It seems that a lot of people are not aware of the difference between a “confession” and a “profession”, and so they stumble through life, unaware of the impact of their words.
So I’ll pose the question here.
What is the difference between a “confession” and a “profession”?
A lot of people have this false notion about confession, that if they publicize their faults and mistakes in a “humble” manner, then 1st John 1:9 applies.
9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
But later, they continue in the same problems, with the naïve interpretation that “the flesh is strong”, and that these habits may yet abate if they bring them up again in a “confession” to God. In effect, their “confession” has no cleansing power. It is merely a public reminder of their problems and difficulties in life, which tends to stagnate and become boorish with every review.
Furthermore, bitter and vengeful people, as well as Satan, may use such a public epithet of mind to barrage that person, and others, with accusations, with the intent of causing them all to lose heart, and to emphasize their temptations. So in the final, this person’s habits actually multiply their transgressions by creating psychological walls that propagate the very same poor behaviors. In effect, this person is habitually making a PROFESSION of his ignominy. This borders on foolishness, because the power of his tongue and his mind is propping up his base sin. While in fact, the power of these bad habits would be struck down if this person would simply commit himself to stop talking and stop thinking about them, and focus harder on a direct application of themselves to their life.
By comparison, another, perhaps well-meaning man may have some secret sin of the heart, and he intentionally avoids all conscious thought about this sin, bemusing himself to be a pious believer. He believes that talking about those things would make those sins “become true”, and subject him to needless temptations and difficulties in life. What he doesn’t understand is that telling others about this sin would be a true CONFESSION, and those temptations and difficulties are things he needs to work through, before he can rightfully claim to be an overcomer.
The fact is that most people resist true and effective forms of CONFESSION, because of the crucible of refinement that it would bring. Likewise, most people resist true and effective forms of PROFESSION, because of the discrimination and persecution it would bring. When people stay in the comfort zone between confession and profession, they are quickly going nowhere.
St. John writes a warning from Christ to believers such as these.
15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.
Even while among other believers, Christians themselves, resist making a PROFESSION, because they say they don’t want to “appear proud”, or “draw attention to themselves”. But those are white lies from a pretentious, plastic hell. Actually, they don’t want to swallow their pride and admit their dependency on Christ, even for the edification of others. Such people are unaware of the power of their words.
11 And (the believers) overcame (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.
A testimony is a short cohesive story, based on one’s actual experiences, that conveys a profession of faith to the listeners. It’s an integral part of the lives of those in true fellowship with Christ and one another.
Why is a Profession so powerful and important in encouraging others to overcome sin through Confession?
We each set forth a spiritual mood through each and every action. Thus, those who profess encourage others to confess. By doing so, believers reinforce each other’s faith, and also invite others to become believers. Let’s examine the scriptures on this question.
8b “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”
In this passage, it is clear that what we say, or what we DO NOT say, has “eternal” merit. The phrase, “in your mouth” implies your grammar and the content of your speech, which is a loaded gun, or a “two-edged sword”, acting as a device of the heart.
43 “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. 45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.“
You may hold certain things close to your heart, but they will go unnoticed by others until you say something. Typically, you will be judged by the words from your mouth, because your verbalized perspective is loaded with your own, possibly false, notions about the way things are. In effect, whatever comes out of our mouths, is what we share and spread to the people around us.
Also, be aware of your words during prayer! Even the sacrament of prayer is not a safe haven from vain confessions and false professions. It’s almost as if you would be lying to God’s face.
When does a Confession become a Profession?
Our faith takes some time to grow and develop into reality, as expressed in our grammar, our speech, our habits, our skill level, and our relationships. Something that we value and cherish should not be “professed” until we’ve developed the confidence to own it publicly. If we try to “profess” it before it has matured, then we only subject ourselves to unnecessary risks of spoiling it in its’ formative stage. But after a certain level of confidence and proficiency have been attained, a public acknowledgment of the behavior would be a profession, and not a confession, and would be beneficial towards its’ further strengthening. Consider the following comparison between the shepherds and Mary, upon hearing the news of Jesus.
17 “Now when (the shepherds) had seen (the baby Jesus), they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.”
Why did the shepherds talk about everything they heard and saw, while Mary remained silent on the matter? The scriptures don’t spell it out specifically, but upon reflection, we see that the shepherds glorified God and spread the good news through the word of their testimonies, but somehow, it was not Mary’s place to do the same.
Why not? Why wouldn’t Jesus’ own mother have a more powerful testimony?
It’s a spiritual principle that cannot be very well explained in rational thought. But there’s a graphic quip I recall from my adolescent days:
“Those who talk about IT, are NOT DOING IT!”
…and as I recall, this saying was true almost 100% of the time. The people who kept silent on any issue that was being hotly discussed among their peers, were either socially detached people who liked to condemn small talk, or they had some experience themselves, in that matter.
It’s a kind of wisdom to stay silent on a matter, and this is mentioned, not once or twice, but three times in proverbs.
