The goal of confession and repentance is not to embarrass, humiliate or punish. Instead, as with every discipline in Christ, it is meant to bring FREEDOM.
When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power. -Acts 19:17-20
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. -John 3:19
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. James 5:16
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
“Repentance can never come until one has bared his soul and admitted his actions without excuses or rationalizations. . . . Those persons who choose to meet the issue and transform their lives may find repentance the harder road at first, but they will find it the infinitely more desirable path as they taste of its fruits” (“The Gospel of Repentance,” Ensign, Oct. 1982, 4).
Confession leaves us with NOTHING TO HIDE
WHERE DO I BEGIN?
Find a quiet place, a block of unhurried time, a bible and something to write on
Prayerfully asking God to reveal anything in my heart and character that is not pleasing to Him
Take time to make an honest assessment of your life
What are areas in my life I am hiding from others?
Am I living a double life in any way?
How have I hurt those around me?
what am I scared of others learning about me?
What will it require for me to change these things?
Then, call up a couple of friends, pray together, take a deep breath and begin. Adjustments will be made, clunkiness and awkwardness will fade over time, and slowly but surely the discipline of confession will become a regular part of who you are as a disciple of Jesus.
On a side note. Choose wisely who you will confess to. Beware the friend who will listen and complain with you, water down sin or not spur you on to Jesus.
FREED UP FOR WHAT?
Confession isn't the end of the road. It's not a magic formula to automatically change your life, but it is a vital ingredient in building a healthy vibrant relationship with God. So if confession is for freedom, then freedom for what?
To throw off the burden of insecurity
To repent and experience true transformation
To enjoy my relationship with God and others. Nothing stifles joy like hiding in the dark.
HEARING A CONFESSION
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. -Colossians 3:16
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. -Ephesians 4:25
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. -Ephesians 4:29
This is not time to minimize sin, water down or lighten the mood. Sin is serious and we need to treat it that way. Confession is serious, and not just a time of admission of sin, rather an openness that leads to repentance, we need each other! Every single situation is different and calls for it's own advice. Generally though when listening as a brother or sister confesses their sin, allow them to talk. It may be uncomfortable and there may be times of awkward silence, that's ok, lean in to it. A few things to keep in mind:
Am I helping to draw out their heart. What are they thinking, feeling, fearful of, etc. Am I helping them face the details courageously?
Am I helping them be honest with God and themselves?
Less counseling initially and more bible study. Study together, how did Jesus handle this stuff? (Hint: Truth & Grace, both are needed)
What does repentance look like? It is paramount that we are responsible and accountable for developing a plan of repentance. This is not a time to tell people how to change their behavior, rather guide them from their godly sorrow to true repentance. (2 Corinthians 7:10-11)
Finally, as a brother/sister/friend confesses sin to you, GUARD YOUR HEART. Guard it against bitterness toward that person or even toward others that may be involved in some way. Someone may confess their bad attitude toward another brother or sister, guard yourself from joining in. Guard your heart from satan getting any foothold.
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. -Galatians 6:1