Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Confession in the New Testament Way!

12.15 Wearing Jesus’ robe of righteousness

Your righteousness-consciousness will determine the intimacy of your relationship with God and the degree that you are able to reign in life. Righteousness-consciousness will enable you to enter into the presence of God through worship. If you are a worship leader, you can lead the congregation into God’s presence through building up their righteousness-consciousness.

Say this prayer with me:

Heavenly Father,
I thank You that You see me forever righteous in Christ. Lord Jesus, I thank You that on the cross, You became sin so that I may become the righteousness of God in You. Holy Spirit, I thank You for convicting me of my righteousness always. Help me to be always conscious of my new identity in Christ so that I can reign in life. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

I want you to visualize yourself wearing Jesus’ robe of righteousness (Is 61:10). It is also called the breastplate of righteousness, which is part of the armor of God to be put on (Eph 6:14). This breastplate is important because it protects your heart.

We put it on by being conscious of it. Start by being conscious of the robe of righteousness whenever you enter into worship in church. Put on this robe whenever you feel unrighteous or unworthy. Wear that robe each morning, as you get dressed for work. Over time, extend that consciousness to the rest of the day.

When you live in a perpetual state of righteousness-consciousness, you will also live perpetually in God’s presence. It will guard your heart from the accusations of the enemy. It will protect you against sin-consciousness. You will experience being seated with Christ Jesus and you will reign in life as a king.

12.14 Repentance for practicing sin

God doesn’t want the ordinary believer to be sin-conscious. But even as we share these important truths, you may ask, “What about the minority who may be living in a lifestyle of sin?” Obviously, such a believer would struggle with sin-consciousness, and find it hard to enjoy the promises of God’s word. The solution is for such believers to repent.

To repent is to have a change of mind. For an unbeliever, it is to repent for the remission of sins, to receive salvation in Christ (Acts 2:38). For the believer, it is to turn away from practicing sinful deeds to walking in righteousness and holiness (2 Cor 12:21).

This is not about normal believers who fall into sin unintentionally and occasionally. It is about believers who practice sin or who indulge in a lifestyle of sin.

Jesus told the churches of Pergamos and Thyatira to repent for practicing sexual immorality and for eating food offered to idols (Rev 2:14, 20). Paul asked the Corinthian Church to repent of the uncleanness, fornication and lewdness which they PRACTICED.

(2 Cor 12:21)
…lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have SINNED before and have not REPENTED of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have PRACTICED.

In 1 Cor 5:4-5, Paul told the believers to withdraw fellowship from a person living in sexual immorality, so the person gets the message that God does not want him living in sin. After he had repented, Paul asked the believers to reaffirm their love and forgiveness for him, so as not to give any room to Satan (2 Cor 2:6-11).

The Holy Spirit also helps a person to turn back to God by convicting the person of righteousness in Christ (John 16:8, 10), which results in repentance with justification rather than condemnation (Rom 5:1, 8:1). If repentance is motivated by condemnation, the person would remain far from God. He keeps repenting but is unable to overcome. Repentance by a believer should be motivated by the goodness of God. Rom 2:4 says, “The goodness of God leads you to repentance.” It restores his fellowship with God.

When a person repents, there is a sense of godly sorrow (2 Cor 7:10). The person is sorry for taking God’s grace for granted. He feels even sorrier knowing that God still loves him so much. He embraces the forgiveness that was given on the cross 2000 years ago. When he knows that he has been forgiven much, his response is to love Jesus much (Luke 7:47).

God wants us to come boldly to the throne of grace with no consciousness of sins. The role of the worship leader is to declare to the people that they can come boldly to the throne of grace because Jesus’ blood has made them worthy. When we enter boldly into God’s presence with righteousness-consciousness, we will enjoy an intimate relationship with Him.

12.13 Living in Christ in the New Covenant

Beloved, let us now describe how a believer (you and I) should be living in the New Covenant. The Holy Spirit convicts us of righteousness. We are conscious of our righteousness in Christ (our new identity). We have no consciousness of sins (Heb 10:2), just like Adam before he fell into sin. We do not go into a sin-search. Instead, we confess the Word to wash our conscience and to remind ourselves of our righteousness in Christ.

When we walk by faith in the free gift of righteousness, the Holy Spirit is able to work powerfully in us. We bear the fruit of the Spirit and we manifest the Life of Christ. We walk above sin and Satan. We live perpetually in our Father’s presence and we enjoy an intimate and loving relationship with Him. We are a joy to His heart and we fulfill our calling in Him.

