Monday, October 29, 2012

The Power of Confession

In the movies, I can usually tell the good guys from the bad guys.  The good guys wear white and want justice. The bad guys wear black and seek their own selfish gain. Some movies I’ve seen, however, surprise me at the end with who is really on which side.  Jesus told a story like that in Luke 8 verses 10-14.

[good guys wear white]

Jesus tells of two men who went into the temple to pray.  We learn that the first guy is a ministry worker. They were known to carefully follow God’s laws and encourage others to as well. We learn that the second guy does not work in the service of God, but for the government in a job widely known to be filled with corruption. They had a reputation for abusing the system and swindling the citizens for their own profit. 

From Jesus’ description of their jobs, I picture the first guy looking clean-cut, praying with sincerity in his voice, and maybe even wearing a white robe. The second man I picture as somewhat dirty and gruff, with dark, intimidating eyes. I imagine him going through the motions of prayer – for show, but not really meaning it.

Not only does Jesus tell us the two men’s occupations, but He also reveals exactly what they prayed. The first guy’s prayer was traditional for rabbis according to the Talmud. He gives thanks to God that he is set apart as a holy man, unlike the government employee on the other side of the room.  He prayed, God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get” (Luke 18:11-12, NASB).

The other man, however, wouldn’t even approach the alter. Jesus said he stood at a distance, refusing to lift his eyes up to heaven to address God directly.  This man was not going through the motions as I would imagine, he was feeling quite emotional. He beat against his chest with his fist, very aware of his need for God as he begged, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” (Luke 18:13b, NASB). 

Jesus said it was this man and not the first who left that temple having been made right with God.

The ending of this story was a shocker to Jesus’ audience. God didn’t justify the religious leader of the Jewish people who had fasted and tithed, but the tax collector for the Roman government who’d stolen from God’s people. Why? 

Because good actions are never enough to save our souls from the sins we commit. We need grace. And notice that the tax collector was the only one of the two who actually acknowledged he had sinned and asked to be forgiven. 
The lesson in their story remindes me of God's words in Hosea 6:6, "I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings." (NLT)
If we're honest, often we just want to ignore our sin until we can forget about it. Pretend it isn't there, because we feel shameful when we face it. But shame has a way of building up and clouding the complexion of our hearts.
We become mired in the notion that who we are or what we’ve done is so bad that God can’t or won’t forgive us. There is nothing biblical about that – God delights in forgiving repentant sinners! We simply ask with genuine sorrow for the sin and with faith that He will cleanse it.
"Let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ's blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water."  (Hebrews 10:22, NLT)
Once we are in Christ, our salvation doesn't depend on confession of every sin. But I strongly beleive our spiritual vitality can.

Confession washes the grime of shame from a believer's heart, restoring her spiritual complexion to a sparkling status. And allowing her to better see God.


  1. My spiritual life completely changed when I started being more direct with my confessions to God in prayer. I used to think if I pretended my mistakes weren't there, He couldn't see them. Bringing them to Him one by one has made my relationship with Christ more intimate, whether I talk to Him about the little or the huge sins in my life. Love this post!

    1. Thanks so much for that testimonial, Tamara. Good stuff!


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