I want to open this article by quoting I John 1:9 from the Amplified Bible:
“If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].”
In my own life, as well as the lives of many fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, I find that we often struggle to take full responsibility for our sins. In a culture that is deeply immersed in self-centeredness, taking responsibility for one’s sinful actions is gradually becoming more of a “blame game” than ever before. We may say that we’re sorry, but most of the time we really don’t mean it or we couch our sin in a half-hearted apology or expression of sorrow without ever really examining the depth and impact of our sins.
But, confession is more than simply saying I’m sorry. Taking responsibility for my sins means confessing what I did. And, it’s not just covering my sin with a catch all phrase. It means being able to acknowledge what I really did to God, myself and others around me. As an example, it’s more than saying, “Forgive me for my sexual addiction.” It’s saying specifically what I have done, how it has hurt God, myself and others, and expressing my sorrow for how what I’ve done has affected my witness and my relationships. The result is that, until we are able to change our pattern of confession, we will never truly gain freedom over our sins.
In examining the original Greek, I find there are three actions that are necessary for true confession of our sins as alluded to in the preceding paragraph. And, it takes all three steps to fully assume responsibility for my sins.
The first is to freely admit what we have done. Having been wonderfully exposed to the ministries of Freedom In Christ Ministries and their seven-step process to spiritual freedom, I have learned how important this admission is. Throughout the steps we are to confess all the sins the Holy Spirit lays upon our hearts as we walk through this guided process. Unconfessed sin, in all its various forms, opens doors to our spiritual adversary and his host of demons that cause us to lose our spiritual freedom. The only recourse is to begin by freely admitting our sins.
This means confessing each act of being outside God’s will. And, when I begin this process, there will be other sins that the Holy Spirit will bring to light in my mind for weeks, months and years to come. Though I completed the seven steps over a year ago, I’m amazed at the singular events of sin I had long forgotten that needed to be confessed and I find that now I am face-to-face with it and must act on it now. This even includes times I thought I was in God’s will, only to find out that I was not only outside His will, but that I had actually opened the door for my spiritual adversary.
We need to allow the Holy Spirit to bring these buried sins forward and not fool ourselves into thinking we don’t have sins lurking in our backgrounds. Having said that, I now begin to better understand I John 1:8, 10.
8 If we say we have no sin [refusing to admit that we are sinners], we delude and lead ourselves astray, and the Truth [which the Gospel presents] is not in us [does not dwell in our hearts].
9 If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].
10 If we say (claim) we have not sinned, we contradict His Word and make Him out to be false and a liar, and His Word is not in us [the divine message of the Gospel is not in our hearts].
I do have unconfessed sin within me that God desires to bring to my mind so I can address it and remove its hidden and subtle power over me! Verses 8 and 10 state that, if I think for a moment there’s not “stuff” within that needs to be confessed, I’m lying to myself and to God. I am a living testament to the truth of this because of the things the Holy Spirit is still bringing to mind – new things long forgotten that are part of my past that need to be confessed and removed from me.
Now verse 9 becomes even clearer when I realize that God is continuously cleansing me and He does it by bringing up my unconfessed past sins one at a time. FICM’s Seven Steps to Spiritual Freedom is just the start. It’s a door opener for the Holy Spirit to begin the process of bringing forth all sins from the recesses of my mind and providing me with the opportunity to purge them.
To freely admit my sin means I can’t blanket my unconfessed sin by simply saying, “Lord, forgive any and all other sins I have committed.” I need to be able to say exactly what I did before God. And, when I do that, I recognize my need for the action of Christ on the cross to provide the atonement for my sins – past, present and future. I come face-to-face with the gravity of my iniquities and I begin to understand the full depth of God’s unconditional love toward me and I am humbled before Him.
The second step is to be able to acknowledge how I have hurt God, myself, and others around me. I need to come face-to-face with the depth of hurt I have inflicted on others and how many others that really is! One sexual sin such as adultery impacts one’s spouse, children, parents, siblings, the spouse of the person with whom the act was committed and all of their close relatives. But, it also affects our brothers and sisters in Christ and the myriad of people who once looked to us for direction. Our witness and influence that could have been used for good in others’ lives and for the glory of God have been stripped from us. And, even in our death, the legacy we had hoped to leave is forever tarnished. The result is that, in one simple act of adultery, hundreds and maybe even thousands have been adversely affected by this one foolish act.
We need to feel the pain we have inflicted upon God and others and, I have to know how each sin affected others for me to come to the third step - the expression of true sorrow. Every sin, no matter how large or small, has collateral damage to God, myself and others. And I need to experience the pain I have inflicted upon God, myself and others. We often don’t realize the depth of the impact of our sins on others and how it adversely affected their lives, possibly forever in ways that stripped life from them.
