In our December 29th post we explored the concept commanded by James, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus Christ and pastor of the Jerusalem Church to confess our sins to one another and to pray for one another.
James makes the point that at times, sin which we have yet to or refused to confess can cause sickness or illness in the life of a child of God. When, through the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit, we are made aware of this truth we are to confess, or say the same thing God says concerning our actions and request that God's people pray for us. The object of the prayer is that God would give the necessary strength which enables a believer to break free from the grips of sin and to mortify, or put to death the sin that beset us causing such sickness or illness.
At this point two clear and concise points were specified lest we create any confusion in any ones' mind. The first being that this is in no way supportive of the Roman Catholic system of confession and penance. That system when placed beneath the Scripture is proven to be man-made and not of God.
Second, we made the point that James is not stating that every time we sin we are to gather the body and confess those sins. For some of us that would mean we would never be able to dismiss the congregation. James is implying that when one has fallen into sin by the enticement and temptation of our sinful indwelling flesh and through both refusing to confess our actions or attitude as sin and refusing to forsake that which is contrary to the will of God causing sickness we are to confess that sin to the body. Why? James goes on to say, "...and pray for one another, that you may be healed." There are times we all struggle with a particular sin or sins and we need help to overcome that struggle.
I contend that when we do struggle with sin, a particular sin or sins, and we are having a difficult time overcoming it we should feel complete freedom to go to the church and confess our struggle asking for prayer. I contend that this type of accountability is necessary to help some of us deal with besetting sins. After all, those in Alcoholics Anonymous understand this. This accountability is offered through a "sponsor." If a member is struggling with the urge to take a drink one is encouraged to call their sponsor and share their struggle and the sponsor has pledged to help them during that moment or time of temptation.
I think this is what James has in mind. So, why don't we practice this more frequently? I suggested there are at least four (4) reasons why we don't:
- We fail to understand, believe, and accept the sinfulness of our sin
- We don't really understand, believe, and accept the idea of the helpfulness of accountability to one another
- We don't see the body as a safe place where we can share our struggles.
Shame on us. What a gross sin it is when we experience evidence that we cannot trust fellow believers to one, keep such a confidence, two, be genuinely concerned and eager to bear a fellow believer's burden, and three, to earnestly and effectually pray for a fellow believer. I am aware how few people there really are in the body of Christ that can be truly trusted and found to be spiritually helpful.
- 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.
Paul was rehearsing the truths of the gospel in Romans 5-8 and it caused him to be so moved by his own personal struggle with sin that he cried out, "O wretched man that I am!" In another passage as Paul was teaching on God's abundant saving grace he was prompted to confess that he was "the chief of sinners," or the foremost or greatest of sinners. When you go deep into the gospel, the gospel of the bible, not the gospel of Bill Hybels, Joel Olsteen, or Finney-styled evangelists you will come to understand just how black you are and the depth of your sin.
When we do go deep into the gospel we realize that only a gruesome and horrific death as experienced by Jesus the Christ could satisfy God because of our exceedingly sinfulness. Nothing else would appease a holy and offended God but the barbaric, tortuous, and ignominious death of Jesus. When we ponder the necessity of such a death to pardon our sins we are laid bare and utterly exposed.
Listen, there is no need to worry that people will think less of us when we sin, because as fellow forgiven believers they already know how vile, dark, wicked, dastardly, and sinful you are. The cross exposes and causes us to be laid naked and exposed as depraved sinners worthy of death and hell. The cross exposes the fact that it took the slaughter of the Son of God in order to save and redeem us. There is no secret so deep, no gossip so scandalous, and no revelation so startling than that which was trumpeted forth from Calvary's cross. We have nothing to hide - we are so depraved and sinful that God had to bruise, crush, and slay His own Son to be appeased.
So, why should anyone be shocked when you confess a struggle with sin to them? Why should anyone think any less of you with what they already know? Why should someone hold a lesser opinion of us than what the cross has already told them? What has the cross told your friends, loved ones, and fellow members of the body of Christ? We are such sinners that it took the cross to save us. But save us it did! Hallelujah, those who have had the atoning work of Jesus the Christ applied to their heart and lives by the Holy Spirit have had those dark, depraved, and disgusting sins forgiven! We have experienced the overwhelming love of God and been redeemed. The cross exposes us leaving us naked and exposed but the cross saves us allowing God to put those damnable sins behind Him in the sea of forgetfulness where he will never see them again.
So, the next time you hesitate to confess your sin and struggle to someone and to ask for help in overcoming sin, remember, they already know the worst thing about you. They already know that you and I were so depraved, disgusting, and dark that it took the slaughter of God's unique Son to release and free us from sin. So ask for help. Forget about it, don't worry about it. I already know the worst about you. I still love you and count you my dear brother or sister in Christ. I struggle, you struggle, we all struggle with sin. We all need help and accountability.
"Developing Disciples" - Steps to Christian Triumph
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