Francis Chan really makes me think, I love to watch his videos on YouTube. He has a way of giving you a perspective that will allow you to see important truths.

 1 JOHN 1:5-10 NEB

Here is the message we heard from him and pass on to you: that God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to be sharing in His life while we walk in the dark, our words and our lives are a lie; but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, then we share together a common life, and we are being cleansed from every sin by the blood of Jesus His Son. If we claim to be sinless, we are self-deceived and strangers to the truth. If we confess our sins, he is just, and may be trusted to forgive our sins and cleans us from every kind of wrong; but if we say we have committed no sin, we make him out to be a liar, and then His word has no place in us.

John was an Apostle of Jesus and an eyewitness to Jesus’ life. This letter is written to Christians and has a great emphasis on protection from false teachers. Some people in that day doubted that Jesus was God in the flesh. He was dealing with this. He also spoke about believer’s enjoying the fellowship of their salvation in Jesus. So having joy and having fellowship.  If you have accepted Jesus, believed in the Gospel, confessed our sins, you are made right with God, so he is telling you what that looks like. John also pointed out some things the believer needs to know about God to enjoy a lasting fellowship with Him.

Let’s focus in on the idea of confession, our heart towards confession, what happens to us when we confess and after we confess. Today my hope is that each person who reads through this ends with knowing they are forgiven.

That passage does not read:

“If we make alms for our sins…”

“If we do penance for our sins…”

“If we do everything right and never sin…”

It reads, “If we confess our sins, He is just, and may be trusted to forgive our sins and cleans us from every kind of wrong;

There is an excellent story of someone confessing their sin to God in Luke 18:9-14:

This parable was aimed at those who were sure of their own goodness and looked down on everyone else. “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-gatherer. The Pharisee stood up and prayed thus: “I thank thee, O God, that I am not like the rest of men, greedy, dishonest, adulterous; or, for that matter, like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get.” But the other kept his distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven, but beat upon his breast, saying, “O God, have mercy on me, sinner that I am.” It was this man, I tell you, and not the other, who went home acquitted of his sins. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled; and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.’

Did you see the heart of the men when they confessed? One was so sorry, he could not even look up! The other was full of pride. Have you ever been in either of their shoes? Have you ever been so broken by your sin that you could not lift your head!? Have you ever thought I’m good, I don’t cheat on my taxes, I give stuff away every now and then, I haven’t murdered anybody, I don’t need God’s help?

Maybe you’ve had an entirely different scenario when it came to confession, maybe you were trying to hide to your sin. How many of you can remember your very first sin, that you knew you did something wrong, and you completely regretted it? Raise your hands if you think you remember it.

When I was a little girl, maybe 7 or 8 years old I had my first confession at St. Benedict’s, my childhood church.

Internet Photo of St. Benedict's Catholic Church
Internet Photo of St. Benedict’s Catholic Church

It was an incredible experience because a few weeks earlier I had been tempted to do something wrong.

I was at the church with my mom folding the bulletins in the church office. The desk I was sitting at had the most incredible drawer filled with all kinds of staplers, tapes, paper clips, rubber bands, it was just full of good stuff.

There was even a roll of stamps. Now my dad always sent letters with stamps on them, so naturally I loved stamps. This roll of stamps was brand new and looked like so much fun. So when no one was looking I took it out of the drawer and put it in my pocket for later. The problem was when I got home I didn’t know what to do with it, I realized I had stolen a very valuable thing and had to hide it so my mom didn’t find it.

Now those stamps constantly haunted me from their hiding place in my play kitchen and I wished every day I could just put them back but at some point they were discovered.  So did I confess? No, I concocted a story that my dad had given me the stamps for writing him letters. My mom actually began borrowing them to pay bills! I was stuck, not a good thief and a worse liar. When I arrived at church the next week to fold bulletins there was a note in the drawer saying “Stay out of this drawer”, staring back at me!!

Fast forward to the first confession, the priests were lined up in a huge classroom along the back row of tables, each one within inches of the next. Why hadn’t they taken us to the shrouded dark confessional booth I was longing for? I thought we were going to get to use that, this was awful, “now I can’t say a word”. I thought. Now I needed to lie to cover up my lying and my stealing.

“I know!!! I’ll confess that I stole my sister’s pencils from her drawer.” Which was also not true, but those pencils in the drawer and all the stuff in there looked so appealing so when she cleaned it out I always took what I could salvage from her trash. I marched up and without any eye contact let him know I had stolen from big sis. “Ah finally it’s over”, but then he asked, “Anything else?” Of course there was something else, but I wasn’t saying. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough, sweat was rolling off of me, I couldn’t breath.

If only we had been able to confess in the dark, I was so afraid in that well lit room where everyone could see me!

