Confession Is Good For The Soul.

How many have heard the words that "Confession is good for the soul."
This statement as stated cannot be found in Scripture, however it is found in a Scottish Proverb
that says, "Open confession is good for the soul"

We also read in James 5:16 of an instruction to confess our sins to one another.
"Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.
The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."

In Matthew 3:4-6 we read . "And John himself was clothed in camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist;
and his food was locusts and wild honey.
Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him
and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins
."

Then in 1 John 1:9 we read, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness
."
This seem to be more a confession of our sins to Jesus the Messiah who can forgive our sins,
however there is not one scripture that states we should confess our sins to some man
in order to be forgiven by God.

We must never assume that no one knows what we do in secret.
God knows!
Even if no one else knows -- God knows!

And we have also learned that our sins have a way of finding us out.
What we have done in secret will eventually come to light.

Mark Sanford, the former governor of South Carolina is a testimony to that.
Back in 2009 after staging an attempt to lead people to believe he was hiking by himself
on the Appalachian Trail, he admitted that he had really been in Buenos Aires
having an affair with a woman in Argentina.

It eventually led to a censure by the South Carolina legislature, and his wife divorced him.
However, Gov. Sanford isn't the only leader of government to be caught in an affair, is he?

Remember Bill Clinton and General David Petraeus, and North Carolina's own John Edwards.
The list is a long one.
It even happened to the greatest king in Israel's history.
About a thousand years before Jesus, David, the king of Israel, had an affair which resulted
in an unwanted pregnancy, a conspiracy to kill her husband, and a government cover-up.

But this wasn't the end of the story.
The Bible says David repented of his sin and he sought the forgiveness of God.
He wrote a poem about it all, and we read that poem in Psalm 51.

This great psalm serves a reminder to all of us that no matter what awful thing we have done,
no matter how far we have fallen, and no matter how far we have wandered off the path,
God is always there ready to forgive us, and we can begin again,
if only we ask Him.

It would be amazing if we knew how many Christians have confessed their sins and mistakes
without ever having secured in any real sense of pardon and cleansing.

Failure to accept forgiveness and feel forgiven constitutes the greatest single problem for most people,
though they may be partially or totally unaware of the basic difficulty.

All Christians believe intellectually in forgiveness from 1 John 1:9:
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Many who have quoted that verse do not experience a sense of forgiveness at the feeling level.
Often the very bigger of their protestation that "all my sins are washed away" tells us
that there is some lingering doubt in their minds.
There are few among us who feel so fully cleansed and forgiven that we are able to forgive ourselves fully,
and to forgive others.

There is what some have called a "false zeal" with which many good people perform their Christian duty.
This tells us that they are seeking unconsciously to atone for some specific, or a diffused sense of guilt.
We see the same thing operating in compulsive workers.

There is a sense in which all of us are neurotic.
To the degree that we over-react to any given situation, we are neurotic.
It is simply a matter of degree.

Nandor Fodor has said: "The neurotic has but one enemy – his conscience."
He goes on to tell us that it never gives a person peace, and the tragedy of neurosis is that, alone,
by his unaided efforts, the neurotic is unable to find out why his conscience pursues him.

The ways in which he tries to escape it are remarkable and pathetic.
So he tries only to find that no matter what he does, it is usually the wrong thing.

The truly neurotic is simply an individual who has not yet resolved his guilt which troubles him;
but in order to live an effective life he must deal with his accusing conscience.

Occasionally, there are those who are able to handle their guilt and live normal lives
until some stress-laden situation overcomes them and they have what is mistakenly termed,
a "nervous breakdown," and become unable to function normally.

Carl Jung has said that because we cannot face the greater sin,
we confess some lesser sin all the more earnestly, and we fail to secure forgiveness.
It is not that God refuses to forgive us, it is rather that we are confessing the wrong problem.

The manner in which we confess is much less important than that we confess the right thing.
To say, "Lord, forgive my many sins" may conceivably be effective,
if there is in the heart a deep sense of contrition for all of one's sins.

