The Power of the Cross and the Purpose of Confession

Cross & Clouds

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The thirteenth chapter of the Gospel of John illustrates for us the power of the cross. In verses 3-17 the scene is sketched. Jesus explains to Peter in verse 10 that once cleansed by Christ’s blood, no further cleansing of the body is necessary because one is from then on “altogether clean.” This verse displays the eternal power of Christ’s blood in the salvation bath leaving the believer forever cleansed.

The purpose of confession is given in James 5:16 where believers are instructed to “confess [our] sins to one another and pray for one another so that [we] may be healed.” Within the body of Christ, James 5:16 mutual confession of sin followed by mutual healing prayer fulfills Christ’s closing command to His disciples in John 13:14 to wash one another’s feet. When we receive one another’s sin and cover one another in love, we do for one another as Christ has done for us.

James 5:16 is a real life picture of John 13:10. Thus, the James 5:16 confession of sin is designed to be practiced regularly within the body of Christ. Mutual foot washing is a unifying fulfillment of Christ’s thematic command in John 15:17 to love one another.

The Good News is that as believers we receive a perfect and permanent cleansing bath at salvation. This truth is further clarified in 2 Corinthians 5:17, a beautiful image explaining our spiritual transformation. It says, “If any man is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has passed away. Behold! The new has come!” The old passing away is the old man under the Old Covenant, whereas the “new” having “come” is the new creation under the New Covenant. And this descriptive verse exclaims, “Behold!” which means “Look! Pay Attention! Notice this!”

But “Behold” what?

Behold the new creation God has made you, and me! Scripture announces here that in Jesus Christ under the New Covenant of God’s grace, the new creature HAS COME! So, if you have entered the New Covenant through the work of Jesus Christ, then you are a new creature by rebirth because of what God has done for you in bringing you to life in Christ in His resurrection. Likewise, after salvation, the old man is gone! He has been crucified, is dead and remains buried in the grave forever. He has been permanently replaced with the new nature. Because we can only have one nature which comes from our birth, Galatians 2:20 explains that born-again nature, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

Now, I may not have realized the overwhelming magnitude of this supernatural truth yet, that my old man is gone and that the new creature in Christ is the new me now. But my lack of understanding does not change the fact that it remains absolutely true.

My born-again condition is further described in Romans 7:20 and 23, which says that even though God has made me a new creature, I might still “act” in my behavior like the old man I used to be. When I do wrong, Scripture explains that it is NOT MYSELF that is doing it, but the SIN PRINCIPLE living in me, which is hostile to God and dwelling within my bodily members like a deadly virus. The sin principle may operate within my soul, but IS NOT ME, not who I am now because God has made me a new creature, having put the old man to death. Yet, this sin principle remains a very real force that is alive in my mind, active in my central nervous system and engrained in my muscle memory.

So, if the old man is gone and I am now a new creature housing the living remnant sin principle that is not me, then what is going on?? The answer is that the enemy of my soul is at work within the memories of the old man, or the false self. Throughout my life, especially before salvation, this clever enemy comfortably embedded circumstantially appropriate lies about myself in to my receptive brain in order to deceive and control me outside of Christ. These lies are what I relied on and operated out of my whole life. They are my filthy rags or grave clothes. And once I became a new creature at salvation, my enemy bets that I will still believe these familiar lies as I did before because my nature has changed, but my circumstances have not.

The enemy speaks cleverly to me in “I” messages:
“I could never be a new creature.”
“I am such a misfit.”
“No one will care what I say.”
“I will be rejected or criticized.”
“I am not really understood by anyone.”
“I have to keep everything under control.”
“I have to be on time or I will look bad.”
“I am not having my needs met.”
“I need that right now.”
“I am the only one.”

In case you haven’t noticed, these grave clothes of mine from early childhood include perfectionism, control and isolationism among others. Isolationism seems reasonable, keeping others at bay so I will not have to experience the repeated wounding of their rejection or misunderstanding like early memories of family rejecting me. And keeping things perfect or under control leaves nothing for them to criticize, right?