This sin had a big result. It was the first sin I remember, I felt guilt, I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders and I was sure that I was doomed because of it. I knew a darkness at that moment.

Confession is part of fellowship, fellowship with believers, and ultimately fellowship with God. Had I just confessed to that priest I would not have carried around that sin for most of my adult life.

What really happens when you confess?

The Light comes in.

Have you ever heard how powerful light is, to our eyes? Absolute dark hides everything but the light of a tiny match can be seen by your human eye in absolute darkness up to 30 miles away. Think of a city that’s 30 miles away from where you are! That’s powerful!

Have you ever experienced complete darkness?

My first job in high school had an initiation of being shut in, locked in, the food freezer with the light turned out. Since I’m afraid of the dark I won’t tell you the exact words I used as I finally escaped to the light but that darkness was unbelievable and when the light hit my eyes it was blinding.

Another time I experienced total darkness was photography class in college when we learned to develop our own film it was a very difficult process where you had to feel your way through the dark, and another was in Haiti.

Only 12% of their country has electricity. So at night when the city turns off its power the streets go black. This is an internet satellite photo of Haiti in the dark.

Satellite Photo from Internet
Satellite Photo from Internet

I can still remember the strangeness of it all as I could hear everyone but not see past the porch, the missionaries run generators powered by car batteries to maintain lighting. You still hear babies crying and know that moms are trying to care for little ones by the sounds and by feeling their way through the dark.

One night the city’s power came back on for some reason and the screams we heard in the streets were unbelievable, I thought people were dying or something. The people were rejoicing, screaming at the top of their lungs! Light had pierced the darkness! They could see!

Hebrews 4:13 in the NIV says,

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

One day everything will be known, everything you’ve ever done, said, stolen, lied about, everything you said you do but didn’t, everything you wouldn’t give away, everything you thought will be known. Maybe you’re reading this today carrying around the weight of your first sin, or your sin yesterday and it’s eating you up inside.

Maybe you want that fellowship with God, maybe you do not feel forgiven.

1 John 1:9 from the NIV says,

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

He doesn’t say it’s up to you to feel forgiven, He says HE IS FAITHFUL and HE WILL FORGIVE US. We just need to confess our sins to Him. Accept His forgiveness and Believe we are forgiven.

Sometimes when it comes to confession and dealing with sin, you may have a spiritual struggle, a dilemma. Have you ever confessed, known you were forgiven and then later been reminded of the sin and felt lost that feeling of being forgiven?

Let’s talk for a minute about the difference between condemnation and conviction. Condemnation is punishment for evil and used for unbelievers, conviction is from the Holy Spirit and a tool for discipline and redemption of those who follow Jesus. One is healthy for the follower, the other is disparaging.

RESULTS OF SIN WILL GIVE YOU EITHER CONDEMNATION OR CONVICTION, DEPENDING ON WHAT YOU ARE BELIEVING IN FAITH:

Condemnation

  • From the darkness of sin.
  • Judgement focused
  • John 10:10 -“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy…”
  • Constantly being reminded with thoughts of failure.
  • Thinking of the same sin over and over and over again.
  • Not feeling forgiven.

Conviction

  • From the light of the Holy Spirit.
  • Redemption focused
  • Romans 8:1 “There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus…”
  • Being prompted to seek God’s redeeming forgiveness.
  • Freedom knowing you are forgiven.

John 10:10

Jesus came to give life, but the thief steals and kills. Think of death when you think of condemnation.

Romans 8:1

For there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Think of life when you think of conviction.

Know this Church, He has a plan for you to have fellowship with Him. That plan includes confession. It includes His merciful grace shown to you through conviction for your sin and ultimately forgiveness.

Two years ago I went to the Walk to Emmaus, a Christian gathering for 3 days where you receive the love of God at the hands of the church. It’s like no other church experience you will ever have and gives you a vision for the Church and what it could be. It’s amazing. You sleep on air mattresses and do not wear a watch but you taste Christianity at its finest! While there I experienced the peace that comes from absolute, supreme forgiveness. There was an experience where I felt like I stood at the throne of God and knew His covering was on me. I knew His peace because I was sorry for my sin of not forgiving those who hurt me, I confessed it, accepted His forgiveness. It was quiet. It was still. It was a picture of God had not yet seen, I did not know how peaceful He is. Now I long for that – I’m homesick for that. I want His forgiveness so I can experience His peace. St. Augustine said it best, “Lord, thou madest us for thyself, and we can find no rest till we find rest in Thee.”

When the sin barrier is removed you’re free!  When you forgive the one who hurt you, when you let go of the past, when you focus on real life with Jesus, you’re usable for His kingdom work to be done!

You are no longer useless. When I was stuck in unforgiveness I was useless.

Jesus calls you, the one who has confessed the one who has been forgiven, a city set on a hill!