“A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.”
“A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims foolishness.”
“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.”
It’s another kind of wisdom, which requires some discernment, to know when to speak, and when to shut up!
It’s a third kind of wisdom, and a little more difficult, to know WHAT to say when it’s the right time to speak, and HOW to say it well.
If we think about this phenomenon in terms of Confession vs. Profession, the nature of it becomes a little clearer. It is also insightful to realize that there is a proud, subtle envy that arises in people who selfishly imagine they are in competition with others in the spiritual sense, and often times, the leaders of any group, are the very people who dampen our spirits, because they are afraid their subordinates might climb over their heads and put them to shame. These leaders cannot truly believe Romans 10:11, and their leadership suffers as a consequence. Such people are like crabs trying to climb out of boiling water by clinging to other crabs who are farther up the side of the pot than they are. But instead of advancing towards an escape, they only pull each other back down into the boiling pot!
Let’s consider a real-world example of this. A ten year old boy is learning to play the piano. He is very thrilled and passionate about the music he plays, even though actually, he sounds quite poor. If he were to go around talking too much to everyone about his love for the piano, then a lot of others, likely to be his teachers and parents, would be tempted to criticize his passion, and point out his actual ability, and the difficulties he would face in life as a professional pianist. This experience would naturally lead the boy to become self-conscious and maybe even ashamed, and destroy his passion for playing the piano.
These people believe they are teaching the boy to think “realistically”, but in the spiritual sense, their words are the tools of Satan to tear down the boy’s hopes and dreams, and confine his heart to a “cage of reality”, which will only condition him for a lifetime of spiritual bondage. Instead, he should be left to investigate his passions and interests freely and independently.
However, after some years of practice, the potential of the young pianist, his expertise and skill, cannot be affected by the faithless words of envious observers. Instead, a mere demonstration of his talent will silence their mouths and draw applause and recognition. It is at this time, that a public acknowledgment of being a pianist, as a profession, would bring him acclaim and further opportunities for success.
Ironically, the people who adopt these cynical attitudes towards our own value, are frequently those who are closest to us. This is why the Lord stated that a man’s enemies will be of his own household. (Micah 7:6; Matthew 10:16-22)
Jesus is NOT saying here that it is implicitly wrong to trust another human being. We all need the companionship and support of other believers to experience the entirety of God. So here, it becomes important to distinguish between rebuke and mockery.
“Open rebuke is better than concealed love.”
Rebuke is the opposite of mockery. Mockery excludes and rejects, whereas, rebuke includes and accepts. Rebuke corrects and aligns one with God’s truth, whereas, mockery exposes and ridicules. Rebuke extols a profession, whereas, mockery elicits a confession. This is very important to understand and recognize, whenever we are confronted by someone. Are they rebuking us, or mocking us? Our appropriate response hinges on the answer.
[Eds. note: Someone with a really tight Game could reframe a mocking statement in order to protect himself from an unwarranted confession.]
How can a profession become a confession?
First of all, let’s ask a different question, so that we can arrive at the answer with a proper perspective. Why does the Bible teach that we are to confess our sins? What is the role of confession?
The Greek word used for confess means “to agree with.” When we confess our sins to our Heavenly Father, we are agreeing with Him. We are agreeing with His attitude about sin, along His own perspective. That is, we sincerely adopt the viewpoint that the behavior in question is detrimental to our life and the lives of others. (This is called “conviction”.) Now, how can we judge whether something is detrimental or not? We must know God’s word (the Bible), as well as God’s purpose for our life. We must then decide whether this behavior is destructive to His purpose for our life, and whether it carries consequences that will prove painful.
It is possible, and quite common, unfortunately, that many people may not know something is wrong for them until they face very unpleasant consequences, which does not always occur. On the other hand, a lot of people don’t know what’s right for them, until they take a chance to try something new and different, and find success in a safely fostered environment, which normally doesn’t occur without the concerted and directed efforts of a small group of believers. So, it is essential that we have a clear idea of what we are doing with our lives, and not be confused about our primary goals in life. A very rigorous and disciplined interpretation may even exclude any activity that is not beneficial towards God’s purposes for our life, by labeling it as unproductive or even wasteful.
The ignorance about purpose is precisely why young people make a lot of stupid mistakes. They do not yet know what God’s individual purposes are for their lives. They are investigating their potential and their passions, and finding the paths of life in their hearts. Satan works extra hard on adolescents, because a little confusion in the beginning can lead to lasting losses throughout life. Jesus said, “unless one enters into the Kingdom as a little child, he will by no wise enter in” (Matthew 18:1-14; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17;). This is why extreme condemnation falls upon those who deceive the immature. When their thinking is misaligned, their identity is not destroyed, but it becomes highly unlikely that their potential will be fully realized. Young people need extra attention and help in “reaching forward to achieve that for which Jesus Christ took hold of them” (Philippians 3:12-16).