But we all know that it is totally impossible to keep everything under control. All I do is experience unnecessary stress and frustration when I do this. And isolationism becomes totally depressing and frankly impossible living in a house with five other people. So, in my circumstances, God has lovingly forced me to relinquish my grave clothes in accessing His supernatural truth about myself.

Do you recognize any of your grave clothes?

Over the years, God has taught me that the real me, the new creature, does not need any graves clothes at all! He has now made me by His Holy Spirit in to His holy image and has left His Spirit to dwell permanently within me. Hebrews 10:10 encourages me in that “by the will of God, I have been made holy forever by Christ’s blood.” And what HE says is reality! All the while, according to 1 Thessalonians 5:23, He has His Holy Spirit living inside me working within to perfect my soul by teaching me truth about who He has made me as my “God of of peace sanctifies me through and through.”

So, I do not have to work hard to develop the new me because God has already done that FOR ME by consecrating me with His Spirit continuing to mold my soul from within. All I have to do He has already done for me by raising me from death to life in Him, and giving me supernatural faith in His finished work which is salvation. All there is left for me to do is believe and discover the truth of who I am, as the Holy Spirit reveals it to me. The more I realize who He has made me the more I will act like the real me because whatever I believe I will do.

So the real me, the holy me, is who I am now. I can never be more holy than God has made me and I can never be less holy than He has made me because His salvation is perfect and permanent, giving to me a new nature, completely changing it from evil to holy, having been dead to God and now alive in Christ. He has done this so that He could call me His child. If He hadn’t cleansed me fully at salvation, He could not have adopted me as His very own because light and darkness cannot fellowship. And nothing can alter what He has done for me because He says I am forever His because of what He has done for me, not because of what I do or don’t do.

So, how can I know for sure that I am not the old man or false self anymore?? Because God Almighty says so. There is no higher authority! He declares that the courthouse is closed. He buried the old me with Christ and all my sin, past, present and future. This is why John the Baptist called, “Behold! The Lamb of God who TAKES AWAY the sin of the world” (John 1:29). That includes the old man, all his sin and everything associated with him, even my current unbelief that God has actually made me new.

And just as I choose to believe that the old man is gone, I can choose to believe that the new man has come. From having been dead in my sins as the old man, Christ raised me to life in Himself as God’s holy creature when He rose to new life in His resurrected body. So, His life is now my life. And in Christ is the real me now, my true self. The more I get familiar with my new holy self in Christ, the more I will live accordingly, growing experientially in to His reality.

The problem is that I am not fully familiar with this truth yet. I keep wanting to believe that I am still the old man, even though he is gone. This is because by habit I believe the enemy’s lies about me, others and God which are stored in the memories of the old man. Because I have now been made holy, I can no longer rely on earthly memories for truth anymore.

If I want to know truth in step with the heavenly creature that I am, I must choose to input truth in to my soul. And the best place to find absolute truth is God’s Word. I find and input truth by reading, believing, personalizing, internalizing and remembering God’s Words about me, others and Him because His reality is now mine. This is called renewing my mind (Eph. 4:23) in truth. The Bible instructs me to do this because truth goes with the new creature that I am now.

I suppose that when I do not believe the truth and act accordingly I am a hypocrite because hypocrites act differently than they really are. Like the Pharisees with filthy hearts acting holy, I am hypocritical living with a new holy heart when I act in the filth of the old man. For example, in struggling with sin, I believe and act on memories that still play in my mind. When I believe these lies I deceive myself because they are not me anymore. Once I believe these lies, I forget who I am and revert to the wasteland of deception from which Christ saved me.

On the other hand, when I renew my mind in the truth of God’s Word, I look in to the holy mirror portrayed in 2 Corinthians 3:18 and James 1:22-25 in which I see Christ’s reflection of the new creature He has made me. The more I renew my mind the more my thoughts and actions will agree with the truth of who God has made me in rebirth because “as a man thinks in his heart so is he” (Prov. 23:7).

For example, when I see my husband through the eyes of the familiar father wound in my soul, I am deceived automatically viewing him rejecting me as my childhood mind perceived my dad. (This was written before I had the E.M.D.R. therapy to alleviate this troubling issue. See Therapies post.) As a result, because these memories are so painful, I am persuaded to withdraw emotionally from the relationship.

