Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Confession, Conviction, Stewing In Sin
The way this plays out in my experience in the Christian culture is very distinct. I can think of no better example of this sentiment than the conferences I would attend with my ministry and hear chatter about who the pastor was and how bad he would "bring it," if his teaching would drop you to a knee. The more the audience felt convicted the better -- which might have been that this conviction would eventually bear fruit. People loved the most confrontational passages for the experience of interpreting just how widespread and deep their sin was. I actually remember the day that the campus minister taught on the commandment condemning adultery -- attendance was almost twice the norm (think 800 instead of the usual 400, so quite big).This is one of those things where I have to think - "OK, you're right" - but I have not seen such a thing in quite a while. Maybe its an east coast/west coast thing? Where I hang out a teaching about adultery usually lowers attendance. These different perspectives raise an important issue - Where's the balance?
What I began to do, though, was muddle in that sin, dwell on it -- week in and week out, I would find myself and others attending these studies ultimately to concentrate on my life's double standards, the foundational posture of my heart, the cynicism with which I lived. I began to find the bosom-beating the most important part of my faith, craving more and more enlightenment of my depravity with less and less beauty in my forgiven estate. I wasn't an image-bearer and a restored creature, I was a vessel of sin. I desired not Christ or the life everlasting but reduced to this sort of reformed masochism.
Confession should be a regular discipline, but he is right, it is possible to carry a good thing too far. As a discipline, confession is a starting point, not the totality of the Christian life. Worship on the other hand is an end point, but also certainly not the totality of the Christian life.
When it comes to confession, I think the balance is struck by remembering it is a start - it is a first step on a long journey. What is hard is it is a journey that we take every day. We can never get so far down the road that we do not have to take the first step every morning. Likewise we get nowhere if we take that step and then don't take the next.
I am reminded of the "porno patrol" that went out and bought all the magazines behind the counter at 7-11 and then spent the next 2 weeks making detailed notes on the specific problems on every page. Somewhere they crossed the line between condemning pornography and enjoying it. We confess sin to escape it.
Start everyday with confession, but keep moving.