The publican's prayer, "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner," was a highly effective prayer
because there was evident in the man's mind a deep sense of contrition.
He was admitting to himself and to God that he felt unworthy in a generalized sense.
Another person might utter the same words and feel little or no sorrow for his sins.

In "Guilt and Grace,"Paul Tournier has said that one man may recount in a precise
and methodical method the nature of his wrongs, but without any real sense of remorse.
While another may suddenly see for the first time the real nature of his guilt,
and almost wordlessly express deepest humiliation and sorrow for his sins.
It is the state of mind, the intent of the heart, which counts – not the words or the form
in which the confession is framed.

Some protest emphatically, "I confess my sins only to God!"
And they state this in a way that is thoroughly defensive.

Yet the Bible clearly states, "Therefore confess your sins to one another,
and pray for one another, that you may be healed
." (Matthew 6:33)

This does not imply that we are to blurt out our sins to the nearest human being,
but rather that there is a genuine spiritual healing when we unburden ourselves
to the appropriate person or persons – whether a minister, priest, counselor,
an understanding friend, or members of a group.

One of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous has to do with sharing the precise nature of one's wrongs,
for AA has discovered the tremendous value inherent in sharing our failures with some nonjudgmental person.
Sometimes this can be done in a group.
Obviously, there are things which it might be inappropriate to share with the group,
but many many people have derived the help they need from discussing the defects
of their lives in a group.

We must be careful to stipulate in our groups that we are not so much concerned
with symptomatic sins as we are with sins of the spirit.
One may share with the group his hostility, his fear, his sense of inferiority, and his greatest sense of need.
It is basically sins of the spirit – greed, avarice, materialism, pride, lust, envy – which we are to confess
in such a group, not necessarily the symptomatic manifestations of the spiritual failures.

However, quite often someone who has come to see the nature of his spiritual need
and has shared it with the group, will feel a need to share the more specific details with a counselor.
In doing so, he often experiences a deep sense of relief.
He has gotten that off his chest, as it were; he has unburdened himself.
He has finally gotten it out.

David confessed to Nathan, when challenged by the prophet, then compose the very touching
and beautiful 51st Psalm in which he confesses his guilt and asks for pardon.
With painful honesty, he has shared his confession with all mankind:

Psalm 51:
"Have mercy on me, O God;
according to thy abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned,
and done that which is evil
in thy sight…

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit
within me.

Cast me not away from thy presence,
and take not thy holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of thy salvation,
and uphold me with a willing
spirit.

For thou hast no delight in sacrifice;
were I to give a burnt offering,
thou wouldst not be pleased..
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite
heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."


True confession is painful.
If it is not painful, it is not likely to be very effective.
There is no particular pain involved in saying, I find it difficult to forgive.
These are generalizations and, very largely, evasions; for they could be said of almost any human being on earth.
It is just another way of saying "I am not all set out to be, just like everyone else."

Remember, there is within us a tension between the need to conceal and the need to reveal.
The truth of our guilt demands expression.
We need to tell someone, but we fear their condemnation or judgment and rejection.
So it is common to feel great reluctance in placing our true guilt.

There are those who try to put those bad feelings out of their mind.
But nothing is ever put out of the mind.
Unacceptable feelings about which we feel guilty are simply rejected and pushed down deep
into the unconscious mind, where they fester and breed their own deplorable litter of evil,
ranging from psychosomatic ills to unaccountable rages.

The manner in which we project our guilt onto another person involves a unique, automatic,
and wholly unconscious mechanism.

A person must not confess only overt sins of the flesh, but attitudes of mind,
hostile feelings not yet acted out, guilty secrets, wrong motives, false goals,
impaired relationships – all in the fact that is less-than-perfect.

Equally important are the sins of omission.
These are things we failed to do which we should have done.
We might remember the rich man in the parable of Jesus who ate nor is the beggar lying daily at his door,
and in his own private hell.
He describes the torment he is in.
Perhaps it is the almost unbearable torment of remorse – of realizing the opportunities missed,
the good intentions never acted upon, love never expressed.