This, in turn, eventually opens the door to a vulnerable heart which is dangerous for any marriage. So, God has taught me by experience to pay close attention to my thoughts, consciously thinking and believing the truth every day.

When I forget the truth of my holiness in Christ and operate out of familiar memories, I am not relying on Christ, His personal words of truth and love to me or on His Holy Spirit living within me. Instead, in my forgetfulness, I THINK I am relying on “me.” But wait. God says “I” am really dead, having been crucified with Christ. That leaves no one there for me to rely on except for my enemy, the father of lies, who planted those lies in my mind so craftily from the beginning.

I must face the fact that moment by moment I choose by my thoughts to rely on either my enemy or my Lord.

I will always lose ground to the enemy when I act on my own, independently of the Lord who lives inside me as my new reality and life source. The results of my independence can be overtly sinful or seemingly benign, but all are independence from Christ. Yet, the simple fact that I realize I am operating independently from My Source is a huge step toward living consistently in Christ. And this realization encourages me that the Lord is continually redeeming every situation by His Holy Spirit according to His will.

In spite of my struggle with deception, I remain as Christ says, fully cleansed and accepted by God. But HOW can this be?? Because to Him, it is only what He has done for me at the cross and resurrection that counts. Romans 8:1 explains that because of my belief in Christ’s work for me, “there is NO CONDEMNATION” by Him for me in my sin struggles. On the contrary, Hebrews 4:16 reassures me that there is “endless mercy” for me in Christ who will help me giving me wisdom and strength by the power of His Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, 1 John 2:1, 2 tells me that if I do sin, Jesus Christ alone is my Remedy and my Advocate, continually interceding for me. He has fulfilled his purpose of taking away my sin, having done ALL the work for my cleansing forever, and announced it with His last breath, “It is finished.” His dying declaration means that He has fulfilled his purpose in taking away sin and completed all the cleansing work for all sin for all who believe for all time.

However though in forgetting reality and operating apart from Christ, my feet get dirty and sometimes so dirty I can hardly even look at them. When they get dirty, do you know what I need? I need a fellow believer to wash the dirt off of my feet for me since I cannot wash them myself as one part of His body. When I need my feet washed, I am like the dirty feet of the body of Christ and the other believers are like the arms and hands of the body for me.

But in order to get another believer to wash my feet for me, I must uncover and expose the dirt. Yuk.

Sometimes I feel embarrassed or ashamed in doing this. But it is only embarrassing or shameful if I think that I am still the old man I used to be. But God says I am not him anymore! So, then, the dirt on my feet is really not me. Only my clean feet underneath the dirt are me. The dirt, as a matter of fact, is there to teach me how to rely more on Christ and less on my own understanding.

God designed the body of Christ to practice regular confession of sin in mutual foot washing of its members. He tells them in James 5:16 to wash the dirt off my feet for me by welcoming my humble confession of sin in exchange for their covering of love through prayer and support for me during my learning process. In that I am healed of sin and freed of shame by realizing that the dirt is not who I am.

And by the way, believers who wash my feet for me understand about dirt because walking in this filthy world, they get their feet dirty, too. Our feet get dirty in forgetting who God had made us in Christ and not walking in faith which Romans 14:23b says is sin. So, forgetting who we are can cause us to walk carelessly and even trip in mud puddles requiring mutual foot washing within the body. A practice neglected within the church, Biblical foot washing enables us to receive and love one another in humility as Christ told us to do growing in unity learning to release our grave clothes and rely solely on Him and His body in every way.

(2002)

My story of learning to rely on Christ in every area of life is detailed in my personal journal available at myjourneythroughthecross.com or at Amazon books.

