Tag Archives: confessional

Confession of sin is good for you

Confession is an important part of Lutheran worship, there are two sacraments in the church, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. But there is a kinda third one and that is confession, followed closely by the preached word. The last two might not be “full” sacraments, but, they are an important part of the Lutheran, the genuine Christian’s life in Christ.

Dr Martin Luther fully encouraged the practice of confession and absolution. There is corporate confession, which is what we normally do at the beginning of worship. There is also individual, or private confession which a pastor will sit with a individual and that person will present to the pastor the things that he wants to confess and to get absolution for all of their sins.

Dr Luther emphasizes the importance of confession and absolution:

“…Openly acknowledging sin decreases the immediate danger and lessens our anxiety. The heart must be helped first. Confession of sin makes it light and allows it to breathe. After this, it’s easier to help the rest of the person. Only after our conscience has been released from its heavy load and is able to breathe freely can we find relief for other areas of distress.

When God’s anger is poured out, we immediately become aware of our sin and become afraid. Foolish people cope with this situation in the wrong way. They ignore their sin and only try to get rid of their fear. That doesn’t work, so they eventually fall into despair. This is the way human reason always tries to handle the problem in the absence of God’s kindness and the Spirit. Wise people, however, try to ignore their fear and focus instead on their sin. They acknowledge their sin and try to get rid of it, even if it means that their fear will remain with them forever. They willingly accept their punishment, as Jonah did in this story (Jonah 1: 9-10).

But godless people do just the opposite. They pay attention to the punishment and are afraid of it, but they aren’t concerned about their sin . If there were no punishment, they would never stop sinning. But this isn’t what happens because punishment consistently follows sin. In contrast, godly people pay attention to their sin and are afraid of it. They aren’t as concerned about the punishment. In fact, it’s almost as if they would rather endure the punishment without sinning than commit the sin without facing any punishment.” (Through Faith Alone Devotional Readings from Martin Luther August 22)

Holding on to your sin, trying to out run it, live it down, work your way out of it, just is not going to achieve the end of relieving your stress, it’s just not. Sure penance is good, and many times is part of confession, but it doesn’t give you complete peace of mind. The only way to achieve complete assurance of forgiveness is through confession. Someone who is a genuine minister of Christ, who understands biblical forgiveness in Christ, who has take vows to protect the integrity of the confessional, to never discuss, even with the confessor your confession. If you want to talk about it swell! But if I see you the next day, I can’t even discuss that I saw you the previous day. Your confession to me is completely in Christ and in Christ I give you complete absolution of your sin. You walk out of that confessional knowing that you are completely forgiven in Christ.

Confession is important to a Christian, it strengthens that bond we have to our pastor and more importantly to our Lord who gives us the complete assurance of forgiveness and eternal salvation in Him. Lift it up to Him through His under-shepherd, your pastor, receive forgiveness/absolution than move on in your life, in Jesus’ Name. Amen!

