Confession, Repentance, and Ash Wednesday

Confession, Repentance, and Ash Wednesday

“I have something I need to confess.” “Confession is good for the soul.” “I have a confession to make.” We use phrases like that and throw the word confession around a lot. But most of us, at least those of us from the Protestant “confession” really aren’t sure about the value or even the meaning of confession. It seems to be important but what is it, how do we do it, and to whom? Who? Whom? Well, you get my point.

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, a day for the last 1500 years or so that the church has recognized the beginning of Lent and the march toward the Passion of Christ, the Cross, and ultimately, Easter Sunday. Originally, Ash Wednesday was a day of confession. The sinners who were not in the church were invited on that day to come and make confession. After the confession was received by the priest, the pentitent sinner was ordered to stay away from the church until Maundy Thursday, when they could then join the fellowship of believers. (That’s a real church growth program.) In the 10th century, Pope Pious VI changed Ash Wednesday from a day of confession for unbelievers only to an invitation to the whole body of Christ. Since then, though we haven’t fully understood it, the Wednesday about 40 days before Easter is a day we are reminded of the need for and the power in confession.

I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God knows already, every fault, and failure, and mistake we ever have or ever will make. But there is something about the humble act of confession that puts our heart in a position to know the loving, divine forgiveness of the Father. So, Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth, and believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord, you will be saved.” Confession is an integral part of God’s salvation plan.

The Bible is full of examples of confession and the resulting move of God. David confessed in Psalm 51:3-4, “my sin is always before me…” Isaiah, after seeing the Lord, “high and lifted up,” confessed, “I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips.” (Isaiah 6:5) The new converts that John was baptizing in Matthew 3:5-6 were confessing. And even Paul, in I Timothy 1:12-15 confesses, “I am the chief of sinners.” So confession brings salvation. (Romans 10:9) Confession secures God’s mercy,  (Proverbs 28:13) And James 5:16 says confession is even necessary to produce healing. We all need those times of confession.

Confession should be current. It should be continual. And it should come with remorse, repentance, and humility. Confess often and always. And especially during the beginning of this Lenten season, make it a point to confess, to God, and probably to someone else. The 12 Steps says, “We confessed  to God and one other person the nature of our addiction.” God will honor that. Healing will come to you. And here’s one more thing, revival will begin.

The Asbury revival that has captured the hearts of believers everywhere began with a hand full of students confessions their inability to love people like God wanted them to. Last Thursday, I drove up and spent many hours on my face before God in that historic Hughes Auditorium. I wept. I shouted. I raise my hands in prayer and praise. And it began for me with a confession before God, of my prideful self. Confession brought revival to my own needy heart.

So, here’s a challenge for Lent. Over the next 40 days give yourself to hungering and thirsting for God with these 4 steps:

1. Make a Lenten Confession. Examine your heart and let God show you an area of failure, sin, or shortcoming. Confess that to Him and for the next 6 weeks remember daily that you are putting that thought, behavior or attitude behind you.

2. That leads me to the next step, make a Lenten sacrifice. I’m not talking about fasting or giving up some hobby you like. (Although, that’s not a bad idea.) Lay on the altar some negative feeling, unforgiving spirit, or bitterness that God is telling you to “sacrifice” to Him. Let it go!

3. Make a Lenten intention. Look at the “fruit of the Spirit” list in Galatians 5:22-23 and chose one to put into place in your life from now until Easter. Say, “I will be intentional to demonstrate ‘faithfulness’ in all that I do for the next 40 days. Or peace. Or self-control. Ask God to show you which one.

4. Finally, make a Lenten prayer. Write a prayer that incorporates all of the above, confession of your weakness, repentance from your failure, and the desire to replace that negativity with a fruit of the Spirit. Write that prayer and then pray it three times a day until Good Friday.

i believe if you make that confession, God will send a revival to your heart that people will be talking about for a long time. I confess, He has done that for me.

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