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A Forgotten Spiritual Discipline

The nature of discipline is that it is difficult. Discipline is suffering towards a goal. Discipline is always noble, and it is rarely without reward. Its greatest benefit is that it makes a man a master of himself. It makes a woman queen over her desires, and it ushers a child toward a happier adulthood. The problem with discipline is that the nature of people is to pursue pleasure, or to avoid pain, rather than to pursue what is right or best. Therefore, people tend to avoid discipline. This problem exposes a great irony. That irony is that discipline brings initial pain and discomfort which later results in immeasurable profit, and immeasurable pleasure. It will either bring great wealth and pleasure, like the amassed wealth in a retirement account, or it will help you to avoid great pains that you might experience if you hadn’t been disciplined — like not having a retirement account when you are too old to work any longer. All spiritual disciplines are a kind of suffering towards the noble goal of godly spiritual growth. Disciplines like prayer, fasting, or bible study and memorization come with their share of difficulties, but always end in a greater share of wisdom, peace, and spiritual communion with God.

Among the many spiritual disciplines is one that is often overlooked, or that is rarely thought of as a discipline. Without it, those others lose much of their value. It is the discipline of confession. One definition for confession is admitting to your wrong doings, or acknowledging how you have fallen short of a higher standard. This discipline is painful because it requires that you look at your sin full-on in the face, then recognize that you’ve fallen short, crossed a boundary, and have even entertained a twisted state of mind, or a palette of desires contrary to God’s will. This is an ugly experience. No one likes admitting their failures, shortcomings, or evil. In fact, we’re psychologically prone to elevate ourselves, and justify our sins. To confess them is, in some ways, unnatural. While this definition for confession is good, there’s a better one. It encompasses the first definition but refines it considerably. To confess means to agree with God about your behaviors, as well as your worth. When you sin, and then confess as a Christian, you agree with God that your behavior and shortcomings are bad. This helps you to avoid that state again in the future. You then agree with God that he has saved you, that you are valuable, that you are royalty, and that you have a new nature. This allows you to walk in grace, unchained to the sins that can weigh you down.

If you don’t confess, then you don’t acknowledge a problem. If you don’t acknowledge a problem, then you can’t turn from it or fix it. And if you can’t turn from it or fix it, then you can’t grow spiritually. If you don’t confess that you have been saved by God and have a new nature and desire, then you won’t live out that new nature, and you will be prone to live in your old ungodly nature. This means that confession is a discipline of very great importance, with a value that far exceeds its difficulty and pains.

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