When We Confess, We Begin to Heal

Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16a TLB).
The first step in forgiveness is admitting your guilt. Then, you have to accept responsibility for your sin.
What’s the best way to ensure that you are really accepting responsibility for your sin? You’re not going to like the answer, but you need to hear it anyway: The best way to get over your guilt is to tell one other person who loves you unconditionally and who will listen and not judge you.
This is important: You don’t have to confess to another person to be forgiven. All you have to do is confess your sin to God, and you’ll be forgiven. But many of you have already been forgiven, and you still feel guilty. If you want to be forgiven, you tell God. If you want to feel forgiven, you’ve got to tell one other person. That’s the way God wired it. Revealing your feeling is the beginning of healing. We only get well in community! You don’t have to tell a bunch of people. You really only need to tell one person. If your sin is between you and another person, you go to that person.
James 5:16 says, “Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (TLB). It doesn’t say “so that you may be forgiven” but so that you may be healed. Forgiveness comes from God. Healing comes in relationships.
So why do you need to drag another person into your own personal sin?
Because the root of all of our problems is relational. We are dishonest with each other. We play games with each other. We wear masks all the time. We fake it. We pretend to have it all together when everybody knows we don’t have it all together. We’re all broken.
There are only two kinds of people in the world: people who are broken and sinful and know it and people who are broken and sinful and won’t admit it. When we refuse to be real with each other, it creates all kinds of fears in our lives and isolates us from each other. It is a roadblock to intimacy, and it creates insecurity.
God wired us to need each other. You need a friend who’s going to love you unconditionally and won’t think less of you when you share your guilt. If you’re not in a small group, you probably don’t know anybody like that. If you’re in a small group, you need to find one person you can share your heart with.

Talk It Over:

Why do you think it’s so hard for people to admit their guilt or sin to another person?
What difference has confession with another person made in your life?
Describe the kind of person you trust the most and with whom you would be willing to share your sin. Are you that kind of friend to someone else?

God Wants To Give You Freedom

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36 NIV).
The world defines freedom as a life without any restraint: “I can do anything I want to do and say anything I want to say without anybody telling me what to do.” Everybody else may get burned by you, but you get to do it your own way. The world says you can have your freedom, but only by being totally selfish.
Yet, the Bible says the only way to true freedom is through Jesus: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36 NIV).
Real freedom is freedom from fear, where you’re truly free from guilt, worry, bitterness, and death. You’re free to quit pretending because you’re free to be yourself.
How do you get rid of those kinds of fears? By letting God love you! The apostle John teaches that “there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18a).
When you realize how much God loves you, you’ll begin to live in true freedom. In fact, you worship God when you recognize that “God is love.” It is an act of worship to agree that he is a loving, caring, generous God and that we can “rely on the love God has for us” (1 John 4:16a).

Talk It Over:

If you struggle to believe God loves you, why do you think you have unbelief in this area of faith?
How has God shown his love to you?
In what ways does realizing God’s great love for you help you love others well?

Why Should We Show Mercy?

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36 NIV).

No characteristic describes God more fully than mercy. It’s the first trait that God uses to describe himself in Scripture. It’s also an important characteristic for any serious follower of Jesus to develop. If it’s such a core part of who God is, it’s got to be essential for us.

But what should motivate us to show mercy to people in our lives?

God is merciful.
Jesus said, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36 NIV).

Before you judge others for their sins and failures, remember how many times God has forgiven you. When it seems inconvenient to help somebody in need, stop and remember how God has comforted you when you were hurting. When you think about those people who try your patience, stop and remember how patient God has been with you. And when you feel like getting even with somebody who has been unkind or unfair to you, stop and remember how kind God was to you when you were his enemy (see Romans 5:10).

I need mercy every day.
I can’t expect to be perfect from now until the time I die, so I’m going to need more mercy. The Bible says, “No mercy will be shown to those who show no mercy to others” (James 2:13a GW). I need God’s forgiveness, kindness, patience, and help every day of my life. God says you get what you give. Forgiveness and mercy are a two-way street.

Mercy makes me happy.
Jesus said, “Happy are those who are merciful to others” (Matthew 5:7a GNT). Doing acts of mercy gets me out of myself. It gets my focus off of me and onto other people. And that produces happiness. In fact, a tremendous way to treat depression is through acts of mercy. As you give your life away, happiness begins to come back to you, and the clouds of depression begin to lift and blow away.

Talk It Over

Of the three reasons above on why we should demonstrate mercy, which is the most persuasive to you? Why?
How is God’s mercy toward you more likely to help you demonstrate mercy to others?

Convictions Help Us Live Like We Believe

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 NRSV).
Dictionaries usually define “conviction” as a fixed or strong belief. Conviction is really much more than that. Your convictions include your values, commitments, and motivations.
I like the definition of conviction I once heard from the great Bible teacher Howard Hendricks: “A belief is something you will argue about. A conviction is something you will die for!”
Our convictions determine our conduct. They motivate us to take a stand and to act according to our values.
When you first become a Christian, you often do things simply because other Christians around you suggest or model them. You may pray, read the Bible, and attend services because you see the examples of others.
This is fine for a new Christian; little children learn the same way. However, as you grow, you must eventually develop your own reasons for doing what you do. Those reasons become convictions.
Biblical convictions are essential for spiritual growth and maturity. What is ironic today is that people often have strong convictions about weak issues (football, fashion, etc.) while having weak convictions about major issues (what is right and what is wrong).
Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (NRSV).
God is supporting you as you develop convictions that define your faith?

Talk It Over

Talk about these two statements:
Biblical convictions are essential for spiritual growth and maturity.
They motivate us to take a stand and to act according to our values.
How have your convictions affected decisions you’ve made? When have you made a decision that was not based on your convictions?
On what issues do you need to take a stand based on your convictions?

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