The defining characteristic of post-Christian culture is a belief that mankind is good and God is bad. Accusing the Lord of the greater “sin” for letting bad things happen to presumably “good” people obviates any perceived need for forgiveness through His Son. Moral relativism recalibrates the compass (a conscience pointing to Jesus) that God instilled in every human being. Secularism eliminates any standards by substituting a comparative claim to a morally higher ground than God and those who follow Him.
Now on the defensive, churches and Christians took the bait and responded in the worst possible way, fueling the fire by claiming moral superiority of “Team Jesus” over “Team World”. As a result, media lies in wait to pounce on any opportunity to highlight the hypocrisy of players and coaches on the opposing team. A vastly better approach to awaken America from its collective conscience coma and possibly spark revival is a (seemingly ironic) preemptive strike…
The Principle of Confession
The stark division in our nation today between those who place all their faith in mankind and those who trust in Jesus is about whose version of “truth” is better. However, Scripture consistently awards the victory to whoever confesses they are worse. Our proud American culture sees confession as losing, but abject humility always triumphs over self-righteous pride in God’s economy…
- Woman washing Jesus’ feet with her tears exalted over cynical Pharisee (Luke 7:38-39)
- Repentant tax collector Zacchaeus exalted over disbelieving crowd (Luke 19:1-10)
- Apologetic prodigal son exalted over jealous older brother (Luke 15:11-32)
- Traitor crying out for mercy exalted over condescending religious leader (Luke 18:9-14)
- Servant-minded sheep exalted over self-centered goats (Matthew 25:31-46)
- Dependent children exalted over self-sufficient adults (Luke 18:15-17)
- Woman caught in adultery exalted over her accusers (John 8:3-11)
- Reluctant, meek Moses exalted over arrogant, hard-hearted Pharoah (Exodus 3:11)
- Remorseful David exalted over obstinate Saul (Psalm 51:1-17)
The list goes on and on throughout the Bible of those rewarded for confessing their weaknesses and others derided for concealing them. “Look at how bad I am!” wins every time over “Look what we did!” Jesus modeled humility and taught that the last (servants) will be first and least will be greatest in the Kingdom. Yet rather than being transparent so that people can see Jesus through us, most Christians hide their flaws, essentially rebuilding the veil Christ tore when He died to pay for our sins. That pious pretention, in defiance of Jesus’ model and teachings, prompts the negative perception many Americans have today of Christians and churches.
The Power of Confession
Eventually the truth comes out. Even faithful believers can’t help but do things wrong. We know human nature is sinful. Yet most pretend to be “better” than we actually are. To look good in front of our church friends we’re on our best behavior. Around non-believers many Christians see being “nice” as the key to evangelism, letting our actions speak for themselves. Yet that’s a convenient excuse to keep faith private to avoid ridicule, controversy, accountability, or confession. We don’t want to be held to a higher standard, like refusing to put a “Jesus fish” on the back of our cars in case we cut someone off or honk impatiently. Most Christians mistakenly think people won’t want to know Jesus if we’re not perfect, when it’s actually our admission that we mess up that attracts people to Him (and to us).
In this Age of Decadence, the trajectory America takes next depends on which religion, Selfism or Christianity, will be first to drop the charade and openly confess their shortcomings. Youth in our nation worship at the altar of self-reliance and feigned authenticity while rates of teen depression, addiction and suicide soar. Underneath the world’s façade lies a fragile veneer barely suppressing their guilty consciences. That’s why secularism works so hard to rid society of any vestige of Christianity lest it puncture the veneer, bringing them face-to-face with the only One who can fill their “God-shaped hole” and offer freedom from guilt. Meanwhile, Christians erect an unintended blockade at the church door by not openly confessing our sins, making the unchurched wonder if they’re too immoral to be accepted by Jesus. When believers walk on eggshells, hoping no one discovers any skeletons in our closets that could reflect poorly on Jesus, it actually has the opposite effect – making Him seem less accessible and His followers more hypocritical. If we would instead convey our deep need for forgiveness, it would encourage non-believers to recognize theirs.
The Practice of Confession
Humble confession is central to every aspect of our walk with the Lord and critical for effectively living out our mission in this world…
- Prayer – Approaching our loving Father with reverence, thankfulness and honesty (James 5:16)
- Evangelism – Public profession requires personal confession (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)
- Salvation – Confession is a precursor to forgiveness and justification (1 John 1:9)
- Compassion – “Washing feet” as servants compelled by love levels the playing field (John 13:1-17)
- Generosity – Admitting we’re only stewards and not owners deflects glory to God for our giving (1 Peter 4:10-11)
- Discipleship – Accountability and authenticity are not one-way streets (John 13:34–35)
Faithful practice of those spiritual disciplines by the power of the Holy Spirit is the only hope for bridging the divide in America between those who trust in mankind and those whose faith is in God. Both sides of that debate have dug in their heels, unwilling to confess their faults, afraid giving any ground would involve compromise. As a result, Christian conservatives and secular progressives see each other as arrogant. No one likes arrogant people. Humility is foundational to Christianity but antithetical to Selfism, so it’s on believers to take the first step to break through relational barriers if we are to have any chance of pointing our society back toward Christ.
The Plan for Confession
Taking the initiative to show our cards, beating humanism to the punch by revealing our flaws (before they do), requires shifting focus from what divides to what unites us all – an eternal soul, a sinful nature, and a conscience. Eternity and awareness of sin are fixtures in every heart and mind, no matter how hard anyone tries to deny their existence. Yet the emotion that accompanies current hot button issues has kept churches and Christians from seeing that those who don’t know Jesus are “lost sheep”, suffering in that denial. It wouldn’t take much to awaken those dormant longings and offer what they’re so desperately looking for – a true identity, available only to children of our loving Father. But seizing the opportunity will necessitate wildly countercultural acts of humility and sacrifice on our part…
- Stop professing without confessing, otherwise we look like celebrities endorsing a product they don’t believe in or use themselves
- Admit that keeping our faith “private” is really a cover to avoid scrutiny and confession, because cultural Christians speak of everything else they love (except for Jesus)
- Brag only about our Savior and how badly we need Him, not about any accomplishments
- Never couch our identity in a church or denomination, as if our faith rests in earthly affiliations rather than an eternal Savior and heavenly Father
- Distance from political parties and candidates, not risking alienating those who will never agree until they meet Jesus and experience His forgiveness
- Disassociate from any groups that could make it appear we’re brainlessly adopting ideology rather than fully dependent on Jesus for direction
- Recognize swallowing pride and unveiling weaknesses is the key to knocking down barriers, making Jesus seem accessible, and countering accusations of hypocrisy
- Don’t lose touch with your own sinfulness and “sinners” by always hanging around “good” churchgoers
- Call out sin within the church, acting as a whistleblower if no one else speaks up, so the church at least adheres to the standard it tries to apply to those outside the “4 walls”
- Be the first to admit you’re wrong and eager to give credit to others
- Let the contrast of the Lord’s bright light of love illuminate the darkness through mind-blowing acts of kindness
Walking this path means drowning out the noise of a culture that in the name of tolerance demands conformance to the fallacy that sin does not exist, which we combat not by accusing others of sin but by confessing our own.
It’s Your Turn…
Are you and your church willing to boast in your weakness to highlight Christ’s strength?