I was sitting in class a couple of weeks ago, and my professor asked us to imagine ourselves 1600 years from now (that would be about the year 3612 AD, by the way—GASP!). As we are looking for a new “book” (it’s doubtful it would be an actual hold-in-your-hands-made-out-of paper book in 3612AD) in the biographies section of whatever happens to be the cultural equivalent of Amazon.com in 3612AD, and if we were to narrow our search for “biographies” more by typing in the first letter of our last name—for me, “M” – “within the M’s in biographies,” she asked me, “how many of those ‘books’ would be biographies about you?” The whole class laughed, and she was the ever-encouraging professor, by saying, “I have no doubt that some of you may have biographies written about you for your work in the theological world, but 1600 years from now, will your biographies still show up in the top 5 biographies under the first letter of your last name?” Most certainly not! was the response from the entirety of the students. Our professor then pointed out that in the year 2012, 16 centuries after Confessions was written, Augustine’s confession of his failures, heartbreak, outright sinfulness, struggles, frustrations, questioning, conversion, submission to God, and his process of falling ever more deeply in love with his Creator and Savior are still filling the first 5 “best seller” slots in biographies under “A” in Amazon.
There is something incredibly powerful and hope-giving when we are honest with others about our failures and our fears, as well as our struggles and our successes. God built confession into the salvation process, by making confession with our mouths and believing in our hearts that Jesus Christ is Lord our responsibility. He also desires us to confess to others what the Lord has done in our lives. When we share our confessions with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are working with God in a supernatural way—planting the seeds of salvation, change and growth that the Holy Spirit cultivates and nourishes.
“You alone are present even to those who have taken themselves far from you. Let them turn and seek you, for you have not abandoned your creation as they have deserted their Creator. Let them turn, and at once you are there in their heart – in the heart of those who make confession to you and throw themselves upon you and weep on your breast after travelling many rough paths. And you gently wipe away their tears and they weep yet more and rejoice through their tears. For it is you, Lord, not some man of flesh and blood, but you who have made them and now remake and strengthen them. Where was I when I was seeking for you? You were there before me, but I had departed from myself. I could not even find myself, much less you.” Augustine, Confessions. V.ii (2).
When we, like the prodigal son in Luke 15, search for meaning in the world instead of in God, we set ourselves on a path of pain, suffering and destruction. Sure, the path might start out looking a lot like the sparkling gold of the yellow brick road in The Wizard of Oz, but eventually it takes us into the haunted forest where we find ourselves lost and disoriented. The prodigal son enjoyed his life of sin and debauchery very much at first. But in the end, he returned to his father, humiliated and wretched because the path of sin had led him to despair. It always does.
Repentance is an essential piece of salvation. Isaiah 30:15 God tells us, “in repentance and rest is your salvation.” Jesus said he had come into the world to call sinners to repentance (Luke 5.32), and through repentance and faith in Jesus, they may be saved. Paul takes it even further by pointing out that it is essential for our repentance to be proved by our works (Acts 26.20). Although we tend to allow ourselves a lot of grace by saying, “well, I repented of my sin, so I am forgiven,” we must be careful not to believe our repentance is sincere if our behavior does not follow! Confession of a sin is a good start, but it cannot end there. Repentance demonstrated by a change of behavior is just as important