Monday, January 7, 2019

The Hardest Discipline

If I had to sum it up in a nutshell, spiritual disciplines are really about one thing ... freedom.  You might be asking, how can discipline/structure relate to freedom?  Isn't freedom all about doing what you want?  My answer would be "NO" but a simple no doesn't convey the emphasis this "NO" needs to convey.  NO, NO, NO!!!!!!

Let's look back at our experience.  Did you have more freedom when you made decisions based on your wants, your feelings and your whims?  Here's what I think ... these are the times when we are bound, imprisoned and in chains.  Our freedom comes with truth, transparency and being real.  Our freedom comes with discipline, and one of those disciplines is confession.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, "He who is alone with his sins is utterly alone."  Unconfessed sins are weights, barriers and things that separate us from others and from God.  They are weights and they bind us and hold us down.

Proverbs 28:13 says "Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper ... but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy."  1 John 1:9 says "If we confess our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."  In these verses we find the benefits of confession.  There are four ... prosperity, mercy, forgiveness and purification.

Have you ever met someone who has it all and remains unhappy?  I had a boss that had it all.  He was always carrying a heavy workload but I think the heaviest burden he carried was something he told me one day.  He said, "I don't get ulcers ... I give them!"  During the time I knew him he schemed, did intentional things to hurt others and found it easy to demean and even dismiss employees.  He had money, cars and hangers-on ... but he was one of the most unhappy and dismal people I ever met.  He carried evil deeds (sins) with him everywhere he went.  He did not prosper.

But finding mercy ... THAT is a blessing.  Mercy is freeing and allows us to drop our sins and burdens.  There is an old spiritual song written before the Civil War.  It was first recorded in 1922.  The song, Down By The Riverside, tells about laying down our burdens 'down by the riverside.'  It is a great image of the freeing power of confession because that is exactly what we do when we confess our sins ... we lay them down.  And we no longer have to bear the burden of their weight.

When we confess our sins they are laid out before a holy God who already knows we are guilty.  Our confession allows us to see our guilt and allows conviction to happen in our hearts.  It is why our communion liturgy is full of confession.  Before we kneel in front of a holy God we need to come clean ... confess ... unburden ourselves ... tell God (and hopefully others) about our sin.  In CR we say, "my life has become unmanageable."  And when we do this God does something amazing ... God forgives us!  David realized all sins were, at their heart, against God.  Read the Psalms and you will find David laying out his dirty laundry before God and asking and receiving forgiveness.  It is the remedy for unmanageable lives!

Finally, there is another benefit to confession.  It is purification.  When I confess I try to lay it all out there, but I do this as imperfectly as I do everything else.  I love the honesty and clarity of Psalm 19.  The Psalmist says, "How can I know the sins lurking in my heart?  Cleanse me from these hidden faults!"  The psalmist understood ... we don't just need to prosper, receive mercy and get God's forgiveness.  We need God to purify our hearts!  And it starts when we confess to God and to others our sins.  Try it if you want to be free!  Randy

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