Tag Archives: sin

Can a Person Absolve your Sins? Drum roll please…

A penitent confessing his sins in the former L...

Image via Wikipedia (confessing to another)

About 500 years ago there was this spat. At the time, having your sins forgiven was a sort of pay as you go thing. It was a bit like a toll road.

The toll booth worker was the Priest. If you bought “indulgences” the Priest could better settle up your debt with God.

Handy little business model, especially when folks hope to avoid damnation, right?

This became rather upsetting. So these Reformer types started protesting. It was not so much to split from the Church, but to transform it–at first.

Of course, men can get pretty riled up about their new fantastic ideas (ever seen that?), and before anyone realized it, a huge split…others might say a heresy or rebellion… was cemented into place in history–forever changing the landscape of Christianity.

Spiritually speaking, some good was gained (and Catholics adjusted to these grievances by the 1960s with Vatican II), but as more and more people are beginning to realizing now, some very good and important things were lost because of going this route.

So, what is the real purpose of a priest, or priest-like figure? Is it necessary? Can absolution of sin come from a man in a white collar? What about a teenager in a crew neck? Or a lady with a scarf?

Drum roll, please…..

Oh!  Wait! Before, you start gathering firewood and a sturdy stake for my conflagration, please hear me out the entire way. (Then have at it; I’d like to hear from you.)

The I Timothy 2:5 “one mediator” verse is often used to underscore that Christ alone can forgive sins and be our mediator to God. It’s true. This was the mission of the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth.

But Protestants have, by the over-reactive trailblazing of the Reformers, missed quite a bit of the spiritual benefits of what Jesus’ brother James talks about:

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.

What is James saying…that confession and other believers’ prayers are powerful and effective against sin? Yes.

GASP.
Okay, not a total gasp. But how does this play out? You may wonder…

This confessing to each other is not the same as be able to actually take Jesus’ place (obviously). James shows us that confession to each other works. It does something important. God wants it to be done this way.

It absolves us (because God absolves us). So, it is true that we personally experience the relief of our guilt being removed. We experience, in real terms, the agency of God’s forgiveness of our guilt. Someone is there beside us, standing in the gap for us, so we can be reconciled more thoroughly, more completely than we can experience it otherwise. It is God’s work; and we are agents of his ministry.

These confessors  to whom we confess become a flesh and blood representation of God’s love that promotes gracious forgiveness and offers wholeness. It offers us freedom from guilt (felt guilt, and feeling or thinking as if Christ‘s work is not complete). It puts flesh on our spiritual justification.

It seems we can’t handle our sin on our own too well, at all.

We are sinful, and it’s not a private matter.

Just confessing to God, and keeping our mistakes and sin to ourselves, is not the recommendation and requirement of Christ’s disciples.

The Community of God (i.e. the Church; our brothers and sisters in the Lord) plays a vital role in our spiritual growth and growth in grace. Confession ushers in that felt healing of the sin and guilt which weigh us down, and disables us.

Our sin is a rejection of community (aka The Bride of Christ) and an act of selfishness.

Our sin is a destructive thing. Socially and spiritually destructive.

Confession and absolution, (the kind you might say/declare out loud to another person) restore us at a core level. To ourselves, to God, and to community (aka The Bride of Christ).

In this way, we act not as God, but on God’s behalf. We minister.

It is simply true that he forgives us. We concur and offer social restoration, and remind the confessing one of God’s gracious work and love for us.

We minister to each other, on equal footing, and we may offer God’s grace to a brother or sister who cannot yet properly apprehend it. We can accept their confession and offer forgiveness, so we speak the Truth of God’s Kingdom into their life. We help set the captives free. (Not because God can’t do it without us, but because he wishes to use us this way.)

YES. We may say, “You have confessed, and you are forgiven. God absolves you. I, too, forgive you. Go in peace, and rest in his love.”

Please offer this to others. Ask for it on your behalf, too.

Will you comment on this topic, please? Your input is vital on this one. Thank you.

Like A Virgin Soap (No Shame)

OKAY-It’s possible something was lost in translation on this cosmetic.

