Can I be honest?
I mean really honest?
For years I conveniently glossed over verses like this when I would came across them in scripture. Because my core belief was that I was seriously defective and the only guy struggling with big, significant sins (in my case pornography, adult chat rooms, and infidelity), I conveniently rationalized that James must have been speaking only to those Christians who wrestled with sins along the lines of speeding on the freeway, getting angry with a co-worker, or laughing at a racy SNL sketch. Even if James did mean confess all sins, I pictured everyone running for the exits after I confessed to a deliberate one-night stand…especially if I was following the guy whose confession was that he failed to witness to his neighbor.
I was a big sinner in a little sinner paradigm.
Frankly, a little sinner paradigm has no place for James 5:16. Or if we do take a stab at confessing sins while living in this little sinner paradigm, even our confessions are often manipulations to ensure that others see just how spiritual we are. I was a master at this technique.
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I’m in a small group of guys meeting for accountability and we are to that point in the meeting where we bare our souls and get real with each other…to share any struggles and challenges that we are facing. This is what I share, complete with pauses and concerned facial expressions for effect…
“Guys, please pray for me. I’ve been reading Andrew Murray’s book on prayer and committed last week that I was going to start getting up at 4:30 every morning and pray for the lost around me. Well guys, I slept in til 5:00 the last two mornings and didn’t feel like my heart really wanted to pray when I did finally get out of bed. Pray that I’ll be more disciplined to stick to my commitment.”
Or what about this one?
“Guys, I’m really embarrassed to tell you this, but it has been two weeks since I have shared my faith. There are at least 4 or 5 guys at work who really need Jesus and as far as I know, they don’t even know that I’m a Christian. Pray that I will have the courage to share with all of them before we get together next week.”
The whole point of those “confessions” was to leave the other guys thinking “Man, I’m not even thinking about prayer and sharing my faith and not only is Tray thinking about it, he is upset with himself that he slept til 5 and hasn’t shared Christ with his co-workers! I sure need to start developing more discipline in my Christian life like Tray has in his.”
When we live in the little sinner paradigm, we are forced to hide, pose, and pretend because, frankly, we are not little sinners.
When we live in the little sinner paradigm, we are forced to hide, pose, and pretend because, frankly, we are not little sinners. The fig leaves that we hide behind are often noble, but at the end of the day, we are still hiding. The gospel paradigm makes it clear that we don’t have to hide anymore…we are free to be the big sinners that we are.
Big sinners need a big Savior.
Little sinners need a little Savior.
Martin Luther had a friend who was living in the little sinner paradigm. Luther wrote him a letter calling him out of his little sinner paradigm and into a big sinner, gospel paradigm…
Here is a portion of that letter…
“It seems to me, my dear Spalatin, that you have still but a limited experience in battling against sin, an evil conscience, the Law, and the terrors of death. Or Satan has removed from your vision and memory every consolation which you have read in the Scriptures. In days when you were not afflicted, you were well fortified and knew very well what the office and benefits of Christ are. To be sure, the devil has now plucked from your heart all the beautiful Christian sermons concerning the grace and mercy of God in Christ by which you used to teach, admonish, and comfort others with a cheerful spirit and a great, buoyant courage. Or it must surely be that heretofore you have been only a trifling sinner, conscious only of paltry and insignificant faults and frailties.
Therefore my faithful request and admonition is that you join our company and associate with us, who are real, great, and hard-boiled sinners. You must by no means make Christ to seem paltry and trifling to us, as though He could be our Helper only when we want to be rid from imaginary, nominal, and childish sins. No, no! That would not be good for us. He must rather be a Savior and Redeemer from real, great, grievous, and damnable transgressions and iniquities, yea, from the very greatest and most shocking sins; to be brief, from all sins added together in a grand total.”
I am thankful that I have a group of “hard-boiled sinners” I meet with every week. Men who have a big sinner paradigm. Because we understand how scandalous and damnable our transgressions are, we also know how wonderfully amazing God’s grace is.
Last Monday night, one of our guys shared a public confession in a room full of thirty men. The sins confessed publicly weren’t nominal…they were great and shocking. My friend feared that men might run for the exits or pass judgments because of the nature of what he confessed.
He discovered just the opposite.
He found the healing James promised in James 5:16. Rather than run away from him, he experienced true intimacy as men came toward him and affirmed him. There were lots of tears. His courageous confession led four more guys to do the same. Our experience in community Monday night swallowed up the lies that each of us brought into that meeting…
“If they really knew me, they wouldn’t love me.”
“I’m the only one who is struggling at this level.”
“I am not so sure this group is safe for me to share my particular sins.”
Because of our brother’s courage, each of us had our lies exposed.
Are you living in a little sinner paradigm? Could you be missing a deeper healing because you are hiding?