John Ortberg in his book the Life You’ve Always Wanted breaks up the process of confession into a six step process.
- First step – preparation. We begin by placing ourselves in the care of the Spirit and asking for help. Key point – to see sin as God sees it (agree with God ) involves the Holy Spirit – it involves taking time to be still and let the Holy Spirit show us the parts of us that God wants to work on at the moment. We tend to be too hard or too soft on our sin so we need the Holy Spirit to show us the sin from Gods perspective. We need the Holy Spirit to have a healing /transformative confession process.
- Step two – Self-examination – taking time to reflect on our thoughts, words, and deeds acknowledging that we have sinned. Some people use the Ten Commandments as a way to think about and categorise our sin. I have found the list of the 7 deadly sins the most helpful. Once I sense the Holy Spirit focusing on an area then I find the category it fits in so Pride, anger lust, envy, greed, sloth, and gluttony. This helps my confession to be specific, concrete and particular. They are words that cut through my excuses and help me see my sin more as God does.
This then enables me to take appropriate responsibility for what I have done. Part of confession is acknowledging that although there may be all sorts of extenuating circumstances somewhere in the process of committing the sin I made a choice and that choice I made needs to be forgiven. The slate has to be wiped clean.
- Step three – Perception – we need a new way to look at our sin a new understanding of it. We all have a capacity for self-deception. We can lie to avoid pain and hardly be aware we have done so. We can flatter or seek to manipulate almost without even being aware of it. In this step of confession we ask for honest perception – to see our sin through the eyes of the person we sinned against – through the eyes of God. Jesus statement about this was very clear. He called us to remove the log from our own eye so we could see clearly to take the speck out of our neighbours.
- Step four _-Two questions – A) why and B) what happened?
Why did I do what I did?
Sin is often an attempt to meet a legitimate need in an illegitimate way. If we don’t address the need in appropriate ways we will go on sinning! What happened as a result of my sin?
What price wouldn’t we pay to take the log out of our own eye?
- A new feeling – After understanding comes a new feeling. True confession is not just an exchange of information – it also involves entering into the pain of the person we have hurt and entering into God’s pain over sin. Confession is an act of grace. That leads to Godly sorrow – the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. Hopeful pain – the sorrow of wounds that heal.
A new promise – confession not just naming what we have done but our intentions about the future as well. As god does his work in us through the process of confession we resolve that with Gods ‘help we will change. This involves setting right what we did wrong to the extent that such is possible.
6) The summit – healing grace. Living in the reality of forgiven sin.
So as 1 John 1.9 says if we confess our sin he is faithful and just to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness,
And James 5: 16 therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed, the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.