Thursday, August 2, 2018
Matthew 6:12 Forgive us our trespasses, as we also have forgiven those who trespass against us.
Mark 11:25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
In Philippians 4:6, Paul tells us to bring everything in our lives to God in prayer. Prayer is the word used in Scripture to describe all communication with God. Intimate relationships require various forms of communication: terms of endearment, comments of care and concern, expressions of encouragement, words of confession and sorrow, and questions of request are just some of the ways that people who are in love talk to one another. On Tuesday we began a study of the various types of prayers that Scripture encourages us to use as we communicate intimately with God. We started with discussions of praise and thanksgiving.
The next type of prayer that must be a part of an intimate relationship with God is confession and repentance. Consider the importance of this in your most intimate human relationship. True intimacy cannot be experienced without true humility, manifested by taking personal responsibility for wrong and admitting fault. That is what we call confession. But confession alone is not sufficient to bring intimacy to a relationship: there must be repentance as well. Of what value is admission of sin if there is not a turning from the sin and a commitment to not do it again?
As children, our parents tried to teach this to us. We were not only required to apologize for what we did, but we had to promise not to do it again. As immature children we probably said those things without meaning them. Many of us do the same with God. We may say we’re sorry, but our confession seems to have an accompanying asterisk, with the footnote containing the reasons we want expressed to justify our action. Such rationalization of behavior falls far short of true confession and most certainly does not include repentance. True confession and repentance takes full responsibility for the behavior and sincerely commits to never doing it again.
When we study the word confess in Scripture, as used in 1 John 1:9 which states, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” we discover that it means to come into agreement with God. True confession of sin requires us to see it from God’s perspective and not ours. Our perspective is motivated by self-protection. We attempt to justify our actions to preserve self-worth and protect our image. All such responses require shared responsibility for the behavior.
This is not a new concept – it has been around as long as humans have sinned. When Adam was first confronted by God with his sin, he immediately blamed the woman. He even blamed God who gave him the woman. Eve in turn blamed the serpent. We still try to weasel out of personal responsibility today, blaming our dysfunctional or abusive upbringing, our poverty level social status, racial discrimination, or even God himself for allowing us to be in such situations. We quickly agree with the world’s assessment of our situation and our response to it, but we stop short of considering God’s assessment of our choices. We live in a culture that idolizes choice, and we have chosen to make choice our God. It is time for us to come into agreement with God about our choices and their consequences. It is time for the people of God to confess their sin.
But if forgiveness is to be offered, repentance is inseparable from confession. God does not extend forgiveness without repentance. (Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out. Acts 3:19) To repent is to turn from the sin and proceed in a different direction, specifically the direction of agreement with God.
When we confess to a sin, we admit that our action was not in agreement with God. When we repent of that sin, we admit that we want to be in agreement with God. But the simple act of admission is not sufficient: there must be an accompanying action, and that action is to make new choices that are in agreement with God. This brings true depth of intimacy to our relationship with God. All dysfunctional issues of self-protection, self-worth and image disappear when we experience the forgiveness of God as a result of our humble confession and repentance of sin. Our fear of rejection that motivates justification of our choices is abolished in the love of God.
We must learn to truly confess sin and repent of it. Every prayer we pray depends upon it. God does not hear the prayers of people who harbor unconfessed and unrepented sin in their hearts. (If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; Psalms 66:18)
Maybe the reason we are not experiencing the power of God in prayer is that we are not praying with pure hearts. Make a specific effort today to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you any sin that is hindering the intimacy of your relationship with Christ, and then pray with confession and repentance. God’s presence and power will be revived in you.