The Need For Confession

Jesus taught us to pray to OUR Father. This speaks of community and accountability. Ken Blanchard noted: “Accountability means: We owe each other for something we’ve agreed upon.” What have the saints of God agreed upon? That God is our Father, that Jesus is His Son and our Brother, and that the Holy Spirit is our Helper. We’ve agreed that if we are brothers and sisters in God’s family, we are mutually accountable to one another. 

The part of accountability that some people don’t like is the realization that I make mistakes: I let people down; I sin. In a community of saints, my shortfall not only affects me but the rest of the community too. But there is a remedy—The remedy for my sin starts with my confession of my sin. 

If people like David, Isaiah, Daniel, Nehemiah, and Paul confessed their sin and called themselves sinners, what makes me think that I’m exempt from that diagnosis or that cure?! 

Confession is an owning of my sin. It’s saying to God, “I have sinned. I need forgiveness. I will repent of this. I need Your mercy.” And it’s saying to my fellow saints, “I need your help so I don’t have to repeat this sin.” 

Unconfessed sin is life-draining (Psalm 32:1-5). The word confess in the Old Testament Hebrew means to “throw out your hand.” Expose it all! In the New Testament Greek confess means to acknowledge that my life does not measure up to God’s standard. 

Confession may start in my personal prayer closet, but it needs to move to the public domain of the community of saints. Jesus made it plural, “Forgive US OUR debts, as WE have forgiven OUR debtors.” 

Sometimes I cannot see my own debts that need to be forgiven (Psalm 19:12), so I need the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the loving confrontation of someone who loves me (Psalm 139:23-24; Proverbs 27:6, 2 Samuel 12:1-13). 

The apostle James helps us see how a loving community brings healing, deliverance, and restoration. The key components that James lists are prayer and confession (James 5:13-16). 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer echoed James when he wrote, “A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person. As long as I am by myself in the confession of my sins everything remains in the dark, but in the presence of a brother the sin has to be brought into the light.”  

Confession may be the most under-used resource for Christians to gain power in prayer and victory over falling into temptation!

Let’s continually make use of this wonderfully freeing discipline. 

4 Holy Spirit-Enhanced Habits

According to Paul, there are only two ways people can live: in the flesh or in the Spirit. That is—(1) operating separate from God, or (2) with a soul/body that is operating with God’s full involvement. 

The trouble is: we’re always—as long as we’re alive—still in the flesh because we need these bodies to carry around our soul and spirit. But changes begin to occur first at salvation (when the connection of our spirit to God’s Spirit is reestablished), and even more so after being baptized in the Holy Spirit (when we are not trying to work out things on our own). 

As a result, we have the same brain, but a mind that is being renewed; the same eyes, but insight that is being expanded; the same ears, but learning new ways to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying. 

Remember that Jesus promised that the baptism in the Holy Spirit would empower us TO BE His witnesses (Acts 1:8). Not just to do things differently, but to have our spirit so enlivened by the Holy Spirit that we are living, breathing, walking, talking witnesses of a life transformed.

Have you noticed that there wasn’t a steep “learning curve” for the disciples of Jesus following Pentecost? Part of that is due to four key habits that the Holy Spirit helped form in their lives. 

  1. Correct biblical application—We immediately see people going from “They didn’t understand from the Scriptures” to quickly applying biblical texts to their current situations. This is exactly what Jesus promised would happen (John 20:6-9; Acts 2:16, 25, 34; John 14:26). 
  1. Intercessory prayer—To intercede is to take someone else’s needs to God on their behalf. The Holy Spirit can help us apply Scripture to our prayers, and can even help us without words at all (Acts 4:24-26; Romans 8:26-27). 
  1. Creative thinking—Christians should be the most creative thinkers in the world (Psalm 119:99; Jeremiah 33:3; 1 Corinthians 2:10). 
  1. Healthy conflict resolution—We’re all different, so not seeing eye-to-eye is bound to happen, but Spirit-empowered Christians will be able to resolve conflicts faster and with better results (Acts 6:1-8; Acts 15:1-31). 

“Your life as a Christian should make unbelievers question their disbelief in God.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Amen! Your life as a Christian that is living out daily habits that have been empowered by the Spirit should make everyone around you want to go deeper and deeper into all that the Holy Spirit has in store for them too. 

If you missed any of the messages in this series, you can access the full list of messages by clicking here

8 Prayers From “Dangerous Prayers”

Dangerous Prayers give a brief biography of 50 culture-shifting people, and the world-changing prayers they prayed. Check out my full book review by clicking here, and then enjoy just a few of the prayers from this excellent book. 

