What Does it Mean to Confess, and How Can We Endure Terrible Storms of Life? #341
Happy Wednesday, friends! Welcome aboard to new listeners from Wichita, Santa Barbara, Nashville, Las Vegas, Maharashtra, India and Masqat, Oman and Near Algiers, Algeria. We will be reading 2nd Chronicles 1, Micah 7, Luke 16 and 1 John 1 today. We’ve got two big Bible questions, so let’s jump in!
First is a short chapter from 1st John that packs a punch. 1st John 1:9 is one of the most well known passages in the Bible, and because the whole chapter is so short, let’s go ahead and read it, paying special attention to vs. 9.
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1st John 1:9
You might have heard that verse before, but the idea of confessing for some of you will bring up images in your mind of visiting a priest hidden in a veiled closet to ‘confess’ your sins. This confession only to priests in order to seek the absolution for your sins is not a biblical practice. I say that with the important qualifier ‘only!’ We are not ONLY to confess our sins to priests or pastors, but, we are to do as James instructs in chapter 5:
16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.
When you are confessing your sins to each other, and praying for each other for those sins, you will indeed be confessing to a priest, but not necessarily a professional or Catholic one. Be reminded that the Word of God says that we are ALL priests – royal priests, in fact…so it is good and right to confess sins to each other, and not biblical really to ONLY confess sins to a professional member of the clergy. What does confessing mean, exactly? You might be surprised that the biblical/Greek word used here, which is, ‘ὁμολογέω homologéō‘ is not a particularly religious word. It is a compound word – two or more words brought together – which means to say together, to agree, or to say the same thing. When you are confessing your sins, you are agreeing that your action was wrong and agreeing that you did it. The word doesn’t just apply to saying you’ve sinned either – in the Bible, we see people confessing Christ – that is, agreeing that He is the Lord and messiah. We see the Pharisees confessing/agreeing in the existence of angels and spirits and resurrection from the dead, and we see King Herod confessing or agreeing that he would give the daughter of Herodias whatever she asked for from him. So – not a religious word, and not a word that is only applied to sins…but a word that means agreement. By confessing our sins, we are simply agreeing with God’s Word that we have done wrong, that we are guilty, and that we need forgiveness. When we do this – not denying our sin, but agreeing that we are guilty – then the promise is that we will be faithfully cleansed – a wonderful promise! I believe the opposite is true as well, as we see in this passage. If we DON’T agree that we have sinned, then we are liars and we demonstrate that the Word of God is not in us, thus showing that we are unsaved. Denial is quite dangerous.
Our second question of the day concerns the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus – the only parable that features somebody with a personal name. That would seem to indicate that the name is quite important, right? First of all, to eliminate any confusion – this is not the same Lazarus that was raised from the dead by Jesus – entirely different person, same first name. Why does Jesus use a proper or personal name in this parable? I believe Tim Keller gives us a fascinating answer to this question:
Every other illustration, every other parable, every other story Jesus ever tells, nobody has a proper name. It’s always a sower or a shepherd or a man or a woman or a Samaritan, or something. Right? Never is there anybody with a proper name. No. Never. But here, one character is given a proper name, and therefore, this must be significant.
Lazarus is a name that means, “God is my help.” One character is given a proper name; the other one is given no name. What is the point of that? What are we being taught here? Well, take a look at verse 25, where Abraham says to this guy, the rich man, “My son, you’ve had your good things.” The philosophers for centuries have been debating, “What is the summum bonum? What is the ultimate good? What is the good? What is the thing we should all be living for?”
Well, the rich man has already made his choice. He has had his good things. What are those good things? His help … Unlike Lazarus, “God is my help. God is my good. God is my ultimate hope,” This guy’s are gone, because “your good things …” His riches, his wealth, his status. He had completely built his life on that. What are we learning here, though?
Here’s what we’re learning. The reason the rich man doesn’t have a name is that’s all he is. He’s a rich man, or he’s nothing. He has built his life on his wealth so that if his wealth is gone, there’s no one there. If you build your life on God, if God is your identity … What is an identity? To know who you are as a distinct individual, to know you’re valuable, and to know where you’re going.
Realize this. If God is the source of that in your life, then all the circumstances in the world … You lose things, you gain things, all kinds of circumstances, and there’s always the same core, sustained self. There’s a you there. There’s a self there. No matter what the circumstances because the circumstances don’t ultimately affect who you are, that you’re valuable, and where you’re going. If you want the obvious, perfect example, that is Lazarus.
Lazarus had nothing, and he had a self; he had a name. Lazarus went through the most incredible change of all, death, which is a very big change, and he was still him. Interesting. The rich man is different. Why? He doesn’t have a name. Why not? Because if you build your identity on anything but God, if you build your identity on your career, or on your children, or on a love relationship, or on your talent, or on people’s approval, or many, many, many fine things …
If you build your identity on anything but God and something jeopardizes that thing, or something goes wrong in that area, you’re not just unhappy; there’s no you. That means you don’t feel valuable. You don’t know what you’re living for. You don’t even know who you are. There’s an identity meltdown.
That’s the reason why Jesus says if you build a self on anything but God, you don’t really have a self; you don’t have something that’s there no matter what. There’s not a you that’s there, a sustained core identity, a sustained core self that’s there no matter what the situation, no matter what the circumstances; you’re gone. If you build your life on anything but God, you don’t really have a name. You’re just a rich man. You’re just a talented
Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).
What is our takeaway? Let us build our lives on the solid rock of Jesus and His teachings. Then, when the rains and the floods come – and you’d better believe they will! – we won’t lose anything ultimately and permanently, because On Christ the solid rock we stand, and all other ground is shifting sand.