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ollegiate Impact

finding the way forward

igniting hearts, tranforming campuses


suddenly many of us
found ourselves broken over the sin lurking beneath the surface and repenting publicly .

Dave Warn

Director of Collegiant Impact

istry, God surprised me and the staff I was working with at the University of WisconsinMadison. On a Friday evening, while listening to the testimonies of two visiting students from a nearby Christian college, God revealed himself in His holiness and suddenly many of us found ourselves broken over the sin lurking beneath the surface and repenting publicly. Before the evening was over, everythingoften in tearswas brought into the light: anger, bitterness, pride, hatred, self-image issues, deception, stealing, spiritual coldness, and a wide range of sexual sins. Since the vast majority of people in attendance had never experienced anything like this before, they were somewhat bewildered and had lots of questions . . . including me.

fter investing eight years in campus min-

Since that gathering, I have had the opportunity to take part in many similar meetings where God has powerfully manifested his presence, bringing students from bondage and spiritual dullness into freedom, joy, and fruitfulness. In each situation, God accomplished a modern-day version of John the Baptists ministry of calling people to repentance to prepare the way of the Lord. Undeniably, in many, if not all of these gatherings, many students walked away with a fresh encounter with Christ, and streams of living water was no longer just a biblical concept but had become a reality. The following summarizes what God has taught me over the years in regards to these kinds of meetings and what I wish someone had shared with me following that initial life-changing evening at the University of Wisconsin.

Be ready to explain Gods purposes in public confession

Many will likely ask, Why is all that is going on so public? Ive always been taught to confess my sin privately. Even so, the power of sin is in its secrecy. Once a persons disposition of concealment is broken, the Spirits power can once again do a transforming work. More specifically, even though private prayer with confession has a key role in the Christian life, too often sins hold is not broken because we continue to coddle it at some conscious or subconscious level. Instead of the abundant life that Jesus promised His followers, the result is defeat. But in public confession, very few confess their waywardness unless they have a sincere desire to turn, burn bridges, and close the door once and for all. People feel the weight of the issue at hand and, for the most part, playing games with God is over.

Another byproduct of public confession is that masks come off, real needs are shared, and the body of Christ at last becomes what God intended it to be. Like never before, students will pray for each other, encourage each other, and navigate Gods will together. Perhaps this why James urges believers to confess your sins to one another, that you may be healed (James 5:16). Through public confession, spiritual, physical, emotional, and relational healing is waiting for us. Often, the real issue is not the sin that needs to be confessed publicly, but the pride that needs to be slayed so that we will obey the Spirits promptings to be transparent. In other words, fundamentally God uses public confession to humble us.

the body of Christ at last becomes what God intended it to be.

The Bible teaches that humility is a prerequisite to the Spirit working in our lives because God opposes the proud, but works graciously in the humble (2 Chron. 7:14, James 4:6). Additionally, Peter encourages us to clothe ourselves with humility (1 Pet. 5:5). So when we think of public confession it is imperative to clearly communicate that God is not trying to embarrass people but is trying to free people. The truth often hurts before it heals, and becoming all that God wants us to be in Christ is the goal of public confession.

genuine life-change, and ultimately the transformation of the entire campus. An initial breakthrough with conviction and even public confession is often simply thatan initial step. We have arrived at the homepage of the Spirits work, but we have much further to go.

While not decreasing the emphasis on brokenness, increasingly focus on the cross
Once God breaks in and many have shared their deepest darkest struggles stuff they would not have shared with their best friend over coffee prior to Gods invasion on the scene many will need clear redemptive teaching from the Word. It is the leaders role to provide this truth, while careful-ly not backing off of or obscuring the Holy Spirits searchlight of conviction for those that are still in the process of coming clean with God and others. In summary, while challenging your students to go the whole way with God in repentance and confession, they will need to hear the truths of Gods Word that explain that nothing is beyond the reach of the cross, Jesus died for everything, and Gods desire is not to condemn anyone but to have everyone walk in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1:7).

