Confess Your Sins and Be Made Clean

2018-09-30 – Year B – 9-25 – The Rev. Carrie Klukas

Numbers 11:4–6, 10–17, 24–29; Psalm 19:7–14; James 4:7–12 (13–5:6); Mark 9:38–48

Our Epistle reading today is in the book of James and comes on the heels of teachings regarding taming our tongue, how to have wisdom and the submitting of ourselves to God. This passage in particular is for all of us no matter how long or short of a time we have been Christians. James calls us to a holy life by submitting ourselves to God. Submission is a choice and a calling God is giving each one of us. To love God is to give our whole lives to him and to chose to lean into our Savior. The Greek language used in this passage is speaking of a discarding or throwing off of the old self. To love Jesus is to turn away from sin and to be quick to see it for what it is in our life.

How many times in our own life do we brush aside with quick and what appears to be sensible responses to our sin? Such as I was only speeding to get to church on time, I can’t be late! Or that person is so rude I need to honk my horn and shake my hand. Or it’s not my fault she was in the way!! Each and everyone of us sins with our eyes, hands, tongues, and minds. In our family we refer to it as bending our knee to Jesus. Sin keeps us pulled away prideful and refusing closeness with Jesus.

To submit ourselves is to bend the knee of hearts and to draw near to the Lord. No one can be responsible for your sins but you. So if you are a parent out their you can not be responsible for your child’s sins. You do not have to carry them as your own but rather show them the place to set them down. Submission to Jesus and bending the knee to Jesus is something that brings love and grace.

Resisting the devil is one of the most useful things you can focus on in your life. The greek word used for Satan is referring to one who separates God from man. James is saying that the Christian should do all that they can not to be separated from God. It is our calling to cleave to him and to not let go. As Christians we should always be looking for sin patterns in our own lives. Do we judge, get angry, look down upon others, misuse our hands, or our eyes? Sin is sin and it all matters to God. It is often in the “little sins” that we find ourselves repeating over and over. All sins seperate us from God and keep us from hearing him and drawing near to him. Jesus promises in his word to always leave a way out for you to flee your sins.

Instead of succumbing to Satan’s desire to separate us from God, we should draw near to him. God, James promises, graciously responds by drawing near to us in turn. James is not talking about salvation, but about the repentance of those who are already Christians. Those who sincerely repent and return to God will find him, like the father of the prodigal son, eager to receive back his erring children. God will never abandon you but rather rejoice over you.

He also promises victory from sins and to be set free from our bondage of them. Whatever power Satan has in your life can be overcome by the love of Christ. Jesus is strong enough to break the bonds of death that you are entangled in. Jesus is strong enough to overcome the darkness that you might feel in your heart, lives, or mind.

Jesus has won the victory over Satan and you are his and He is yours. You are not alone the one who created the heavens and the earth desires to be with you. When we come near to God he promises to come near to us. All of us have some big or very little issues with receiving love. We all have different ways in which we were loved or not loved particularly by our parents.

Often we transfer these feelings to our interactions with God, however it is important to remember that God is a good and loving Father. He does not disappoint us or leave us when we call upon Him. God will always long to hear you and to see your face turned to him. He desires to see you live a whole life full of good things.

James implores us to wash our hands and to purify our hearts reminding us that we are to have an active role in the confession of our sins. Confessing our sins can be seriously awkward at first however I encourage you to keep doing it. As you go to others and confess your sin to them and seek reconciliation it gets easier and easier. In the early years of our marriage and ministry Chris and I used to trek out to a seminary and meet with a priest for confession. We would take turns holding babies and going to confession. It was in the those early years that I saw God break through my judgement of others. Confession has the power to break down serious sins and walls that keeps us from God.
James next talks about the men of double mind translates the word dipsychos (‘two-souled’) which James earlier used to characterize the person whose faith is marked by doubting and instability (1:6–8).

In the present context, the term brings forcibly to mind the ‘doubleness’ of the Christian who seeks to become ‘a friend of the world’ (v. 4). God and ‘the world’, the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of Satan, the age to come and this evil age—the Christian is pulled and torn between them. To allow ‘the world’ to entice us away from a total, single-minded allegiance to God is to become people who are divided in loyalties, ‘double-minded’ and spiritually unstable.

In all that you do throughout your life you need to be asking God how you might glorify Him in your work. If you work in a company, or care for your parents, or care for children how can you be living a life of single mindedness. How can you have a kingdom focus? If you are retired how can you invest your time that has a kingdom focus and acknowledges your need for God.

James speaks of mourning and wailing and gloom in regards to our lives. James is no killjoy, denying any place for laughter and joy in the Christian life. But ‘laughter’ in the Old Testament and Judaism is often the scornful laughter of the fool (Eccl. 7:6; Ecclus. 27:13) who blithely refuses to take sin seriously. It is the mark of the one who prospers in this world, without regard to the world to come. Even the committed Christian can slip into a casual attitude towards sin, perhaps presuming too much on God’s forgiving and merciful nature. It is to all such people that James issues his plea for a radical, thoroughgoing repentance. Only such repentance can produce true Christian joy—the joy that overflows from the consciousness of sins forgiven. It is easy to bend our knee when we remember how much He forgives us.

To ‘humble ourselves before the Lord’ means to recognize our own spiritual poverty, to acknowledge consequently our desperate need of God’s help and to submit to his commanding will for all our lives. God’s will is good. God’s has a plan for your life, and He wants you to lean into him and trust him for your present and future. It’s when we truly give of ourselves to the work of Christ that seeing our brokenness, confessing our sins, and receiving his mercy becomes so tangible and real.

The early church used the saying to humble ourselves before the Lord in order to remember who they were. It expresses the fundamentally important principle that the enjoyment of spiritual vitality and victory comes not through independent effort of our own but through complete dependence on the Lord. To try to ‘exalt ourselves’ by relying on our own abilities, or status, or money brings only failure and condemnation—God ‘humbles us’. Speaking negatively about someone, judging them, and deciding how they should be dealt with is not our place. God is the one who sees the heart of all of us and it is His place to bring about judgement or forgiveness as He sees fit.

With all the horrible things that go on around our world it is easy to want to decide what should happen only it is not for us but God alone. I think God wants us to keep our eyes on our own souls, quickly confessing our brokenness, and seeking restoration in the world around us. James continues in the passage today about boasting about tomorrow. He is challenging those of us who love to know what tomorrow will hold. He is challenging those who are seeking to find assurance in their future business plans.

I love planning, scheduling, and goal setting for the future. Awhile back I really wanted a five year plan for our life and as I craved this little document God began to challenge me. Where was I putting my trust? Why did I want to know my future so bad? Could I trust Him with my life?

The scriptures say, “ What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” Our lives are not forever. We will all die and do not know when God will call us home. Illness, accidental death, or the return of Christ could cut short our lives just as quickly as the morning sun dissipates the mist or as a shift in wind direction blows away smoke. The older I get the more I realize how fast life goes and what a sweet gift it is. Give your life to the things that will last, the soul of another person.

What we do with each breath matters greatly to God. Who we invest our lives into matter greatly to God. It is the Lord’s will that is best for our lives. It is walking in his will and trusting in his good plan that matter. God longs to clean your heart, mind, and soul. God longs to wash you white as snow. You greatly matter to God. He sees you and hears your heart, you are not alone.

So may you go into the week seeking God in your daily lives. Ask Him what needs to change in your heart or life, ask him what you do you need to confess. And be quick with your confession offer it to God knowing that He is a good and loving Father delighting in seeing your face. Trust in His plan for your life and try to give Him more and more of your plans and desires for He has good things for you. To God be the glory. Amen

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