Real Confession

James 5:16

Let’s confess:

  1. By recognizing your sin is first and foremost, to God.
  2. By admitting your worship has stopped.
  3. By owning your sin to the one you’ve sinned against.
  4. By bringing your sin to its true hiding place.

Well good morning, Saylorville! If you brought a copy of scripture with you this morning, you can find James chapter five… James chapter five. We’re talking this morning about Real Confessionreal confession.

I grew up in the Roman Catholic tradition as no doubt some of you did, and some of you may be Roman Catholics here or watching online. (Welcome! Glad you’re here.) I grew up in that tradition with the seven sacramental system, and one of the sacraments was the sacrament of penance or confession. And when you were in the church, and I remember as little boy lining up with several kids in front of me, looking dauntingly at this booth right in front of me, called the confessional, where the priest would be in the middle and those who were confessing their sins would be on the right or on the left. And so, and that’s where you would go in and you would divulge, you would speak forth your sins. And the priest would supposedly have the power invested upon him to absolve you of your sins in the moment.

So when I became a Christian, one of the greatest truths I learned was in Hebrews 4 where it says,

Hebrews 4:14-16, 14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast (wait for it…!) our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Amen.

So just the other day, a new Christian who happens to be in the House this morning, a young lady who I’ve shared some wonderful truths to take place when you come to know Jesus as your Savior. I shared the truth that you have instant access to God! — And it just made her come alive, that very truth, excited her so much! And it’s a wonderful thing — isn’t it? the vertical relationship we have with God and the access we have to Him through our Lord Jesus Christ, through His blood? — But what about the ongoing horizontal relationship we have with God’s people? How’s that going? That’s where James comes in.

James chapter five… we’ll pick it up in the context where Andrew (who gave a great message last week) preached in the  beginning of verse 13, where it says,

James 5:13-16, ”13 Is anyone among you suffering?” (He asked) “Let him pray.” (Therein lies the subject of this context.) “Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 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. 15 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.” (And here’s the text for this morning.) 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another. The prayer of the righteous person has great power as it is working.

So there’s our text. Let’s look at it again. (We’ll put it up there for you) Verse 16. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another. Pray for one another” then.  I love the old King James which says, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” A lot of power in that, isn’t it? But notice the word “Therefore” at the front of the sentence because that word “therefore” connects it to the previous verse where James makes room, (Watch this) he makes room for the possibility that sickness might have a connection…  might have a sin connection. All right? David is a perfect example. (We’ll come back to that) — But if you’ll notice just before this verse, it says at the very tail end of verse 15, and “if,” (and that’s a conditional if) if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. That’s a very important line! So to be clear, to be clear, to be really, really clear… James sees personal sin as a possibility for sickness, but NOT a given so that, in that way you and I can’t judge somebody for being sick or having some malady in their life. All sickness has a connection to sin, but not necessarily personal sin. Does that make sense? — And yet sometimes it is because of our personal sin. That’s all James is saying. And by the way… the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:27 talked about a guy named Epaphroditus who (he was a great servant of the Lord) who was “sick almost to death,” (quote unquote) and he was a servant of the Lord. And in 2 Timothy 4:20, Paul talks about a friend of his by the name of Trophimus, who the Bible says, he goes, ‘I left him in Miletus, the town of Miletus, sick.’ Now why would Paul leave a servant of Jesus somewhere sick? — Either, probably because Paul couldn’t heal him and it wasn’t in the will of God to heal him, but in both cases, these were servants of Christ who were sick, okay? So don’t be judging somebody just because they’re sick.

But now I want to talk about real confession. What does that look like? What does it not look like? Some of you have been around long enough to remember the President of the United States in 1998 when… “I did NOT have sex with that woman!” (How’s that for? — Pretty good?) — And he had been accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a White House intern. He Later on would acknowledge the truth, but as the Christian columnist, Cal Thomas, wrote the very next day in an op-ed, he said,

“The value of a confession decreases the closer one gets to being caught.”

Cal Thomas

But, that’s not entirely true. That is not entirely true. There’s some truth to this to that, but it’s not entirely true.

So for instance, my wife, (this happened a few years ago) she called me out on a sin, and I confessed. And then she said this, “If I hadn’t said something, would you have confessed?” Now that wasn’t fair. And here’s how I responded to her. “But you did say something, and I did confess!” (Got her permission for this, by the way.) Now listen, now listen. True… my sin had to be pointed out, but when it was, by God’s grace, I confessed.

