Many times in Scripture,
God’s people are encouraged
to seek the face of God.
A familiar verse declares,
“If my people, who are called by my name,
will humble themselves and pray and seek my face
and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin
and will heal their land
” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
. If we can’t see God’s face,
how do we
seek God’s face?
The Hebrew word for “face” in the Old Testament is often translated
When we seek the face of God, we are
seeking His presence.
The call to seek God’s face was issued to His people
because they had
abandoned Him and needed to return to Him.
A person’s face reveals much about his or her
character and personality.
We see the inward emotions
of a person expressed outwardly on the face.
We recognize a person by looking at his or her face.
In a sense, one’s face represents the whole person.
For the writers of the Bible,
the human face could represent the entire person.
In Psalm 105:4,
God’s faithful ones were called to “seek his face always.”
Even if we have not abandoned God, there are times when we neglect to pursue Him. God’s face, His holy character, is often obscured by our human condition and fleshly desires. That is why the Lord urges us to seek His face continually. The Lord desires to be our constant companion in every experience of life. He wants us to know Him through and through. If we draw close to Him, God will draw close to us: “Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world” (James 4:8, NLT).
When we approach God in prayer, we are seeking His face: “Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god. They will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God their Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob” (Psalm 24:3–6).
The true nature of worship is to seek God’s face. The Christian walk is a life devoted to seeking God’s presence and favor. The Lord wants us to humbly and trustingly seek His face in our prayers and in our times in His Word. It requires intimacy to look intently into someone’s face. Pursuing God’s face is equivalent to developing an intimate relationship with Him: “O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory. Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you!” (Psalm 63:1–3, NLT).
Having God’s face smile on us is an expression of His blessing, love, and favor: “May the LORD smile on you and be gracious to you” (Numbers 6:25, NLT; see also Psalm 80:3, 7, 19). When we draw close to God, we are blessed with His shining favor. We do not pursue Him only to give Him a list of wants and needs because we know God is already aware of what we need (Matthew 6:7–8, 32–33). We trust that He will take care of us.
Seeking God’s face means desiring to know His character and wanting Him--
His presence—more than any other thing He can give us.
The epistle of James emphasizes the power of prayer in the life of believers. It also reminds us that, even if we truly know and love the Lord, we still sin. While we remain in these earthly bodies, we will continue to battle with sin. In the body of Christ, sometimes we sin against our brothers and sisters in the Lord. James 5:16 tells us what to do when we sin against one another: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).
The word confess means “to agree,” “to admit,” or “to say the same thing.” Confession is saying the same thing as God does about sin or having the same perspective on sin as God does. It involves identifying sin for what it truly is, honestly acknowledging the offenses we have committed. Confession also should include an attitude of turning away from sin.
James instructs believers who are struggling with sin to seek faithful and trusted brothers and sisters in Christ who will intercede for them in their battle with sin. He is not suggesting that we confess our sins carelessly to just anyone, but to mature believers who will provide spiritual and practical support. Of course, we should also confess our sins to those we have sinned against, as we seek forgiveness and restoration.
Confessing our sins to one another in the body of Christ can break the power of secret sin. Covering up sin has no profit but yields negative consequences: “When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, ‘I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.’ And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone” (Psalm 32:3–5, NLT). Confession of secret sin should be made with discretion. Depending on the situation, there may be no need to shout the sin from the rooftops. Confession involves choosing wise and trustworthy confidantes who will handle the truth appropriately.
As regenerated people of God, we are to live in the light of truth: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)” (Ephesians 5:8–9). Secretive behaviors and hidden sins should not exist within the fellowship of Christian believers: “So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body” (Ephesians 4:25, NLT). To live as children of light, we must be honest with ourselves and others about who we are, including our shortcomings, failures, and struggles with sin.
Besides making us hypocrites in the world, hidden sin breaks our fellowship with God and keeps us isolated from others. Confession, on the other hand, brings God’s mercy, forgiveness, freedom from guilt, strength through fellowship, and a multitude of blessings from God (Proverbs 28:13; Psalm 32:2; 1 John 1:8–10).
Confession, while an essential part of the Christian life, does not require a priest or any other church-appointed human mediator. There is only One who can absolve us of sin, and that is God (see Psalm 130); there is only one Mediator between us and God, and that is Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). We confess our sins to one another in order to solicit prayer, exhortation, and strength along the way.
In his commentary Opening Up James, Roger Ellsworth sheds further light on why we should confess our sins to one another: “Confession should always be as wide as the sin. If we have sinned secretly, we should confess it to God. If we have sinned against someone else, we should confess it to God
and to the person whom we have wronged. And if we have sinned publicly, we should confess it to God and in public”
(Day One Publications, 2009, p. 162).
Private confession to God is necessary because
it cleanses us and restores
our fellowship with Him
(1 John 1:9).
Likewise, when we seek honest reconciliation with an individual we have wronged, we gain a restored relationship both with God and the other person: “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God”
(Matthew 5:23–24, NLT).
And as James encourages, if we have sinned against the church, we are to confess it publicly. Public confession of sin is also seen in Acts 19:18: “Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done.”
Why do we confess our sins to one another?
Because a continual relationship of confession and forgiveness among brothers and sisters in Christ cultivates honesty and purity and reflects the unity the church is meant to embody: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).