James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
I have heard this whole section, from verse 13 on, quoted many times in the context of prayer for healing. However, the point of confessing our sins to each other often gets glossed over. Incredible power is released when we acknowledge our sins in repentance before God. God puts no barriers between Himself and us, but our sins put up a wall. The blood of Jesus is already provided to take away all such walls, (Ephesians 2:14) between us and God and between us as children of God, but we have to acknowledge the wall is there before it can be removed. That’s why confession is important. The Catholic Church institutionalized it, requiring confession to a priest, but there is no hint of that here. This is strictly “peer confession,” if you want to call it that. The result of such confession, as a part of genuine repentance, is righteousness. We like to think we are righteous, but when pressed, we don’t like to claim it because it sounds like bragging. Jesus is the only person who ever lived who never sinned and was perfectly righteous, but by faith we are in Him and so receive His righteousness. (2 Corinthians 5:21) The mechanism for that was expressed clearly by John: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) And there we have it again: confession. General, “fruit basket” confession does very little good, I think. I have been in services of multiple denominations that had “congregational confession” of sins, but such things generally become just words, because they are not specific and “everybody’s the same, so I’m not really bad.” Public confession is only rarely called for, I think, but personal, specific confession really gets the job done. Historically, confession has been the trigger for a majority of the major revival movements in the Church for the past 2000 years.
I’ve not stressed confession at all in my own ministry, and I wonder if that has been wise. I have been blessed by having brothers in the Lord with whom I could be completely frank, and that has been very helpful. Accountability is important! Japanese tend to be very private, which is closely related to this being a shame culture, as opposed to a sin culture. They tend to feel that if nobody knows about it, it’s not bad. We have known people who put up a good front all the way up until they committed suicide. That is a major barrier to spiritual growth and maturity. Cathy and I have both been given words of knowledge about people’s activities, and when they find out we know, they have been freaked out! The point is, God knows anyway, and in all probability other people have figured it out too. If we want to be righteous, and we should, then confession is an integral part of that and I need to let people know it, regardless of cultural barriers.
Father, here You’ve given me another subject I need to teach on. Thank you. Show me when and how I am to do it! Help me help others understand their fundamental need for Your grace and mercy, and also what they need to do to receive it, so that the lying traps of the devil may be destroyed and people be set free indeed, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!