The Healing Power of Confession

Luke 15:18

Confession is good for the soul!
Many of us do better at excusing our sins and mistakes than confessing them.
We are quick to point out other peoples' mistakes, but we have a hard time admitting
that we have really messed up.

Here are some actual excerpts from insurance companies where individuals explained
why they had an automobile accident:
"Coming home, I drove into the wrong house and collided with a tree that I don't own."
"The other guy was all over the road and I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him."
"In my attempt to kill a fly, I ran into the telephone pole."
"I had been driving my car for 40 years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had an accident."
"The pedestrian had no idea which direction to go, so when he hesitated, I ran over him."
"The telephone pole approached my car at a rapid speed, as I swerved to get out of its way, it hit me."
"I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law and drove over the embankment
."

A Christian businessman in Colorado has this motto hanging on his wall in his office:
" Nothing worse can be said of me than what God already said -- I am a sinner.
And nothing better can be said of me than what God has already said -- I am His child
."

Sin is the most deplorable condition of the human race.
The most blessed condition is the forgiveness that God offers in Jesus Christ.
That is what this sermon is about.
It is about how sin enslaves us.
And it is about how confession heals and restores us.

By confession, I mean admitting that we have sinned and done wrong.
The prodigal son said, "I will set out and go back to my father and say to him:
' Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you
.' " (Luke 15:18)
That is confession.

Sin enslaves Us!
Sin devastates us spiritually.
Sin alienates us, and shuts us out from God's presence, and leaves us to muddle through on our own.
Before we can begin to be restored, we must get back in a right relationship with God.
And it is possible!

How grateful we ought to be for God's grace that forgives us and restores us to His fellowship
and to His favour once again.
This forgiveness was made possible through the work of Jesus on the cross.
When we become aware of our sinfulness and take the initiative to ask God for cleansing
and restoration, forgiveness becomes ours.

Sin devastates us physically!
Too little attention is paid to the physical effects of human sin, despite the clear statements
in Genesis telling us that as a result of Adam's sin, we will "labor" and "sweat"
and "toil painfully" all the days of our lives.
In other words, the human body is to suffer from physical stress because of sin.
(Genesis 3: 17-19)
The vast evidence of human experience only confirms what the Bible has already said.

Dr. S. I. Mcmillen has cataloged 10 classes of bodily disorders that are affected
by stressful living.
They are: disorders of the digestive system, circulatory system, genito-urinary system,
nervous system, and glandular; disorders of the muscle-joint units; disorders of the allergic defenses;
as well as disorders of the immune system.

Of course, McMillen does not claim that these disorders are caused by stress alone,
but they can be.
And if they are not caused by stress, they are certainly aggravated by it.

The Bible gives us a graphic account of acute physical stress brought about by sin
in the story of David's sin of adultery with Bathsheba. (2 Samuel 11)
While David's army was besieging Rabbah in Moab, David stayed behind in Jerusalem.

One night while on his rooftop, he saw a beautiful woman named, Bathsheba, bathing.
Smitten by her beauty, he sent for her, and committed adultery with her.
Later, in trying to cover up his sin (which was "discovered" because Bathsheba
became pregnant).
David ordered Bathsheba's husband, Uriah the Hittite, to be killed in the front line
of the battle at Rabbath. (2 Samuel 11:14)
So to the sin of adultery, David added the horrible sin of murder.

Psalm 32 describes the acute pain David felt in his soul, and in his conscience,
and his body while he "kept silent." (That is, he did not confess his sin.)
"My bones wasted away," David complained.
He was not old, yet his body felt old because of his sin.
As a result, he kept groaning all day long.

David cried out that God's hand was heavy upon him which caused his conscience
to sting and to cause him great pain.
He could not be legally prosecuted for killing Uriah -- he had cleverly arranged all that.
But he couldn't escape the outrage of his conscience.
The psalmist recalls that his strength was sapped as in the heat of summer,
possibly referring to recurrent fever because of his emotional upset.

The human body can become a casualty of sin.
Jesus indicated this when He said to the paralyzed man whom he had healed:
"So, you are well again.
Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you
." (John 5:14)

Sin, especially unconfessed sin is one of the many causes of unrelenting stress in human beings.
The range of sin is wide and troublesome.
Overt sins like stealing, adultery, lying, and others, will certainly arouse the conscience,
especially if the Christian is taught to avoid them.
Overt sin will sooner or later eventuate in a crisis, and then, everything comes out in the open.

This is not so with covert sins.
Covert sins such as anger, resentment, bitterness, jealousy, and other such sins
are not public crimes; they are sins of the spirit.
They can linger undetected for years, although they can still punish the body severely.
Too often, they are explained away as personality quirks, such as "That's the way she is or he is."
Or, "That's just the way I am."
Confession often removes the hindrance to healing.