Isn’t that what happened to David? Remember David? He sins…  adultery murder… He’s got a lot of sins he’s piling up! Nathan the prophet, comes and brilliantly confronts him with a story! David says, ‘That guy ought to die for what he’s done!’ — and Nathan goes, “You’re the man!” Remember that? Well, everybody remembers “you’re the man,” but we don’t remember what he says, when it says right after that in the narrative, David simply says, “I have sinned.” And then you have the 51st Psalm, which is the actual confession of when he sinned. Does anybody doubt the sincerity of David’s confession though he had to be confronted?

So, back to James. There are two commands in real confession, and I want you to note them, because they’re real simple. They’re right there in the text, and the first one is to confess. The word confess is an interesting word. It’s a… the normal word is “homologueo.” That means “to speak out,” “to say the same thing.” But this is the word “ex-homologueo.” There’s a prefix on the word, which literally means “to confess out” or to put it differently, “to publicly confess.” That’s the word James uses here. Now, so for instance, we say that baptism is an outward expression of an inward reality. You’ve heard that many times, right? Well, then what is confession? Confession is an outward expression of an inward repentance.

A Couple of examples. Remember when John the Baptist was baptizing? The Bible tells us these are people that were coming, that were repenting. It says they were baptized by John the Baptist in the River Jordan, and then it says, “confessing their sins.”

[Matthew 3:6, “… and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.”]

When the Apostle Paul preached and there was a revival that busted out in Ephesus and people were burning their religious magic books and this and that, the Bible tells us in Acts 19:18, it says,

Acts 19:18, Also many of those who were now believers came,“ (watch this) “confessing and…” (look at that) “divulging their practices.”

If you got a Bible, you should underline the word “divulging” because that word literally means “to announce with detail.”

So I’m gonna turn to Psalm 32. We’re not gonna put it on the screen, and you can go there or you can just listen. Just listening is fine, because I just want you to hear this. When David sinned, it was pointed out he confessed his sin, at the moment, that’s Psalm 51. When you read Psalm 51, think David on the spot when Nathan says you’re the man. All right? I mean, it’s a real confession! Psalm 32 (many Bible expositors, and I agree with them) is a reflection of David back on his original confession. Some time has taken place and he’s, he’s thought about the repentance and he’s thought about his life before he repented and what it was like while he was living in sin for a full year! So with that in mind, listen to these words. He says,

Psalm 32:1-11,1Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

(In other words, his sin is hidden.) 2 “Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” (And then watch this. Now he starts to reflect on what his life was like during that year when he was hiding, unconfessed.) 3 “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” (And then he says) 5 I acknowledged my sin to You, and did not cover my iniquity.(that is, it was covered. Now it’s not covered him. I took the cover off. I exposed it. I divulged it.) “I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. 6 Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to You at a time when You may be found.” (In my first Bible I wrote off the side, “Huh… Godly people sin!”) “You are a hiding place for me. You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with shouts of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. 9 Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.” (That’s a stubborn person. That’s those of you hiding sin, unwilling to divulge it, unwilling to confess it. You’re like a horse or a mule.) 10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD. 11 Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” ( “Shout for joy!” That’s the Hebrew word… means “to spin around!” I mean, it pictures somebody just like… ‘Wow! My sins are forgiven!’ That’s the idea.)

So look at verse five. I’ll put that up there for you. Here’s what David said,

[Psalm 32:5,] ”I acknowledged my sin to you, God, and I did not cover my iniquity.” I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord and…” (What does God do? He does what He always does, right?)

[1 John 1:9], “If we confess our sins, He’s (What?) He’s faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Right?

I gotta tell you something happened this last week. It just blew my mind, exploded my heart! I have to tell you that I have a special relationship with everyone that God gives me the joy of leading to Himself. I can’t explain it, but they’re like my kids ’cause they kinda are. And so I led Dean Sawyer to Jesus 30 years ago. Dean was sort of a Texas country bumpkin. He’d come up from Texas, married, started having a family… had the joy of leading Dean to the Lord. He was on fire for God! He was so excited to have a sins forgiven! And he said, “We need to have an evangelistic event in the park! Pastor, let’s put it on and you preach!” I said, “Okay!” He started putting it all together. In between the planning and the implementation of the event… my wife died. — And so everything got thrown into upheaval. Literally three weeks after my wife died, Dean comes up to me and says, “What are we waiting for here? Let’s get this thing going! We need to win people to Jesus!” And I’m going, ‘Can you give a guy a chance to grieve a little bit?’ I didn’t exactly say that to him, ‘cause he was a new Christian. In fact, I sensed the Spirit of God prodding me in the moment to say, ‘You’re going to have to come out of your funk sometime.’ And I’ve often said that for 30 years,

“If you want to get out of your funk when you’re down, start ministering.”

