An introduction from Pastor Bill Snell.
Even before the release of Pastor Whitten’s book, Pure Grace, conversations were being stimulated here and beyond. Many of those conversations were respectful, intriguing, and in many cases convincing regarding the transforming truths of grace. Many like me had been brought up with a basic understanding of grace through well taught doctrines of salvation, justification, the priesthood of the believer, and eternal security, such that when the subject of “grace” via the finished work of Christ was espoused as a ‘big deal’, I didn’t get it at first. I thought, “I know that I’m saved by grace. What’s so revolutionary to the church about that?” Little did I know that by my willingness to continue to listen, study, and talk about this subject that my life and walk with God would be so mightily transformed. The bottom line is that “grace” is far more deep in its implications than most have ever thought.
There are of course other conversations going on that are much more like accusations resulting in horribly ugly terms such as “cheap grace”, “greasy grace”, “soft on sin”, even “heresy”. If you haven’t heard these terms in conversations you will. It’s one thing to end a conversation in disagreement while respecting the parties involved, it’s quite another to never engage in conversation and choose to lash out in vicious accusation.
Unfortunately the church is well-known for this kind of behavior. As a “grace community” please be willing to engage in conversation regarding what you believe, but remember that it’s not your job to convince anyone of truth – just tell it and live it, and the Holy Spirit’s role within every believer will serve to bring the pursuer into all truth.
Randy Thomas works with Grace Church on numerous projects relating to video, website design, and social media. He is an excellent communicator, and he has addressed an issue of a “grace conversation” that is common right now, and he has done so with respect, humility, and grace-filled truth. Please take the time to read it. You will be blessed.
Bloggable Grace: More On The Purpose of Confession
By Randy Thomas (cross-posted from here.)
Christians are not required to confess their sins to God in order to be forgiven, we already are forgiven. There is no Biblical basis for believer to confess sins to God for forgiveness. To each other for healing, yes; but not to God for forgiveness. (Page 20 Pure Grace).
Let’s Talk Grace
Notice I said Christians. Our sins were not only forgiven by God but removed from us. We were cleansed of our sins–all of them! The only reference in the New Testament that refers to a Christian confessing sins is James 5:16 and that verse tells us to confess our sins to one another. 1John 1:9 refers to the unbeliever confessing sins to be saved. When a Christian confesses sins to God it is not for forgiveness but for healing! It is for us not for Him.
While there is no requirement for Christians to confess sins to God, that does not mean it is forbidden! In any and all relationships the “agreement” about sin or offense is necessary at times for healing. We must remember, however, that we are already forgiven and cleansed of all sin and therefore the confession of sin to God is only for us to be healed and helped. Another aspect of our healing is the freedom to confess our sins to one another according to James 5:16. All of this should and can take place in an atmosphere of love, acceptance, forgiveness, with the goal of becoming healthy and maintaining healthy and life giving relationships.
In all my conversations with people who are passionately in disagreement with my Pastor concerning grace they seem to think that he is devaluing the finished work of Christ by somehow forgetting the cost of the Cross. That somehow living in the knowledge that we are forgiven of all our sins, and therefore do not have to seek ongoing daily forgiveness, that somehow negates our understanding of the price of our current sins that Jesus paid on the Cross.
This is simply not true.
There is also an assumption that somehow we have forgotten the transcendent love that paid the price for all of our sins. It is assumed, from that one little quote, that we are excusing sin because now that we have fire insurance (not going to hell) we can do whatever we want.
Odd thing though… my pastor (nor I) has ever said that we can just get all crazy with sin and certainly don’t believe it. I also wouldn’t go to a church that didn’t uphold the true depth of understanding about the “finished work of Christ.” It is only “finished” because of both the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Jesus said, “It is finished” from the Cross so when I think of the finished work of Christ it is with the understanding that the wrath poured out on Him spares me from the same.
But that does not negate that when I accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, I can from that point forward live in eternal peace knowing that I am forgiven of sins I just committed or have yet to commit.
Concerning confession, I think it is clear from the book and the above quote that confession is still a part of a healthy Christian life. Initially in faith to accept Jesus and Lord and Savior and then ongoing for healing and relationship. The problem is that confession has been reduced to a ritual of re-crucifying Christ for sins that He was already crucified for in order for the penitent to feel forgiven for sins they have already been forgiven. That would be a self-righteous ritual because it denies the righteousness of Christ that is already present. Confession is something more life-giving, in-depth and relational than that.
I know this will shock some of you. It does every time I mention it … but … I still sin from time to time.
Ok, you can stop wailing now.
Confession for me isn’t going to God, reliving the crucifixion in my mind for that one specific sin, shedding a few penitent tears and walking away feeling forgiven for something I was already forgiven for. That’s already resolved, God wants me to go further.
When confronting my flesh’s sinful behavior, I first rest in my relationship with Him as a New Creation and have a conversation with Him. I thank God for His goodness. I thank Him for His finished work on the Cross. I thank Him for the glory of the Resurrection the Power of which abides in me. I recognize how my sinful behavior is not who I am as a New Creation. I ask Him for wisdom and understanding concerning the matter. I ask for the gifts of the Spirit to manifest in a way that helps me to steward my life … that my focus would be on Him alone, not sin management. It’s in these transparent, not fear filled, prayerful conversation that He has shown me depths of His love that have captured my heart and devotion. He has been very specific, non-shaming and always loving,
It’s His love, and dynamic relationship, that satiates who I am as His own. That love, not fear-filled re-mourning of something that already happened, has brought significant growth and healing in my life.
Transformed me even.
I also ask Him to reveal if my sinful behavior affected other people and if I need to make amends to anyone. If I need to make amends I am hopefully quick to do so. Every once in a while God, graciously, helps me when I need a little more convincing.
And I don’t stop there…
I am a big believer in having a mentor and trusted Christian peers (including Pastors) that I talk with along these lines. I talk with my mentor once a week and friends in the course of normal relationship. Of course I meet with Pastors intentionally from time to time. We don’t hide from ugly and have a healthy perspective of healing and continued spiritual growth and maturity.
He wasn’t crucified so I could sit in a support group during my whole earthly experience. When it comes to “ongoing sin” it isn’t ignored.Why would I ignore something that affected the One who loves me so tragically and personally? But sin management is not my Lord’s desire for me.
Confession isn’t meant to be humiliating and a re-crucifixion. I can confess that is how I used to view it. Maybe not in those terms but definitely along those lines. But now I see that while confession can be humbling it is meant to be life-giving. relational with a Living God and His people … and without fear. I don’t have to do anything else to be “forgiven” but I do actually want to confess to God and my friends because I want further healing, love, and wisdom that only comes from transparent and healthy relationships.