Go the whole way with God

The most prevalent mistake I have observed after initial breakthroughs of Gods manifest presence is the decision to go back to less convicting, more informational, teaching oriented, and at times entertain-ment driven meetings. Sometimes this is willful, but often it is a subconscious default mode after all, it is what we know. While quickly reverting back to previous patterns may feel right, the ministry will inadvertently move out of the Spirits flow and back into a conspicuous lack of power and fruitlessness. To avoid Gods diminishing presence, the leadership must persistently speak into the issues that have surfaced and relentlessly pursue those issues yet to surface so that no stone is left unturned. In many meetings, the first encounter with God that brings people under conviction and public confessioneven gatherings that last for hoursis only the beginning of what God desires to do. Like layers of an onion, the leadership must continue to address humility, brokenness, repentance until each layer of sin has been exposed, each idol has been torn down, and the Spirits power is in full effect. Be-cause we have set our hearts on going the whole way with Godwherever that may leadthere is real hope for freedom,

Keep pressing in
As you continue navigating, it can be challenging to stay out of the way of what God is doing, but not let students (i.e., the flesh) or the enemy disrupt the work of the Spirit. Rather than controlling the meeting, there are some practical steps that can help keep Gods work on track and open the meeting to an even deeper work of the Spirit. As a meeting progresses, remember to regularly remind students to:

Bring whatever it is into the light where Jesus can touch it. Satan wants us to keep our sin and struggles in the dark where he can continue holding us in bondage. The last thing Satan wants is for us to walk in the light as Jesus is in the light. Go that last 10%. Partial obedience is still disobedience. Deal with whatever is still blocking the experience of streams of living water. On a number of occasions, I have seen students come forward and confess a sin, but when I remind them to go the last 10%, they come back to the front of the room to confess the real issue that was at the root of grieving the Holy Spirit. Help students articulate what God is placing on their hearts by asking, What specifically are you turning from? And what are you turning to? These questions help steer people from vague, meaningless confessions, and from venting rather than repenting. The Spirit always works in lives by revealing specifics and we are wise to stay in step with Him.

Brokenness is a lifestyle, not an event

Because of the powerful nature of the way God meets people during seasons of his manifest presence, corporate gatherings of confession, brokenness, and repentance, along with fresh fillings of the Holy Spirit can be viewed as dramatic events that happen only on rare occasions. However, the Scriptures teach that brokenness and the filling of the Holy Spirit are to be experienced as a life-style. It is important to understand that Gods desires His children to continually live so closely to his throne and in His presence that sin is always seen as repulsive. Therefore, whenever we sin, we will respond to it with a broken and contrite spirit (Ps. 51:17) and move right back into a fresh experience with our Heavenly Father. In addition, leaders must model a lifestyle with the roof off and the walls down: the roof off before God and the walls down before other people. We have nothing to hide, and our lives are an open book. More than anything else, this heart-set will ignite movements of authentic Christianity wherever we go.

Big R and little r repentance

While something deep within the soul breaks at the moment of brokenness and public confession, this does not necessarily mean that a person will be completely free from ever committing that sin again.

go the last 10%

Because someone confesses anger in brokenness and tears, will anger ever raise its ugly head in the days and years to come? Probably. If someone confesses lust, will he or she ever experience a lustful feeling again? Probably. Even so, this does not mean that the Holy Spirit was not moving powerfully at the moment of confession. At that instant, when the Holy Spirit opens our eyes, prompts confession, and brings sin issues into the light where Jesus supplies grace and forgiveness, we are experiencing big R repentance. However, big R repentance must be followed by little r repentances whenever the flesh rears its ugly head. Put another way, the apostle Paul said to make it a practice to take off the old self and put on the new self (Eph. 4:20-24). Following the Spirits promptings versus fleshly impulses is a daily choice and we should not be surprised to experience some level of continued temptation. When we do sin, however, it is important to remember Johns words, My little children do not sin . . . but if you do sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous (1 John 2:2). Through public confession, true repentance, and a renewed freedom in the cross and Gods grace, we have moved from habitual sin with occasional victory, to habitual righteousness with the possibility of an occasional sin.

