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Tell Each Other What?

January 25, 2011

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. James 5:16 ESV

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 2:5 ESV

The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works. Augustine of Hippo


Corporate Disciplines … spiritual practices exercised within the Body of believers.   Those habits and methods that grow us together to function in unity.    And we start with Confession.

Confession:  (n) acknowledgment, avowal; admission.  {from}

Why is it necessary to engage in corporate confession?

I love what Richard Foster says about this in Celebration of Discipline:

But if we know that the people of God are first a fellowship of sinners, we are freed to hear the unconditional call of God’s love and to confess our needs openly before our brothers and sisters.  We know we are not alone in our sin.   The fear and pride that cling to us like barnacles cling to others also.  We are sinners together.  In acts of mutual confession we release the power that heals.  Our humanity is no longer denied, but transformed.  (145-146)

We need to confess to one another … not for redemption or absolution, but for healing! It is in sharing our failures – as well as our successes – that we are bound together in the depth of His grace.   And it is in receiving the sincere confession of others and offering our willing voices of grace and counsel without judgment or condemnation that we experience the fullness of bearing one another’s burdens.

It’s a scary thought, though, to look someone else in the eyes and confess the blackness of our hearts.   Opening ourselves up to that level of vulnerability forces us to assume a great risk.    Equally hazardous to our hearts is the hearing of another’s vulnerabilities and sins.

So how does this Discipline of Confession work?

  1. Discernment is vital! We do not confess to one another randomly or without great prayer beforehand.   Generally speaking, confession as a discipline functions best within the framework of a mentoring, discipling relationship.
  2. When we confess, we are specific … and when we pray over one another, we do not add to nor take away from the confession that has been offered.  Honesty is necessary for a sincere confession.  HOWEVER, this is not a time for unnecessary explanation or gratuitous details.
  3. Like fasting, confession is not commanded. We offer you information about these Disciplines not to add burden to your faith.   Rather, as with fasting, confession to one another is discussed in Scripture and therefore is a topic we must explore and seek the will of God in our own lives.

Exercising the disciplines of fellowship and confession will take us into relationships and situations that will challenge our faith and test our love for God and his people.  It is good to remember that God gave us these disciplines to aid us in our growth toward Christlikeness … they are aids for training us to live free of artiface and bondage to appearances. {Jan Winebrenner, Intimate Faith: A Woman’s Guide to the Spiritual Disciplines}

Perhaps you have experienced the grace found in confessing both to God and to another the burden of sin in your life … maybe you have difficulty believing the fullness of God’s mercy and grace and living in the freedom of His forgiveness … or maybe you struggle with being open with others about the sin in your life … the Discipline of Confession can be a powerful tool in our spiritual formation.

What are your experiences with confession to or from others?

How have you seen it benefit or harm the Body?

Image by:  suds4565

13 Comments leave one →
  1. January 25, 2011 9:04 am

    Thank you Teri Lynne for this important post. Because of our pride, we humans are reluctant to confess our sins to one another. But as you pointed out that is the biblical principle. I actually witnessed a revival begin at our church as a result of someone standing up at the end of a service and confess sin. Others followed her example. We continued praying, confessing, singing for hours. God truly does bless our obedience in this matter!

    • January 25, 2011 7:57 pm

      Kathy, what an awesome testimony! God’s Word is true and when we are obedient to His directions, we experience far greater things than we could ever imagine on our own.

  2. Tammy permalink
    January 25, 2011 10:23 am

    At a church I used to go to God led me to give my testimony one Sunday. While I was giving my testimony I ended up confessing some things I had never verbalized before and the glorious thing is that God used my submission and confession to heal me of hurts that I didn’t even realize I was carrying around. Since then I have seen my walk grow tremendously.

    • January 25, 2011 7:56 pm

      What a powerful testimony, Tammy! Thank you for sharing with us this personal example of the power of confession.

  3. January 25, 2011 1:48 pm

    teri lynne, these are beautiful truths today and i pray they bless many and are received!

  4. January 25, 2011 4:00 pm

    Teri Lynne ~ What a great post addressing a missing link to seeing healing, restoration and even revival in the church.

    • January 25, 2011 7:55 pm

      Steph, in the OT we see this pattern continually – corporate and personal confession leads to the restoration of the Israelites’ relationship with God … why then would we not recognize this same truth in our own faith families.

  5. Desiray permalink
    January 25, 2011 4:04 pm

    This is one of the things I have been sharing for so many years, how come we who are called children of God have a hard time confessing our sins to one another? I know why we won’t because we don’t want others to judge or know our business but in all honesty if we was to really do as that verse tell us we would be much better off then we are. We won’t have people falling away side of the faith and we would be like the church we are to be. I just continue to pray that God’s people will stop listening to what the enemy says and began to apply the bible to our lives because we need the body for we get encouraged we get strength from the body.

    • January 25, 2011 7:54 pm

      Oh those feelings of vulnerability can trap us so easily, can’t they? It’s so hard to be honest about our deep difficulties when we are uncertain how others will respond. Thank you, Desiray, for your insight.

  6. January 26, 2011 12:09 am

    Great points here. I’m glad you included discernment in what we sharing… and that can definitely include with whom we share. Especially in talking about faith and my faults, I lean more towards openness, but sometimes sharing all of my thoughts or struggles will end up only confusing someone or a situation, rather than helping and boosting healing. (I also struggle with sharing with certain people in my life… which definitely can be a fault.)

    I really like this: “When we confess, we are specific … and when we pray over one another, we do not add to nor take away from the confession that has been offered.” That’s an important reminder. Thank you for stating it so well.

    This phrase from the Winebrenner quote holds great truth in my experience: “[fellowship and confession will]…challenge our faith and test our love…” Fellowship and honest confession and requests for help have only helped my faith and desire to serve others grow stronger.

  7. January 28, 2011 6:52 pm

    My closest friends are the ones who help hold me accoutable. And I, them.

    Confessing our sins are so important. But def not easy. *sigh* When our sins are confessed, they shine like the fool’s gold they are. We don’t see them as such when we are committing the sins, but thankfully the Lord opens our eyes so we can see them for what they are.

    Having others in our court, helping us through this process, is such a blessing!


  1. Field Trip Day!

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