Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Naked and Exposed (Part I)

"Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed." James 5:16, (ESV)

Since the fall of man through Adam our Federal head and Eve, normal and rational people have been adverse to being observed naked. Something inside Adam and Eve changed. When they realized that they were naked and exposed they wove together fig leaves to make a covering for themselves. (Genesis 3:7) There is something intimidating which creates or intensifies our vulnerability when we are found to be naked. If we are normal and rational we are prone to cover up and "hide" those parts of our body that makes us feel intimidated and absolutely vulnerable.

In a similar vein, we think if our friends or family really saw us as sinners with our sin "naked and exposed" they would either, think so much less of us, or they would reject us completely. In those rare moments when we really see deep, deep inside of ourselves and we see the black sin that both permeates us and haunts us we feel absolutely intimidated and vulnerable.

As James winds down his letter to the Jewish Christians that have been scattered by severe persecution, he gives some final instructions. Beginning in verse fourteen of chapter five, Pastor James gives instructions for believers to follow when they have become severely ill. They are to call for the elders of the church and desire that the elders pray for them. The elders can even anoint the sick believer with oil, probably olive oil, as a symbol of the presence of the Holy Spirit.

James makes an interesting point; some illnesses that befall us are a result of our sinning against God. Hebrews makes the case that God disciplines and/or corrects his children whom he loves when they sin and refuse to repent. Paul makes the case to the Corinthians that some of them had become weak, sick, and even died as a result of their sin concerning the abuse of the Lord's Table. Sin can lead to us becoming sick and even our death.

Let me say quickly, that we live in a fallen world filled with sickness and disease. The world is crawling with bacteria, germs, and etc. that causes people both believers and unbelievers alike to become sick. Therefore, not all sickness can be nor should it be attributed to sin. We must use discretion and seek wisdom from God regarding why we are sick when we get sick. Don't look at your neighbor, spouse, fellow church member who may be sick at this moment and immediately assume that they are in some unrepentive sin.

However, James commands that when we sin we are to confess our sin, especially when our sickness is the result of sin in order to be healed or made healthy. First, let me say clearly that this is in no way supportive of the man-made and totality un-biblical "Confession" of the Roman Catholic Church. The scripture does not tell us that we are to go to a "priest" and confess our sins in order to be assigned penance in order to receive forgiveness. John makes it clear (I John 1:9) that when we confess, or say the same thing, or say in agreement with God, that our actions violated his standards and is sin, God is faithful and he is just to forgive us of our sins because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We are not nor can we be forgiven by any acts of penance. We have been, and we are and we will be forgiven of our sin by the atoning work of Jesus Christ. Each and every believers is made a "priest" for the purpose of interceding to God on behalf of other believers. We are all to pray for one another, especially when we sin, and need help in overcoming our sin.

Second, let me say that I don't think James means every little sin and every time we sin we are to get the church together and confess our sin. I think James is implying if we have sinned to the point where we have refused to repent to God, and judgment has fallen upon us and/or those around us, particularly sickness, we are to confess those sins. I also think, when James says, "...and pray for one another, that you may be healed," he is wanting each of us to pray for those who are struggling with sin and need help. The fact that they are sick with a question of whether they will regain their health is evidence that they truly need help.

When you struggle with sin, with a particular sin, and you have a difficult time overcoming it you should feel the freedom to go to the church and confess your struggle with sin. This accountability is necessary to help someone of us deal with besetting sins. So, why don't we practice this more frequently? I think there are at least four (4) reasons why we don't.

We fail to understand, believe, and accept the sinfulness of our sin.

Someone once said "The reason we have so little victory over sin is that we treat it like a creme puff instead of the deadly rattlesnake that it is." At some point we have to get serious and call sin sin.

We don't really understand, believe, and accept the idea of the helpfulness of accountability to one another. 

James intends in these severe cases that the body prays for this type of an individual and not just the elders. James goes to say in verse sixteen that there is great power in prayer as God grants their requests for healing and health. Others can encourage us, give us scripture, and be used to help us not to succumb to the sins we are struggling with.

We don't see the body as a safe place where we can share our struggles.

The body is filled with other sinners who have not overcome their sin of gossip, pride, partiality, and their critical spirit. There are few who can actually help us. Some of you have already stated in past posts that you have only found 1 or 2 people in your life with whom you could trust and be vulnerable and accountable. I understand that. I am with you. We must be careful if we choose to open up our dark secrets and sins. But we must. We must find at least one person, a friend, a teacher, an elder; someone who can help us overcome a besetting sin if we are unable to do so on our own.

We fear that those closest to us, or those who mean the most to us or even the rest of the body will see us as less than we really want them to see us.

Most of us don't want to be seen as sinful, as vulnerable, as exposed, or naked. We are afraid, since we think like this many times, we will be thought less of. We would rather be made much of than thought less of.

We will dig deeper into this fourth reason, Lord willing,  in Part II of this topic in our January 5, 2011 post. Stay tuned as we look at just how ridiculous this particular reason really is.
Happy 57th Birthday to my loving wife of 37 1/2 years,
Irene Hernandez Torres Metcalf!



I was a bit worried about the
But as usual a very interesting post.

I wish your wife Irene a Very Happy Birthday.


Larri said...

Enlightening post, Gregg. Just an added note...When you've confessed to a trusted friend, and the trust is then betrayed; it makes it even more difficult to bare your soul again to someone.

Happy Wednesday! And HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Irene! Hope your day is absolutely fabulous! :o)

John said...

Thanks Gregg for sharing on this topic.
Not to take this off-track but, I've often thought of marriage as an example God gave to demonstrate the value of being vulvnerable.

One part of the bond in marriage that keeps the two together is vulnerability.

Being completely open produces trust. That openness requires each to be vulnerable, something our human nature is not comfortable with.

None of us like being exposed. To reveal our flaws, faults and weaknesses requires a deep amount of trust in the other person.

Our self-centered, self-preserving mindset is naturally geared towards presenting the best possible picture of who we are. We don't usually want others to see the dark side. How vulnberable and open we are in marriage will determine the degree of trust that exists.

While this may require us to bare the unpleasant truth of our rough edges and deficiences, this is also where we find the building blocks of trust that create a safe environment which strengthens the love between a husband and wife.

Perhaps this is yet one more example of God's intention for marriage; to give us a picture of the type of relationship He desires between us and Him.

Always enjoy your inspiring posts!


Cathy M. said...

The body is filled with other sinners who have not overcome their sin of gossip, pride, partiality, and their critical spirit.

I will be turning over every stone in my fellowship this year in search of brothers and sisters who don't fit this description. Most of all, I pray that God will show me where I've failed my congregation and strengthen me to serve Him in Spirit and Truth.

Audrey said...

The enemy loves to use condemnation to dissuade us from approaching God and those who can be trusted to help us with our sin. Thank you for this post.

Judy said...

Hello Pastor Gregg,

Merry Christmas to you and your family. I hope you have a blessed New Year celebration and a great year in 2011 doing God's will.

I love the scripture at the beginning of your article. If only we would practice this everyday. What humility!

And yes, no one likes to be naked and exposed. In fact, Jesus says in Revelation that we should not be found naked and exposed (without our robes of righteousness) at the time of his coming.


John Patrick Donovan said...

HAppy birthday Irene. If I were to confess my sin to some one I would be afraid of condemnation, because it seems to me at least that there is much to do and make up for. Is this a works mantality or should I just let go and let God, I have some responcability dont I.
Please forgive the spelling.