Forged in Flames or Fallacies…
As we learn about living in devotion to God, it is important to keep things in their proper order. We learn that God’s ways of justice are not patterned by the ways of the world. With God, confession does not lead to a conviction (punishment) but instead leads to freedom. Our confessions are not revelations of who we are, but a way for God to take those burdens off us.
But there can be a pendulum swing worth warning about. The ways of Jesus are not to remove conviction, but to redefine and relocate it. Instead of conviction being the result of confession, conviction through the Spirit stirs our heart to reveal our need to confess.
There is a picture in the Bible of a “refiner’s fire.” The image is from Malachi that describes God purifying by fire to make the people righteous. Just as precious metals need the burning heat of fire to burn away impurities, God’s desire is to make us righteous by revealing and removing the sinful patterns (or impurities) in our lives.
But… sometimes in the fire or refining… it gets a little hot in here. Even in our desire for freedom, it can become easy to argue with the Spirit during times of conviction. Of course, we aren’t equipped to argue against our holy and loving God. So instead, we end up turning to human means of skirting conviction. Fallacies. Here are some examples of using logical fallacies to reject conviction, refuse confession, and delay freedom:
Conviction: Someone shares an action or behavior pattern of yours that is hurtful or harmful. What they are sharing is at least partially true and reveals a need to confess to restore relationship and return to freedom. For sake of time and ease, let’s keep it simple. You stole a car and got caught. Here are some responses that block conviction/confession/the path to freedom.
- Ad Hominem: “I don’t have to listen to your accusation because I know you aren’t perfect. In fact, I think the way you brought that to my attention was wrong. You have a bad attitude. God wouldn’t talk through you, so I don’t have to listen to this…”
- Strawman: “Oh, I see, I’m a monster. You are blaming all the world’s problems on me. You hate me don’t you. You just think all your problems are my fault. I am not going to agree to such a horrific accusation…”
- Red Herring: “How could you be so concerned with what I did, when all these more important things are happening. Those things are what need attention. You are concerned about what I did? Why would my problem be what you’re worrying about. Maybe there is something wrong with you?”
Now, obviously these arguments would be a ridiculous defense for grand theft auto, but pause. Do these reflexes come out of us sometimes? Could some of those convictions we push against be the refining fire of the Holy Spirit?
It is here that it is an important reminder that none of this is to lead to guilt or shame. It is not conviction that leads to shame, it is the things that go unconfessed (unreleased) to covers us in shame.
Refusing to walk through conviction/confession/freedom, leads to a hardened heart. Without the refining process, our hearts become hardened by unaddressed guilt and shame. In the book of Proverbs, we find this helpful piece of wisdom:
“You can’t whitewash your sins and get by with it; you find mercy by admitting and leaving them. A tenderhearted person lives a blessed life; a hardhearted person lives a hard life.” (Proverbs 28:13-14 MSG)
As we trust in the truth that God is always here, always knows us, and always loves us, just as we can give our concerns to God in faith, we can also confess our fears and failures to God in faith. And, if there is collateral damage done in our failures, we should confess to others as well so we can walk in freedom in our relationships with both God and each other.