Angels & Demons part 3
Confession Should Come from Within
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
May 24, 2009



For the past couple of weeks we’ve been talking about the book Angels & Demons, written by Dan Brown, which has now been made into a movie starring Tom Hanks and was released in the theatres just last weekend at number 1.

The first week of our series here, we talked about the underlying theme of the book and the movie – the conflict between science and faith. And what we discovered is that there really is no inherent conflict between the two. Both are seeking truth, both are examining God’s revelation of Himself to us either through nature or through Scripture, and in fact science and the Christian Church have a long history of working together and supporting each other. Now, there have been moments of apparent conflict, but those have been the exceptions. And most times all that is needed is more time and understanding and those apparent conflicts dissolve away.

That’s what we talked about a couple weeks ago. Last week, we explored some of the claims made in Angels & Demons that are simply mistaken. Some of the errors Dan Brown made, either intentionally or unintentionally, specifically about the Christian Faith.

Angels & Demons compares faith to a cancer, which as we all know spreads destruction and often leads to death. But we saw that without the Christian Faith, this world would be a much worse place. Just consider the education systems started by Christ followers, the humanitarian efforts around the world organized and led by Christ followers, the contributions to science, to exploration, to the arts… music, drama, paintings, sculpture. We talked about how in Roman times, Christians pretty much put an end to slavery. But then there was a resurgence, and we had to fight it again. Christ-followers fought to abolish the slave trade throughout the British Empire, and continued that fight against slavery throughout the world.

In fact, even today, with human trafficking still prominent in our world, Christ-followers are still at the forefront battling for freedom for all. Our own denomination was born out of the abolitionist movement of the 19th century, and continues to combat human trafficking around the world. And we support missionaries – Jason and Christie Blaikie – who were here at Sunrise just last summer, and they are involved right now in opposing human trafficking in Thailand.

Christ-followers also led in the fight for equal rights for women. Without the influence of Christ-followers and Christian values, it’s quite possible that many of you here this morning still wouldn’t have the right to vote or have recognition under the law.

Last week we also talked about how Angels & Demons described the Bible as a book of fairy tales. But the Bible is written as a book of truth, time and time again the historical claims found in the Bible have been proven true, and we saw how the Bible is simply the most significant book (or rather, collection of books) in all of literature. It’s unrivaled in its style, content and importance. It’s not a book of fairy tales; it’s the Word of God.

And we looked at one other claim that is made in Angels & Demons – that Christianity is just one option out of many, and any option you choose is just as valid. You can choose to follow Christ, you can choose Mohammed, you can choose science… it doesn’t really matter where you place your faith because faith is really all the same.

That’s what Angels & Demons claims, but we’ve seen how you can be sincere in your beliefs and be sincerely wrong.

And although there may be superficial similarities between different faiths, at the core they are very different. Jesus Himself claimed that He is the One and Only way to God the Father. That’s a claim you find repeated time and time again throughout the Bible. He believed it so much He was willing to die a very painful death on the Cross. And I guarantee you, He wouldn’t have gone through that if there was any other way.

So what we’re left with is, either Jesus really is who He says He is and He is the One and Only way, or He’s no way at all.

Jesus believed He’s the Only way, and I believe that, too. I believe that’s where the evidence points. And that is why I have devoted my life to living for Him and following Him and serving Him. He’s not just one option out of many; He’s the only option.

Okay, so that’s what we’ve talked about over the past couple weeks. If you haven’t been here, now you’re caught up to speed.

Today, we’re going to finish up this series by looking at one of the positive challenges that Angels & Demons presents to us as Christ-followers. When I was going through the book last year, there was one sentence in particular that resonated with me. This is one area where I wholeheartedly agree with Dan Brown.

It’s near the end of the book.., and I don’t want to give away the plot here and ruin it for you… but just let me say that Angels & Demons is based at the Vatican, and there are those in the Catholic Church in the book and the movie who are… well, you find out they did some bad things. That doesn’t give much away, does it? (Too late now if it did.)

