongs, for... "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1John 1:9)
We may be exceedingly fearful to confess the results of our introspection to another human being because of what they may think of us or what they may say to us or to others as a result of our sharing. Because of this, we do need to be very careful to choose a listener (or listeners) wisely. It needs to be someone experienced in the recovery/sanctification process that we can trust. But, when we find the right person, and push through our fear, confessing the exact nature of our issues, there comes a feeling of relief that these things are no longer our dark secret. Someone else now knows about it. This angers the forces of evil, who had a great advantage over us while we were in isolation. (James 5:16)
It feels (and is) good to come out of our isolation and into the freedom of being able to at least begin to talk about our dysfunction. Confession has greatly accelerated the healing process for myself and many others who I know. It can do the same for you, my friend, because YOU ARE WORTH IT!
Look what Jesus said about your worth: "Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God:" (Luke 12:6-8)

Recovery Through Honesty

A common recovery phrase is, "We're only as sick as our secrets". But like most catch phrases, you can only carry that so far...
I once knew a man who, because of inappropriate behavior with a minor, was fearful of being incarcerated. Because of his fear alone, he revealed to me much of what he had been involved in. He wanted recovery, so he could tell the judge how well he was doing -- hoping for mercy. I shared with him my own recovery story and invited him to get involved with the 12-Step program. He did actually go to group -- once. But, when he found out that the minor (now an adult) was not going to press charges, he lost interest in recovery. He never again went to a meeting, and he never spoke with me after that.
This man did what seemed to me to be an honest confession, and he did a decent moral inventory, so what went wrong? Well, he pretty much ignored the first 3 steps. He didn't understand his own powerlessness and, because of so-called Christians who were abusive to him, he wasn't too sure if he wanted God to rule over him. So, there was no way he was ready to surrender his life to God. Fear of negative consequences can be a good motivator, but if that is the only motivation, failure is the likely result.
Early in my recovery process, I was filled with fear that I might face some very negative consequences for my past actions. But because I was already committed to recovery through surrender to my Loving Heavenly Father, that fear served to move me into a deeper, more complete recovery process. Even though it was very painful then, now I am thankful for that experience.
I have found that when we are honest with ourselves, with God, and at least one other person, our recovery process is greatly accelerated. I think this is what James was talking about, when he said, "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (James 5:16). And I am so thankful that, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9).
IT WORKS IF YOU WORK IT, AND YOU ARE WORTH IT!

What Went Wrong?

One of the facets of fifth-step confession is the acknowledgment of what went wrong in our family of origin, as well as in our parent's families of origin. There is something about family dysfunction that tends to repeat itself, when we don't acknowledge those problems. Stuffing the garbage of our past by trying to forget it does not bring us healing. It only sets us up to repeat the sins of our ancestors.
"...visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation..." (Exodus 20:5).
But when we admit our family sins to ourselves, to God, and to another human being, those sins lose a lot of the power that they once held over us. This must be why James said, "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (James 5:16)
This facet of confession has helped me to recognize the unfulfilled love-hungers of my childhood as part of the reason why I sought love in all the wrong ways for many wasted years of my life. Today, I realize that confession is a God-given tool to help me release my past sins and move on to a better, more fulfilling future.
Step 5: "Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs."