Thursday, October 16, 2008

Confessing Our Sins

Excerpt from a sermon on James 5: The Covenant Community As Means Of Grace To Keep And Correct Us.

James 5:16 "Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other… My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

This implies that there is such a thing as truth. If there is truth, there is also error. Truth is not ice cream, it is insulin to the diabetic. It’s not just a personal preference, truth is a matter of life and death.

Also implies a safe space where we can be vulnerable and open and trusting. Confessing our sins to another person can be scary and not a common spiritual practice, especially in evangelical churches.

But we are created and saved for community. We are not isolated, individual, independent believers. James envisions the whole church as a safe place where we help each other to deal with sin and grow in holiness. It’s a community project and a journey we walk together.

Opening up to another person is a risk. It leaves us exposed, vulnerable, open to hurt. End result is we hide and struggle alone. Eventually, some just drop out or drift away.

We must remember however that we are all sinners together. God is not finished with us yet. All of us have weaknesses, insecurities, habits to overcome and the Holy Spirit is sanctifying us and giving different people gifts, skills and wisdom to help each other.

When we share our stories, we invite others into a part of ourselves that cannot be entered without permission. It’s a big honor and privilege. Those who listen sense a welcome to delve into their own stories, to make themselves open, to trust others with their pain. This results in a purer, more authentic fellowship of people who know and love and understand each other’s needs, anxieties, temptations and sins. In this act of mutual confession, mutual forgiveness, mutual help and prayer we release power that brings inner healing.

“The great mystery of our faith is that we get closest to God when we are willing to be vulnerable, when we are willing to say ‘I need somebody else’.”—Henri Nouwen

Testimonies of victory and triumph… Weddings… We rejoice with those who rejoice, we grieve with those who grieve. If all we get are stories of victory, some may get discouraged “what’s wrong with me?” I feel a profound sense of belonging in church when stories are shared about struggles that are still ongoing, how they are trusting in God in tat unresolved situation, need for healing, for an answer… These are real people facing real issues.

But how do we apply this in our lives? Maybe some suggestions from how I’ve seen some people in our church are doing it.

-Intentionally cultivate friendships of trust and openness. Maybe it could be small group. Give permission to trusted friends to ask tough questions.
-Confidentiality must be maintained, except when it endangers someone.
-I know of guys who travel a lot for work and live out of the suitcase. One day, you could be in Amsterdam or Brazil or Bangkok. They would have this agreement. Call someone when tempted especially for guys
-As a general rule, brother to brother or sister to sister confession as in some ‘emotionally charged’ situations.

So how do we deal with sin this side of heaven?

We live in a fallen world that has been corrupted by sin and we cannot escape the realities of this fallen world. But at the same time we also live in a new reality that has already begun in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But it is a reality that will be only be seen in its fullness when Jesus comes again. In the meantime, we live by faith and prayer and in communion with each other before the face of God.

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