One of the most difficult things to talk about with our children, friends or those we mentor is personal sin – our own struggle with it and what we’ve done well and what we’ve done poorly to deal with it.
I’ve always had a great relationship with our children. So when one of our daughters was uncharacteristically distant, I asked her if something was wrong. “It’s nothing.” (It’s always nothing!)
Days later she came to me and shared something she’d done for which she was ashamed. Ironically, I knew or strongly suspected what the problem was. In any case, the important thing was that she understood what she had done, was sorry for it and had made some good decisions to lessen the likelihood this would ever happen again. Seeing how terribly sad she was I just held her, told her I loved her and how honored I was that she had come to me.
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:8-9
Confession is good, but repentance is better It wasn’t only her tearful confession that moved me; it was the safeguards she put in place to keep from temptation in the future, which impressed me even more. She understood intuitively that while confession is good for the soul, repentance is far better. Repentance is more than remorse. It’s disgust, even anger over our sin and a whole-hearted desire to never do that sin again. If we tell God we’re sorry, then he expects us to live differently if we truly are. Self-righteous about sin? Here’s a confession for you. There are times I’ve been so ashamed over some habitual sin I’ve simply stop going to the Father with them. I just know I’ll do them again and God deserves better than my hypocrisy. And he does. In some twisted way, I can actually feel quite self-righteous about being hypocrisy free even while continuing to sin. Far better that we humbly cry out to God to take away our desire to sin, ask for wisdom to avoid temptation and the Holy Spirit’s power to overcome it.
If you’ve found yourself avoiding God lately, could it be, rather than dodging God or feeling self-righteous about your lack of hypocrisy, like me when I’m just fed up with myself, you just need to cry out to God?
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.” Luke 18:13-14 (NIV)
A good confession A good confession should have these elements
Confess: Tell God what you’ve done, with sincerity and sorrow.
Repent: Stop doing it! Think about why you’ve been tempted to sin in the past and pray for the Holy Spirit to teach you how to avoid temptation in the future. Make some pre-decisions.
Restore: If your sin has caused a breakdown in a relationship, go to that person and ask forgiveness.
Make Restitution: If you’ve sinned against another person, do whatever you can to make right the wrong.
It’s been my experience that if and when I do all four of these things when I’ve sinned, particularly against another, I’m far less likely to do it again.
If you’re mentoring someone, or leading a Bible study, take some time to talk about this problem and your struggle. You won’t be the only one! Get this problem out in the open and share what you’ve learned with others.
Following Jesus in Real Life