Accepting forgiveness, part 2: Confession.

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March 15, 2014.

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
(James 5:16)

This used to be one of my least favorite verses in the bible, at least the first part of it anyway. It’s easy to believe that the prayer of the righteous has much power. It’s not as easy to believe that confession is a necessary part of the Christian walk. Confession means (or so it would seem) that you did something wrong. It is admitting that you are a fallen creature and your life is not perfect. On one hand, it is simple for us all to admit that we are not perfect, in a general sense. But when you start getting specific, that’s when things start to look different. “We all sin.” This is true, so what are some sins you have in your life? “Umm… I don’t know.”

Notice how James puts it here: “…that you may be healed.” I had that pointed out to me when I was at a summer camp one year. James doesn’t say confess and pray so that you may be forgiven (though I think it is part of the process), but he says confess and pray so that you may be healed. I believe that the scriptures make it clear that when we sin, we sin against God, even when other people are involved. David said in psalm 51,

“For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight”
(v. 3-4)

This is his psalm of confession and repentance after his sin with Bathsheba. He says, against you, you only, have I sinned. David had lied, cheated and murdered. How could he say that he had only sinned against the Lord? I think his mindset was simply, after all is said and done, it is God who we ultimately answer to. So, when we confess our sins to God and ask for forgiveness, why is it so hard to accept?

I talked yesterday about the difficulty that we seem to have in accepting forgiveness. I think James is here to help us out. He says confess your sins one to another that you may be healed. As I said at the beginning, this used to be one of my least favorite verses because I hate admitting that I have faults. I hate owning up to failure. I hate being vulnerable to the judgement of others. But this is why the church was set up the way it was. We are here for each other, to pray for one another and to lift up our brother or sister when they are down. I know now, when I do confess my sins to a brother, it is like a weight is lifted off of me. Not only do I feel better, I have then have the opportunity to have an accountability partner (again, a concept I used to hate) who is there to help me when it seems like all I can do is fall. I fail often, and I am glad to have the support that I do, even when I don’t want it.

I would like to encourage you now, as I think this may be part of the secret to accepting the forgiveness of God. Find someone you trust, maybe two or three people, and start an accountability group. When you fall, let one another know and pray for each other. Be specific, not just “Oh yeah, I sinned today.” I believe this to be a true blessing from God, and a means to keep us on the Christian path. It is a lot easier to sin when you are alone or surrounded by the world. May we be the church that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ died to save.

Suggested Daily Reading: Psalm 51, Hebrews 7-8, James 5.

The Lord grant you peace.

-Walter

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