Confession and Absolution July 25, 2018 by Gene Veith

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7/25/2018 Confession and Absolution
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The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has just issued a major study of the doctrine and practice of confession and absolution. The report by the
Commission on Theology and Church Relations establishes the Biblical and theological basis for confessing your sins to a pastor and receiving
forgiveness from his words of absolution.
This may sound strange to you Protestants who are not Lutherans. What do you do with John 20:21-22? “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with
you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy
Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.’”
Lutherans are like Catholics, Orthodox, and Anglicans in retaining confession and absolution. While the Lutheran practice looks like what Catholics
do, like other seeming similarities, it is quite different. Confessing your sins to a pastor is strictly voluntary, not necessary for forgiveness as it is for
Rome, and it is not necessary to enumerate every sin specifically before it can be forgiven. And Lutheran pastors require no “satisfaction”–that is,
works to atone for your sin–as required by the Catholic rite of penance. The forgiveness applied by Lutheran pastors is simply the good news of the
Gospel, that Jesus has atoned for your sins on the Cross, giving you forgiveness in His name.
Most Lutherans do their confession and receive their absolution corporately, at the beginning of the Divine Service. After a time of reflection on our
sins and a corporate prayer in which we admit that we deserve God’s “temporal and eternal punishment,” we hear these words from the pastor:
Upon this your confession, I, by virtue of my office, as a called and ordained servant of the Word, announce the grace of God unto all of
you, and in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the + Son
and of the Holy Spirit.
But only Christ can forgive sins! Right. And He does so by means of vocation. That is to say, “calling.” Just as God gives daily bread by means of
the farmer and creates new life by means of parents, Christ gives His Word of forgiveness by means of pastors. According to the Lutheran doctrine of
vocation, God is present in and works through ordinary human beings whom He has called into various realms of service to their neighbors. This
“calling” is at the heart of what pastors do. (“As a called and ordained servant of the Word. . . .and in the stead and by the command of my Lord
Jesus Christ. . . .”)
This happens every Sunday, but private confession and absolution has fallen into disuse. It is, however, a powerful weapon in the arsenal of pastoral
care, allowing pastors to cut deeply into the heart of a sinner, eliciting repentance and a sense of great personal comfort from the Gospel. Currently,
there are efforts to bring back the practice of individual confession and absolution.
Here are some excerpts from the CTCR document, Confession and Absolution. To download the entire report, go here.
The two words “confession and absolution” are worthy of some clarification. “Confession” occurs in more than one setting or context.
The root word from the New Testament is ὁμoς, [homos] “one and the same.” The basic meaning of the related Greek compound noun
ὁμoλoγἰα is “an agreement” by which two parties say the same thing, and the compound verb ὁμoλoγέω is similarly used as “to agree.”
Thus, “if we confess our sins” (1 John 1:9), we are saying the same thing that God is saying about our sin. We are agreeing with what
God reveals about us and our sin. We are admitting (acknowledging) that the Lord’s judgment upon our sin is right and true.2 The second
word, “absolution,” is a synonym for forgiveness. Lutheran theology dictates that in any discussion of “confession and absolution,” it is
this second word that requires emphasis. . . .
7/25/2018 Confession and Absolution
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/geneveith/2018/07/confession-and-absolution/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=BRSS&utm_campaign=Evangelical… 6/17
Luther speaks of confession of sins in three settings: 1) private confession to a pastor; 2) confession to God alone (as we find it in the
Lord’s Prayer, Matt. 6:12); and 3) confession made to a fellow Christian (James 5:16). . . .
First, no one should assume that a different kind or quality of forgiveness from Christ our Lord is given in the context of individual
confession. All of the Means of Grace — Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, preaching — convey the same forgiving Gospel. In this respect,
there is no difference between private confession and absolution and that which is conducted on Sunday mornings in public worship. One
Lutheran theologian put it succinctly: “Private absolution is neither more nor less than the absolution the whole congregation receives in
the gospel. Rather, it is nothing other than the gospel the whole congregation receives, specifically applied to the circumstances of the
individual sinner.”
It is our goal to explain why, even though the same Gospel is given through the various Means of Grace, private confession and
absolution may be a considerable aid to all Christians, and especially useful to pastors, who share in the burdens of their people and who
are susceptible to unique temptation and discouragement. It is first of all necessary, however, to clearly establish the biblical foundation
for confession and absolution. . . .
Along with these developments came the threefold understanding of “penance” in the Roman tradition. Penance had three parts:
confession, absolution, satisfaction (or four parts if contrition is included before confession). The absolution pronounced in the indicative
was still conditioned on the works of satisfaction outlined by the priest — your sins are forgiven, but you must still do the works
demanded of you to avoid penalties in purgatory. This served as the launching pad for confession and absolution to be viewed as
something related to making amends. In the period leading up to the Reformation, Rome officially formulated its position at the Council
of Florence in 1439 that established what poenitentia (penance) consisted of: contritio (contrition/ sorrow over sin), confessio (confession
necessarily made to a priest) and satisfactio (the satisfaction or works of penance adjudicated by the priest).
Luther believed this was a fundamental misunderstanding of the gift of absolution and strove to bring it back to its biblical foundations.
For Luther and the other confessors, the keys convey the Gospel (in the broad sense as both Law and Gospel), by condemning, in God’s
name, self-assured people of their sin and by assuring the contrite of their forgiveness. The binding key, however, is for Luther only a
means to an end. The ultimate aim of the keys is the forgiveness of sins. . . .
The preceding material indicates that the authentically Lutheran view of individual confession and absolution is largely unique,
occupying a middle ground between Rome and evangelical Protestantism.44 Unlike most Evangelicals or other Protestants, Lutherans do
not repudiate private confession before a minister and steadfastly uphold the propriety and efficacy of the pastor’s absolution in the name
of Christ.45 Unlike Rome, however, Lutheran teaching and practice makes private confession entirely voluntary, rejects the notion that
one must (or even can) enumerate all one’s sins before a confessor, and rejects the addition of satisfaction as confession’s third element.
Lutheran teaching upholds the absolution above all else and affirms its great comfort for the individual penitent.
Illustration: A woodcut to Article XI of the Augsburg Confession by Wenceslas Hollar (1607-1677) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Confession, bone deep honest with God, with His minister