Rom 5:17 says that the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness will cause us to reign in life.

Comparing the Law vs. Grace Approach to God’s Presence

1) The law gives us knowledge of sin (Rom 3:20). But grace points us to Jesus the Lamb of God (Eph 1:7; John 1:29).
2) The law makes us sin-conscious (Heb 10:1-4). Under grace, we become Jesus-conscious and righteousness-conscious (Heb 10:2).
3) Under law, Satan uses the law to accuse us (Col 2:14-15). Under grace, the Holy Spirit convicts us of our righteousness (John 16:8-10).
4) Under law, we constantly and repeatedly confess our sins (Heb 10:1-4). Under grace, we constantly confess our righteousness in Christ (2 Cor 5:21). We confess Jesus as our High Priest.
5) Under law, we feel condemned and unworthy (2 Cor 3:9). Under grace, we receive assurance of justification (Rom 3:24; 5:1).
6) Under law, we fail to enter the throne of grace (Heb 10:19-22). It is more a throne of judgment. Under grace, we can boldly enter the throne of grace and remain there (Heb 4:16).
7) Under law, we experience defeat and death (Rom 7:9; 2 Cor 3:7). Under grace, we reign in life (Rom 5:17).

As we discuss on the topic of worship, it is important to know that we can only experience worship in a fulfilling relationship with God by approaching God on the basis of the finished work of Christ (the grace of Jesus) in the New Covenant.

12.12 Understanding 1 John 1:9

The favorite verse which is commonly used to support the practice of regular confession of sins by believers to receive forgiveness is 1 John 1:9.

(1 John 1:9)
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Those who believe that this verse is for Christians are saying that forgiveness of sins is received only when they confess their sins. When they fail to confess newly committed sins, these sins are held against them. These could be sins committed in action, thought, attitude or speech. Should they die with any unconfessed sins (big or small), they would be condemned to hell’s fire. They would have to confess their sins all the time to maintain their righteousness and salvation.

This verse is inconsistent with Rom 4:8 which says that our sins are not imputed. It is inconsistent with the many other verses we shared earlier on the eternal work of Jesus. Let us now explain this apparent inconsistency. This verse actually refers to the confession of sins for “salvation”. It does not refer to the confession of specific sins by a believer.

In 1 John chapter 1, John was dealing with the wrong teachings of Gnosticism that had crept into the Church. Gnostics believed that salvation was by special knowledge (gnosis) rather than faith in Jesus. They denied that their immoral actions were sinful and they denied that they had sin. They also denied that Christ came in the flesh. There were Gnostics among the believers and their teachings were influencing the believers.

John begins his epistle in 1 John 1:1 by telling the Gnostics among the believers that Jesus did come in the flesh. He said that he had seen and touched Jesus. In verse 2, John declares the eternal life of Christ to the Gnostics so that they may believe and have fellowship with the true believers. Then in 1 John 1:8 & 10, John repeats twice to the Gnostics that they were in error by saying that they had no sin, and thus did not need Jesus.

(1 John 1:8-10)
If we SAY WE HAVE NO SIN, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If WE SAY THAT WE HAVE NOT SINNED, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

He gave them the solution in verse 9 saying, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from ALL UNRIGHTEOUSNESS.” John was not dealing with specific acts of sin as he uses the phrase “cleanse us from all unrighteousness”, referring to repentance for salvation.

Subsequently, in John 2:1, John directs his letter to true believers, addressed as “my little children”, saying, “And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” He points us back to Jesus our High Priest who upholds our righteousness.

12.11 What is our confession in the New Covenant?

The Bible says that Jesus is the High Priest of our confession (Heb 3:1). What is this confession? Would you like to know? The answer to this question will tell us “The Confession” for our New Covenant. This simply truth is a powerful revelation that can lead the Church and us into a powerful paradigm shift.

The Amplified Bible says that this is the confession of Jesus as our High Priest. What does it mean to confess Jesus as our High priest? In the Old Covenant, the standing of the people is wrapped up in their High Priest. If they performed well on the Day of Atonement, their sins would be covered for another year. But the work of the Old Testament High Priest was never finished. They could never sit down. They were always working.

Then Jesus came as our High Priest. He entered the true Holy of Holies in heaven and presented His own blood as our sacrifice to wash away our eternal sins. Because it was accepted by God the Father, Jesus became the final sacrifice.

