Rowland Croucher writes:Confession, says Foster, is so difficult for us partly because we view the believing community as a fellowship of saints before we see it as a fellowship of sinners. "We imagine that we are the only ones who have not stepped onto the high road to heaven. Therefore we hide ourselves from one another and live in veiled lies and hypocrisy."
The followers of Christ have been given the authority to receive the confession of sin and to forgive in his name (see John 20:23). "Our brother's.... has been given to us to help us. He hears the confession of our sins in Christ's stead and he forgives our sins in Christ's name. He keeps the secret of our confession as God keeps it. When I go to my brother to confess, I am going to God" (Bonhoeffer).
Whilst most of us would have problems with the stylized form of the "Confessional", there are probably greater dangers in ignoring the biblical injunction to confess our sins to one another, praying for forgivenss and healing for each other (James 5:16).
Alphonsus Luguori writes, "For a good confession three things are necessary: an animation of conscience, sorrow, and a determination to avoid sin."
It is important that when others are opening their griefs to us we discipline ourselves to be prayerfully quiet. Too often an embarrassed comment can destroy the sacredness of the moment.
Foster suggests that "the ministry of retaining sins is simply the refusal to try to bring people into something for which they are not ready. Sometimes people are so anxious to get others into the kingdom that they will try to announce their forgiveness before they have sought it or even wanted it.
Unfortunately, this malady is characteristic of a great deal of modern evangelism."
So it is unthinkable for Christians to live in isolation from one another. Martin Luther witnessed to the fact that "at home, in my own house, there is no warmth or vigour in me, but in the church when the multitude is gathered together, a fire is kindled in my heart and it breaks its way through."
Just as worship begins in holy expectancy it ends in holy obedience. Holy obedience saves worship from becoming an opiate, an escape from the pressing needs of modern life.
The church has not always been individualistic. The people at Antioch, for example, received the call for Paul and Barnabas to do missionary work together (Acts 13:2).
At the Church of the Saviour in Washington, D.C. when any member feels that God has led him or her to be involved in mission, they will "sound the call" so that others can meet to test the call with that person.
Another beautiful model for receiving God's guidance with another has been the classical practice of spiritual direction. There is a renewed interest in this ancient form of relating, right across the churches throughout the world in this decade.
True celebration does not come through worshipping a particular way, or with a particular group. It is rather a function of all the common ventures of life being redeemed. Of course living in a spirit of constant thanksgiving in the midst of all situations does not mean that we will celebrate the presence of evil.
God has established a created order full of excellent, good and beautiful things. If we think on those things we will be happy, says Paul (Phil. 4:8.9).
Celebration saves us from taking ourselves too seriously. It adds a note of gaiety, festivity, hilarity to our lives.
So these classical disciplines of the spiritual life beckon us to the Himalayas of the Spirit. At times we may be discouraged. Valleys and foothills will intervene between mountain tops. But, with thousands who've gone before us, we can have confidence in our heavenly Guide, who has "blazed the trail" and conquered the highest summit. To him be glory, for ever, Amen.
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This article is published courtesy of Rowland Croucher, John Mark Ministries. If you would like to peruse more articles from the pen of Rowland Croucher, visit his website at http://www.pastornet.net.au/jmm.
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