Healing Begins

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed…” James 5.16

What?
God can’t be serious can He?
Doesn’t He already forgive me?
Doesn’t He already know every thought before I think it?
Can’t He just heal me Himself?
Seriously God, what’s the point?
Do we really need to drag other people into this?

Well…yes.

I don’t know when you’ll be reading this little journal entry of mine, but as I’m writing it, it’s just a few days after the new year. And I, along with many others have already begun my list of new year’s resolutions. Because it’s a new year, and that’s what you do, right? And in case you’re wondering, this year I’m going to do a work out called p90x. I’m going to learn French, and I’m going to commit much more time to reading, writing, and listening.
I want to know God, and enjoy Him more than ever. These are my resolutions.

Now, today I was driving home and I got to catch some other people’s pledges for the new year. A few resolutions were being played on the local radio station, and I couldn’t help but take note. Dieting, exercising, reading, one kid said he was going to watch more Nascar…. It was a terribly enlightening time I assure you. But you know, in all the resolutions I heard, not one person among them said, “I’m committing to confession. This year, I want to confess more of my sin than ever.” Yeah, crazy huh? Not one person.

Now, of course I’m joking, but I think there’s something to it. I mean, why is it that in all our promises, it’s all about doing better? Why do we base all our commitments on getting stronger, smarter, and more athletic? Why don’t we ever hear someone resolve to display more of their weaknesses?

Well, I’m sure there’s a lot of factors like ego and self and sin that go into it, but I can’t help but wonder if primarily, it’s because we have forgotten, or have never believed in the first place, the gospel. And by that I mean, the beautiful news that we are all more hopeless and wretched than we ever thought possible, and in the exact same moment, we are more loved than we ever dared to dream. You see, God calls us to confess, because unlike us, He isn’t expecting us to pick ourselves up by our bootstraps. He isn’t asking us to try harder, do better, or make stronger commitments. No. Instead, in James 5 He asks us to commit to admitting the opposite. He’s asking us to admit that we aren’t strong enough, good enough, or pure enough. He asks us to lay down our self-saving, pride-enhancing promises and pick up his robe of salvation. He asks us to be honest about how truly awful we are, so that we might actually despair of ourselves altogether. And yeah, I know that doesn’t sound like a glimmering, hope-filled, this year will be better than the last, kind of message. In fact, it probably sounds down right depressing, but believe me, that’s the only place where healing really can start. When we finally own up to what’s really going on in our hearts and minds, only then can we begin to come to terms with how impossible it is to save ourselves. And that’s when resolution ends and salvation begins.

You see, most of us adhere to the theological truth that we are depraved, but certainly not enough to admit it to other people. And what’s startling is that we have to confess to others to really believe the gospel….because then we have to. As long as people think we’re better than we are, then there’s really no need to cling to Jesus.  Who needs a Saviour when we can cling to our reputation, our friendly demeanor, or our disposition, etc, etc, etc. It’s funny, because as long as we don’t have to confess, we can usually fool people into thinking that we’re much better than we actually are. In fact, I think we fool ourselves a lot of the time. And it’s mostly because we think things and do things that never get brought out into the light, so we just sort of push them out of our mind, forget about them, and try to do better next time. And what’s sad is as the church forgets how messed up she really is, then slowly but surely she also begins to forget the good news altogether. We forget we are sinners saved by grace, and pretty soon, we forget about grace altogether. And it’s not long before we replace the good news of God’s mercy with the burden laying news of trying harder and being better.

We begin to look down on people who aren’t as good at being a Christian, and we actually begin to think that we don’t really need a Saviour. Or maybe I should say, we become our own Saviour. And what’s funny is that we think we have the world fooled. We think we’re actually convincing people that we’re changing and aspiring, and accomplishing all sorts of fantastic spiritual feats. Problem is, we can’t change our hearts, and everyone can see it. We may pay lip service to Jesus, and His saving work, but the way we fly off the handle when criticized, the way we can’t say we’re sorry, and the way we keep things locked away and hidden from others gives us away.

And this is probably why James tells us to be honest about our failures to people. Because healing doesn’t begin when we start fighting our vices and become better people, true healing starts when we become better people for the right reasons. And by that I mean grateful responsive love. Now, the more we’re aware of our hang ups and failures, the more we see our need for a Saviour. And the more we see our need for Him, the more we love Him. And the more we love and treasure Him, the more we want to live for Him. And then, not necessarily for Him at all, but because of Him, and because of His great love for us.

I mean, think about it.  What is God thinking loving people like us? What is He doing wasting grace on a bunch of screw ups? Well, He’s showing us that there’s another way to create a new heart in someone other than human guilt and greater effort. He does it without pride, without fear, and without self-willed resolutions. Instead, he employs the humble grateful reaction of a sinner who’s been forgiven, and who is so in awe of that forgiveness, that they want to live in response to it.

That’s the goal. That’s what we’re aiming for. And if you have sin in your life, if you have secrets you don’t think anyone should ever know, trust yourself to the God who became sin for you, so that you might become the righteousness of God. I John says, that if we say we’re without sin, we make God a liar. So believe Him when He says He died for you while you were still a sinner, and believe that you’re so messed up He had to die for you, but at the same time, you were so loved, that He was glad to die for you. And if that’s true, then it no longer matters what you did, and in fact, the more sinful you are, the greater your Saviour is. Don’t try to cover it up and rob Him of all that glory. I know it’s scary. I know it’s terrifying, and I know that sometimes, people won’t be able to show you the grace that God can, but just do it.  Even if it’s inconvenient, unsettling, or downright horrific. Unveil your sin, and let God be seen as the great and glorious redeemer that He is.

“So let them fall down
there’s freedom waiting in the sound
when you let your walls fall to the ground
we’re here now."