Then Jesus did something that none of the High Priests could do. He sat down at the right hand of the Father! Yes, He sat down! The fact that Jesus is seated shows that the work of redemption is finished. Today, God sees us as perfectly righteous in Jesus. For 2,000 years, Jesus has been fulfilling His ministry as our high priest. When the Father sees the nail pierced hands of Jesus, He is constantly reminded that our sins have been washed away.

In the light of this powerful truth, now we can understand what it means to make the confession of Jesus as our high priest who is interceding for us. The confession of the New Covenant believers is that all our sins have been forgiven and we have been made righteous in Christ. It is the confession of our new identity in Christ. It is summarized in one powerful verse:

(2 Cor 5:21)
For He made Him [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him [Christ].

If you have grown up under the confession of sins, today is the day for your paradigm shift. Today is the day for a change in your confession. You can confess Jesus as your High Priest. You can put your faith in Him who is faithful. You can live on the basis of your new identity.

12.10 Regular confession of sins is a practice under the Covenant of Law

Regular confession of sins is a practice that came from the law. The nation of Israel had to offer their animal sacrifices repeatedly on a regular and planned basis, as the blood of animals could only cover their sins for a year.

(Heb 10:1-4)
For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these SAME SACRIFICES, which they offer CONTINUALLY YEAR BY YEAR, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had NO MORE CONSCIOUSNESS OF SINS. But in those sacrifices there is a REMINDER OF SINS every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.

The above verses give a picture of Israel going into a repeated and regular sin-search followed by the confession of sins. This naturally gives rise to sin-consciousness. This is still happening in the Church today because of a lack of revelation of what Christ has already accomplished for us in the New Covenant.

The animal sacrifices are a reminder of sins to point us to Jesus, the perfect sacrifice. Then Jesus came and gave Himself as one perfect sacrifice to remove sins forever (Heb 10:5-14). Because the work was finished and there would be no more sacrifices for sins, Jesus sat down. The believer has been perfected in his standing in Christ. Today, there is no longer an offering for sin and the worshiper should have no more consciousness of sins.

(Heb 9:11-12; 10:11-14, 18, 2)

But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with HIS OWN BLOOD He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained ETERNAL REDEMPTION.

And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered ONE SACRIFICE FOR SINS FOREVER, SAT DOWN at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

Now where there is remission of these, there is NO LONGER AN OFFERING FOR SIN…

For the worshipers, once purified, would have had NO MORE CONSCIOUSNESS OF SINS.

We have received the perfect solution that the Old Covenant believers never had. We have received righteousness in Christ that the law could not give them. We have the perfect blood of Jesus while they only had the blood of animals. We have crossed into a better covenant in the dispensation of grace.

12.9 Confession of sins vs. Confession of Christ

Consistent with our new identity in Christ and the Holy Spirit’s conviction of righteousness, the emphasis for the New Covenant believer is the confession of faith in Christ rather than the confession of sins to God.

Paul’s letters are significant because the revelation of the gospel was given to him for the Church. Study the letters that Paul wrote to the churches and see how he called even the believers in the Corinthian Church (the most carnal of the churches) saints. He focused on who we are “in Christ”. The word “in Christ” or “in Him” appears 109 times in Paul’s Epistles. The word “confess” appears 8 times in his Epistles. All 8 times refer to the “confession of Christ” while there is no reference to confession of sins at all.

The reason is because sin was not imputed (Rom 4:8) and righteousness was imputed apart from works (Rom 4:6). Grace abounded to cover every sin (Rom 5:20). Our righteousness came from Jesus’ righteousness as a free gift (Rom 5:17).

From Acts to Revelation, the word “confess” appears 22 times, of which 18 times refer to the confession of Christ. Only in 1 instance does it refer to confession of sins to God for forgiveness. This is in 1 John 1:9, a favorite verse used to promote the regular confession of sins for forgiveness. I will explain as you read on, that 1 John 1:9 actually refers to confession of sins by unbelievers (Gnostics) for salvation.

There is not a single verse in the Bible after Christ had died on the cross which tells believers that their act of confession of sins is the condition for forgiveness to be dispensed by God. I searched the Epistles but I could not find any such verse. I also did a corresponding search for verses that talk about forgiveness of sins by God to believers. I found that the Bible talks about the forgiveness of sins in the past tense for the New Covenant believer because eternal forgiveness had been given on the cross 2,000 years ago.

(Eph 4:32)

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ FORGAVE you.

God really meant it when He says that Christ has offered one sacrifice for sins forever (Heb 10:12), forgiven all our trespasses (Col 2:13) and He will remember our sins no more (Heb 8:12). He has obtained eternal redemption (Heb 9:12), given us everlasting righteousness (Dan 9:24), and perfected forever those who are being sanctified (Heb 10:14).

