“Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” james 5:16
One night in college I was trying to decide whether I should go to church or just lay around the “po’ house” as we called it. At first I opted to lay around the house and watch TV. Well, as I stated in my last post there are many opportunities to be exposed to sexual fantasies. At the time the show Bay Watch was popular. I began watching that and felt pretty embarrassed that I had chosen that over church. So, I turned off the TV and went to visit a different church I had heard about across town.
It was OK and pretty charismatic. But, at the very end of the message is when it got freaky. They were having an “invitation” time for people to come up front and get prayer. The pastor started saying that someone in the room needed to confess their addiction to porn. I was thinking “whoa, I wouldn’t say “addiction. It was just one show”.” But, as soon as I thought that the pastor said “the devil may be whispering in your ear that it’s not really an addiction. That you have it under control. It was just one time. But, the Lord is telling you to come confess.”
I gripped the front of the pew and was thinking “this is crazy! I watch Bay Watch one time and this is what happens. I’m sorry Lord but I am not walking up there”. Again, the pastor says “God is calling you to be obedient and to repent”. Of course no one was walking up front and I could sense his frustration. I was thoroughly convinced that he was going to say “BRIAN HUME- it is YOU! You pervert! Come and repent!” It’s no exaggeration to say I was extremely happy when he finally called off the altar call. My knuckles were white as I’m sure my face was as well. I bolted out the door as soon as he said “Amen”.
But, it doesn’t end there! I heard the doors to the church slam open and a voice say “Young man, wait up!” You’ve got to be kidding me! It was the pastor literally chasing me down. Talk about wanting to die! I still thought in my mind- there is no way on Earth I am telling this guy that I watched that show and that I was the pervert the Lord had laid on his heart! We made some small talk and he prophecied over me. We went our separate ways and that got me thinking about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. There’s another part to this story that I will share another time but for now I want to stay on topic.
I tell that story because whether God was really calling me to confess my sins or there was some other pervert in the room that night I know that we need to be able to be honest and confess our sins to one another. If one thing has become more obvious to me over the past few years with the explosion of social media it is that people have learned how to put on their “on-line” version of themselves. We have mastered the art of exposing every aspect of our lives while not really exposing the very core of who we are- our secrets, our fears, our hopes and our dreams. We have learned that we must always put on a happy face and can never really mess up. The thing that we are really covering up is our deep need for confession- because only through confession can we experience the deepest levels of intimacy and security that we long for.
The reality is that we all screw up- royally sometimes. We have all damaged relationships, some have lost jobs and some have lost their freedom due to their sins. But, sometimes it’s not just the “big” things that cause damage-sometimes it’s the little things that eat away at us until we are depressed, isolated and empty inside. It’s all of the “minor” sins that add up and eventually seer our conscience from conviction and guilt.
The Bible implies that when we hide our sins from each other that it causes “sickness”. I’m no “faith healer” type but I know in my own life the damage it does to me mentally, physically and spiritually when I keep secrets from those I love. And, I know the freedom that I experience when I confess my sins and my failures.
Let me lay out a few ideas about confessing our sins to one another. The first thing required is humility. We must understand that what we have done was wrong. Whether or not there were consequences is irrelevant. Consequences are not the measure of whether something is right or wrong. As Christians we believe that Scripture is the standard by which we live our lives. Sadly, too many of us have taken the stance that the morality of the Bible is outdated and have dismissed it. We don’t dismiss it with our words but rather with our lives- or even worse is when we use the morality of the Bible selectively to bash someone else’s sin.
Humility, though, is two ways. The person receiving the confession must be humble as well. If you’ve ever tried to confess to someone that is full of pride then you know the pain of judgement all too well. A humble person will offer words of truth and conviction that are delivered with grace. As I’ve gotten older and out of the “bubble” of church ministry I have become much more humble and open to others. I have learned to embrace my weaknesses and to appreciate others strengths.
Humility is a good start. But, we shouldn’t stop at confession. We must turn from our sin and to walk in righteousness. The last part of this verse says that “the prayers of a righteous man are powerful and effective”. When this is taken together with the first part we understand that our prayer life is also hindered by our secrets and unconfessed sin. So, if we are to have an effective prayer life then we must be “righteous”. This simply means to be in right standing with God and man and that comes through absolute confession.
We cannot be in right standing with God without confession of our need for forgiveness. Likewise, we cannot be in right standing with each other without confession and repentance. We will all continue to stumble and intentionally make hurtful choices. A part of growing though is learning to not let that trap you and keep you from moving forward.
Are there things that you know you’ve needed to confess but thought it too difficult? Let me encourage you to not silence the conviction but rather to thank God that He loves you enough to convict you. It’s never easy to admit things that we’ve held onto for so long (sometimes years)-things that no one else knows about but it’s time to get freed up and to quit hiding in the shadows of guilt and shame!
So, what have been your experiences with confessing your sins to others? How did people respond? How have you responded to people confessing their sins and secrets to you?