Reflections of Gospel-Driven Repentance: Looking for Free-flowing Confession

Monday, January 28, 2008

Two comrades have fallen sexual immorality. One is a husband of fifteen plus years, and a father of five. The other is a single man. They both are precious and dear to me, and always will be. Both confessions entered my ears within forty-eight hours. I'm in somewhat of a spiritual shell-shock. This is a fresh and much-needed reminder of the power of indwelling sin and the aims of the enemy as my family embarks to pastor a church plant.

A few questions is all it usually takes me to discern whether a confession is genuinely rooted deeply enough in the heart. This is the thing to be most treasured when counseling and confessing: free-flowing confession of sin and a sense of utter desperation. As my brother, a professional investigative interviewer, once put it so wisely: "when I turn on the faucet of confession, it needs to flow fast and constant...otherwise if I have to put my arm up the faucet and extract the truth one drop at a time it will be miserable for us both."

Consider David in any of his Psalms of confession: 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143. These are all Psalms which are especially expressive of sorrow over sin. The faucet of the heart is flowing freely here, confessing sin, pouring out sorrow, examining self, and clinging to God out of desperation. Psalms like these build a biblical, gospel-woven filter in my mind so that the following questions are asked in search of reflections appropriate to the work of the gospel in the heart that is damaged with sin.
  • When questions are asked of the one confessing, does the confession flow freely? Or do I have to ask several questions to get the answer I'm looking for? 
  • Do the answers to my questions contain more information than I asked for? Or do I have to keep asking questions to get the information I need?
  • Does the person willingly put the pieces of the puzzle together? Or am I left trying to put it together for myself and figure out what it looks like?
  • Do they willingly answer any detailed question given to them with the same or greater detail?

  • Do they confess their sin in the best possible light? Do they confess in a way that makes them out to appear to be a victim? Do they conceive of their sin as an accident?
  • Do they willingly explain every detail of what led up to their sin and how they handled it afterward?
  • Does the person expose their inner thoughts and thought-processes? Or do I have to keep asking questions to figure out what they were thinking?
  • Do they appear to take on the tone or context of bargaining about their consequences? Or do they recognize their sin in such a way that makes them conclude they have no right to ask anything at all?
  • Are they desirous to discuss their pathway to restoration? Or do they view themselves in such a way that they cry out for mercy while realizing they deserve none?
The coming posts will attempt to submit some biblical reflections of genuine, gospel-driven repentance, so that (1) other believers will know how to test their own hearts to see if their confession and repentance is genuine, and (2) so that other believers will know how to properly pursue true restoration to fellowship with King Jesus and the church when they encounter those they know who have sinned.

The gospel is a razor's edge on which we walked each day with comfort about the tension that bloodies our feet as we walk with God. On the one side of the razor is forgiveness and justification...God declaring us not guilty and proclaiming that there is no longer any condemnation. On the other side of the razor is confession, repentance, and studying his soul to see if the Spirit truly lives there and if God has truly justified him.

Every soul must walk this razor. Those who have fallen to sin will portray a gospel-driven desperation that is reflected in a willingness and desire to walk it. But those who choose to cling to one side or the other will reflect a pride that infects the heart deeply so that it is not ready for true gospel restoration.

The task of each brother and sister in Christ in restoration efforts is to help that fallen comrade stand up on that razor's edge, learn to balance once again, and become comfortable with the pain and the tension, crying out to Jesus daily, once again, for grace and help in time of need. Such a person is ready to lead again when they have proven themselves with a consistency and faithfulness, in their ability to walk with a grace of balance that not only keeps them from sinning like that again, but also helps others with an effectual assistance to walk the same way.

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