Pastor Pat

— And Dean helped me. Dean helped me that way. In fact, as he continued to grow in the Lord, he came to me one day and he said, “Pastor, I have a confession to make.” I said, “What is it?” He said, “I’m a runner.” I said, “What are you talking about?” “I left Texas on the run from the law. I should be in prison right now.” I said, “Oh, okay. What are you going to do about that?” He goes, “I need to go back. Face the bar of justice.” He did! He went to prison. They put him right into prison. So we took up monies. We were trying to help him, trying to stay connected with him, to get him back within a couple of years, and he served his time, and that’s when things just went out of control. Dean never came back. Through a series of circumstances, he decided to stay there… rebelled against God, walked away from God, broke our hearts… broke my heart! And I talked to him one time, and he just stiff-armed me 30 years ago. And last week, God put him on my mind, so I just went on a hunt… and I found him! I found Dean. He couldn’t believe I called him! He described his life… out of control for 30 years… drugs, alcohol and absolutely “Psalm 32” miserable! His health is gone! He has diabetes. He can hardly walk… and he’s almost 10 years younger than me! He’s just… he is a bodily wreck! — But he said, “Pastor, I turned back to God seven months ago!” He told me the story. This morning, he’s preaching at the Salvation Army!

Philippians 1:6, “…He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus.” Amen?

And just yesterday, He wrote me a lengthy note to send to Holmes Baptist Church where we were. It’s going to be read at their next business meeting of his complete repentance for what he did. I’m surprised you didn’t bust out in applause over that! Praise God! And by the way, you see the last verse where he says,

Psalm 32:11, ”Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy…!”

Again, the Hebrew carries… that conveys a guy spinning around for joy, and that’s Dean today! He can barely spin around because of what he’s done to his life!  But God has brought Him back… 30 years later… from hiding in his sin!

And this is the hope you have been holding back. Some of you have been holding back. You’ve been hiding for years! There is hope for you… if you confess!

And back to James, the word “confess,” by the way, is a present imperative. Present means it’s ongoing and an imperative is a command.

[James 5:16, “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.”]

So this is a command. In essence, James is saying when he says, “Confess your sins to one another,” he’s saying, ‘That is a lifestyle you should embrace.’ That’s what he’s saying. A lifestyle!

Now I got to hand it to my Roman Catholic friends because this… you know what the confessional whole thing? They figured it out… They figured out the need. They understand the need for regular confession. In fact, I almost went to the local Catholic Church and asked if I could borrow that thing, but it probably weighed 3,000 pounds, you know! Would it be quite the object lesson, wouldn’t it? There are over 59 “one another’s” in the Bible. 59 of them! Just look at all these. Try to memorize them as they go. (If you got vertigo, you’re in real trouble!) 59 “one another‘s.” But this one, “…confess your sins to one another,It’s the hardest of them all. Listen, confessing your sin to another is the hardest of them all. Do you want to know why? Because it’s the humblest of them all.

I’m reminded of the guy that was up in the middle of the night on his computer looking at pornography, and he felt a hand on his shoulder… and he thought it was God! When he turned and saw it was his wife… he wished it WAS God!

Some of you are hiding sin right now, and some of you have sinned against someone. You know you’ve sinned against them. You need to go to them and ask for forgiveness. You’ve not done it, you’ve shoved it down. You’ve hid it. It’s covered up. Confess.

The second half of this verse says, the other command is to pray. See, “confess your sins to one another.” “Pray for one another.” Listen. listen. As you pray for people in your life, some of you are praying for people who seem to never change. You’re praying for situations that just have no end to it. You just think there’s no way, they’re so hard, they’re so stubborn. Remember, Dean! And listen… Oswald Sanders was right.

“All difficulties are the same size to God. “

Oswald Sanders

That’s the reason why you want to keep bringing those difficulties to God. They’re the same size to Him.

I thought about this when I was in Savannah, Georgia several years ago. My wife and I were at a famous pizzaria. We were sitting outside and there was a local dog. Everybody knew her. Her name was Heidi. Big dog… just came right up to where I was eating and just sat there and stared at me. She was so close to me I could feel her breath on my leg! So you know I tore off a little piece of pizza and gave it to her — And then it was like she had tasted of my kindness! I mean, she was just staring at me, and, I mean… the nose is right there! And I could not resist her. I just kept giving her more.

