“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 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 5:13-16
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” –1 John 1:9
“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ has forgiven you.” –Ephesians 4:32
I am, as the General Confession rightly puts it, a “miserable offender.” Some of you reading this know some of my flaws and past mistakes very well. There are some who won’t read this blog at all because of my past flaws that have wounded them. A large part of me wishes I had the time to personally apologize and repent to each one of the people I’ve wounded by my sinfulness and another part of me is finding great comfort and peace in the Grace of God and His children. As you can imagine, these two parts of me wrestle often. In my wrestling, I discovered a truth that many would claim to already know, though few would actually abide in. Two nights ago, here in Colorado Springs, at the home of a pastor I’ve recently met, the question was raised: “How can we help you see the love of God daily?” It was an excellent question. After a few moments of thought, I gave my response. What you will read below is an exposition of that response, and I believe wholeheartedly that it is one of the biblical keys of showing the love of God within the Church and among believers in general.
Recently I moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado to do some time on Active Duty for the Army here at Fort Carson. During the first couple of days of being here I learned that a pastor that I greatly admired, and had grown so much from his teaching, had been removed from his office due to some past sins that had disqualified him. He had an affair on his wife, not once but twice. I was crushed. This man had been one of the few that challenged me through his teaching to actually grow in my faith, and while I had been deployed to Afghanistan, his convicting messages had given me great hope. His fall brought about a fresh remembrance of the fall of another pastor that I had learned from in school, whom I also had great admiration for. For a few days after finding out, my mind raced around. I couldn’t seem to grasp why these men would fall into such petty sin. Didn’t they have everything they needed? Why turn to those things that would disqualify them from the work God had called them to? Didn’t they have somebody (their wives, and their fellow pastors) to keep them accountable so that they wouldn’t do this? I realized after a few days of thinking and praying through these things that the answer wasn’t that they didn’t have somebody to keep them accountable, it was that they weren’t willing to be held accountable. Their sinful thoughts and their temptations had them stuck in a rut of deceit. They weren’t willing to confess. Confession of sinfulness and temptations to Christian brothers and sisters is one of the most sure ways of experiencing God’s love and grace. But too many seem to abandon that truth, claiming to desire accountability and transparency, but instead hiding their temptations and failures. As Phil Johnson, one of the pastors at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA recently said in an interview, “How can I keep a person accountable, if they are going to lie about their problems anyway?” So the discovery is that, although we have the means, and as Christians, the motivation, so many still hide in the deceitfulness of sin. There is, in our culture, a drastically decreased biblical transparency.
The solution to the abandonment of this beautiful truth is twofold, with one large part of responsibility falling on the Christian community, and another falling on the individual.
The Responsibility of the Christian Community: There must be a teaching of Ephesians 4:32, and other like passages of scripture, correctly. It is extremely vital that Christians understand the depth of which they are forgiven, and in turn, the depth of which they must be willing to love and forgive their fellow brothers and sisters who confess their sinfulness. The simple fact is that too many Christian communities claim to have an abundance of love and grace, but there is cloud of animosity hanging darkly over it. This happens when too many forget, or are not taught how much God truly forgave them. But, the apostle Paul says, “Be kind, and tenderhearted,” that is, “gracious, and sympathetic.” Paul wasn’t saying this to the church in Ephesus because he saw that there was open malicious behavior towards the brothers and sisters that fell or were tempted, but was instead warning them to not their love and kindness be merely cultural expressions, and not sincere, deep, Christ-centered love. We see this too often today, the “warm” smile, and firm handshake, the good eye contact, and the “how are you doing today’s,” but these things are NOT the fruits graciousness, sympathy, and forgiveness. In fact, more often than not, these things are barriers that keep one another from biblical transparency. “This is an illogical assumption, Garrett,” some of you might say, but let me explain. When we present ourselves in a manner which suggests that our sinfulness before God is “not so much as it was” or that we have somehow matured to a point were the sin of lust, or sexual temptations, or anxiety, or doubt (which all seem to be associated with the young believer, or the young person) are all things we have overcome “by the power of God,” we run the risk of alienating that brother or sister whose sinfulness genuinely grieves them. We push them into a place where they can’t taste God’s grace, and have to remain where they are grieved by their sinfulness to the point of animosity towards a God they feel won’t truly forgive them. An authentic walk with Christ means a thorough grief of sinfulness, but also an overwhelming peace in God’s grace and love through Christ. In other words, be grieved by your sinfulness, you “miserable offenders,” but find in peace in God’s grace in Christ. If you are in that position, you will not make it so difficult for those wrestling with sin to genuinely confess, because they will recognize that you are a sinner, saved by grace, just like them. You will be leading by example, confessing your sins, not just to God, but also to those brothers and sisters that can help you out of them and into Godliness.
The Responsibility of the Individual: Your fear of confession is not of Christ. Do you not know what the scriptures teach? “But God showed His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God loves you. His people love you. God is a forgiver of sins. His people are forgivers of sin. Confess! Let me tell you this, if you aren’t willing to confess to a fellow believer that can help you, then you aren’t truly confessing to God. Confession to God is not supposed to be the “easy” route. “I’ve told God what I’ve done wrong, so nobody else has to know,” NO! This is a lie from the enemy! Confess to those within the Christian community who can help you! There is no way around that. You will not truly know the Grace of God until you have done this, because it is found in abundance in those who have been forgiven by Him. That dread you feel when you consider the rebuke, discipline, and exhortation for your sins is the enemy’s archaic weapon used against the church for centuries. Don’t buy into it. In short, get over yourself. The sin you’ve committed isn’t the worst anyone has ever done. There is forgiveness enough for it, even from fellow believers. If you go on not confessing it, not practicing biblical transparency, you will fall into it, and other more grievous sins, again and again. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed.”
The time for biblical transparency is now, brothers and sisters. If you are in the midst of sin or temptation, DO NOT leave it unconfessed within the Christian Community. Do not pretend that you are doing ok. This doesn’t just harm you, but also those wrestling temptations and sin, needing to confess and find help, but only instead finding hatred for our wonderful loving God. You and others won’t know God’s peace until that sin or temptation is truly confessed, both to fellow believers who can help and also to God.
Blessings, and thank you for reading.