Questions to Consider:

Do you believe Christ when He says in John 13:10 (and 15:3) that you are cleansed because of what He alone has done, not because of anything you have done? (Gal. 3:3)

Do you believe that Christ can take away all of your sin? When did He do that? (John 1:29)

Do you believe God when He defines you as a new creature in Himself? (2 Cor. 5:17)

Do you believe that the old man is the real you? Why? (Rom. 7:20, 23)

Do you believe that your behavior defines who you are? Or that God Himself defines who you are? (Rom. 7:20, 23; 2 Cor. 5:17)

Who has higher authority than God? Do you? (Rev. 1:8)

Do you believe that when you sin that your feet are all that is dirty? (John 13:10, 15:3; James 5:16)

Do you believe that confession and prayer with members of the body of Christ according to James 5:16 cleanses your feet from the dirt of the world? (1 John 2:1-2)

Where do you receive messages about your true self? Is there one reliable place? (Heb. 4:12)

How do memories and circumstances feed us lies about who we are? (John 13:10, 15:3; Rom. 7:20, 23; 2 Cor. 5:17; 1 Pet. 5:8)

Do we have a moment by moment choice about who and what we believe? About God? About ourselves? About others? (2 Cor. 10:5)

Should we run away from God or to Him and the safe members of His body when we have trouble? Why? (James 5:16)

Who has the advantage over us when we run away? Why? (1 Pet. 5:8)

When we sin where do the shame and fear come from? Should we obey them? (Rom 7:20, 23; 2 Cor. 5:17, 10:5; 1 John 2:1-2)

What should we always remember about our identities when we sin? (2 Cor. 5:17)

What should we remember about condemnation when we sin? (Rom. 8:1)

Should we learn to give ourselves grace and truth (as Christ does) when we sin? (John 1:17; 2 Pet. 3:18)

What can you do to reinforce these truths in your mind and heart, and as a result, grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ? (2 Pet. 3:18)

How important is this process to you personally? How will growth manifest in your life? (Rom. 8:3 Amp.)

Matthew 18:11
For the Son of man came to save [from the penalty of eternal death] that which was lost.

Luke 19:10
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.

John 1:17
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

John 1:29
The next day John saw Jesus coming to him and said, Look! There is the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world!

John 13:10
Jesus said to him, Anyone who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is clean all over.

John 15:3
You are cleansed and pruned already, because of the word which I have given you [the teachings I have discussed with you].

1 Peter 1:22
You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.

2 Peter 1:9
For whoever lacks these qualities is blind, [spiritually] shortsighted, seeing only what is near to him, and has become oblivious [to the fact] that he was cleansed from his old sins.

John 5:40
And still you are not willing [but refuse] to come to Me, so that you might have life.

John 6:39
And this is the will of Him Who sent Me, that I should not lose any of all that He has given Me, but that I should give new life and raise [them all] up at the last day.

John 12:47
If anyone hears My teachings and fails to observe them [does not keep them, but disregards them], it is not I who judges him. For I have not come to judge and to condemn and to pass sentence and to inflict penalty on the world, but to save the world.

John 13:8-10
Peter said to Him, You shall never wash my feet! Jesus answered him, Unless I wash you, you have no part with (in) Me [you have no share in companionship with Me].
Simon Peter said to Him, Lord, [wash] not only my feet, but my hands and my head too!10Jesus said to him, Anyone who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is clean all over. And you [My disciples] are clean, but not all of you.

John 15:17
This is what I command you: that you love one another.

Romans 8:1-3
THEREFORE, [there is] now no condemnation (no adjudging guilty of wrong) for those who are in Christ Jesus, who live [and] walk not after the dictates of the flesh, but after the dictates of the Spirit.

2For the law of the Spirit of life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has freed me from the law of sin and of death.

3For God has done what the Law could not do, [its power] being weakened by the flesh [[a]the entire nature of man without the Holy Spirit]. Sending His own Son in the guise of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, [God] condemned sin in the flesh [subdued, overcame, deprived it of its power over all who accept that sacrifice],

Romans 11:27
And this will be My covenant (My agreement) with them when I shall take away their sins.

Romans 12:2
Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].

Romans 14:23b
For whatever does not originate and proceed from faith is sin [whatever is done without a conviction of its approval by God is sinful].

Romans 15:7
Welcome and receive [to your hearts] one another, then, even as Christ has welcomed and received you, for the glory of God.

