Sin is described in the Bible as being spiritual slavery that masters and controls us (John 8:34; Romans 6:6). In modern language, sin can easily become an addictive behavior. Drunkenness, sexual sin, drug abuse, overeating, gossiping, and even compulsive shopping can all become addictive, sinful lifestyles. Addictions thrive in secrecy. The cycle of destructive behavior and addiction is only remedied when it is brought into the open and confessed.

Satan’s kingdom is found in the realm of darkness and his spiritual forces work under the shroud of shadow (Ephesians 6:12). Satan controls us when we keep our sins, struggles, and temptations in the darkness. But true disciples of Christ have been “delivered from the domain of darkness” and transferred “to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13, ESV). Followers of Christ allow the light of God’s Word to expose every dark place, every sinful action, and all hiding places in their lives. The power of forgiveness is only found when we confess our sins before God, allowing His light to let all of our failures and heinous sins be seen in the open.

At conversion, I became one of the “children of light” (Ephesians 5:8), and that light shines into my life exposing my sin and destroying the darkness where Satan controls me. Satan operates in the realm of darkness and he thrives in the places of secrecy. But when I admit everything about myself, when I open every dark corner of my life for everyone to see,when I let the light come in, Satan’s power is mitigated and the light of God’s presence fills my life.

We all want to experience freedom from guilt and sin; that is one of the main reasons that converts are baptized into Christ. Yet, as we live the Christian life, we discover that we continually face many wearisome battles against temptation and sin. Satan certainly focuses the heat of his attacks against those who are trying to live for God. Satan is the master deceiver, and he whispers in the Christian’s ear, “You are a reputable Christian. You go to church every week. You would be publicly humiliated if people knew what you struggle with. You can defeat this sin on your own. Nobody needs to know.”

So I keep my struggles to myself. I keep them secret. I keep them in the dark. And Satan thrives in the darkness. He is master over the realm of shadows. But I want so desperately to be freed from this slavery. I am weary from my private battles! The only way to be freed is to let the light scatter the darkness! I must confess my struggles and expose them to the light (Ephesians 5:11-13).

To be freed from sin, we expose all our sins by confessing them before God (1 John 1:8-9). We must confess our sins so that we can experience God’s forgiveness, so that the light of His presence can destroy the darkness and secrecy of our lives. Yet, even when we confess our sins to God, secrecy can remain. After all, when I confess my public sins alone (only before God), in a sense my sins still remain in the dark. Sin needs to be exposed to His light. Ultimately, Jesus Christ is my high priest. I don’t need a human mediator to go to God in my behalf (i.e. Catholic priests).

The Catholic ecclesiastical, confessional system is contrary toBiblical teaching.But as Christians,we are to practice brotherly confession with one another. Disciples of Jesus Christ are a “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9).We are all meant to function as priests for one another. As believers, we are to “confess [our] sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed” (James 5:16, ESV, emp. added). The freedom of confession is only liberating insomuch as I am specific about my sin. When I generically confess “I have sin in my life,” I leave my specific sins in the darkness and I experience no real freedom.

Why does this kind of confession seem so difficult for us today? Too often we view the Church as being a “museum of saints” rather than a “hospital for sinners.” We often feel like everyone around us in the Church has advanced to a high level of holiness “leaving us isolated and alone in our sin” (Foster 145). Because we feel as if we are the only ones that are still struggling, we hide our true selves from one another. If we could all come to realize that before Jesus made us a fellowship of saints by His grace, we were first by our own actions a “fellowship of sinners” (Foster 145). The Church is to be a gathering of people who feel open to confess their needs before Christian brothers and sisters without fear of judgment.

I am not alone in my sin and my struggle. Fear and pride cause us to resist the real healing that exposing the dark places of our lives can bring. But we must realize that it is in the power of open confession that we are released from this fear, where our sins are forgiven, and our souls are healed. It is when we allow ourselves to be “weak” with one another that we really gain the greatest spiritual strength of all (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:10).

By Jonathan Jones II

This article first appeared in Think magazine. To learn more or to subscribe, click here.

Cited: Foster, Richard J. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1978.

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