Now to address the original question, how can one change a habit that is already ingrained? In addition to aligning our perspective with that of God’s, an effective confession requires that we assume responsibility for our actions, and that we do not blame our actions on others. In other words, we must utilize the will, the operant part of our being, to reverse our present course in life, and change the direction we are headed. Fortunately, change begins at the moment of conviction and confession of sin to the Lord. The process of purification, which purges one’s life from a major sin (1st John 3), takes place when we face our sin regularly, and grow to share the same perspectives that God has. Prayer and close fellowship with other believers are important steps in bringing us to the threshold of repentance.
How do we overcome sin, addictions and other wrong, unproductive or controlling behaviors?
Wrong and unproductive behaviors are byproducts of one’s misguided attentions to fantasies, which are usually self-centered. Fantasies which are centered on others, are borderline psychotic, if not lustful. False notions concerning God are more insidious, and are extremely difficult to overcome. In the Bible, these fantasies, or false notions, are called “idols”.
Addictions, witchcraft and controlling behaviors play on a fantasy that has some root in reality, and satisfies a real need, although falsely, and is usually injurious to someone, in some form. Calling God’s truth a fantasy, and labeling His behavior as controlling and injurious, although it might sometimes seem true from a human perspective, is a mild form of blasphemy, because this perspective doubts His power and authenticity, and denigrates His holy purposes.
Basically speaking in a case-by-case analysis, the concrete reality will always dominate the abstract mythos, even if the abstract entity is God’s genuine truth. If the two are brought together, the reality will always overrule fantasy, or destroy it by mockery. It takes real faith to live according to God’s abstract, in the concrete situations of everyday life. But if we make a PROFESSION of God’s Word in faith, then our testimony has the power to overturn the ugliness of reality with God’s alternate perspectives of irony. The mighty, terrible power of Satan over our lives then becomes rather “cute” and pathetic, while God’s glory is manifested in our hearts, bringing us to tears of joy and the knowledge of God’s grace.
The scripture which states that we should “bring the deeds of darkness into the light, that it may be taken away” (Romans 13:11-14; Ephesians 5:8-13;), is assuming that God’s truth is in the real sense, found among a fellowship of believers, and urges us to expose, and confess sin by introducing it as a falsehood into the reality of God’s love and grace. But, exposing and confessing sin to our unbelieving coworkers will do little to remedy the condition, as you could imagine.
For example, a young man who has an uncontrollable habit realizes that it is affecting his self-image and desires to stop. So, he begins to tell everyone about his problem. Of course, he offends a lot of people, and brings his family and friends to the point of shame. He may be extremely embarrassed, but he will not be in bondage to the habit any longer. He may face some negative social implications as a result, but at least he is free from the destructive behavior. Those social implications may be regarded as a punishment for doing the wrong things to begin with. The shame he experiences is not of Christ, but of his sins, which are now exposed.
On this note, it is quite easy for many people lacking discernment to mistake Christ for sin, because the Holy nature of the Son of God invariably thrusts sin into plain view for what it is. And, as stated earlier, it is quite rare for a person to realize all these things and willingly sacrifice his pride in order to escape the bondage he is in, especially when he may feel quite secure and comfortable in his state of delusion and bondage.
Why does it work this way? It is because “courage/faith replaces pride/delusion”.
For example, we all know of some who have given a testimony that included some horrendous, ugly stories of their past lives. But curiously, they aren’t ashamed or embarrassed at all, but they are quite comfortable in being brutally honest about themselves, and they give all glory to God. Even more curiously, the people listening to such a testimony do not lean toward contempt or judgment, but they look deeper into their own hearts, become more grateful for their own experiences in life, and they glorify God also. This kind of testimony is a confession that has metamorphed into a profession. It implies that they have truly overcome their bondage and that they are already free from it. Their faith is now strong enough to help others struggling through similar difficulties.
Think of the butterfly that emerges from the cocoon, after being transformed from a caterpillar. He must struggle a long time to escape from the sphinx, but the struggle makes him strong and fit to fly.
Here it is emphasized that we must be aware of “confession” vs. “profession”.
Confession is essential towards changing the trajectory of one’s life, and experiencing a release from guilt, tension, pressure, and emotional stress resulting from the sins of such a life. Until we change our life’s trajectory by experiencing the conviction and confession of how we disagree with God, our wayward habits of mind and body ensure the continuation of both, those unnecessary negative feelings, and the negative behavior. By refusing to entertain the idea that God’s perspectives are superior to our own notions of things, we cling to our unconfessed sin, and deny the Power of God’s Word in our lives.
The close communion with a fellowship of faithful and gracious believers is an integral part of overcoming the barriers of dependence that we all experience. We experience the power of Christ when we are in the body of Christ. This is the same power found in therapy groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous. In such an environment, the CONFESSION can be transformed into a PROFESSION of what God has done to rescue you, and save your life from a worthless and miserable existence. Christians typically call this, “salvation”. If one’s profession helps others escape a similar condition of sin, then it is called, “redemption”.