By: Brad Rogers
When Christians read the scriptures and pray, we want to grow closer to God in our relationship with Him. A great way to do this is to use the A.C.T.S. model of prayer (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, & Supplication) as a way to engage with God through the Scriptures. Last week, I wrote about how we can write down God’s praise worthy attributes as we read Scripture in order to utilize those praises in prayer back to God when we have completed our reading (Adoration). This week, I want to share some thoughts using Scripture reading to help us identify and confess sins to the Lord.
Confessing our Sins to Grow in our Relationship with God
Confessing sin before the Lord is not something that brings most of us great excitement (nor does writing about it) – at least not on the surface. While we might say confessing our sins to God is not a “fun” part of being a Christian, it is a vital aspect of growing closer to God just as taking responsibility for how we hurt others is critical to the well-being of any relationship in our lives. When we recognize that following Jesus as our King is relational and that our disregard for his commands is personally offensive to Him, it is not difficult to see the need to confess our sins to Him. Since it is part of sin’s very nature to deceive, we won’t know so many of the ways that we offend the Lord unless He reveals it to us. In His grace, God works by His Holy Spirit to bring the light of His word to our darkened hearts that we might see our sins for what they are and turn from them. God tells us in 1 John 1:9 that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Since God promises to forgive, there is no need to fear admitting our wrongs to Him. Confession of sin allows us to address the relational wedge our sin introduces between us and God so that we can grow in our intimacy with God.
A Word of Caution
When we confess our sins to God, we need to do so with a heart that forsakes the sin itself. Mere acknowledgment of sin won’t lead to transformation nor will it lead to greater intimacy with God. We need to see our sin as God sees it so that we actually hate the sin itself that dishonors God rather than just feeling sorry for ourselves for sinning. This can lead to confessing our sins simply in the hopes that God will be gracious with any consequences stemming from our sin, which is really a just a form of self-interest rather than seeking to reconcile with the God we have offended. The goal of confessing our sins is ultimately a closer walk with Jesus (growth in our love for God and his honor). We need to recognize that our sin dishonors God and hinders our fellowship with Him so that when we confess sins to God we actually hate the sin itself. Then we can rightly receive His forgiveness anew in a way that our enhances our intimacy with God and grows our love for Him. This helps produce the kind of heart change that truly honors God and makes less vulnerable to the sin in the future.
Confessing Sins from your Scripture Reading in Practice
As I read a Scripture devotionally, I ask myself, “Is there any sin that this scripture reveals in my life?” You might find certain commands in the text you have read that you don't keep. You might find that you have the same sinful attitude as someone in a biblical story that you are reading. You might also find an exemplary attitude of a biblical character that you don’t possess. You might see that you are lacking some of God’s attributes in His actions towards people that God calls us to imitate. It might be His love for His enemies or His concern and care for the poor. As I discover sins in my Scripture reading, I write them down so that when I am finished with my reading, I can take the time to reflect on them before confessing these sins to the Lord in prayer. Here are some questions that come from pastor and author Tim Keller that help you reflect on the sins you write down:
What are the dangers of this sin?
What is the specific nature of the guiltiness of this sin (what aspect of God’s character does it offend, ignore, or deny)?
What do I learn about God’s grace by the fact that He redeems this sin? (This last question leads us nicely into thanksgiving which we will consider in next week’s blog.)
You certainly don’t need to use these additional questions; but when I do use them, I have found that I am well prepared to confess my sins to the Lord in prayer. Regardless, the point of writing down sins to confess while you read Scripture is to actually confess your sins to the Lord that you might know His forgiveness and love afresh, so don’t leave this step out. May we all honor the Lord by listening to His words to us in Scripture and rooting out the sin which so easily entangles us all through confession so that we might draw closer to Him who has drawn near to us in love.