Galatians 3:3
Are you so foolish and so senseless and so silly? Having begun [your new life spiritually] with the [Holy] Spirit, are you now reaching perfection [by dependence] on the flesh?

Ephesians 1:13b-14 When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

2 Corinthians 1:22 [He has also appropriated and acknowledged us as His by] putting His seal upon us and giving us His [Holy] Spirit in our hearts as the security deposit and guarantee [of the fulfillment of His promise].

2 Corinthians 3:18
And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 4:16
Therefore we do not become discouraged (utterly spiritless, exhausted, and wearied out through fear). Though our outer man is [progressively] decaying and wasting away, yet our inner self is being [progressively] renewed day after day.

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!

2 Corinthians 10:5
But grow in grace (undeserved favor, spiritual strength) and recognition and knowledge and understanding of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (the Messiah). To Him [be] glory (honor, majesty, and splendor) both now and to the day of eternity. Amen (so be it)!

Ephesians 4:23
And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude],

James 4:17
So any person who knows what is right to do but does not do it, to him it is sin.

James 5:16
Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working].

Hebrews 4:12
For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart.

Hebrews 8:13
When God speaks of a new [covenant or agreement], He makes the first one obsolete (out of use). And what is obsolete (out of use and annulled because of age) is ripe for disappearance and to be dispensed with altogether.

Hebrews 9:17
For a will and testament is valid and takes effect only at death, since it has no force or legal power as long as the one who made it is alive.

Hebrews 9:28
Even so it is that Christ, having been offered to take upon Himself and bear as a burden the sins of many once and once for all, will appear a second time, not to carry any burden of sin nor to deal with sin, but to bring to full salvation those who are [eagerly, constantly, and patiently] waiting for and expecting Him.

Hebrews 10:10
And in accordance with this will [of God], we have been made holy (consecrated and sanctified) through the offering made once for all of the body of Jesus Christ (the Anointed One).

Hebrews 10:14
For by a single offering He has forever completely cleansed and perfected those who are consecrated and made holy.

Hebrews 10:18
Now where there is absolute remission (forgiveness and cancellation of the penalty) of these [sins and lawbreaking], there is no longer any offering made to atone for sin.

1 Peter 4:8
Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offenses of others].

1 Peter 5:8
Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour.

2 Peter 3:18
But grow in grace (undeserved favor, spiritual strength) and recognition and knowledge and understanding of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (the Messiah). To Him [be] glory (honor, majesty, and splendor) both now and to the day of eternity. Amen (so be it)!

1 John 2:1-2
MY LITTLE children, I write you these things so that you may not violate God’s law and sin. But if anyone should sin, we have an Advocate (One Who will intercede for us) with the Father–[it is] Jesus Christ [the all] righteous [upright, just, Who conforms to the Father’s will in every purpose, thought, and action].
And He [that same Jesus Himself] is the propitiation (the atoning sacrifice) for our sins, and not for ours alone but also for [the sins of] the whole world.

Proverbs 23:7
as a man thinks in his heart so is he

Revelation 1:8
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, says the Lord God, He Who is and Who was and Who is to come, the Almighty (the Ruler of all).

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About ashleydwille

Author Ashley D. Wille was always searching for spiritual answers. “True and lasting satisfaction always proved just out of reach. Now, in midlife, I have come to find my soul satiated in God. Through sweet surprises, difficult climbs, and excruciating valleys, the Master’s hand has shaped me. All along the way, God has taught me many things. What He has taught me most is that many of my beliefs about Him were wrong.” Her book, My Journey Through the Cross, is a personal insight shared by an amazing woman. Through her profound experiences and inner struggles, Wille shows how she was able to break through false layers of thinking and move into a deeper relationship with God. Her beautiful journey is just waiting to be shared. If you are ready to live your life free of guilt and shame, you too can learn how to walk in spiritual freedom.
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3 Responses to The Power of the Cross and the Purpose of Confession

  1. Frederick Jones says:

    Powerful Message Ashley!

  2. Pingback: Cycle of Double-mindedness | ashleydwille

  3. Pingback: Feel the Pain | ashleydwille

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