Anyway, when everything is uncovered, one of the leaders of the Church, who himself is a respected man and a good man… talks about how he’s going to explain to the world everything that has unfolded, and then he makes this statement…

“The church's confession should come from within. Our failures should be our own to expose."
~ Mortati, in Angels & Demons

“Confession should come from within” That phrase right there has stuck with me, so we’re going to talk about Confession this morning. And since Mortati was talking specifically about the Church confessing its own failures, let’s start with that.


What Must We Confess?

1.    The Church must confess the times we’ve misrepresented Christ and done evil.

And there are a few big time examples that always come to mind.

Such as the Crusades of the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries. Now, you may or may not be aware that the Crusades actually started as a good thing with pure motives. They were originally organized by the Church and were meant to provide protection for travelers who were being attacked and murdered as they traveled through the Middle East.

The problem is, as these Crusades continued, the motives and the methods both became corrupted. Politics crept in, there was a lust for power, there was a hatred for people of other races and religions. And that led to some all out wars where the Western powers involved tried to wipe out the Islamic world, all in the name of religion. All in the name of Christ. Although there actually came a time when Crusades happened without the blessing of the Church.

Of course, we recognize today that the evil that was done through the Crusades had nothing to do with Christ. He would never endorse the tactics that were applied. The actions and the attitudes of the Crusaders go against Biblical principles and values… against what He taught us. But yet, politicians and Church leaders were able to twist Scripture and motivate people to do some pretty horrific things.

And in recent years, the Catholic Church and several Protestant denominations have openly confessed to taking part in some really bad things.

Same is true with the Inquisition. The Inquisition was meant to fight against heresy, but the Church got a little power hungry and started unjustly trying people, and at times even executing them.

Then you have the Salem Witch Trials. Again, these weren’t Christians who were operating under the direction or the authority of Jesus, but they were still using His name and claiming that authority as they took people they suspected of being witches, put them on trial, and then hanged them. There were actually several prominent Christian leaders who spoke out against these trials, but there were also many who endorsed them.

All of these were terrible things, that people who claimed to be Christians – whether they really were or weren’t – terrible things that they did which brought disgrace to the name of Jesus.

I mentioned earlier that the Christian Church was instrumental in the abolition of slavery and in the fight for equal rights for women. And that’s very true. You can research that yourself. But it’s also true that there were many Christians who thought it was okay to buy and sell people as if they were property, and that it was okay to treat women as if they were inferior in some way. Even when Christian values pushed toward freedom and equality, there were those who tried to hold on to the old ways.

Or how about the Christians living in Nazi Germany during the Second World War? There were lots of German Christ-followers who opposed Hilter and the Nazis – the most famous of which was Dietrich Bonhoeffer – but there were also plenty who did nothing.

So as Christians and as the Church, we need to be honest about these things. And even though you and I may not have personally been involved, it’s part of our legacy. The Christian Church bears responsibility for these types of things. So we confess them. We admit that we were wrong. We repent and ask forgiveness to the people groups that were harmed, and we strive to stick closer to God and Godly values in the future.

In the Old Testament you see this happening with the entire nation of Israel. The Church didn’t even exist then, so it wasn’t the Church confessing… it was the entire nation. And you see them confessing and repenting for the times they strayed away from God and Godly values. Which, if you read through the Old Testament, you’ll discover is something they did fairly often.

Well, after one such time when they had turned away from God and had basically lived evil lives, this is what we read…

Nehemiah 9:1-3 (NLT)
On October 31 the people assembled again, and this time they fasted and dressed in burlap and sprinkled dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent separated themselves from all foreigners as they confessed their own sins and the sins of their ancestors. They remained standing in place for three hours while the Book of the Law of the Lord their God was read aloud to them. Then for three more hours they confessed their sins and worshiped the Lord their God.

These were people who were serious about confessing and repenting. And it wasn’t about putting on a show; they were genuinely expressing themselves, confessing to God what they had done and seeking His forgiveness.

