Confession and Asking Forgiveness

As they were being baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, they confessed their sins.  John 3:6 (OGV)

In the 70’s there was a Christian conference where you received a large red notebook. Thousands upon thousands of believers attended this conference and received the red notebook.

I have always been a “hear and then do” Christian; if I hear it and it sounds somewhat Biblical, I try it. In the red notebook there were plenty of “hears and dos” and I made a “to do” list.

Then, then… there was the chapter on confession and asking forgiveness. The red notebook taught that you needed to go back and find people that you had significantly offended before you became a believer, and then ask their forgiveness for your offenses against them.

I was a pagan of pagan in the years before I became a Christian. I worried that this teaching on confession and asking forgiveness would mean decades of mournful phone calls. I had offended a lot of people.

I resisted and resisted this teaching, while the Spirit convicted and convicted. The Spirit won.

The red notebook gave specific instructions:

  1. List 10 people only. Those that you had offended the most. I was instructed to ask the Lord who the 10 people were and then write their names. I asked God and the 10 names were written in about 10 seconds.
  2. I was to find the person and talk to them face to face. A phone call was second best. I am not sure what the advice would be today with texting or e-mails. I’m sure the red notebook would frown upon a public confession on Facebook. I found six of the 10 and talked to them face to face; I called the other four.
  3. “Hi, this is Grant.” One of my greatest “offendees” didn’t even remember me. But the others did! When I spoke to them or called, some were still mad. All had a moment of silence, the awkward type of silence. I said, “I offended you when I _________; I want to ask your forgiveness.” I didn’t go into detail on my offense. I said something like “I stole…,” “I was impure,” “I was angry,” or “I lied.”
  4. I used the phrase “Would you forgive me?” I did not say, “I want to apologize” or “I’m sorry.”

A lot of the teaching in the red notebook I have found to be unworkable. But confessing to my top 10 was one of the best acts of obedience that I did as a young Christian.

I will write about this soon in Interruptions, but the Greek word for “confession” can be translated as “coming out or out from,” in a sense, purging yourself of poison in your soul.

All of that lust, anger, rebellion, hateful speech, and pride – the strongholds of my youth – came out of me through my confession. It was deliverance. Since that time, as a follower of Jesus, I have never been seriously tempted to be unfaithful to my wife, get drunk, do drugs, or steal money.

I can forgive people who offend me, be patient with those who lie to or about me, and not be bothered by Christians who undermine my ministry – I just forget.

The poison is gone!

In the Richard Foster book, Celebration of Discipline, there is a chapter on confession.  The chapter opens with a quote from Augustine. (OGV historical note: Augustine was a leading saint long ago.)

The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works!

I’m glad that I heard and obeyed the teaching from the red notebook early in my ministry. I find that I still have a constant need to practice the guidelines of confession and forgiveness.

I want to emphasize “constantly”! I do not think there would have been effectiveness in my years as a pastor if I had not learned to…

Confess my sins and ask forgiveness of those that I offend. 

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