2 Cor 5:21 says that we have become the righteousness of God in Christ. It is permanent and unchanging. John 14:16 says that the Holy Spirit will abide with us forever. All our sins have been imputed to Him and all His righteousness has been imputed to us (Rom 4:6-8).

12.8 The Holy Spirit convicts us of righteousness, not of sin

What does the Bible say about conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit? Traditional thinking tells us that the Holy Spirit is always convicting us of all our sins. We would be surprised to know that Jesus said the exact opposite.

(John 16:8-11)
And when He has come, He will CONVICT the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of SIN, because they DO NOT BELIEVE IN ME; of RIGHTEOUSNESS, because I GO TO MY FATHER and you see Me no more; of JUDGMENT, because the RULER OF THIS WORLD is judged.

Jesus said that the Holy Spirit will convict the world of only one sin – not believing in Him. He has already paid the price for all the sins of the world and people are condemned for only one sin – failing to receive forgiveness. When the gospel is preached and unbelievers are convicted of sin, they will respond to the call to receive Jesus.

Now that we have received Jesus as our Savior, the Holy Spirit lives in us to convict us of righteousness because Jesus is interceding for us at the Father’s side. When the Father sees Jesus’ pierced hands, He declares we are righteous. The Holy Spirit’s job is to convince us of our new identity in Christ so that we can come boldly to the throne of grace to commune with the Father.

Traditional thinking tells us that conviction of sins is the solution to turn a believer from sin to righteousness. In fact, conviction of sins by the law causes a believer to feel condemned and far from God. The law says, “You have failed God again, you are not worthy.” When the believer feels condemned, far from God, helpless, alone and depressed, he will end up in greater sin.

But when the Holy Spirit convicts a believer of righteousness, it brings about repentance, and empowers the believer to walk in righteousness. The Holy Spirit says, “You are the child of God. You are righteous. Why are you eating filthy food when Jesus is serving wholesome food at home? Let me lead you home!” It makes the person want to run back to God, and to eat from His table.

Conviction of righteousness is the key to reigning in life (Rom 5:17). Let me give a natural illustration. Imagine you are an athlete who competes in the Olympics. Would you succeed with a coach who keeps telling you, “You are not good enough, you keep falling short, you are a loser and you are not worthy to compete in the Olympics,” or a coach who keeps giving encouragement saying, “Your father was an Olympic champion, the champion is in you, I believe you can make it and I know you are a winner.” The answer is obvious.

What about conviction of judgment? The judgment referred to by Jesus is for Satan and not for us. Our judgment has been borne by Jesus and it makes us want to treasure and love Him even more.

12.7 Sin-consciousness prevents us from entering God’s presence

Sin-consciousness in the Church peaked during the dark ages of Church history when the Church lost the revelation of Jesus the Lamb of God. People tried to approach God by the law through self-effort. They even tried to purchase their forgiveness with money through indulgences. During the Reformation led by Martin Luther, the Lord restored the revelation that the righteous shall live by faith in Christ.

Today, sin-consciousness is still prevalent because many people have unknowingly placed the law and self-performance as the key to the Christian walk instead of the grace of Christ. The law which gives the knowledge of sin is the cause of sin-consciousness (Rom 3:20).

In order to be righteousness-conscious, we should always declare that “we are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus” at all times; especially when we enter into worship. There is no need to deliberately enter into a sin-search followed by confession of sins. They are all covered by the grace of Jesus and your sins are not imputed to you (Rom 4:6, 8). It was imputed to Jesus on the cross. Your righteousness is based on Jesus’ performance. Eph 1:6 says that God has made us accepted in the Beloved (Christ).

Heb 10:2 says, “For the worshipers, once purified, would have had NO MORE consciousness of sins.” We have been purified by the perfect sacrifice of Jesus. The issue that remains is whether we really believe what He has accomplished for us. That is why Christianity is a walk of faith. Heb 10:14 says, “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” The subsequent verses say:

(Heb 10:19-22)
Therefore, brethren, having BOLDNESS to enter the HOLIEST by the BLOOD OF JESUS, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true HEART in FULL ASSURANCE OF FAITH, having our hearts SPRINKLED from an EVIL CONSCIENCE and our bodies washed with pure water.

Satan wants you to be sin-conscious because it keeps you far from God but we must look at Jesus’ blood to receive full assurance of faith. Faith in His blood removes all consciousness of sins (called an evil conscience) and gives us complete consciousness of righteousness, in order to have boldness to enter the Father’s presence.