Dr Martin Luther did not post his 95 Theses and then be pursued for the next 30 odd years to have the baby thrown out with the bath water. He had problems with the Roman Church, but it was not about liturgy or Biblical practices, it was about abuses that arose from the Roman Church adding to the Bible. Communion, baptism, confession were not an issue, Luther had no problem with these because they were Biblical. He did have problems with the ways they had become corrupted, but not with the biblical principals.

However subsequent “reformers” chose to dump those practices that they just did not like. Not that they were unbiblical, they just didn’t like practices such as understanding that baptism meant new birth in Jesus. They just did not like that the bread and wine in communion, were the actual Body and Blood of Jesus, they didn’t like the idea of confessing to another person, even though the Bible is pretty clear. It frankly seems as though those who come through Reformed Christianity or other avenues that only seem to emphasize personal preferences, or personal improvement in order to further their own lives, come to the realization that the spiritual practices of Christianity do have a much more profound meaning and do what is far more important in our lives, build our relationship with God.

Mark Buchanan is very much in the Reformed Christian branch of Protestantism, an ordained Baptist minister and well known author. He also quotes Richard Foster, a Quaker, definitely not Lutheran!  In his book Your God is too Safe (p 166) “…Protestants became so scornful of the Roman Catholic practice of confession that we dropped it altogether and ended up creating churches of smiling, laughing, savvy people who are dying on the inside and too afraid to let anyone know. First Church of the Whitewashed Tombs. This, too, bypasses the real issue of spiritual growth. Rather than bear fruit, we’ve tended to paint it on and hope nobody notices that we have no real roots or sap to grow fruit anyhow.”

Full disclosure, I would have to concede, that even though Lutherans retain the confessional, corporate and individual confession, they don’t really practice it. When I was at seminary, graduated 2010, the seminary chaplain held confession every Wednesday. Out of about 500 students and maybe 100 professors, staff etc, he said that he had about 25 people attend confession, about 5% of the possible population. I was one of the 5% and found great benefit in personal confession. Lutherans talk confession, but actual practice, eh… not so much.

Lutherans do practice corporate confession, meaning at the beginning of every worship, we have confession, agreeing we are sinners in need of divine forgiveness and then I announce that as “a called and ordained servant of Jesus Christ and by His authority I forgive you all of your sins.” So I’m sure many feel that the base is covered.

Pastor Buchanan goes on to say: ” Confession is when we quit all the deal making, the sidestepping, the mask wearing, the pretense and preening and we get bone-deep honest before God…” (p 167)

“…In order to present our real selves to God, we need to be honest with ourselves about ourselves and honest about ourselves to at least one other trusted and godly person.” 

I submit, being a person that has to learn all about the subject, has been trained to listen, has taken an oath to never discuss anything that has been confessed to him, called the “sanctity of the confessional” which is even recognized under the law and would be a reason to discharge me from the ministry should I violate that sanctity, that maybe you want me to be that “trusted and godly person.” Puhlease do not get some goofy idea that this feeds some prurient interest on my part. Nothing could be further from the truth, hearing someone’s confession is not something that I relish or look forward to. But I see it as a responsibility. As a pastor I am going to be held to a higher standard in the final judgment and I am not going to be put in the position of being asked, “it would have helped people to know that you offered regular confession, you had the opportunity to do it, why didn’t you?