It is not said that he had done anything flagrantly evil.
His sin appears to be one of omission.
He failed to show compassion.

Who is not guilty of the thousand unaccomplished deeds for which we feel guilty?
This is not to burden ourselves with needless guilt for we cannot bear the burdens of all the world.

It is a neurotic need to play God which makes us feel guilty on all counts.
But we know there were times unnumbered when we neglected to do or say the things
which would have expressed love.
"He who does not love does not know God; for God is love," John declared.

And when we have confessed the known sins, it is time to search for the unknown ones.
These are those which are carefully buried – guilt feelings which we dared not place at the time
– so we repressed them.

There are the hundreds of things we have rationalized.
The unconscious mind cannot accept a rationalization, because it does not deal with abstract concepts.
So when we carefully rationalize some behavior on the ground that it was inescapable,
or because everyone else does it, or with some other clever evasion, we may convince ourselves
at the intellectual level, but not at the emotional and spiritual level.
The inner self knows better.

Someone has said that a Christian is one who sins less and less and confesses more and more.
There is never a time when we can cease to confess.
Long after the sins of the flesh are confessed, there remains all the corrosive sins of the spirit:
pride, envy, greed, avarice, lust, jealousy.

And if a person is almost certain that he has mastered the sins of the spirit,
and is quietly congratulating himself on this worthy achievement,
he is horrified to discover the sin of pride operating with new energy.

Must we always struggle, never winning, never reaching the goal line?
The answer is an unqualified, "Yes!"
This struggle never ends, but with every step of the earthly pilgrimage there is a new sense
of inner peace and quiet, and the growing sense of a Presence working with and within us.
For God is at work in us.

We are not alone in our struggle.
We are not condemned by our failures.
Though we fall a thousand times, if we rise again and continued to follow the Light,
we are accepted and forgiven.
There is no limit to His love and His forgiveness.

We need to remember how gently Jesus reproves the spiritual shortcoming of the twelve.
When rejected by the inhabitants of a village, James and John asked,
"Lord, do you want us to bid fire come down from heaven and consume them?"

I'm not certain that Jesus smile, but I think that he might have, as He said,
"You do not know what manner of spirit you are of."
"You are not to play God, and besides, why all this hostility
?"

Later He referred to these two as "sons of thunder."
He dealt with their intense hostility, but did not condemn or reject them.
When the same disciples asked if they might be seated one on the right and one on the left
when He came into His kingdom, there was no condemnation of their colossal pride.
He simply told them that what they asked was not His to give.

The other ten disciples were indignant, but Jesus was understanding and patient
with the spiritual blindness and egomania of James and John.

And we must remember Peter's promises of loyalty and fidelity:
"Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you."
Then later we hear him denying vehemently that he knows Jesus at all.
The cock crows, and Jesus turns and looks at him.
I believe that it was not a look of condemnation – such as "I told you that you wouldn't hold out.
See how weak you are
?"
I believe that the glance of Jesus was of infinite love and compassion
and forgiveness – for this was His nature.

Jesus regards us in the same manner, and Jesus is the manifestation of God.
"If you have seen me you have seen God," He declared.
So, in His compassion and forgiveness, we see the nature of God, for God is like Jesus.

One basic difficulty is not that we are reluctant to confess to God, but that we are unable to believe deeply
that God could really forgive us instantly, without qualification.
We find it almost incredible that God could give unconditional love, especially in view of all
of our previous failures.
We may find ourselves saying to ourselves that we have done this again and again,
and how could God ever forgive anyone has weakened faulty as we are.

When we do this, we are supposing that God is no better that we are.
We have trouble forgiving others, especially after they have let us down numerous times,
and we imagine that God is like us, able to forgive one or two failures – but not fifty or a hundred.
God is better than us.
God's love is infinite.

So specifically, how do we confess so as to receive inward insurance of forgiveness at the feeling level?
What do we say?
How much, and how often must we confess?