You embarrassed yourself by confessing your sin and weaknesses publicly. You will be shunned and no one will accept you. Actually, the opposite is true. Christians who humbly and genuinely confess their sins and weaknesses are among the most beloved in the body of Christ. Although you confessed, you are still guilty and will always feel guilty about what you have done. You will never be free. Actually, John teaches that, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness(1 John 1:9); and the psalmist says, As far as the east is from the west, so far have I separated you from your sin (Ps. 103:12). You have no power and your life will never change. Actually, in Christ we are dead to sin and are a new creations (Rom. 6:1ff, 2 Cor. 517); and Paul reminds us that, It is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me (Gal. 2:20).

Make restitution with others

Those who have sinned against someone else will only find initial freedom through their confession. They must also go to the offended person(s) and humbly confess what they have done with a sincere desire to do whatever they can to promote reconciliation. The joy of having an absolutely clear conscience will never be realized until this final, crucial step of obedience is complete. But once it has taken place, there will be boundless freedom!

Dealing with the schemes of the enemy

The enemy, prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour, hates Christians (1 Pet. 5:8). But even more, he hates Christians who are clean before God and experiencing streams of living water. He will do everything possible to steal from them their first love and joy that they are experiencing in Jesus Christ. It is important to teach those under your care to anticipate and deal with the following lies:

Avoid Commiserating Groups

Paul said, But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (I Cor. 15:57). As your ministry moves forward experiencing real life in God, students will need to be close to others who can hold them accountable and help them see victory together. Too often accountability groups see very little victory and degenerate into commiserating groups where empathy is high and real life change is low. It is important that the specifics of public confession and repentance detailed above are also practiced in small groups and accountability groups. In summary, anytime a system is created where sin is simply pushed down, there will not be long term freedom and life in the Spirit. Sin must be identified at its root, confessed and renounced, and brought to the cross where grace and forgiveness is abundantly supplied. It is in this atmosphere that member of an accountability group can walk together in victory.

In light of the degenerate campus atmosphere, it is crucial that we give our staff and students a positive, realistic, life-giving picture of holiness. Paul does this very thing in Romans: But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life (Rom. 6:22). Holiness should never be viewed as an impossible task or burden, but as the life-giving streams of water, freely available to everyone through the Holy Spirit.

In closing . . .
A life-changing, campus-altering move of the Holy Spirit is a paradox. On the one hand it encompasses the power of heaven being released to accomplish all that God desires for a given ministry and the lost community connected to it. On the other hand, it is fragile and the Spirits work can be quenched at every turn. This is the tension that anyone ministering in these sacred moments of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit feels. However, if we employ the principles above and keep trusting in the Holy Spirit to lead us forward in a variety of ways beyond the scope of this article, I believe that a deep, thorough, sweeping move of the Spirit will be something we no longer have to experience only vicariously through history books, but will be a reality that we observe with our own eyes on the campuses where we minister. Lets pray and walk by faith toward that end. n

View holiness as life-giving, rather than a burden

Wherever sin operates, toxicity creeps in and slowly kills the life in Christ being experienced by the individual, as well as the believing community. However, where holiness exists, there is purity and the Holy Spirit exhibiting His life, peace, and power. To see real transformation, personally or campus-wide, holiness must be embraced. It is rare in contemporary campus ministry to have a robust view of the holiness of God and the holiness of the believer. But Paul encourages us, Dear brothers . . . purify yourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit perfecting holiness out of reverence for God (2 Cor. 7:1).

In summary

, while challenging your students to go the whole way with God in repentance and confession, they will need to hear the truths of Gods Word that explain that nothing is beyond the reach of the Cross.

[That weekend] God put it in my heart to confess my sins. I told people about how I was dealing with lustful thoughts, physical relationships, and how I had become an alcoholic. That day, people prayed for me, and I felt the power of God rest on me and God has been working miraculously in my life since then. I finally defeated the hold that alcohol had in my life. Lustful thoughts have been minimal and I can see the Holy Spirit working in my life daily. The last few months have been an awesome time in my spiritual journey and I have had the opportunity to lead two of my best friends to Christ.
an outreach of Life Action Ministries