Our verses today from John 20:22-23 are Jesus’ words to His disciples: “Then he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’” These words can seem a little confusing – isn’t it God who forgives us of our sins?
In Celebration of Discipline, Foster writes about this practice, referring to it as what he calls a “privilege” and “life-giving ministry” that Jesus has given us as His followers. Foster writes that this practice doesn’t at all take away from private confession – we have 24/7 access to the throne room of God Himself to confess our sins whenever we want. But, have you ever struggled to believe that you have been truly forgiven? Have you ever experienced the pain and confusion of going to God time and time again, confessing and asking His forgiveness but still carrying the burden of it? If you answered yes, then please read on.
If you or someone you know has ever been in a recovery program like Celebrate Recovery and has worked the 12 steps, you know what I’m referring to. Step 4 of the 12 steps says:
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
I can tell you from personal experience that this “searching and fearless moral inventory” if done correctly, is no joke. You are guided into making a deep dive into your life, looking at the good, the bad, and everything in between. And you write it down. Then in step 5, you share it with a trusted sponsor or leader in your life:
Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
You may be thinking, “Why in the world would I do that?” The answer is simple: to be set free.
I don’t know of a more beautiful picture of John 20:22-23 than the moral inventory. Sitting beside someone who is also on this journey toward becoming more like Jesus and having them look you in the eye and say, “I get it. God loved you then and He still loves you now. He forgives you. Come home.” The enemy loses his power and chains are broken. Freedom is found.
Unbound is another ministry of New Hope that has similarities to the moral inventory, taking you through a process of confessing and renouncing sinful patterns in your life with the goal of coming home to the heart of the Father who is waiting with open arms. There is power in hearing each other’s confessions and praying together for God’s healing and forgiveness. James 5:16 tells us:
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”
In His infinite wisdom and mercy, Jesus made a way for us minister to each other in this most intimate way. Do we have the power to forgive each other’s sins? No, that’s not the point. The point is bringing what has been kept in the dark into the light and relying on the strength of a brother or sister to help guide us home to where our forgiveness is assured. Jesus died for our sins - past, present, and future. When He said, “It is finished” on the cross, He meant it. The work has been done. All that is left for us is to receive it.
If you would like more information about either Celebrate Recovery or Unbound, please contact us at email@example.com
Executive Director of Education and Outreach