Sin also affects us psychologically.
There is no doubt that unconfessed and sin that is not dealt with sin affects the mind just as directly
as it affects the body, and perhaps, even more so.
Psychological stress due to sin began simultaneously with the birth of sin.
Adam and Eve suffered not only the physical consequences of their disobedience,
but also the emotional results.
Adam and Eve experienced an awakening consciousness that they never felt before:
"The eyes of them both were opened, and they knew…" (Genesis 3:7)

Their eyes were "opened," indicating the dawning consciousness of guilt.
Quickly following the wake of guilt came shame and fear.
So, in a very short time -- these feelings found birth in the souls of our first parents.
The pattern is exactly the same today when we disobey God's standards.
There is devastating psychological damage that we bring on ourselves by refusing to admit
when we have done wrong.

We Need To Confess.
The need to confess is one of the imperatives for the health of the soul.
When we ignore the need to confess our sins, we repress our guilt.
This results in irrational fears creeping up in the corners of our mind.

Vitaly related to confession is guilt.
We experience various kinds of guilt.
The first is legal guilt which means we have sinned against God and stand condemned,
whether we feel that guilt or not. (Romans 3:23)

Then, there is a pathological guilt.
This guilt is a chronic feeling of guilt, when there is no cause for it or when it has not been
dealt with adequately.
It is the unnecessary arousing of the conscience.
(This guilt is rooted in a mental disorder.)
Felt guilt is the normal, natural reaction to having done wrong.
It's normal to feel guilty when we are supposed to feel guilty.

Modern psychologist have identified several wrong ways of dealing with guilt.
One is repression, which means "to ignore it".
Unfortunately, the conscience will not stand to be ignored.

Another negative way of dealing with guilt is self-justification, as in the case of the adulteress
who wipes her mouth, and says, "I've done nothing wrong." (Proverbs 30:20)
This self-justifier denies her conscience by depriving it of its function.
Her conscience becomes desensitized.
She overwhelms it by rationalization.

Another negative way of handling guilt is projection.
Projection means simply blaming others for any wrong that a person (himself or herself) has done.
Adam's attempt to avoid responsibility are heard in these words:
"The woman you put here with me - she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it." (Genesis 3:12)
This is an example of projection.

This is probably the most common way of dealing with guilt.
To avoid responsibility in wrong doing does bring some measure of relief.
It is a form of deception that eventually catches up with us.
And at any rate, we do not deceive God.

The heart of the Christian message is that freedom from guilt is mediated through the sacrifice
of Jesus Christ on the cross.
We can enter into the joyful experience of not having our sins remembered, anymore.
(Hebrews 10:17)

The voice of conscience says, "You have sinned."
But God says, "Confess it" -- "I'll forgive it." -- "I will remember it no more."

Unfortunately, many do not respond to the call to confess their sin and wrong-doing.
Many, like Adam and Eve, hide and refuse to face the consequences of their sin.
Even though David felt guilty about his sin with Bathsheba, he waited months before
he finally confessed.
He went through months of mental and emotional agony.

Dr. Paul Tournier said that confession is "the stopper which can be pulled out
so that life begins to flow once again
."

Look at some steps in confession.

First, face reality.
This means to face the consequences, however painful they may be.
Christians should be more ready than non-Christians to admit wrong-doing.
Yet, some psychologists claim that Christians are the most reluctant to admit they have done wrong
because they know that they should not have done wrong in the first place.
They can't stand to face the truth about themselves.

Second, be convicted.
Conviction always is God's work and always represents God's reaction to our sin.
Feeling convicted is the pain of feeling God's finger pressing against our hearts.
Conviction carries two messages:
You have done wrong, and you must do something about it.

Third, repent
Repentance is our response to God's conviction.
Repentance says, "I'm sorry -- I have sinned."

Fourth, confess the sin.
In confession, we must "agree" with God. (1 John 1: 9)
The word, "confess," means " to say with" or "to agree."
This means we must adopt God's attitude toward our sin.
We must be careful not to cheapen our confession by minimizing our sin.

When Saul was caught disobeying God in the destruction of Amalekites, he said
to Samuel, "I have sinned." (1 Samuel 15:30)

David was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men, and he said to the Lord,
"I have sinned greatly in what I have done." (2 Samuel 24:10)
Again In Psalm 51: 4, David cried, "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil
in your sight
."

The prodigal in Luke 15:18-19 cried, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you,
I am no longer worthy to be called your son
."

Notice that the common thread that runs through all these confessions.
It is feeling the same revulsion toward it that God feels.
It is experiencing the shame and grief that we have to involve ourselves in behavior
that is directly opposite the character of God.

Fifth, be cleansed.
Cleansing is a result of confession, and is always a sign of confession done properly.
Cleansing means that we no longer feel the pain of guilt or shame due to our sin.
A change has taken place.
The "crushed bones" now "rejoice" and the "joy of salvation" is now restored. (Psalm 51: 8,12)

Cleansing from sin means not only that God has removed our sin but that sin itself is no longer
any hindrance to fellowship.

Confession Heals
Spiritually, confession is the basis of reconciliation.
David said it: "Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit
is no deceit
." (Psalm 32: 1-2)

Sermon adapted from many resources by Dr. Harold L. White