Perhaps white or pure was translated as “virginity”. Maybe the English word “virginal” threw off the dictionary. You might have a better guess than me.

This so-called “skin-whitening” soap is supposed to make the skin inviting to touch, so it actually, um. maybe it could end virginity.

But I wonder if the idea of purity, cleansing, and ridding us of our shame is so wrapped up together, that longing for a kind of “virginity soap” isn’t all that big of a stretch.

On some level, doesn’t everyone want a second chance?

Doesn’t everyone want their sin to be “washed away”?

Do you have a memory you wish you didn’t have, or a past sin that plagues you?

Christianity has promised this same thing with “Jesus Soap” for quite a while now. But is it that simple? And, do we co-opt with the renewing power of the Holy Spirit enough to live in a “washed clean” kind of way?

The spiritual discipline of confession works a bit like “virginity soap”. It is an imperative to confess and turn away from sins. And we are told to confess to each other. It gives us a real life engagement with grace, via the willing and trusting ear of another.

Do you have a confessor to whom you can confess your shame? If not, why? Do you think it would help you?

Thanks for you thoughts on this.

Jennifer Knapp: Let the Judgment Begin!

Jennifer Knapp

After over a 7 year break from music, Jennifer Knapp announces the release of her new album, and reveals her same sex relationship of 7 years in an interview with Christianity Today. (full article)

What will her fans do? How will she be treated in the Christian community?

Here’s my proposal:

Let the Judgment Begin!

(on ourselves)

Ask yourself a few important things:
What in your life should you look at more deeply?

If you like to come up with decisions about people, is it to make you feel better? And what other ways could work better?

What is your hidden payoff for taking the focus off your growth to focus on someone else’s shortcomings?

Are you hospitable?

Are you welcoming?

Are you loving?

Are you gracious with the same amount of grace you’ve been given?

Could these areas improve?

Let’s get serious, and List a few ways how we could work toward our own improvement, through God’s grace.

What does speaking any ill of Jennifer Knapp do for our practice of hospitality?

Or, for our Christ-likness?

Or, for our growing in the Love of Christ?

Do Christians HAVE TO be the best at shooting our own wounded ones?

Please, I beg you, no.

Let us enter into a concerted time of Spirit-led introspection, discovery, confession (to both God and each other), repentance, accountability, and ongoing, loving discipleship–in unity.

Sometimes these types of personal revelations seem interesting or fascinating–along the lines of scandal, intrigue, and excitement. Yet, it’s dangerous to fixate with our idle curiosity on public figures, like Knapp, or the ordinary people we know. It’s distracting. It misses the lesson. It skirts the point of the Kingdom.

The truth is, men and women like Knapp are in pews, or they are afraid to be, and they are on the fringes. They feel like they have to choose between being secretive, or being pushed out of the church community. If we had Christ-like hospitality, we would know about them. We would walk *with* them, not just talk *about* them.

But more importantly, if we weren’t so concerned about Knapp, in a judgmental way, we could do the deeper, and far harder work of looking within, and allowing God to work his sanctifying agency.

I pray no one vilifies Jennifer, rejects her, or condemns her. But, I think it will happen. The temptation is just so irresistible.  Laying waste to those anything like Knapp is so common, that it hardly seems wrong to our conscience, in general. We have this corny idea of righteous indignation, to give us motivation. But guess what? It’s more irresistible to gossip under the cover of righteous indignation, and far more common than same gender attraction! If we only had righteous indignation for our own problems, first, or ever! Imagine the spiritual growth then.

I don’t think we should applaud her, or marginalize her, but rather know that her journey is neither  yours, or mine, directly. When I think of her, I think of the words Jesus said.

Matt.9:11-12When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”

BUT-Here’s the distinction. I know this verse is about me. If you don’t realize you need God, and you need help, well, you won’t get any.

Besides that, It saddened me to read that in the article with CT, Jennifer said she was not involved in a church family now. We all need community, to be our best. What could be more beneficial to her than to be surrounded and supported by brothers and sisters in the faith? She dearly loves God. She continues to sing to him, and seek him, unabashedly. Now is not the time to focus on her particular statements, though. We have greater work to do. It’s the kind where personal change is truly possible–the kind within ourselves.