“Listen to my supplication, Master, so that my soul doesn’t stagger under Your instruction, so that I don’t stumble in testifying to Your mercies, by which You tore me away from all my ruinous pathways. Thus You’ll grow sweet to me beyond all that led me wrong, in my willingness to follow it. Thus I’ll love You most mightily, and grasp Your hand with all the strength of my inmost being. Thus You’ll tear me away from every trial, clear to the end.” —Augustine 

“Restore me to liberty, and enable me so to live now that I may answer before Thee and before the world. Lord, whatever this day may bring, may Thy name be praised. Amen.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer, while awaiting execution in a Nazi concentration camp 

“Give us grace, O God, to dare to do the deed which we well know cries to be done. Let us not hesitate because of ease, or the words of men’s mouths, or our own lives. Mighty causes are calling us—the freeing of women, the training of children, the putting down of hate and murder and poverty—all these and more. But they call with voices that mean work and sacrifice and death. Mercifully grant us, O God, the spirit of Esther, that we may say: ‘I will go unto the king and if I perish, I perish.’” —W.E.B. DuBois 

“Because we have need continually to crave many things at Your hands, we humbly beg You, O heavenly Father, to grant us Your Holy Spirit to direct our petitions, that they may proceed from such a fervent mind as may be agreeable to Your holy will.” —John Knox 

“O keep us, we beseech Thee, Lord, for without Thy keeping we cannot keep ourselves.” —Charles Spurgeon 

“Oh Jesus, You who suffer, grant that today and every day I may be able to see You in the person of Your sick ones and that, by offering them my care, I may serve You. Grant that, even if You are hidden under the unattractive disguise of anger, of crime, or of madness, I may recognize You and say, ‘Jesus, You who suffer, how sweet it is to serve You.’” —Mother Teresa 

“I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in His holy protection, that He would incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow Citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the Field, and finally, that He would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble invitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation.” —George Washington 

“God give me a deep humility, a well-guided zeal, a burning love, and a single eye, and then let men or devils do their worst.” —George Whitefield 

Dangerous Prayers (book review)

Prayer changes things. That makes prayer dangerous and the pray-ers themselves a danger to anything that opposes the kingdom of God. Dangerous Prayers is a collection of powerful prayers and a brief biography of those who prayed them. 

Growing up, a constant refrain rang in my ears from my parents whenever I faced a problem: “Have you prayed about it?” I’m not sure why we make prayer our last resort instead of our first response, but it often seems that some of the most heartfelt, passionate prayers are offered up in the darkest of times. 

Dangerous Prayers offers a short biography of some world-changing people who changed the world in large part because of their desperate dependence on God’s help, as seen in the frequent and bold prayers they prayed. Many of these prayers were prayed in dark places—prisons, before the executioner, in the midst of war, in unimaginable poverty, or staring down the evils of slavery. These men and women repeatedly turned to God, and God repeatedly strengthened them to accomplish amazing things. Some of the answers to prayer came in their lifetimes, and some prayers were only answered long after they had died. 

Dangerous Prayers is an excellent coffee table book. By that, I mean it’s a great book to leave out in the open as a conversation-starter. Parents could read these short biographies and prayers with their children, and friends could use them as a bridge from past history to current events. But more than anything, keep Dangerous Prayers close at hand will—I sincerely hope—cause you to turn to prayer frequently and boldly. 

I am a Thomas Nelson book reviewer. 

19 Quotes From Other Authors In “Love Like That”

As Dr. Les Parrott presented the five ways Jesus showed His love to us, he supported his thoughts with some insightful quotes from other authors. Check out my full book review of Love Like That by clicking here.

“If you stop to be kind, you must swerve often from your path.” —Mary Webb 

“We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito.” —C.S. Lewis 

“Pride is our greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend.” —John R.W. Stott 

“Jesus was the Man for others.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

“Jesus was able to love because He loved right through the layer of mud.” —Helmut Thielicke 

“They that know God will be humble; they that know themselves cannot be proud.” —John Flavel 

“Those who judge will never understand, and those who understand will never judge.” —Wilson Kanadi 

“Mercy gave the Prodigal Son a second chance. Grace gave him a feast.” —Max Lucado 

“Christ accepts us as we are, but when He accepts us, we cannot remain as we are.” —Walter Trobisch 

“Jesus did not identify the person that with his sin, but rather saw in this sin something alien, something that really did not belong to him, something…from which He would free him and bring him back to his real self.” —Helmut Thielicke 

“While every other religion offers a way to earn approval, only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional.” —Philip Yancey 

“Judgmentalism finds its identity in what is not. … Rare is the person who can weigh the faults of others without putting his thumb on the scale.” —Byron Langenfeld 

“To love a person means to see him as God intended him to be.” —Fyodor Dostoevsky 

“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.” —Anne Lamott 

“All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.” —Flannery O’Connor 

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” —John F. Kennedy 

“We often err not because we find it hard to perceive the truth (it is often right there, at the surface), but because it is easier and more pleasant to be guided by our feelings, especially if self-centered.” —Alexander Solzhenitsyn 

“A ‘no’ uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a ‘yes’ merely uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble.” —Mahatma Gandhi 

“Every time you listen with great attentiveness to the voice that calls you the Beloved, you will discover within yourself a desire to hear that voice longer and more deeply.” —Henri Nouwen 

Check out some of Dr. Parrott’s quotes from Love Like That which I shared here. 