But isn’t this the idea that Jesus had when he said in Luke 18, we talked about ‘though you know the unrighteous judge. You have the widow. She just kept coming, just kept hammering on requesting, and the unrighteous judge gives in. He says listen… ’Will God keep putting them off?’ That’s a rhetorical question. No, eventually God’s gonna say I can’t resist it anymore. I must… I MUST hear that prayer.’ And it’s why we never quit praying for those we love .

[Luke 18:7-8a, “And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.”]

And so when James says [James 5:16b] the effective prayer of a righteous man is effective, it works. The word “works” there is the Greek word, “energy.” We get the word, “energy” from this word. It’s energetic!

Do you remember the story in Acts 12 when Peter is in jail, and the church is praying for him? Remember that? Earnest prayer was made for… the word “earnest” in Acts 12 literally means “to stretch forth.” It’s a picture of the church while Peter’s in prison going, ‘Oh God, God release Peter! He’s too important for us! You can’t leave him there! Let him go! Let him go!’ — And then Peter shows up, and he’s knocking on the gate. Rhoda …’Hey, hey, Peter’s out there all of you!’ ‘No idea what you’re talking about.’ ‘No, he’s out there!’ ‘No, it’s his ghost.’ (That’s bad theology, by the way, or his angel, rather, bad theology.) And then Peter comes in and there’s great rejoicing! And the result of this crying out to God was, we’re told in Acts 12:24,

[Acts 12:24, “But the word of God increased and multiplied.”]

… that the church increased and (What’s the word?) multiplied. They multiplied.

Think of the possibility behind the power of your prayer… and your prayers… and your ongoing prayers! God has used fasting and praying in this church and in the greater Engaged Network for 18 years! Let me tell you… let me give you a thought that should blow your mind… in a Christ-like way. We have seven churches that came out of Saylorville, some have planted churches. There’s over 4,000 people in these churches! In the 18 years of church planting, over 300 people from Saylorville Church are now in those seven other churches… over 300! Guess how many people were at Saylorville Church in 1998? 300. In other words, there are 14 times that many in the greater Engaged Network! You know what they call that? That’s called… multiplication! Hallelujah! Amen? When God answers prayers, He doesn’t just show up, He shows off… and He’s still showing off! If we will pray believing, confessing and praying, and… that’s where we’re gonna end up here this morning, let’s confess.

We’re about ready to go to the Lord’s table here. If you’re a Christian, you should be going to the Lord’s table. If you’re not a Christian, you should become a Christian. Repent of your sin, place your faith in Jesus now! But all of us need to confess, and if our confession is gonna be real, I wanna give you several ways that it should be. It’s real, let’s confess by recognizing your sin is, first and foremost, to God. That’s what David said when he originally prayed that prayer of confession in Psalm 51. When he said this, he said, ‘to you and you only I have sinned.’

[Psalm 51:4, “Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight,”]

David recognized that the ultimate sin was against God, and listen, every time you sin, every time you sin, you do the very thing that Jesus died for! Just let that sink in! Let’s confess by recognizing your sin is first and foremost to God, —And secondly, by admitting your worship has stopped.

[Matthew 5:23-24, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

Proverbs 28:13, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”]

If you’re covering sin right, now and some of you are, you’re covering up a sin. It may be years old, you may have been doing it last night. It might be pornography, other forms of lust… covetousness, anger, jealousy. There could be a lot of things, some addiction… and you’re covering it up. Your worship has ceased. I don’t care what kind of words are coming out of your mouth. I don’t care about the songs you’re singing or listening to. You’re not worshiping, even though you think you might be. On the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said this. Look what he said. He said ‘If you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go.’ In other words, stop the worship. You’re worshiping. Suddenly you know that there’s a woman there that you’ve sinned against… there’s a man there… there’s a friend you’ve sinned against… you know you’ve sinned against them, and you’ve done nothing by way of confessing it. Your worship effectively stops. We’re told there to go back to that person, reconcile with them, then go off with the gift. So think of it that way. If you’re covering your sin, your worship has stopped! That’s a serious thing, isn’t it?

Thirdly, let’s confess by… (This is really big) by owning our sin to the one we’ve sinned against. And I might use the word entire, by owning entirely our sin to the one we’ve sinned against. Let me ask you a question. Have you ever asked someone to forgive you thinking, and maybe even saying, ‘Now aren’t YOU gonna confess your sin?’ If you think that, or you do that, your very confession is NOT real. In fact, it’s sinful! It’s the reason why George Whitfield said,

“My repentance needs to be repented of.”   

