“Is everybody here?” asked the clean-shaven young man who was visiting our small group for the first time.
“I think so,” I replied.
“Do you mind if I share my story?”
What followed was one of the most genuine confessions of sin that you could ever imagine. This young man, through brokenness and sorrow, confessed his life of homosexuality and the tug on his heart that this lifestyle was not right. “I feel like God wants something different for me,” he said through tears.
To make a long story short, God did want something different; and this man, who we’ll call “Jim,” committed his life to Jesus Christ that night. It was a genuine conversion into new life—the Holy Spirit placed a seal on Jim’s heart and affirmed his salvation in the weeks to come.
A friend of mine, “Andy,” who facilitated our men’s small group, took Jim in and let him live with him and his wife for a few weeks until he could find an apartment. In the mean time, Andy spent each day building a friendship with Jim and helping him to understand his new life in Christ.
Fast-forward about half a year to a time when Jim’s life was radically different. He had a girlfriend now and couldn’t be happier–but even he would confess that he wasn’t perfect yet. At one men’s meeting, Jim openly confessed some recent sins in his life. He told us how the night before, he had gotten drunk and lied to his boss in the morning, saying he had the flu instead of a hangover. But Jim didn’t just confess his previous night’s drunkenness; he renounced drinking altogether and asked all of us to hold him accountable. He decided that the best option for him would be to cease from alcohol completely, and he asked for our prayers and support, which we gladly offered. Furthermore, Jim told us how he went to his boss, confessed lying to him, told the truth, and apologized from his heart.
The rest of our meeting was full of one confession of sin after the next. Various men from our group spoke up in turn and some shared things that they had never told anybody prior to that moment. Even the oldest guys in our group had things to confess publicly with repentance.
Jim’s one act of open confession and brokenness led the way in bringing a sort of revival to our men’s group! Even after the meeting had ended, ministry was taking place as Jim and I met with another man at a local restaurant.
From the moment we met Jim, our hearts were endeared to him. Through his confession, he allowed all of us into his life, and he became an instant part of our group. Then, through that more recent confession, he was used by God to lead the way in a transformational wave of repentance that drew us all closer together and especially closer to God. Here he was, a new Christian, leading the way in a mini revival that swept through our group.
That’s the power of fellowship. Remember what I said a few articles ago about fast growth and grassroots? Jim didn’t have a lot of depth, but he had strength from a support system that enabled him to flourish in his spiritual life and be actively used by God.
But can you see how none of this could have effectively happened in a traditional “church service”? Fellowship took place among us because the setting of a small group is an ideal environment for such intimate interaction.
Confession brings you into fellowship with the Body of Christ because it is one of the first steps in unity with Jesus. Through confession, we actively enter into unity with Christ in His death. Jesus hung on the cross naked and exposed for everyone to see; so why shouldn’t we expect that “putting our sins on the cross” would involve our sins also being naked and exposed for everyone to see? This kind of transparency is part of what it means to “walk in the light.”
Why is this so important? Why can’t we just confess our sins to God? Well, the fact is that you can. But until they’re exposed, you have no testimony to share! If you never tell anyone about the sins of your past, then how can you tell them that you’re saved? Saved from what? As far as they know, you’re a super-saint who can’t relate to them, and they’re a wretched sinner who has no hope of being like you. See the problem? Confession isn’t just part of fellowship; it’s part of the Christian experience and paves the way for powerful testimony!
I believe the concept of secret testimonies is one of the sneakiest ploys of Satan to protect himself. In Revelation 12:11, John told us that Satan will be overcome in the last days by Christ’s blood and by the testimonies of believers who love Him more than their own lives. If the devil can convince us that the sins of our past are shameful, then he has effectively eliminated one of the weapons that stand against him. And if we, then, are refusing the blood of Christ by keeping our sin hidden, then we have eliminated the other weapon.
You can see how this has sneaked into the culture of our churches. Powerful sermons about salvation are followed by an invitation to slip your hand up quietly while everyone’s head is bowed and eyes are closed. We give the false impression that coming to Christ is shameful. We make it seem like it’s embarrassing to let a group of Christians know about our repentance.
Why? Are we more interested in reporting numbers of conversions than we are in actually converting people?
Open confession, on the other hand, makes the testimony start immediately. We get to watch someone go from death to life, and accountability is naturally put into action. I’m not talking about structured accountability that involves some sort of reporting system or rules. Rather, I’m talking about other Christians lovingly asking, “How’s that issue going? Are you still walking in freedom? Can I pray with you?”
See the difference?
So as we confess our sins, we enter into unity with Christ in His death, which brings us into fellowship with Christ’s Body, the Church. The next step is to walk in the power of His resurrection through “authenticity.”
If you missed the earlier posts about fellowship, you may want to check out:
In my next post, I’ll share the second part of this teaching on walking in the Light: Authenticity.