It was one of those ordinary, big moments.
Ordinary because we were just sharing prayer requests as our small group time came to an end. But big because someone in our group let us in on what was really going on in his life.
Even though he knows what he ought to be doing, he admitted that, most of the time, he wasn’t succeeding. After confessing his struggles, he asked us to keep him in prayer.
Lord, Forgive Me For How I Used To Sin
You may be thinking, ‘What’s the big deal?’ Of course Christians share their sins and struggles with each other. And ask for prayer.
Do we really, though?
My wife and I were talking about this, and she pointed out that I’m good at sharing past failures, but not current ones.
‘Okay, maybe,’ I responded, proving her point.
She went on, ‘You know, you’re kind of uncomfortable with failure in general. Especially if it’s ongoing. I think you want to avoid it all costs.’
When the conversation finally ended, I did a happy dance. Because I knew she was right. I am open to sharing my failures, but mainly when they’re in the past. And only after I’ve begun to conquer them.
When was the last time you shared a current, ongoing failure with someone around you?
Paul’s Powerful Example
The bible makes it clear that confessing our ongoing, real-time sins to each other is really important.
Listen to Paul’s brutally honest confession in Romans 7:
I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing… 24 Wretched man that I am!
Even though he doesn’t get into the sordid details, did you notice how he’s sharing about his current, repeated failures with sin?
That’s what I – and perhaps you – am so uncomfortable with.
And yet, this is exactly what God calls us to, for our good. James is even more clear: ‘Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.’ (James 5:16)
Why We Avoid Confessing Our Sins
So if God calls us to public confession for our good, why don’t we do it more often?
There are probably several layers of complexity, but let’s just say the primary answer doesn’t require a degree in forensics.
As broken, fallen sinners, we know we’re not who we’re supposed to be. We don’t want others to see that. Sure, others might know I’m not perfect in theory, but I’d rather keep up the illusion as much as possible.
On some level, all Christians recognize that we fail, and that it would be ridiculous to claim that we didn’t. So we’ll admit sin in general, but try to quarantine it to the past as something we’re at least gaining ground on. But if Paul himself could say ‘the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing’, then chances are we’re not much better.
In the final analysis, we don’t really believe that our value and identity are in Christ. That God ‘saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.’ (2 Timothy 1:9) Because we’re not confident that God has covered us, like Adam and Eve we make lesser coverings for ourselves.
4 Benefits To Confessing Our Sins To Each Other
But some amazing things happen when we trust Jesus and get honest with each other, like my friend did at small group did.
- We don’t have to hide anymore. We have to be wise about what we reveal to whom, but Christian community is a great place to start letting others in. When we’re honest about our failures, the pressure to constantly curate ourselves evaporates.
- We’re truly known. There’s a reason there are (at least) 59 ‘one another’ passages in the New Testament. Being understood by another person is one of the most precious gifts we can experience.
- The power of sin is broken. When we drag our sins into the light of day, they begin to lose their power. ‘Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.’ (Ephesians 5:11) Paul is talking about the world around us, but the principle also applies to exposing our own darkness to each other so that its power is weakened.
- We receive the healing power of prayer. When we share our junk with others, they can start praying for us. And as we saw in James 5:16, others’ prayers lead to healing and victory over sin.
2 Ways To Get Started
So let’s make this practical. Here are two simple suggestions.
- Rehearse the gospel every chance you get. Earlier, we saw that our struggles with honesty lie in our tendency to trust in ourselves instead of Christ. Meditating on gospel-focused passages in our devotions and quickly confessing a moment of pride, over time, will lead to tremendous freedom.
- Make a point of sharing current, ongoing sins and struggles with people you trust. This doesn’t have to be a big deal. You might start with your spouse or significant other, your small group, or one close friend. Over time, being honest will become more natural and others will likely follow your example.
In closing, I’m going to take my own medicine and practice with you. Lately I’ve been noticing that I’m much too driven by my own agenda. For example, when my kids want me to slow down and talk something through with them, I get anxious because it’s taking me away from my plan for the day. If I’m honest, often I find my identity by cranking through my priorities, and am not all that open to God’s, which often involve interruptions from the people around me. So, I’m asking you to pray for me ‘that I may be healed’.
What about you? If you would like us to pray for you in something you’re struggling with, leave a comment below. I promise that I will pray for each and every request that’s shared.