Confession is not a Loophole

loophole

As defined by the Cambridge Dictionary, a loophole is “an opportunity to legally avoid an unpleasant responsibility, usually because of a mistake in the way rules or laws have been written.”  I saw this word “Loophole” as the word of the day, and it took me back to those preschool and elementary days when my three children were young, impressionable, and teachable.  As parents one of the things we wanted our children to know in real time, is the consequences resulting from each choice they make.  When they were obedient, they were blessed and often rewarded with an extra book at bedtime, etc.  When they were disobedient, they were punished in a way appropriate to the offense, like no reading of their favorite book at bedtime that night.  Even the word “punished” can cause some reading this article now to be offended in our modern world of “loopholes.”

In my observation of Christian circles over the last forty years, the concept of confession has been poorly taught, and loosely interpreted.  I know too many people who live in a world where 1 John 1:9 is used like a get-out-of-jail free card, and play it often as a loophole to presume on God’s grace with no consequences.  What does this verse actually say?

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Like a pig who spends all day wallowing in the muddy dung floor of their stable, when we disobey God’s Word or Will, we become dirty, stinky, and unclean in God’s nostrils. There is not only a penalty (punishment) for this action, but also a consequence resulting from the action.  Disobeying God’s will, in the simplest of terms even Adam came to understand in the Garden, results in (consequently) broken relationship with God.  Adam could not claim there was a “mistake in the way rules or laws have been written” because God’s laws are perfect. (Psalm 119:138) And for Adam there was only one.

While there seems to be a sense at some point in the Genesis story that Adam and Eve were repentant, and God acted to cover them and save them, their confession did not take away the consequence of their actions.  So, if confession is not a loophole, then what is it?  I suggest the answer is found in the “attitude” of how a true Christ followers wields 1 John 1:9.

The kind of confession found in 1 John 1:9 brings with it two distinct grace born benefits to the person who comes in true repentance to the words of their confession.  First, by seeing their disobedience as “sin” and owning it, when this person confesses they appropriate that forgiveness of God provided through Jesus death on the cross.  This appropriation of payment for their sin is required by law.  Hebrews 9:22 says, “And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”  (cleansing 1 John 1:9)

Second, in this attitude of true repentance, and turning back to God for their forgiveness, they not only are cleansed, but this confessing action results in restoration of their relationship with God.  Once again the Christ follower can walk and talk with God in joy, peace and contentment that the relationship is no longer estranged.

Neither the appropriation of God’s cleansing grace, nor the forgiving nature of restored relationship with God, circumvent consequences that result naturally from disobedience.  Sometimes the boat sinks.  Sometimes cancer strikes, homes are lost, children die, wars rage, divorce papers are served, and jobs lost… and sometimes it comes as a natural result of disobedience.

True repentance, resulting in true confession, will always have cleansing restorative power in our lives.

It is not a loophole to avoid the consequences of our choices or actions.

Loophole

Believe

via Expectation

fairway

Does expectation shape the result? Often one’s expectations only reflect the hope of something different than reality.  When I stand on the first tee box, driver in hand, I expect to hit a perfect drive down the middle of the fairway, somewhere between 250-275 yards away.  On any given day, and any given golf course, this expectation may or may not happen at all.  Other days, 12 out of 14 times I’ve accomplished the middle part, or the fairway part, or the distance part… but not necessarily all at the same time.

In Oscar Wilde’s essay The Decay of Lying, he said, “Life imitates art far more often than Art imitates life.”  It’s a philosophical argument where Wilde suggests that what is discovered through life or nature is not what is really there, but only what artists have taught us to find there – through art.  As you can imagine, I have difficulty with this philosophy.  Do I really need some artist to describe for me the glory of God’s world, or my relationship to it?  I don’t think so.  When I smell the freshly mown grass, when I feel the sand in my eyes after hitting out of the bunker, when the sun shines directly in my eyes as I stare eastward into the dawn on that short par 3, artists generally cannot improve on what I experience in those moments.  God created me with the capabilities through my five senses, and through the cognitive processes of my brain, and the willful choices of my soul, to recognize and give Him glory for the stunning beauty of nature and life.  It’s not just my philosophy, it is absolute truth, according to God’s Word.

Romans 1:20-23
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.  For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

Obviously I  use the golf model as my illustrative point because I truly enjoy playing the game.  It affords me the opportunity to be out of my office and enjoy God’s world of nature in a way that is satisfying to me.  According to Wilde, I would never know the grass was green or just mown, know the grain of sand was in my eye, or how brightly the sun was shining if some artist didn’t clue me into these experiences.  Doesn’t that sound just ridiculous to you?

Here’s another example.  A  high school student’s artwork depicting police officers as pigs gets taken down, and that draws attention to the prevailing attitude among many in the black community toward the police officers in this country.  But did this high school artist help us comprehend this reality?  No, it has been clearly seen by anyone with their eyes even half open.  It has been this way for a really long time.

John the Apostle could be considered an artist in one sense.  In the final book of the Bible which he authored, John uses dramatic imagery that is often mysterious to us today because we have no context for what the imagery means.  His illustrations come from a Hebrew mindset, in a late first-century world, dominated by Roman authority, all while John is in exile on an island called Patmos.  Do your relate to these conditions in any way? The whole book is filled with visions and narratives that chill us with their apocalyptic finality.  Yet, if we focus only on the imagery, we lose the message of the book.  For it is not a book meant to bring fear, but hope and expectation.

The Book of Revelation is divinely designed to reveal the true nature and character of Jesus Christ as God.  Within this basic belief is this simple truth:  The whole Book of Revelation is about the extravagant love of God, and the exorbitant lengths and measures taken by God to allow all who will, to come to salvation through Jesus.

When we approach understanding Revelation with the expectation that God wants us to understand it, then we can, in the proper context.  The context is the hope found in Christ alone.  In Christ alone I place my trust.  Keith Getty and Stuart Townend wrote a wonderful new hymn of praise capturing the essence of “expectation”, which I leave with you today:

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light my strength my song
This Cornerstone this solid Ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love what depths of peace
When fears are stilled when strivings cease
My Comforter my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

Keith Getty | Stuart Townend
© 2001 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)