Step into the Light…

29 04 2013

For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. -John 3:20

I have been speaking to friends and colleagues lately about sin and how our whole life is a constant battle with it. The conversation moved toward our inability to fight sin on our own. Of course, Jesus is the only way that we are forgiven of sin and in Him we have victory over it, but as anyone even mere days into their walk with Christ knows this is not some magical shield to sin and is certainly not the end of temptation. I would argue that the deeper into Jesus’s will for your life you go the more violent and frequent the temptations you face become. Why would the Enemy spend his time and energy tempting those already under his will. No, he wants to see those that have seen the truth of Jesus to fall back into his kingdom of darkness. This leads to the practical way we can combat our temptations whatever form they take.

When people think of combating temptation to sin they often exasperate themselves in inadequate techniques of self-discipline. I fully advocate for discipline, but use it wisely. Discipline yourself to the study of and meditation on the Scriptures (Joshua 1:8, Matt. 4:4). Many victories over temptation have come from the recitation of scripture involving the current temptation. Memorization of the scriptures is nothing new, and certainly not of little importance. Jesus did it! So many of His responses to inquiries and temptations were recitations of God’s Word. Discipline in fervent, effectual prayer is also good and many do this. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible is a short, top-notch lesson on this particular discipline. The list of things go on and these disciplines are good and effective and needed. However, when it comes to sin we often forget about the corporate disciplines. What role does the Body have in my personal battle of temptation? That is what I want to emphasize in this blog. I don’t wish to waste my breath on my personal reasons supporting confession. My word and opinion holds little authority. However, the Word of God is the authority for all realized or not, so let us draw from it.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. -1 John 1:5-7

I do so love the Word.  This passage isn’t talking about a general following of the Lord. It is speaking specifically of bringing sin into the light in confession. And it is putting a heavy emphasis on confession at that because in the following verses there is a parallelism. Specifically verse 9 calls us to confession as well. This is not speaking of confession to God alone as there are clear communal implications as the writer says “But if we [confess]….we have fellowship with one another.” Even further it speaks of the discipline of confession allowing our sins to be washed away by the blood of Jesus. Let us stand on this promise as we confess to one another our struggles in temptation and sin. May we “take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” that “Christ may shine on us,”(Ephesians 5:12-14).

I in no way want to dwarf the importance of our confession to the Lord Jesus. This is a crucial step in the forgiveness of our sins. In Psalm 51 David says, “Against you and you alone have I sinned,” and “there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” according to Paul in 1 Timothy 2:5. So please do not hear me saying that confession to Jesus is of no concern. It is of the utmost concern to any that wish to receive salvation from sin and death. That being said, confession to Jesus is not mutually exclusive with confession to one’s brother or sister in the Body. In fact they compliment each other in their own beautiful relationship.

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

The Word of God doesn’t get clearer than this. We are to confess our sins to one another and pray for the grace of Jesus to cover those sins. The same can be applied to temptation as prevention of sin. My brothers and I that are here sharing in life’s adventures and joys together also share our burdens. As we feel temptation of any kind come upon us we go ask a brother for prayer or if we are alone we text to bring to light before our brother that we are struggling so that they can pray, and what is great is that you can’t take back a text message. Later we will be ask how we handled said temptation. Put into a simple analogy, if someone else’s cookie is sitting next to you, you are far less likely to take it if they can see you. That was a sad attempt so here is a better explanation from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“A man who confesses his sin in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person. As long as I am by myself in the confession of my sins everything remains in the dark, but in the presence of a brother the sin has to be brought into the light.”

In this statement we can see the relationship between confession to God and our brother. All that we do and think and have not yet done or thought is already known to God. Our brother’s presence is what allows us to bring temptation and sin into the light. Let us now recall that “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.” Confession to one’s brother very tangibly proclaims that sin has no power in the realm of the spirit or on this Earth. Alleluia! The only question I have is why aren’t we doing this? What is it that keeps us from the freedom found in confession? I can only speak from my life, but first to the Scriptures.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you. -Psalm 16:2

They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. -Psalm 14:3

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,… -Romans 3:23

The primary hinderance for me has been and is my pride. My flesh says, “Don’t be that weakling that still deals with sin.” I return to the discipline of scripture memorization proclaiming that I am not alone in my temptation. Jesus himself endured every temptation we face and came out victorious (Hebrews 4:15). Also according to the above scriptures there is none good but the Lord and all have sinned and fallen short of His glory. I need not exalt my brothers to some erroneously perceived perfection, but rather go to them knowing that they can relate to my sinful nature and pray victory in Jesus over me. Please don’t allow the prideful lies overtake your thoughts. My pride will say, “You can beat this sin or temptation on your own. Don’t ruin your reputation over this.” Lies from the very mouth of the Evil One! Do not be deceived: God is not mocked (Gal. 6:7). As Paul suggested in 2 Corinthians 12, if I must boast I will joyfully boast in my weakness, for it is in my weakness that Christ is made strong in me. Any sin or temptation our pride keeps in the dark is given, in the darkness, a power over us that no amount of hard work or stubbornness can overcome. Dear friends do not fall victim to this I pray. This allows for the transition to the other hinderance I face in the discipline of confession.

 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. -John 13:34-35

The Evil One lies to me, “They will reject you.” A great fear of any honest Christian in the dilemma of confessing sin or temptation is the potential rejection by their brother. This is a risk we face with imperfect beings such as ourselves. I do recommend that your confession be limited to a close brother, sister, or a spiritual authority in your life. I pray that none of you would face judgement from a brother. However, do not confuse judgement with exhortation and correction. Quite frankly your feelings are not as important as you obedience to Christ. By judgement, I mean condemnation for your shortcoming. This could be elaborated over thousands of word and with numerous passages of scripture and exegesis, but I will refrain. Simply do not let the fear of the rejection of men inhibit you from obedience to the Lord in confession (John 12:42-43). In John 12 the authorities even believed in Jesus, but they remained in darkness because their hearts were set on the praise of men. My dears, turn your eyes upon Jesus. Release any relationship held in higher stature than the Lord. As we seek His kingdom and righteousness we bring ourselves into a position to bring forth our struggles into the light with our brothers ultimately understanding the desire of God to forgive and redeem us. After all, that is why He sent us His Son. Alleluia!

Sincerely I ask this, brothers if you are receiving confession remember the previously mentioned verse from John 13. We are to love one another as Jesus did and does. This means an open ear and if necessary loving, stern correction. Those adjectives aren’t mutually exclusive. I pray that no matter the issue of sin or temptation that your first response would be the earnest prayer for your struggling brother that James called us to in chapter 5. I also pray for biblical responses to all issues. Let us never forget the grace we have received or the grace that is offered freely in Jesus (Romans 3:24). Let us never grow tired of forgiving and ushering through prayer another brother into the light of the Lord and the freedom therein.

Finally, as long as we leave our struggles in the darkness their power over us increases. Step into the light my brothers and sisters! Step into the freedom of disciplined confession to God and the accountability or spiritual authorities in your lives. If you are not in a place of accountability or under any authority I pray you would seek this out in your church. Jesus was clearly a man of authority, but He was also a man under authority (John 5:19 & 31-38). If we are to seek his likeness(Phil. 2:5) then we must also be men and women under authority. May the victories over temptation you experience in confession one to another with faithful prayer abound. Above all may Jesus, who alone is worthy, receive all the glory and honor and praise.

May His presence increase and His will overtake you.

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