While Dr Luther did not have a problem with confession, he did have a problem with how the Roman church did business conducting confession. I will readily stipulate that because the concept of confession has been undermined and frankly trivialized by the Roman church (to wit, go and say five Hail Marys and the stations of the cross, come back and I will forgive you), that has allowed most to simply dismiss it as a relic of a past church. As a baptized Christian you are forgiven, we have that assurance when we take the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper. Yes you are forgiven. Jesus died for all your sins. Your works do not add to your forgiveness.

Having said that Pastor Buchanan quotes Richard Foster (please note that Mr Foster is a Quaker, again not a Roman Catholic with an agenda, or Lutheran for that matter.):

“The person who has known forgiveness and release from persistent, nagging habits of sin through private confession [that is, to God alone] should rejoice greatly in this evidence of God’s mercy. But there are others for whom this has not happened. Let me describe what it is like. We have prayed, even begged, for forgiveness and though we hope we have been forgiven, we sense no release. We doubt our forgiveness and despair at our confession. We fear that perhaps we have made confession only to ourselves and not to God. The haunting sorrows and hurts of the past have not been healed. We try to convince ourselves that God forgives only the sin; he does not heal the memory. But deep within … we know there must be something more. People have told us to take our forgiveness by faith and not call God a liar. Not wanting to call God a liar, we do our best to take it by faith. But because misery and bitterness remain in our lives, we again despair. Eventually we begin to believe either that forgiveness is only a ticket to heaven and not to affect our lives now, or that we are unworthy of the forgiving grace of God.”

I’ve had men tell me “I don’t confess my sin to men.” Well tough guy that’s not biblical, it’s just not. James’ epistle 5:16 clearly states: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Ya, you may think you have it altogether, but honestly, those are the type of people that end up with all sorts of additional problems that they allow to come between themselves and God. The manly thing to do? I did it. Sit across from someone who you can trust and say I need absolution, I need to know from someone I can trust (your pastor) that I am forgiven. If you want to go into detail I will certainly listen and help you. I do not, however, need to hear the detail. I do not even need to hear the particular besetting sin. But if you are in any doubt, or need assurance, your pastor will sit across from you and provide that. That is at least for those churches that provide for confession.

Listen, tough guy, you want to be tough? Stand up, admit your sin, know that you are forgiven, go back into the world and truly live the life in Christ. Frankly the biggest cowards I’ve seen are the ones that can’t stand up to their sins, to those they’ve sinned against and of course that is always against God. Who refuse to know that they are forgiven and will know how to live his life truly in Jesus. Ask yourself can you really continue to live a life that is as Pastor Buchanan describes: “in churches of smiling, laughing, savvy people who are dying on the inside and too afraid to let anyone know. First Church of the Whitewashed Tombs.” Ya know, going through the motions, doing the “right” thing, knowing that you are just living a farce, never really dealing with your relationship with Jesus and your fellow man, just making it up. Wow, this is from guys who would tell me how much they can’t stand phonies. Ya, really dude? Take a look in the mirror.

Let’s all be real, strong men (and women), deal with the things we need to deal with, with someone we can trust. Get in their with your pastor, tell him what’s happening, get the assurance that you are forgiven in Jesus, maybe some objective guidance as to how to move on from a besetting sin, put it behind you and grow in your relationship with Jesus. Sorry guys, you are nowhere near as smart and tough and savvy as you think. I know that, because I know I’m not. Let’s get real together, move on as men together and do some real stuff. Then we can really smile, laugh and be savvy and show the world what it really means to be a Christian man.

Discipling means to confront and challenge, not to shrug you shoulders and say “whatever”.

On a personal note, I reached 5,000 views. I know that to many of you that’s kind of chump change, but I jumped that hurdle and want to mark it in this blog.

Now that I’m over that, I really want to do this blog, but I need to do a disclaimer, this is almost verbatim from a podcast (Insight for Living Feb 11, 2015), but it’s so good, and frankly something I’ve been wrestling with and that we really need to apply in all our lives. So you should buy Swindoll books, listen to the broadcasts, but in the meantime, I’m going to put it out there and I pray that you take it to heart.

“…there is  no where in the Bible that says “live and let live'” [or let die for that matter] or “whatever” or “you leave me alone, I’ll leave you alone”. Jesus never promoted that message. No one ever loved like His love, he never just shrugged his shoulders when one of His disciples was moving in the wrong direction. He confronted it. Why would he confront it? Why would confrontation be that essential? It proves that we love someone. Because we love someone we care for them, about them. We care about their welfare. Because we care there are times when we must say how much we care and occasionally it’s a confrontation.”