It is only as I come to the full recognition of the depth of my sins and its startling affects on others, can I truly say I am sorry. Now I can truly express legitimate sorrow that brings me to my knees and tears to my eyes. Now saying I’m sorry is different because I have fully faced the gravity of the results of the times I have missed the mark of God’s plan for my life. And the depth of this gravity brings repentance, a desire to turn away from what I have done and to seek to never do it again.
All of this is especially true for the sin of unforgiveness toward those who have hurt us. Notice that unforgiveness is a sin! Until we confess the sin of unforgiveness, we will never be spiritually free! We have to first confess that we have failed to forgive (state their name).
Second, we have to confess that we have hurt God by our unforgiveness. We cannot be fully used by Him to do the works He has planned for us until we move from our self-centered thoughts of pain to a willingness to give ourselves away like Jesus did for us. But, we also have to confess that we have hurt ourselves by not forgiving, that we have given Satan and those who have hurt us control over our lives and they have certainly taken life from us. Finally, we have to confess that our unforgiveness and bitterness has also spilled over onto everyone around us – our family, our friends, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and the list goes on.
Third, we have to be able to express true sorrow and repentance for what we have done because of our failure to forgive as we have allowed ourselves to be engaged in the sin of unforgiveness.
As we grasp this information, it opens up such incredible understanding as to why we are so broken! We are broken because of our sin and didn’t even know it! And, the good news is that it is so easy to resolve! God loves us so much that He has not only paved the way for our complete reconciliation and restoration with Him, ourselves and others, but He also provided for confession without repercussion. Instead of turning His back on us and shutting us out, He reaches out in unconditional agape love, wrapping His arms of mercy and grace around us.
In Luke 15:11-24 we read the parable of the prodigal son. Luke reveals for us this characteristic of God’s unbelievable, unconditional, no-holds-barred love for us. As the son freely admitted to his father what he had done (“I have sinned against heaven and against you”), told his father that he acknowledged he had hurt his father (“I am no longer worthy to be called your son”), and acknowledged his sorrow for what he had done (“Make me like one of your hired servants”), the father set him free from his separation and fully restored to the son his love and care.
The life that the adversary had taken from the son was now restored. This son was now truly free! And, his mindset had moved from one of total selfishness (taking his inheritance before his father wad dead) to the servanthood of Christ (his willingness to become a servant of the very man he had hurt).
Studies show that the sin of unforgiveness does more harm to us spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally than we can imagine. When we open this door to allow Satan into our lives, this life-sucking adversary grabs us by the throat and begins the process of slowly chocking the life God planned for us right out of us. Our mental and emotional health is disturbed which leads to spiritual disruption as our bitterness takes us from our walk with God. This causes the body to break down in succession of the disruptions of the other aspects of our being. In fact, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine studies show that 85% of all physical is psychosomatic in origin. This means that spiritual, mental and emotional breakdown will often lead to a real breakdown in the body.
The ugly truth is that the problem is within us and not caused by any outside source. No one has caused any of this in my life. Things have happened based on the choices I have made as to how I will respond to what has happened to me. Satan tempts me to embrace the sin of unforgiveness and bitterness and I may choose to “buy” the deception.
The conclusion is three-fold. First, I need to confess my sin of unforgiveness. I need to be able to say that I have embraced unforgiveness and bitterness toward (name of the person) and that I have hurt God, myself and others around me by doing this. In facing this truth, I should be able to express my sorrow and repentance.
Second, I need to forgive the one who has hurt me. I need to forgive like Jesus as He hung on the cross and said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” This is so true ; most people are so caught up in their own selfish world that they don’t know what they are doing. People generally don’t think about how their own decisions, actions and behaviors will affect those around them, themselves or God.
Third, I need to ask God to bless them even in spite of what they have done to me. Asking God to bless them frees me from my bitterness and negative emotions. It’s actually putting those persons who have hurt us in God’s hands to deal with them as only He knows best.
It’s important to understand that there will be times when there will be trigger points that reopen the memory of the pain inflicted on us and Satan will try to tempt us to relive the anger and pain again. If this happens, we do the steps over again. Peter asks Jesus if seven times is adequate to forgive someone who has hurt us. Jesus responds with a seemingly ridiculous number of four hundred ninety. Jesus says we have to forgive many times and we know it’s because our memories never go away and there will always be trigger points. We maintain victory and control over our day-to-day experiences as we give control to God through forgiveness.
Tired of living the way you have been living? Does your “default setting” (how you usually respond to things) have you doing the same things over and over again with the same poor, life-robbing results? Give this a try. Know up from that Satan will try to keep you without joy in life. Instead, lean on the Lord where victory is assured!
©2012 Mel Menker
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