Confession and Community

Last week I preached for Missions Emphasis Month at my church (you can listen to that sermon here). What I want to share this week is something that the Holy Spirit began convicting me about while I was preparing that sermon, to the point that I had to take action. It wasn’t the sermon message that really got to me, but rather a couple of sentences during the invitation at the end. What I said was this.

“There is NO shame in confessing your struggles with sin to God and finding help within the church community, but there is GREAT shame in refusing to deal with your sin and acting like everything is ok.”

Even as I write down that statement now, a sense of conviction is still stirring in me because I am a great example of someone who finds it too easy to do the latter.

Now, while I am not willing to confess my sins on the internet for the world to read, let me share with you the details of what God pressed on me and then how I think we as Christians have to change our response to our own sin.

Any leader in a church or a Christian ministry can testify with me that there tends to be an unspoken (and unreasonable) expectation that a person in Christian leadership is supposed to have their spiritual lives completely in order, and having attained a superior Christian walk for themselves, only then can they lead others.

Now, while the Bible clearly expects and even commands a level of maturity for anyone in Christian leadership, perfection is always unattainable this side of heaven. Even so, that doesn’t halt that expectation from being there.

I will admit that this expectation of people following the leader, to some extent, does push the leader on to strive for a deeper maturity, but if I was honest, this expectation also does quite a bit of harm as well.

Harm in the fact that during those times when temptation will not go away and the struggle with pressing sin is an in-your-face reality, it becomes really easy for any Christian, but especially Christian leaders to hide their battle from others, vowing to handle it themselves, so as not to throw questions over the ministry.

The problem with this is that where the bible clearly commands us to confess our sin and with the help of the Christian community to put that sin to death (James 5:16), we tend to refuse to confess our sin and attempt to manage it instead. We think that if I have control of my sin, never letting it get out of hand, and for sure never letting it leak into public view, then I am doing alright. In reality, though, that’s like keeping a rattlesnake in your briefcase, trying to feed it only enough so that it doesn’t bite you and making excuses for that rattling sound coming from under your desk. IT’S CRAZY.

If I can be honest with you for a moment, whether I  know you personally or not I know one thing a for certain about you based on what scriptures tell me: YOU’RE NOT OKAY. No one is. We are all struggling to overcome something. We are all in the middle of an identity crisis, trying to figure out who we are in Christ. We are all sinners. Not one person reading this is ok.

Now that that is out on the table, can I encourage you to accept your not-okayness and learn from the mistakes of others. Specifically, think of all of the major sinful failures we have seen in recent years from men and women who were supposed to be great leaders in Christianity before they were found out, crashed, and burned. Their testimony is always the same. “I have struggled with this for years, but I thought I had it under control.”

I said that the conviction I got from this required action. What that meant is that last Sunday before church, I went into my pastor’s (and one of my best friend’s) office and told him exactly where I have been struggling, and confessed that I had been trying to manage my sin rather than kill it. He counseled and encouraged me, and then prayed over me, and then we both acknowledged that it is a good thing that we can be open like that with one another.

As believers we are called to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), but the only way that is possible is when we will admit to each other that we are carrying burdens in the first place, rather than putting up a front and acting like we’re OK.

One piece of advice I have given multiple people recently is that if you are really going to be an overcomer in Christ, you need to find a brother or sister in Christ who you can be completely honest with about your heart. Someone who will give you biblical advice, who will pray for you and will walk with you hand in hand until you’re out of your negative situation. That is the biblical community we are supposed to be walking in.

I am honored by the men of God in my life who I can be honest with about my struggles. It has been the most helpful and freeing thing I have found in my own sanctification. You must find someone like that for yourself, too.

My point is, you can’t control a rattlesnake, and you can’t manage your sin. The only way to make sure you don’t get bit by either one is to kill it and then get as far away from the still-poisonous corpse as possible.

So, I will end the same way I began.

“There is NO shame in confessing your struggles with sin to God and finding help within the church community, but there is GREAT shame in refusing to deal with your sin and acting like everything is ok.”

So will you do what God has called you to do. Will you lay your sins and struggles at the cross of Jesus, repent openly, and lean on your Christian brothers and sisters for the strength to not pick those things back up again.