Let us love one another, for everyone who does not love, does not know God.

“How Much Hoodoo / Voodoo do you do?” Self-test

This man just prayed, "God, give me sign if I should get a dog?"

This man just prayed, "God, give me sign if I should get a dog?"

(Was the cat joke too obtuse?)

Has a bit of Hoodoo, folk magic, superstition, and general hooey nuzzled its way into your theology? Probably. We all fall prey to cultural influences that don’t have a solid base in the nature of Reality, (i.e. our Creator and Redeemer) Take this self-test to know if you’re mostly hoodoo-free, or if you could use an excorcism, a bath, a dose of Reality, or just a good swift kick in the pants. Oh, and please, enjoy yourself. It’s all supposed to be fun, good-natured, and thought-provoking in a helpful sort of way.

Hoodoo Self-test

Answer true or false, and add up your answers as you go.

1. Once in a while you straddle a broomstick, and hope it will magically fly. (Or you think about doing it.)

2. Hogwarts seems like the ideal boarding school, even if there does tend to be a lack of supervision.

3. Sometimes you make plans, and then think to ask God to bless what you are doing, with a sign, if possible, to see if it’s “his will.”

4. You’ve gotten hurt or sick and thought it could be a punishment from God, (however, you hold back not officially citing it as “bad juju.”)

5. You’ve fairly certain you’ve been hexed or cursed by someone at some point in your lifetime, maybe by someone who hated you, or a band of gypsies.

6. If you don’t pray in Jesus’ name, you think your prayer could be a dud.

7. When you need to, you put out a (proverbial) fleece, much in the style of Gideon, to get confirmation from God.

8. If God seems silent on a decision you need to make, you check for “closed and open doors,” and pray more zealously about it.

9. Not getting in private devotional/Bible reading time with God can correspond to a bad day, (or an odd string of bad luck, or even a loss of mojo.)

10. You suspect demonic activity is responsible for a lot of your temptations, mistakes, and influences.

 

*Scoring: Add up true scores in a column, and then false scores in another.

1-3 True answers means that like many people you have been somewhat influenced by hoodoo folk magic and folk theology. The upcoming series will be of great benefit to you. Hold off on the exorcism-for now. But, don’t get too cocky.

3-6 True answers means that you have a bit of a problem area with hoodoo. (See my other post to learn more about hoodoo vs. voodoo. It’s oh so real.) You probably don’t realize the extent you are being witchy with God. Don’t freak out, he won’t put a bad spell on you, but I’m sure he yearns for you to get to know him, more for who he is. It could be more complicated than the voodoo doll slippery slope approach that can creep up unawares. It could be very comforting for you too, to hear a few fresh ideas. Check back soon for posts in this series.

6-10 True answers mean you have a hoodoo issue. Return any capes, magic wands, voodoo dolls, potions, or caldrons you may have purchased. They will not serve you well. It’s quite likely that you are incorporating some superstitions into your worldview, theological foundation, and everyday life. But there is always hope! God wants your liberation, and the journey to freedom, with him. It will be so restful at the end. You won’t have to keep looking over your shoulder, so that will be nice too! Check back soon for many helpful ways to rid your perspective of faulty notions of God’s nature, character, and actions; and learn of his redemptive agency in his created  world.


If you are ready to grow, be open, and BRAVE, leave your score in the comment section. If not, please post something you’ve been thinking about throughout this time. Thank you!

*(This test is mildly amusing, but not real, in any scientific way, so please don’t be upset however your score may come out. The idea behind it is to prompt thought about your beliefs and spiritual actions against the gracious, loving, true nature of our Creator and Redeemer.)

A few thoughts about needing signs, from my Savior and mentor:

“Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” John 4:48  (Said despairingly of the Jews who rejected Jesus in Nazareth.) 

Matt. 12:38 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.” 39He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

This is the greatest sign and revelation that God is God, he came in the flesh, died, was buried for 3 days, and was brought to life again, which was witnessed by many. He is trustworthy.