Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit (James 5:16-18).
We come to a passage that causes us a great deal of discomfort, even pain. Just the thought of confessing our sins makes us squirm. To do that means admitting we are sinners—even that we are sinners who sin, if you get my drift. Our pride doesn’t like to admit such things. And, yet, we know that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (as James wrote earlier in his letter). So, it is our obligation, with the help of the Holy Spirit whose work it is to “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (as it says in John 16:8), to constantly fight our pride. One of the most useful and devastating weapons to use in that battle against our pride is the confession of our sins.
On this topic, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who I have quoted before, wrote the following in his great book Life Together:
The root of all sin is pride… I want to be my own law, I have a right to my self, my hatred and my desires, my life and my death. The mind and flesh of man are set on fire by pride; for it is precisely in his wickedness that man wants to be as God … In the confession of concrete sins the old man dies a painful, shameful death…
That putting to death of sins is what Scripture calls the mortification (putting to death) of the flesh. Bonhoeffer, drawing our attention to the process, the fight, of Christians actively participating in the Spirit’s work of making us more and more holy, is echoing the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans: “…if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom. 8:13), and His letter to the Ephesians: “…in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Eph. 4:22-24).
This mortification of the flesh, this pursuit of holiness is the entire life of the Christian… Continue reading