We began our prayer journey through ACTS with Adoration – remembering the beauty, grace and love of God. From the transformative, embrace of Christ’s love and grace we are now ready to enter into Confession.
Confession. I know – it’s one of those words that causes an immediate defensiveness fueled by fear, shame, guilt or our relentless self-promoting egos. But it’s absolutely essential for our Christian formation. For in confession we are letting the Light in as we are truthful in what we are.
I’m going to have us ponder this through the lens of authenticity. Authenticity, as it’s defined from the world of art. In art, authenticity describes the perception of art as faithful to the artist’s self and intention, rather than conforming to external values such as historical tradition, or commercial worth.
We are made in the image of God, created to live true lives as reflections of who God is. But we know we are far from that now in so many ways. Confession deals with us getting back to reflecting God’s self and intention for our lives by acknowledging where we are not authentic – where we are not truly reflecting who God is.
Genesis 3 sets a vivid stage for us to help us see how and why we need to confess on a regular basis.
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
Satan began by causing questions to be raised in Eve’s mind about what God had said. Questions aren’t bad at all. In fact, we need and must have good honest questions in our Christian formation. But what happens next should cause us to pause.
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ “
Interesting to note that Eve added, “Do not touch.” Why? Why did she make what God said more severe than it was meant to be? Misunderstanding? Wanting to sound more informed? Another form of inauthenticity – not reflecting the intention of the Creator. How often do we do the same?
4 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Inauthenticity in it’s clearest form – an out-and-out lie.
Through this lie, Satan takes the next step and begins to reshape Eve’s very idea and image of God as someone who is keeping something back – hiding something from them. God is keeping something that would make their lives “better” – make their lives more complete. No longer is God the good God who has freely given them life and the whole garden to choose from to enjoy life.
Eve now has a choice whether to believe what God says is the truth and the authentic way of life or to embrace what she perceives as the truth.
Don’t we find ourselves in similar situations all too often?
Having to choose whether to embrace what God says as reality or my own perspective of reality?
But why didn’t Eve ask God directly or Adam at least, for help and clarity? This brings out another point for us to realize when it comes to living into an authentic life – it can’t be done alone we need each other! Our life with God is not a solo venture – it’s always about community.
Our life with God is not a solo venture – it’s always about community.
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Here is where it all happened. When we stopped living authentic lives and began hiding behind our fig leaves. Today those fig leaves have been replaced by our bank accounts, our status, our jobs, our degrees, our busyness. But the purpose is the same – they act as a shield, a mask, a cover so we and others don’t have to face who we really are and what we are feeling.
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
Does this strike anyone else as odd? That God would ask – Where are you? What God is asking is not only profound but full of grace and love.
Adam is hiding. And by this very question God is showing something has drastically changed. “Adam where are you? Will you trust me? Will you stop hiding? Will you come back into community with me?”
Such a sad scene. What used to be a time that was looked forward to is now something that creates fear.
John Ortberg draws out the tragic self-talk of one who lives in hiding – who is living an inauthentic life – before God and before others, “Even when someone tells you they love you, inside you say to yourself, “Yes, but you don’t know the whole truth about me. You might not say these things if you really knew.” This is why knowing and being known go to the core of life: You cannot be fully loved if you are not fully known. You can only be loved to the extent that you are known. You can only be completely loved if you are completely known.”
You cannot be fully loved if you are not fully known. You can only be loved to the extent that you are known. You can only be completely loved if you are completely known.
– John Ortberg
And instead of allowing ourselves – our true selves – to be found by God and others we do what Adam and Eve did – we hide. We hide from the One who can help us the most and others who can are part of the healing process.
10 [Adam] answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” 11 And God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
Now as I was reading through this again, I wondered if God was giving them somewhat of an out here. If God asks you a question, it’s not because God doesn’t know the answer. Does Adam lean into the grace being offered to confess and live authentically to God’s question? No. He does what we all seem to do way too often.
12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”v13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
Neither Adam, nor Eve – take responsibility for their actions.
Neither one confesses and lives authentically.
They hide behind excuses and blame others.
Not only does Adam blame Eve – but he also blames God!
And Eve doesn’t respond any better. She blames the serpent.
How often do we play the blame-game instead of taking responsibility and confessing where we are not true to Christ’s life in ours?
Sin is the source of inauthenticity and the reason we need the regular practice of confession in our lives.
When sin entered the world it changed everything.
Sin isn’t just doing something bad – that’s on God’s “list of don’ts.”
A sin is anything that goes against the character and nature of God.
Remember that definition of authenticity we shared earlier? Authenticity describes the perception of art as faithful to the artist’s self, rather than conforming to external values such as historical tradition, or commercial worth.
And remember we are made in the image of God.
So sin is anything that violates the character and image of God.
God is truth. Therefore when we lie we violate who God is.
God is life. Therefore when we take life or seek life from other sources than God we violate who God is and sin.
God is love. So when we murder, lust, envy, that destroys love so we sin.
Sin broke our community – our authentic – intimate way of life with God. Not only did sin effect our relationship with God but because we’re all made in God’s image – it affected every other relationship as well.
We no longer are filled with life and freedom and peace and joy.
All that was taken away and replaced by shame, and sorrow, and death.
But we know we are missing something, so we try to prop ourselves up to be more than we are. But now this runs so deep and is so complete that only God can fix it through Christ. This is why we need to confess and we need the help of others to do so.
Colossians 3:9-10, NIV: 9Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
Old self – old way of life before Christ.
New way of life is Christ in our lives, transforming us into our authentic lives. Lives made in the “image of their Creator.”
How does this take place? Jesus said it best, “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”
When we repent – when we confess – we do a 180.
We are laying down one way of life – an inauthentic way of life.
A way of life where I am calling the shots, propping myself up. Holding onto my view of reality.
But as I do that – I keep God and others at a distance.
But when I repent. When I confess my sins before God, being honest with what God already knows, I release this way of life and now my hands are open to receive what God has for me.
Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed.
– James 5:16, MSG
To many of us God is saying – where are you? Why are you hiding?
Remember God already knows the answer to that question. But also know this – Christ on the cross shows that that answer – that your inauthentic way of living – your sin, has not hindered God’s loving invitation for you to enter into a new way of life. A way of life free of fig leaves, growing in love, joy, peace and hope.
This is where confession leads.
Receive . . . Reflect . . . . Respond . . .
The exercises below can be used for your own reflection time with Christ but will take on a transformative dynamic when they are used in community with your family, small group or church.