Last week we talked about the importance of trust and of sharing those things we typically hide with those close to us. To read this post, click here.
Confession has always been and will always be central to the Christian life. Many of us would like to think that when Scripture teaches about confession, it means something we admit to ourselves or keep between God and ourselves. Admitting the truth to ourselves is essential. Making confession before God is essential. But neither takes the place of confessing to another human being our sins.
To function well, cars need fuel, plants need water, and people need to confess the exact nature of their sins to others. This is not about legalism (God won’t heal you until you do x, y, and z), but it is about the nature of who you are as a created being.
Each man must face the reality that a half-veiled life—a life where he holds all the cards, he orchestrates who knows what, he decides what will make him better and what won’t—isn’t working. We want to believe there is another way, but confession to other people is required for those who want true freedom and purity.
In his breakthrough book Out of the Shadows, Patrick Carnes writes that one of two primary goals of the first years of sexual addiction recovery is to break isolation and reduce shame. Confession is a key part of this.
Break free from fear and shame through confession!? I thought confession produces fear and shame! Not so. Sin produces fear and shame. Confession does the opposite. It was Adam and Eve’s sin that had them running for cover. After admitting the truth (which they didn’t do very well), they received real covering from God (see Genesis 3:21). Confession releases men from fear and shame.
The enemy has deceived many a man into believing it is the light that produces the pain of fear and shame. If stepping into the light stirs up fear or shame, it means that fear and shame were already there. The light is just revealing it. If they cause so much pain in the light of the body of Christ—consider the damage they have been causing you in the darkness. It is too much to bear alone.
Under the veneer of being godly, strong, or competent is a fortress of rebellion and pride, and bolstering the fortress walls are fear and shame. We see this in Genesis 3 after Adam and Eve sinned. They were no longer “naked and unashamed,” and so they sewed fig leaves together to hide from each other. And when they heard God coming, they hid among the trees of the garden because, as Adam tells God, he was afraid.
When we hide ourselves behind “fig leaves” so others won’t see the truth about us, we also end up running to hide ourselves behind something more substantial in relation to God. Notice that God gave the first man and woman freedom to eat from any tree in the garden except one (Genesis 2:16, 17), and after they disobeyed Him, they tried to hide themselves “among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8). They retreated to where they were supposed to be. Many of us try to do the same thing to deal with the fear and shame produced by our sin—we serve more in church, read our Bibles more, tithe, lead worship, or even become pastors. But in the end, these are just attempts to hide ourselves from God among the trees, and nothing could be more counter-productive.
God is the source of all that we truly want: purity, freedom, love, and joy (to name a few)! We need to take the truth about what we’ve done and run to God and others, not away.
When God came to them, it wasn’t to scare them. And when He questioned them, it wasn’t to shame them. Just the opposite. Look what He did for them—exchanged their paltry coverings (leaves sewn together) for clothing made of flesh. The death of the animal used to make those more substantial coverings was the first death, a sacrificial death to remove Adam and Eve’s fear and shame (and a prelude of Christ’s flesh given for us). God didn’t come to scare them. He wanted restored relationship with them. And He feels the same toward us.
As we confess to others and begin to make a habit of telling the truth about our sins, shame and fear lose their hold on us, and we are free once again to walk in communion with God and with others.