Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Years ago, I fell for an April Fool’s Day joke that paraded as a news story. It was about a guy who had been indicting for making millions of dollars getting illegal inside information on companies, enabling him to buy and sell at just the right times. “There’s no way he could have acquired all that money in so short a time without insiders helping him,” declared an SEC official in the fake news story. The story went on to say that in order to avoid prosecution and imprisonment, the charged man told a judge that he was a time traveler from the twenty-second century and, incidentally, that he knew the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. This is what made this fake news story so convincing to me: The alleged criminal was more willing to be labeled insane than to confess his wrongs.(I here list his points, but remove the exposition)
Confession is tough, for the follower of Jesus Christ no less than anyone else. It can be embarrassing and humiliating to confess our wrongs, whether we confess them to God, to others, or to ourselves. But followers of Jesus also know that confession is an essential component for healthy living. In confession—owning up to our faults and sins, coming clean—we clear away anything and everything that obstructs our relationship with God or keeps us from living life fully.
As you’ve already heard me point out countless times, Martin Luther was fond of saying that the follower of Jesus Christ is called to live “in daily repentance and renewal.” We need to constantly re-focus our lives on Jesus, never being afraid to “come clean” about our faults and our need of God’s forgiveness and help. Confession needs to be a daily discipline for us. But what exactly do we mean when we talk about confession?
There are three elements that go into genuine confession
- There is a genuine examination of one’s conscience.
- The second element in genuine confession is sorrow.
- The third element in genuine confession is a determination to avoid future sin.
(continuing to quote the sermon after the points had been elucidated)
Von Staupitz wasn't saying that some sins are greater or lesser violations of God's holiness. What he was saying is that confession isn't a religious hoop that you jump through by remembering every sin you've ever committed.
Who could possibly remember their every sin? I myself am often so oblivious to my sins that it isn't until years after I've committed them that I realize the wrong I've done.
You're a human being. God knows that. Your memory is imperfect. God knows that. Your salvation doesn't hang in the balance because of your faulty memory or your faulty sensitivity to sin.
When we confess our sins, known and unknown, we show God our intentions. Through Jesus Christ, we already know God's intentions: God wants us to be with Him for eternity. When we confess, we say, "Yes!" to the "Yes!" God already said to us when Jesus died and rose for us.
Confession is hard. But it’s the indispensable way to experiencing all that God intends for us as His children. Amen!