Righteousness-consciousness allows us to enjoy an intimate fellowship with our heavenly Father. He wants us to enter His presence completely relaxed, as a child enters the presence of his loving father to commune with him. Would you want your child to be afraid to come to your presence, or would you want your child to run to you when he sees you, and be close to you? Your obvious answer is the desire of our Father.

12.6 Living at the throne of Grace & what prevents us from entering

In the Old Covenant, the High Priest could only enter the Holy of Holies once a year. When Jesus died, the veil of the temple that separated the Holy of Holies was torn (Matt 27:51). The way to God was permanently opened to those who are in Christ. The Bible calls this a new and living way (Heb 10:20).

When Jesus entered heaven, the true Holy of Holies, He sat down at the Father’s right hand (Heb 10:12). Jesus is on the throne of grace. Eph 2:6 says that God “raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” Today, we are seated in the Holy of Holies in Christ.

This is a picture of the New Covenant believer who not only enters, but also lives perpetually in God’s presence. Psalm 91:1 says, “He who DWELLS in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty…” We can experience dwelling in His presence by living a life of worship.

A Common Mistake that Prevents Us from Entering

There is a common mistake which many worship leaders commit, including myself in the past. We have a tendency to start off a worship service being sin-conscious and feeling unworthy to enter God’s presence. We see ourselves in tattered clothes instead of His robe of righteousness.

Unknowingly, some churches officially address themselves as “poor sinners” in the opening prayer, or they may enter into a sin-search which results in condemnation. We were sinners before we received Jesus, but now He has made us saints.

This is the identity problem in believers. Some of us still see ourselves in Adam instead of Christ. We become fearful to come before God as we see Him as a judge instead of our loving father. When we start off on that wrong footing, carrying the burden of condemnation, the rest of the worship service will be dampened.

If we see ourselves as unworthy sinners, we will still be sitting at the outer gate. We will not have the boldness to enter, or to remain in His presence. Beloved, have you experienced going through the motions in worship but felt like you did not contact Father God at the throne of grace? Sin-consciousness prevents us from entering God’s presence.

12.5 Entering boldly to the throne of grace

Beloved, have you ever experienced sin-consciousness and heaviness in your heart as you searched for and confessed your sins before a worship service? You felt so unworthy to come before God because you keep failing to live up to His expectations.

Today, the Bible calls God’s throne the “throne of grace”. It used to be called the “mercy seat” in the Old Covenant. It was thus named because it was the place where God showed mercy to the people, with the sprinkling of the blood of animals to cover their sins. Mercy was shown when God withheld the judgment that they deserved for their sins. It was a fearful experience to enter God’s presence – like coming before a judge to plead for mercy.

How was the mercy seat transformed into the throne of grace? How did a place of judgment become a place of receiving undeserved favor? How was the image of God as a judge transformed into the image of a loving father? The Bible says that we are to boldly enter the throne of grace to receive grace in addition to mercy.

(Heb 4:16)
Let us therefore COME BOLDLY to the THRONE OF GRACE, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Why boldly? It is due to Jesus’ finished work on the cross. We do not enter on our own merit. Our standing is wrapped up in Jesus’ blood and perfect work. Because the judgment for all our sins has been exhausted on the body of Jesus, today God is no longer a judge to us but a loving Father. Jesus has also fulfilled all righteousness on our behalf and given us the free gift of righteousness. Therefore, today we have the legal right to come boldly to the throne of grace without condemnation.

Let us give an illustration on the gift of righteousness. Imagine you are the bride of a royal wedding but you cannot attend your wedding because you do not have a wedding gown. The prince of the kingdom hears you crying about your unworthiness and your tattered clothes. He buys you the most beautiful white wedding gown and adorns you with diamonds. Now you are dressed for the occasion and you can boldly be part of the royal wedding ceremony. All the guests arise and admire your beauty and grace.

(Is 61:10)
For He has clothed me with the GARMENTS OF SALVATION,
He has covered me with the ROBE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS,
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
And as a BRIDE adorns herself with her JEWELS.

Jesus is the bridegroom and we are the “bride of Christ”. Today, we are worthy to boldly enter the throne of grace because we are dressed in Jesus’ garment of salvation and robe of righteousness. Jesus has paid for this privilege. The angels of heaven are all looking at the glory of Christ in us. In addition, He has adorned us with precious gifts – the gifts of the Spirit.

Website: www.dailyrhema.blogspot.com

No comments: