Confession: Breakthrough to New Life
Two more posts concerning the Bonhoeffer book. The third of the four “breakthroughs” that Bonhoeffer connects with the act of confession is the breakthrough to new life. You begin to see, don’t you, that confession is tied up with the very dynamic of salvation. There is the dying to self, then the rising to new life. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, that great man, wrote somewhere of the “withering” ministry of the Holy Spirit. This is very important to get a handle on. We must sink before we rise, go to the lowest place at the table before we can be called to the place of honor.
Last night I watched Jack Hayford on TV. Hayford said, you can’t go far wrong if you remember always that you’re a sinner saved by grace. And confession is the real concrete action we take that is the natural outgrowth of that reality. It is, indeed, the very provision of God through his Body for such sinners. To hear the encouraging word of forgiveness from a brother or sister is to hear the very heart of Jesus spoken through one who, as a Christian, has been given the ministry of reconciliation. Where else is that ministry carried out but in the authoritative declaration of the forgiveness of God for a specific sinner burdened by his very specific sins.
Bonhoeffer says, “Confession is conversion.” Is that too hard for us, who are so used to speaking of conversion as something that happened to us in the past? But salvation is a continuing reality, an ongoing journey. Conversion, the turning from sin and to God, is re-lived again in the act of confession. “In confession the Christian begins to forsake his sins. Their dominion is broken.”
That has been my experience. As long as I have struggled in private with my sin I have continued to slave away under its power. But when I have brought it into the light, I seem to receive new authority over it. Confession, Bonhoeffer says, is the renewal of the joy of baptism. We are born again.