Far more important than that is what we have just been considering,
and that is our concept of God and His nature.
For it matters little what we say or how we confess if we do not have the overwhelming conviction
that God does forgive instantly and willingly, and that He does not condemn us.

If our concept of God is adequate, then our prior of contrition will be adequate.
If we have a weak concept of God and His love, we will never feel fully forgiven.
But assuming that one is able to believe – and feel deeply – that God is anxious to forgive,
how do we go about confessing so as to have a sense of cleansing?

There are many steps in many ways – but here are some of them:

First, we do not rush into the presence of God and blurt out a request for pardon,
or any other kind of petition, without suitable preparation.
It is not that our hasting crudeness can offend God because God is beyond that.
But we need to preparatory -- period.

So first, we should have a time of meditation.
This is a part of prayer.
Think about the nature of God.
Affirm what you know to be true about God.

We know that God's love is limitless, therefore God forgives to a limitless degree.
Nothing that we have ever done is so bad that God loves us less.
Nothing good have we ever done is sufficient to cause God to love us more.
God's love is a fixed and unchanging factor.

I do not increase His love for me by any good deed, nor do I decrease it by my failures.
Because He loves me, I can ask for and receive instant forgiveness.
He has promised that "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins
and cleanse us from all unrighteousness
."
I believe that about God.
This affirmative type of meditation is one aspect of prayer.

Second, let our confession be utterly, ruthlessly honest.
That is the starting point.
That is absolutely the essential first step.
If we will not be honest with ourselves, how can we be honest with God?
And if we cannot be honest with God about our true feelings, how can He help us?

We must bring to Him all of our hidden virtues and vices.
We must be honest and courageous enough to present Him with all our unconscious hatred and love,
and then we may discover that all our power is in the last analysis His power.
We must be honest, and tell God the absolute truth about our feelings of hating our brothers and sisters.

In time we will have God's peace that surpasses all our dreams. (Philippians 4:7)

The basic sin is the emotion, the feeling, the attitude which prompts the act.
Tell God has you feel.
If you feel hostility, tell Him so.
God knows all about human hostility, and yours in particular.
Don't justify it or rationalize it – just confess it.

Tell God about your jealousy or envy, your greed, your lust for people or things,
confess your fear and lack of faith and self-righteousness, and the critical attitudes
which calls you to judge others and justify yourself.

Confess your self-sufficiency which has caused you to depend upon yourself more than upon Him.
Tell God about your self-pity which you have used as a device to get sympathy.
Tell God the whole sordid story of your deceit.

Go back and dredge up all the past, the petty gossip, and the emotional insecurity which prompted it.
Tell God about the lies you have told, or the silent deceit in which you engaged though no lie was told.
Above all tell God how unforgiving and unloving and happy you are.

You want God's forgiveness – tell Him so!

At frequent intervals you may be beset with thoughts of how badly you have been mistreated by others.
Your mind may veer off a dozen times onto side roads as you recall incidents from the past
or the fault seemed to be someone else's rather than your own.
But remind yourself that you are not responsible for what people do to you.
You are responsible only for the way you react to them.

In confession, it is worse than a waste of time to recount the sins or failures of others.
We cannot solve our problems by confessing the defects of another.
Though the one who has offended us may be ninety percent in the wrong,
and we only ten percent – as we see it – our business is to examine our own guilt
in the matter and confess it.

In confession we may be sure that at first – or perhaps for years – we will only skim the surface.
The deeper sins will remain hidden.
The poverty of spirit, the meanness and littleness, the self-will and pride – these will elude us
unless we seek them out ruthlessly.
There must be no rationalization – no excuses – no whining that others also were guilty.

But neither should we drown ourselves in a sea of remorse and self-denunciation.
Our self-searching is to be as it were looking for a faulty part in Iran automobile or trying to find a mislaid object.
There is no reason to condemn, only to find the source of the problem.