George Whitfield

… because he understood human nature, even when it comes to confessing… even when it comes to repenting. It isn’t always pure. But you need to own your sin. Isn’t it true that the other person’s sin is often what keeps you from confessing yours? I’ll say that again. Is it true? I’ll put it as a question.

Is it true that the other person’s sin is the very thing keeping you from confessing yours?

I’ve often said… if you could quantify a percentage of your guilt in a certain conflict that, let’s say 20 percent… I’m 20 percent guilty, then I am 100 percent guilty of that 20 percent. Does that make sense? You think about Adam, remember when, even all the way back in the garden of Eden, he gets confronted by God. “The woman YOU gave me…” Wow! Double whammy blame shifting! We need to have the heart, when it comes to confessing our sins to somebody that we’ve sinned against, we need to have the heart of the prodigal who actually rehearsed it in the pig’s sty, and then comes back and says, ‘Father, I’ve sinned against heaven. I’ve sinned against you.’

[Luke 15:18, “I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.”]

He hits it vertically. He hits it horizontally. That’s the heart of real confession.

Lastly, let’s confess by bringing your sin to its true hiding place. True hiding place. Did you notice all the scripture about covering and hiding? There’s a lot of it, isn’t there, in scripture? The one who covers their sin will not prosper, but the one who confesses and forsakes them will have mercy. When you cover your sin, it doesn’t go away. You just cover it. Bring your sin to its true hiding place.

[Psalm 32:7, “You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance.”]

Have you ever played Hide and Go Seek? Raise your hand if you play Hide and Go Seek. All right, that’s almost everybody. If you didn’t raise your hand, you’re just like not normal! (audience laughs) If you’re a parent, you play Hide and Go Seek. If you’re a grandparent, it’s part of your job description! And have you ever noticed when little kids hide, they always are so conspicuous! They’re terrible hiders! Their little hineys are sticking out over here… whatever. And what do we do when that happens? We look at them. We say, ‘That’s the stupidest place I’ve ever seen you hide!’ No! We don’t do that! Do we? We walk right by ’em and we say, ‘I can’t find you!’ (audience laughing) Isn’t that true? We intentionally take our time finding them because, after all… it’s just a game.

Some of you are hiding right now. You’re hiding in your sin. You’ve covered it up, and you’re a lousy hider… It’s so conspicuous to God! He sees everything and God might be thinking, ‘What a dumb place to hide!’ But here’s the deal. Listen, He loves you. He loves you so much! Listen to this. He’s letting you hide! — Listen, not because He wants you to hide, but because He wants you to acknowledge that you are hiding! And… you want to hear the craziest thing about it all? Here’s the craziest thing of it all. God does want you to hide. That’s the crazy thing! He just wants you to choose a better hiding place! Did you catch the reading of Psalm 32?

[Psalm 32:7] ‘You are my hiding place.’ ‘You’re my hiding place, God.’ And on the flip side in

[Colossians 3:3], Paul says, ‘Your life,’ (if you know Jesus) ‘is hidden with Christ in God.

What a beautiful place to be… hidden in God, sins forgiven, life confessed, divulged, and free!

Some of you have been sitting on a sin for who knows how long? You know how long! You don’t feel good about it. You may be somewhat miserable. It might be affecting your health. Today, would you confess?

Right over there in the nose bleed [section] a couple of years ago was a guy during this very time of the Lord’s Table. He’d heard the gospel from myself and others… under great conviction for all of his sins, and he knew he was unqualified to go to the Lord’s Table. So sitting right up there, he repented, he divulged his sins to God and God freed him! He’ll free you too. So as we think about the Lord’s table, think about what it means for you and real confession.

God, thank You so much for the opportunity to pray, to confess, to seek Your face, to learn about real confession. There are some here, Lord, who have never found You as their hiding place, never found your Son, Jesus, who died for their sins on that cross, who was buried for them, who rose again for them, and if that’s you, dear friend, right now… right now, some of you are there, some of you are lost, you’re unsaved and you need to repent of your sin like the man who did a couple years ago sitting in that seat in the nosebleed [section.] Right now, you’d be thinking I am not qualified to take the Lord’s table, and you’re not, but let God qualify you through what Jesus did for you, and receive Him as your Savior. For those of you who know Jesus and you’re gonna be going to these stations, would you do so, thinking about what it means, to stop hiding. It’s conspicuous to God anyway. Confess and be freed. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


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