Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Truth or Dare?

Did you ever play that game as a child referred to as "Truth or Dare"? If you were brave enough to trust the one asking the question, you'd maybe choose 'truth', all the while hoping the individual wouldn't ask you anything all that revealing. If you didn't trust them to 'stay out of your business', you'd select 'dare' and take your chances that you'd be able to endure drinking a cup of pickle juice, putting your tongue on a frozen light pole, or the like. Sometimes I think we approach God like we are playing a game of "Truth or Dare" with him. We might just fear he will dig a little too deeply, so we opt for 'skirting the issue' - diverting attention to another topic in our prayer time. All the while, we need the 'truth moment', but we opt for the 'daring moment' when we veer from what we really needed all along - confession!

If we claim that we're free of sin, we're only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won't let us down; he'll be true to himself. He'll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we've never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God. (I John 1:8-10)

One of the first things I do in the morning is to ask God where he wants me to focus my study that day - getting tea ready for mom and making my lunch just acts as a natural time to ponder. Confession is often a poorly understood concept - partly because it is hard for so many people to admit their need, and partly because it is something that they fear because they are ashamed of their failures. Confession begins with the idea of considering what our true need is. When we understand that a true need exists within our lives we respond differently than if we just "feel unhappy". When we allow our minds to be set to work in the process of "considering" something, we are paying attention to that action, those thought patterns, or those various desires. We are focusing our energies on making a decision about each of them. Confession begins with us focusing our energies on making a decision about the sin that has us so bound by the pull it has on us. It may be as simple as coming to a place of truly considering the choice of words we use when we speak - maybe they are consistently harsh, or perhaps they are crass. As soon as we begin to focus our energies on "considering" those words, we become aware of when those words fall short of what God would desire to have come out of our mouths. 

That brings us to the idea of recognizing those thoughts, desires, or actions as true needs. When we truly contemplate those items in the light of what the Word of God says about how we are to think, be motivated, or to act, we come into a different perspective of these areas of need in our lives. We want to have them dealt with, or we want to hide them from view - the first leads us to confession, the latter leads us into denial and a whole lot of emotional turmoil. Whatever is hidden often provides ample fuel for shame to build in our lives - just a word to the wise on that one - it doesn't work well for us to hide stuff. Once we have considered our need, we come to a cross-road. We can either hide that need, or we can effectively submit it to the one who can address that need with all authority and power. When we choose to ignore or hide that need, we are acting to preserve "self" - we don't want to lose face with another or with God, so we hide that need. The transparency of confession is often uncomfortable because we don't want to be honest about our need. We may feel that if we are honest about our need, others will think differently about us. Or perhaps we have not learned enough about the deep love of God that is unconditional, so we fear that he will reject our request for forgiveness because our sin is "too great". Either way, we remain in bondage.

The only path to real freedom is that of confession - plain and simple. The only way to truly make an effective confession is to be honest. We have to be honest with ourselves about the depth of our need, then with God about the depth of our desire to be rid of that thing that pulls us down, adding unnecessary weight to our shoulders and a very heavy burden to our souls. This is the obedience part of confession - coming face to face with our need, admitting to ourselves that we have no power or authority to overcome that thing that pulls us into patterns of behavior or thought that are truly dishonoring to God and to our own spirit. Then we lay it down in front of him - so he can deal with it in his mercy and grace. Sometimes we need a little reminding that if we are "faithful" to confess our need, he is "faithful" to forgive us. Faith is then part of finding forgiveness - it begins with the recognition of a need, considering why that need exists, and then effectively laying that need before the ONLY one who can truly meet that need head on - Jesus. His response to our confession is forgiveness - total and complete! Just sayin!