Summary: A look at Confessing our Sins to One Another
Part 5 – Do What?
[Skit – Silent Friends www.onetimeblind.com]
James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”
GULP. Do what? I don’t know about you but there are times I find it a bit intimidating to confess my sins to a God that I don’t have to look in the eye….yet.
Four preachers met for a friendly gathering. During the conversation one preacher said, "Our people come to us and pour out their hearts, confess certain sins and needs. Let’s do the same. Confession is good for the soul." In due time all agreed. One confessed he liked to go to movies and would sneak off when away from his church. The second confessed to liking to smoke cigars and the third one confessed to liking to play cards. When it came to the fourth one, he wouldn’t confess. The others pressed him saying, "Come now, we confessed ours. What is your secret or vice?" Finally he answered, "It is gossiping and I can hardly wait to get out of here."
You know why confession of sins is a difficult thing for us? Because we all too often view the believing community as a fellowship of saints before we see it as a fellowship of sinners. We feel that everyone else has advanced so far into holiness that we are isolated and alone in our sin. (Foster Celebration of Discipline pg. 145)
And you know what? There is nothing further from the truth. In exploring WWJBD this last time, we need to unpack this idea of confession a bit more.
When I read the passage the first time on Tuesday, you know what jumped out at me immediately? That James said ….pray for each other so that you may be healed….”. Not forgiven, but healed. When we think of confession of sin, what is the primary payoff in our minds? FORGIVENESS. But James doesn’t say confess and pray for each other so that you will receive forgiveness. He says do this so that you will be healed.
At first you might think. “SO.” But at second pass doesn’t that kind of make you wonder? What does he mean? Obviously the primary thrust of confession of sin is seeking forgiveness from it. But forgiveness of sin is primarily a result of my confession of sin to God.
In Psalm 51:3&4 King David is praying a confession to God (post adultery) and he says, “For I recognize my shameful deeds – they haunt me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned.”
Because sin is a spiritual dynamic, our sin first and foremost is a vertical condition.
In other words, when we sin the offense is committed primarily against God. Because He is holy, our sin is offensive to that holy nature. That’s why David says, against you and you alone have I sinned.
Because that is true, 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.”
So because it is God who is offended by our sin, it is God who forgives us our sin when we confess it to him. That’s the beauty of the cross. Our sin was put upon Jesus in totality. All the sin of all the world was funneled through the person of Jesus into the care of the Father to be forgiven and forgotten. Holiness was satisfied. So your sins past, present and future for all eternity can literally be forgiven and forgotten because of this. And so John says when we sin, if we will confess our sins to him he reminds us of our forgiveness and ability to move forward forgiven.
So forgiveness of sin is primarily a result of my confession of sin to God. And so from there we try to understand a bit more clearly what James means when he says “confess your sins to one another and pray for each other (not so you’ll be forgiven) but healed.”
Because, while sin is primarily an offense against God, sin is multi-dimensional in its offensiveness. Your sin does hurt you and can hurt other people. The forgiveness that God offers only repairs the spiritual disconnection that sin creates. But it’s not only offensive to God. It is damaging to your spirit and other relationships in your life. And when sin is committed, regardless of what it is, it brings into effect hurts that need healing.
And it seems to me that James is implying here that the catalyst for healing in the other dimensions of sin (physical, emotional, relational) – the catalyst for healing is confession to another brother or sister in Christ.
Why would that be the case? How could God have designed the healing needed due to sin to be dependent upon our willingness to confess it to other Christians?