I think that’s the pattern we still need to follow today as the Church. When we discover that we’ve sinned, that we’ve betrayed the teachings of Christ, and we’ve hurt people, we need to confess it sincerely, instead of trying to hide it or excuse it.

And the truth is, there are plenty of people in our society today that have had bad church experiences. For one reason or another, they’ve been hurt by the Church. Some of you may be among them. And instead of trying to ignore the pain that we’ve cause and instead of trying to blame the victim, we need to be honest about it and confess it.

Listen, God is perfect and He never makes mistakes. But speaking for myself, I know how human I am and how prone I am to make mistakes. I know that I fail. I know that I sin. And the Church is composed of people like me. And that means that even though God is perfect, the Church is imperfect. We’re striving to get to know Jesus more and more, we’re trying to live the way He taught us to live, but we don’t always get it right. We mess up in small ways, and sometimes we mess up in pretty big ways. We need to be honest and confess it when that happens.

And the good news is that we won’t always be like this.

Ephesians 5:25-27 (NLT)
He gave up his life for [the Church] to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.

We’re not there yet. I know that because I’m here, and anything I’m part of isn’t perfect. Hey, you’re here, too. But that’s okay, because Jesus is performing a work among His people that He will continue until we are this holy, glorious Church, without any spots or wrinkles or blemishes. That’s what we have to look forward to. But for now… for now we need to be honest and confess our failures.


2.    I need to personally confess my moral failures to God.

We’ve got to confess as a Church and we need to confess personally. Why is that important? I mean, it’s not as if God doesn’t already know about it. God knows everything you do. He knows everything you say. He knows everything you even think. (There, does that make you squirm a little?) So what’s the point of confessing to Him if He already knows?

Well, it’s not that He needs to be informed; it’s that you need to admit it. You need to recognize that you’ve messed up. You’ve got to stop hiding it, you’ve got to stop denying it… you’ve got to own up to it, seek forgiveness, and aim to do better. Aim to be better. It’s not for God’s benefit; it’s for yours.

And the truth is, we have all sinned. The more we get to know Jesus and the closer we get to Jesus and the more we become like Him, the less we’ll sin. But we have all sinned. In big ways and in small ways, we have all sinned.

What is sin, anyway? Well, ultimately it’s rebellion against God. It’s the spirit of rebellion within us and it’s the acts of rebellion that we perform. It’s a moral failing. It’s anytime we act in opposition to the principles and values found in God’s Word. And we have all done that at one time or another.

1 John 1:8-10 (NLT)
If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.

[It’s like we have blinders on. You know how farmers using horses to plough the field would sometimes put blinders on the horse so they would only see what’s in front of them and wouldn’t see the whole picture. Well, when we refuse to see our sinfulness, it’s as if we’re wearing blinders, and we end up looking like the other end of the horse.]

But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.

We have all sinned, so each one of us must confess that to God in order to receive His forgiveness.

Here’s something I found on the Internet. I have no way to check to see if it’s true or not, so you’re just going to have to take it as is. But from what I read, a translator was trying to translate that passage right there into the Inuit language, but he ran into some trouble when he got to what you see here as…

“He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.”

Because the Inuit language had no word for forgiveness. So the word they finally chose was this…

Ihhumagiyunaiekvigigamitigut

Who wants to take a stab at it? Don’t ask me to pronounce it, but if any of you want to give it a shot, go ahead. But they chose this word because it literally means…

“He will think that it never happened to us.”

Not bad. I like that description of what it means to be forgiven. But we only receive that kind of forgiveness when we humble ourselves and confess first.

“If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.”

That’s in the New Testament. Back in the Old Testament, you find the same idea expressed this way…

Psalm 32:2-3,5 (NLT)
Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long… Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.

Psalm 66:18 (NLT)
If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.

I need to confess my moral failures to God. You need to confess your moral failures to God. We all need to confess our sins, express our genuine regret, and receive His forgiveness. But it all starts with that confession. Without confession, you can’t receive His forgiveness.