3 Quotes About Bible Studies

New Bible study toolsYesterday I shared 7 must-have Bible study tools. Here are three powerful quotes on how and why we should make studying our Bibles an ongoing, lifelong pursuit.

“Search the Scriptures. Do not merely read them—search them; look up the parallel passages; collate them; try to get the meaning of the Spirit upon any one truth by looking to all the texts which refer to it. Read the Bible consecutively: do not merely read a verse here and there—that is not fair.” —Charles Spurgeon

“One cannot simply read the Bible, like other books. One must be prepared really to enquire of it. Only thus will it reveal itself. Only if we expect from it the ultimate answer, shall we receive it.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Let us resolve to read the Bible more and more every year we live. Let us try to get it rooted in our memories, and engraved into our hearts. … Let us resolve to be more watchful over our Bible reading every year that we live. Let us be jealously careful about the time we give to it, and the manner that time is spent. Let us be aware of omitting our daily reading without sufficient cause. Let us not be gaping, and yawning and dozing over our book, while we read. … Let us be very careful that we never exalt any minister, or sermon, or book, or tract, or friend above the Word. Cursed be that book, or tract, or human counsel, which creeps in between us and the Bible, and hides the Bible from our eyes! … Let us resolve to talk more to believers about the Bible when we meet them. Sorry to say, the conversation of Christians, when they do meet, is often sadly unprofitable! How many frivolous, and trifling, and uncharitable things are said! Let us bring out the Bible more, and it will help to drive the devil away, and keep our hearts in tune.” —J.C. Ryle

Links & Quotes

link quote

These are links to articles and quotes I found interesting today.

“The truest and most acceptable repentance is to reverse the acts and attitudes of which we repent.” —A.W. Tozer

The so-called religion of peace: Christian Girl Abducted, Converted & Forced To Marry A Muslim

On the week of Bonhoeffer′s birthday: 12 Essential Bonhoeffer Quotes

Very touching: A Letter & Poem To My Baby On The 5-Year Anniversary Of My Abortion

Stop judging by outward appearances: One Biker′s Response To A Mother′s Rudeness

Seven Men (book review)

Seven MenWhen I read Bonhoeffer, I knew Eric Metaxas was a special author, bringing such a vibrance and fullness to his subject. So I began Seven Men And The Secret Of Their Greatness with high expectations, and I’m happy to tell you that Eric Metaxas exceeded those expectations!

As the title implies, Seven Men is a collection of seven biographies of key men in history. These aren’t biographies covering the entire lives of these great men, but rather a zoomed-in look at a crucial moment in the lives of these men. Eric gives us just enough of an introduction to their early lives to set the stage, and then concentrates his look at the decisions or stands these men took to achieve the title of “great.”

How does one measure greatness? In the case of these seven men, Eric defines greatness as heroic character put to a test where most are tempted to stop short. These seven men stood firm mainly because of their godly character, and their conviction that a stand in their age would mean others in their own age would be able to stand as well.

Even if you’ve read or heard about George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, or Charles Colson, you owe it to yourself to read Seven Men to see why they are considered “great” men.

I am a Thomas Nelson book reviewer.

Praying The Word

Dietrich BonhoefferI shared this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer this morning in my message—

Meditation lets us be alone with the Word. …In our meditation we ponder the chosen text on the strength of the promise that it has something utterly personal to say to us for this day and for our Christian life, that it is not only God’s Word for the Church, but also God’s Word for us individually. We expose ourselves to the specific Word until it addresses us personally.

Using the Bible as your prayer guide will take your prayers to a whole new level!

Filled To Be Emptied

This is a post especially for my pastor friends. 

Dear Friend,

I know you have a lot on your mind. You’re probably reviewing how Sunday went, and thinking about what you’re going to share next Sunday. You’ve probably got a pretty full agenda this week: staff meetings, Board meetings, maybe a counseling appointment or two, and a hospital visit. There’s lots happening (there always is, right?).

Can I break into your week to ask you a simple question: What did you read in your Bible this morning for you? You know, your personal devotional time… what was God’s Word saying just to you?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote this:

We are reading the Word of God as God’s Word for us. Therefore, we do not ask what this text has to say to other people. For those of us who are preachers that means we will not ask how we would preach or teach on this text, but what it has to say to us personally.

Here’s a simple principle: You cannot give to others what you have not received yourself. So you need to be filled up so that you can be emptied out.

Although your week may be busy, please, please, please make the time to read God’s Word for yourself. It will help you and your congregation as well.

May God fill you and then empty you, my friend, for His glory!

Cheering you on, I am your friend,

Craig

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