[Samuel confronts David about Bathsheba. A lot of people were affected by this, so please don’t give me that lame “victimless crimes, or actions”, that’s the biggest copout ever. There is just no such thing. There are always other people who suffer as the result of sexual misconduct, drug abuse, divorce, and just because it’s not a crime, does not mean that misconduct doesn’t hurt/affect others. In David’s case his children and wives were profoundly affected, at the time and later. The baby conceived by David and Bathsheba died. Certainly Uriah was affected. There were many people, David’s subjects, who were directly affected by the events of just this one occurrence of sexual misconduct and were caught up in the consequences – mine]

“Good physicians confront their patients when they’re involved in unhealthy habits, we expect them to. Good coaches confront sloppiness, laziness. Parents confront misbehaving kids [well they should-mine]. Bad attitudes need to be confronted.

Our best friends, in the best way, confronting us over our bad ways.

It’s not about control or trying to be smarter, it’s about seeing someone you care about harming themselves and, usually, causing harm to others. Confrontation ought to be with tears, never with pride, never with joy. Your heart is broken and because it’s broken you have to say something, especially because you care about that individual. Confrontation is love in action, caring about another’s welfare, helping someone realize they’re headed for trouble or danger if nothing changes and the proof of your love is that you will not look the other way. It’s not for control.”

[I have no interest in controlling, or unless necessary, knowing. I really don’t. That is just not what I’m about or most pastors are. We are about the Gospel and helping people to move on from their issues. We all have issues. But a big part of the job and expectations of others is that we have to help people confront and overcome. Like it or not, it will be through the power of the Holy Spirit, but there are times that are just so profoundly difficult that we need help to overcome them in order to refocus on Jesus. That’s what pastors are for. As a Lutheran pastor, anything you discuss with me is under the “seal of the confessional”, I cannot even discuss that I talked to you. Whatever anyone tells me, they have full confidence that it will not be discussed in any other context. Once that discussion is over, I do not treat you or act any differently to you. This is confrontation also, you are bringing me your issues and trusting me that I’m there to confide in, to confess and repent and to be absolved. I don’t really want to get into it, but I do want to serve you and help you to deal with it. But wow, what would the world look like if we were all trying to reach our greatest potential in Jesus, instead of “gimme, gimme, I want”? Let’s deal with the issue of confronting and not just sitting back and letting others suffer in sin or as a consequence of sin. And we can certainly tell when someone is confronting us in love versus when they’re trying to control us- mine]

“The difference in confronting someone because they need to hear it and trying to control someone to become like you, should be a gentle experience, not shameful. Some day you might fall to the same sin. Proverbs 27:6 “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” The Hebrew says faithful are the bruises. Proverbs 20:30 “Blows and wounds scrub away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being.'” 

“…God loves too much to let them get away with doing such things [or how about the one who says “heck with you”, goes off does what they want, gets in trouble and come back expecting you to help. Not asking or looking for forgiveness.Their attitude usually being that somehow it was your fault, I might have gone out and done something stupid, but you have to fix it. But we do need to remember that our goal for them and us, is that we become more like Christ, not to squeeze them into our mold. But yes there will be consequences, and maybe I don’t want to suffer actual or vicarious consequences with you? -mine]

“What is necessary is lots of prayer, waiting for the right time and speaking the truth in love. Ephesians 4:15: “ Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.'”

If you can do it without tears then you probably ought not to do it. If it’s painful for you realizing the wrong that’s going on and others are being or will soon be harmed. Sometimes a pastor who needs to be confronted, whose conduct would damage the Body of Christ. Love must often do the unpleasant. Remember a moment of confrontation, how painful it was. The goal of confrontation is restoration, not condemnation [as is ex-communication, the keys Jesus gave the church.-mine] It is help to get the person back on track so their lives will count for Christ.”

“We don’t go into confrontation to ‘set somebody straight”. You go in with fear and trembling and you’re going to use God’s words on a delicate, but sinful issue. King David as the example; leader, warrior, poet, musician, [He wrote most of the Psalms]. He had a way of winning your heart. But he also understood that he had to be confronted over his sin.