Matthew 5:14 NOAB

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

When I was trapped in the freezer in the dark, someone helped me out and opened the door, then I could see. When the people of Haiti had the lights come back on the people rejoiced, they could see. Living in the dark, living with your sin tucked away hidden in your heart is just like fumbling around. Think of the mom trying to diaper a kid in the dark. It would not go well. Think of trying to develop film in the dark, if I had not had a teacher there who knew where the lights were I would’ve stayed in the dark room forever.

Darkness is disorienting. But the light allows you to see. When you confess – you come out of the dark. When you confess you have such freedom. When you tell the priest, “Hey it was me, I took the stamps, here’s some new ones that you can use to tell people about Jesus, please tell people about Jesus!” When you confess and say God, I didn’t forgive, please forgive me. He does, He does forgive you!

You’re free from the dark! God sees it all anyways, why not be free from it?

Luke 8:17 says,

“For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to the light.”

Why not confess it, get it off your chest and be in the light? When you’re carrying around the darkness of sin, be it unforgiveness, hatred, a painful past experience that has left you bitter, whatever it is – you might as well be carrying around a 50 lbs. of rocks, uphill.

Photo from the Internet
Photo from the Internet

It’s not going to do anything but weigh you down, make you walk slower, keep you in a place where you are not good for anything else. It breaks you down. But when you confess it and allow God to deal with it, you find freedom!

The other day I had a chance to talk with a fella that had invested in me as a teenager and knew me while I was in such a dark place, I was addicted and a mess. He said the last time I ever saw you, you were totally wasted, sitting on the edge of picnic table and the next thing I knew you were lying on the ground. That man could not believe the change in me! He went wild and hugged me and just smiled like a crazy person! He saw the Light in me! The darkness is gone, the empty hollow heart is filled with fellowship with God! He could see that!

You know, we have a sin problem. It is our darkness, and God knows this, His remedy is the blood of Jesus Christ. He is our covering. When He looks at us He sees His Son, He sees the light of the world.

Our sin can do one of two things, it can drive us further and further away from God, or it can show us our need for Him.  We need His light to outshine our darkness. The world needs to see His light and we are here to show them His light!

Your church is a city on a hill to those in the dark. The lost are wondering around looking for the answer, they’re fumbling in the dark. And you church member, you have the Gospel in your hearts.

Let the Church be the place you find His light. Let the church you are a part of be a place that reflects His light. Let the Church be a place where he hear from Him, let it be where the door gets open, where the light is shining in the dark, let us be a city on a hill. Let your church be one where confession is important enough we take time to do it where we bend our knees church to the God that gave them to us. Let our churches be a safe haven from the darkness of our world where we know we are forgiven, we are reminded of His covering for our sin and where the world can come and know Him also in this way! And ultimately Church let our churches be a place where you get prepared, where you experience forgiveness and peace and where you welcome in and go out to the stranger, so they too can know that amazing experience of God’s grace.

When you are forgiven and believing in Jesus, you are gonna do great things! Jesus said in John 14:12, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”

My challenge to you is to confess your sin, get rid of it. Let it go, like the Frozen theme song.  know that Jesus gave you permission to be the light in the dark! When you are living for Jesus, your life is like the match 30 miles away for those in the dark. It’s like the lights going on in Haiti, like a person opening the freezer door! My prayer for you, Jesus follower, is one of boldness to go live out John 14:12, make Jesus’ words come true with all you have. Be the light! Be the city on the hill!

I’m challenging you to say it out loud.

Find a friend you can trust, talk to them and spill the beans, just let them know this is what I did or this is what I’m struggling with. Once you do that you might feel awful and worry they’re not going to love you but I can assure you the power that the sin has had over you will begin to fade. It weakens it when it’s spoken out loud and healing will begin.

Take time for the confession booth today, write it all down, be specific, get it off your chest and then when you’re done confessing, and making it right with God or whoever your sin is against, know you have been forgiven.

STEPS TO THE CONFESSION BOOTH

Write out your sins, be specific

Find a friend you can trust

Confess your sins – say it out loud

Make it right if you can

Know you’re forgiven

There is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ! Live your life as worship to your God! He longs to see us reflecting His grace and forgiveness in our broken world. He longs for you to accept His love through His forgiveness, for you to know who you really are, His precious forgiven child. Surrender it all to Him today! He wants to use you, He wants you to make Him famous. Know you are forgiven, and He has a plan and purpose for you today!

Oh God, some of us are struggling today. We do not feel forgiven. We do not think we deserve your forgiveness but You gave it to us freely. We need You! God be with us, show us the way, show us the truth. Be our light in the dark! Oh God let our hearts reflect your light to our broken neighborhoods, to our cities, to our country and our world. Let us do great things in Your name we pray. Amen.