Oh, and by the way, this isn’t about making you feel guilty. It’s about allowing you to feel free. It’s not God’s desire to make you mope around beating yourself up over past failures. His desire is to forgive you and help you leave those in the last. Then you can live in freedom and in victory.

Romans 8:1-2 (NLT)
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.


So, as a Church we need to confess our failings and be open and honest about them. I need to personally confess my sinfulness to God. And third…

3.    I must confess to the people I have hurt.

Actually, I have it here this morning as number three, but look at the importance Jesus puts on this… We looked at these verses this past Wednesday in our LIFE Group…

Matthew 5:23-24 (NLT)
“So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.”

You’d think it’d be the other way, wouldn’t you? I mean, wouldn’t you expect Jesus to say to worship God first and then go and reconcile that relationship? But no, Jesus says, “Even if you’re at your place of worship, you’re at the Church, and you’re worshipping God, and suddenly you become aware of a broken relationship you have… perhaps because you’ve done something wrong… perhaps because they’re holding a grudge against you… leave the Church and go to them. Make things right with them and then come back to continue to worship God.

In fact, when you go to make things right, that doesn’t always mean that you just have to say you’re sorry. Sometimes you have to do something to make up for what you’ve done. You have to make restitution.

Numbers 5:7 (NLT)
They must confess their sin and make full restitution for what they have done, adding an additional 20 percent and returning it to the person who was wronged.

In the New Testament book of James, James talks about the importance of confessing to each other.

James 5:16 (NLT)
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

So confession combined with prayer leads to healing.


Now, when is it appropriate to confess to each other?

Well, if your sin has affected the church, then it should be confessed before the church. You’ve seen that happen in particular with some of the Christian leaders who have been caught in some kind of sin that hurt their entire church and sometimes even other churches. In many of those cases those leaders have confessed their sin publicly before the Church and have submitted themselves to the discipline of their church. You’ve even seen some of this played out on the evening news. And that’s a good thing. Not a good thing that they sinned, but good that they confessed it before their church so that both they and the church could begin the healing process.

But what if your sin hasn’t affected the entire church but did hurt another person? Well, confessing to the entire church probably isn’t the best thing then. But you should still go directly to that person you hurt – and this can just be a private thing – and confess what you’ve done, and ask their forgiveness. Again, that allows healing to begin.

Or what if you find yourself struggling with the same sin over and over again and you can’t seem to overcome it? Then you may want to confess it to a few trusted friends who will pray with you and who will provide the support and accountability that you need to overcome that temptation.

When we confess our sins and our vulnerabilities to someone else, it helps hold us accountable. It creates an opportunity for us to bond. It forces us to confront the reality of our sinfulness. It opens the way for us to experience forgiveness and receive the prayer support of others. 

When someone else confesses to us, we have an opportunity to minister to them. We can learn from their experiences. We can exercise some compassion. We can extend some mercy. Not judgment… mercy. There are definitely some benefits to confessing to one another.

And you know, it’s a shame that so many Christians feel like they have to conquer sin in their lives all by themselves. They’re actually ashamed to admit any weakness or sin to other Christians. But God designed us to support and pray for each other, even when it comes to overcoming sin. It was never in His plan for someone to have to go through life alone. God created us as social creatures who need each other, and who should be there for each other.



I don’t know where you’re at in your relationship right now. Maybe you don’t have any broken relationships at all. On the other hand, maybe you’ve got a severely damaged relationship with someone, and maybe it’s because of something you did or something you said… maybe it’s because of some gossip you spread about them… whatever the cause.

And what you need to do is go to them and confess it to them. Ask their forgiveness. Make it right as best you can.

Now, your responsibility is to confess it. And maybe they’ll decide that they’re going to hold that grudge. And that’s their decision. In that case, you’ve one your part. But what I think you’ll find is that they will be glad you came to them. And even if they’re a little cautious, I think most times they’ll be happy to try to work things out and reconcile your relationship.

The thing is, it takes a lot of humility for you to go to someone like that. It takes transparency and vulnerability. And that can be painful. But it’s more than worth it.

Proverbs 28:13 (NLT)
People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.


 

 

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