Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Battle for Joy

In college I was a member of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). They taught us a lot about the theory of war.  That teaching mostly revolved around scintillating topics like the 5 paragraph operations order, and military decision making process (MDMP).  But the days I had the most fun were when we pulled the weapons from the armory, and went to the range.  The day we threw the grenade was truly exciting.  You stand with this heavy round ball (a little smaller than a bocce ball) and you know it can cause irreparable damage to you and others.  We stood in cement bays, with Drill Instructors standing next to us.  Their job was to throw us to the other side of the cement barrier if we dropped the grenade, or forgot to throw it in the excitement. 

I stood in my bay ready to pull the pin, looking at the crater left by someone who dropped their grenade earlier that day.  There is a healthy terror to pulling that pin.  And yet, when you do, you release a powerful weapon.  In a flash of light and sound, I could hear and feel the powerful force of the grenade going off on the other side of the bunker wall.  In live combat the grenade is an even more terrifying weapon.

For us as Christians we are in a never ending battle for Joy.  We fight to keep our delight and treasure secure in Jesus Christ.  And in this battle God gives us many weapons and tools for us to use for His glory.  Every day I become more and more convinced that, in the never ending battle for joy, confession may be our most powerful weapon.  Confession, like a grenade, can do great damage to the forces of darkness by exploding with the light of Grace.

Here is the problem, like me, as an ROTC cadet, we are unpracticed and untrained with this weapon.  Too often confession is treated as something I do privately, in the darkness of my closet.  And yes, we can and should go directly to God with our sins to find forgiveness (1 Tim. 2:5).  But the bible seems to say more on the confidence, freedom, joy and grace we have when we confess our sins to each other in community.  If confession remains a private and an individual task, our hearts will continue to convince us that we are still condemned.  Or worse, our hearts may convince us that our sin is really no big deal. 

To take sin and grace seriously we must confess our sins to each other.  Take the quint essential passage on confession, 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  But the question we must ask is to whom do we confess our sin?  Yes we confess our sin to God, but this passage is cemented like a bunker in the foundation of fellowship among believers. 

Verse seven sheds light on the context of our confession, “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 1:7, Emphasis Added).  Our position in the light and cleaning from sin takes place in the fellowship of faith.  As with the many, many “one another” passages in the scriptures, this passage speaks of the precious and intimate fellowship we have together.  And the parallels between verse 7 and verse 9 tells us that we simply should not confess our sins in the closet.  But we must confess our sins within the context of one another. We need the Community of Light, the Church. 

Continuing with the soldier analogy, a soldier by himself is in a dangerous place when confronting the enemy.  No matter how many grenades he has he will be quickly surrounded and overwhelmed, if he is by himself.  But if that soldier is part of a well trained squad, one grenade can set the stage for victory, with a combined attack. 

Confession is a grenade that shines the light of grace into our soul and community.  When the pin of confession is pulled, in the company of other well equipped believers, the explosion of light and forgiveness is tremendously effective in destroying sin’s hold in your life. 

This is a regular practice in my life.  When I find myself struggling to make progress in my spiritual growth the root is always sin.  So I find close brothers or mentors to help find and confess the sin sieging my soul.  Only then do I find victory.  At times I find sin that requires me to confess my harm to other people.  I make a regular practice of confessing my sins to my wife (especially the small ones).  Nothing has strengthened my marriage more than when I finally broke down and confessed my sins of lust and a wondering eye to her.  Nothing gave me victory over those persistent sins like frequent and honest confession to my wife.  In these moments Satan’s attack is destroyed and my worship of Jesus increases. 

We must do away with the notion that confession is an individual event.  God’s glory is most wonderfully revealed when have opportunity to live out the grace, demonstrated on the cross, together.  I don’t wonder if the reason so many pastors fall from grace and ministry is that they fail to confess their sins early and often to trusted advisors, elders, and friends.  Sin wants us to remain isolated, confession in community destroys that isolation. 

The more I study the scriptures the more the beauty of confession, one to another, is revealed.  Take for instance David’s psalm of confession in Psalm 51.  It begins with these words, “To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.”  This isn’t simply David’s private journal.  This is a song to be sung in the congregation of Israel, specifically in response to David’s sin.  In James 5:15-17, answered prayer and healing are directly related to confessing sins to the elders.  Acts 19:18, the believers in Ephesus came together Jew and Greek confessing their sinful practices. 

I am convinced that the greatest weapon we have in the battle for joy is confession.  Sin cannot stand before the explosive light released when we confess our sins to one another.  The light of God’s glory and the depth of His grace are revealed when the Community of Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, confesses their sin together.  So stop struggling in your insufficient attempts to overcome sin alone.  You were given a great weapon against the enemy, “confess [your] sins, he is faithful and just to forgive [you of your] sins and to cleanse [you] from all unrighteousness.”

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