In admitting to myself and to God that I am, or have been guilty of lust, or greed, of pride and of judging,
of an unforgiving nature, of hostility, I am not saying to my soul that I am worse than others
and worthy to be condemned.
I am simply joining the human race and confessing that I am no better than others whom I have condemned,
and that I am in need of God's forgiveness.

There is no moral virtue in condemning oneself than in condemning others.
"Judge not that you be not judged" surely applies to myself as much as to others.
I, too, am a person.
I am no more qualified to judge myself and to judge others.
I cannot weigh and evaluate all of the manifold factors of heredity and environment which predisposed
me toward this or that fault.

I need not judge.
I must simply say, "This I am. I do not know precisely how I got this way, I confess it,
I accept it as truth, and I now repent.
I accept the loving forgiveness of God, and I now forgive myself
."

I may need to forgive myself a dozen or a hundred times, depending upon the degree
of my refusal to accept His cleansing.
There is a certain subtle pride which prevents our excepting divine forgiveness.

It poses as humility, but actually it is a way of saying,
"I must solve this myself.
I cannot rely upon divine forgiveness, I must atone
."
This is nothing less than a refusal to accept the real meaning of the cross,
the symbol of divine acceptance and love.

As children, when we did wrong, we learned that some form of punishment would usually follow.
It might range all the way from a parental frown to total rejection for a time.
Because they were human, our parents sometimes found it difficult to extend unconditional love.
Often, they punish with quick resentment.
We learned to expect quick punishment for wrongdoing, perhaps even the withdrawal of love,
the rejection which the child fears more than any force of physical punishment.

The child is not dead in the adult.
It is very much alive.
The emotional structure of the child simply encased in subsequent layers of adolescence,
young adulthood, adulthood, and finally an outer layer of the mature years.

The pains we suffered as children are still there.
They exist as scars, and because our childhood concepts are still partly alive,
we tend to project onto God the feelings we have toward our parents.
We may wonder if God is any more forgiving than they were.

One psychologist had stated that God is more ready to forgive than we are to receive forgiveness,
and the greater our sin, the quicker He is to forgive us.
Jesus seems never to have graded sins into various categories.
The persons He chiefly condemned were the religious leaders, outwardly moral and righteous,
inwardly marred by pride and other sins of the spirit.

Read again His scathing denunciation of the Pharisees in the twenty-third chapter of Matthew.
He says, "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?"

It was the sins of the spirit then, not merely the sins of the flesh,
which same most likely to cut one off from God, according to Jesus,
and it is these basic sins which we are confess, not only the overt deeds of the flesh.
A person may well examine his life for actions about which he feels guilty,
then trace back to the attitude which prompted them, then back to the emotion from which they sprang.


A true confession is a dialogue with God.
Confession is helped immeasurably if we can feel and a deep emotional level that sin is essentially
a wrong committed against the self or against another human being.
In His infinite love, God's stake in this matter of righteousness is not that He is outraged by our sin,
but that He suffers because we are injuring and destroying ourselves or others
through impaired emotions and actions.

God's concern in all of our sins is that these things are destructive of human personality and relationships.
We value property as much more than human personality that we may forget that the bank robber
has done himself more harm than anyone else.
The money he took is covered by insurance, and insurance rates are passed on to the consumer,
which is unfortunate but not fatal.
What is happened is not only simply that a man has stolen some money,
but that a human personality has gone wrong.

God is "against" whatever is destructive for us.
His love for us is so great that He cannot see us destroying ourselves without suffering Himself.
It is the suffering of God, symbolized by the cross, which is involved in sin.
We suffer in our sins, and God suffered because of them.
His suffering becomes redemptive for us when we are able to confess the right sin with true contrition.

"Father, Father,
Holy and loving,
Forgive, forgive.
Father, Father,
I am unworthy,
Forgive, forgive.

You know my thoughts,
My anxiousness and pride.
You hear my words,
So careless and unkind.

Create in me
A heart that's clean and new.
Restore my love,
And let me walk with You."
-- Words & Music by Ken Bible