“Powerful Requests” ( James 5:16, HCSB ) by Carley Evans

Woodcut for "Die Bibel in Bildern", ...
Woodcut for “Die Bibel in Bildern”, 1860. Deutsch: Holzschnitt aus “Die Bibel in Bildern”, 1860. Erster Tag, Gott scheidet das Licht von der Finsternis. Français : Gravure en bois pour «Die Bibel in Bildern», 1860. Português: 1º dia: Criação da Luz. Gn 1:3. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What makes an “urgent request” powerful? James says that righteousness makes our prayers effective, i.e. “very powerful.” And what does James define as “righteousness?” He says that righteousness is the direct result of healing. How does James say we are healed? He says that healing comes from confession of sins.

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.”

Simply put, don’t go before God the Father in prayer without first confessing your sins. With confession comes His healing, and with His healing comes righteousness, and with righteousness comes power.

“If We Acknowledge” ( 1 John 1:9, WYC ) by Carley Evans

Ever downplay a mistake or a sin? Ever speak of it as if it wasn’t that bad or even worth mentioning? Ever make excuses for it? Ever deny that you sin?

“If we acknowledge [grant, concede, accept, admit, recognize, confess] our sins, he is faithful and just, that he forgive to us our sins, and cleanse us from all wickedness.”

God expects us to acknowledge that we are sinners saved by His grace. If we accept our sinful state and concede that it displeases God, then “He is faithful and just,” and forgives “us our sins.” As if that isn’t enough, He “cleanses us from all wickedness.”

He does this; we don’t. God is faithful and just. He is forgiving. And He has the power to wash us white as snow though our sins be as scarlet.

“Of Anger, Swearing, and Lies — Sin” ( James 5: 12, HCSB ) by Carley Evans

James exhorts, “Above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. Your ‘yes’ must be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ must be ‘no,’ so that you won’t fall under judgment.”

Yesterday, on the interstate driving to pick up my daughter from an international airport, a man dangerously cut me off as I was changing lanes at 65 to 70 mph. I am ashamed to say, in my moment of terror I was angry at him. He must have known by my gesture how angry I felt, because he suddenly put on his brakes and moved his car in my direction. Sensing immediate danger, I pulled around the right side of the truck I had been attempting to pass legally on the left. The car continued to follow me. I thought I saw a police officer on a motorcycle on the exit ramp, so I got off the interstate. The car continued to follow me. By this time, I was fearful and very ashamed of myself for losing my temper. A bout of ‘road rage’ had struck, and I was afraid was now about to backfire on me.

As I came up the ramp I realized the motorcyclist was not a police officer. The red light caught me; the car pulled up beside me in the other turning lane. I quickly glanced at the driver. An African American gentleman was sitting behind the wheel screaming at me. I looked away. I never looked back at him. He continued to call me names — names used by racists. I smiled to myself even as I grew more and more afraid. I got out my cell phone and tried to dial the highway patrol to no avail. So, I called 9-1-1. All through this, the man continued to scream obscenities at me and once he threw something at my window. That ‘plink’ on the glass startled me, but I still did not look at the man. As the light turned green, he sped away from me as I followed him back onto the interstate. I let him pull away while I spoke to the dispatcher at 9-1-1.

She asked me all sorts of questions, but the important one — what caused him to behave that way? — was the only one I didn’t answer truthfully. I told her I was carrying a gun, but that I didn’t pull it out of my glove compartment. I told her the man was very angry and kept yelling at me, that he threw a rock or some item from his car at my car. Did he damage your car? No, m’am. Can you see him now? Yes, m’am. Her questions continued for quite awhile; this is not common in my area of the country. Usually, the dispatcher listens and then closes the conversation rather quickly. This woman kept asking me about the incident, seemingly trying to locate the man in the car along the interstate. I began to drive into a rainstorm and ended the 9-1-1 call so that I would not have an accident.

I kept driving. Only later did I cry, realizing how evil (and stupid!) I’d been and how blessed I’d been almost at the same time.

“Therefore, confess your sins one to the other and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)

“God’s Great Army” ( Joel 2: 25, ESV ) by Carley Evans

God promises, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, My great army, which I sent among you.” God tells us that He sends His great army against us, to swarm, eat, and destroy. As God comes against us, we cry aloud in despair,”Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us: look, and see our disgrace!” (Lamentations 5:1) “Our pursuers are at our necks, we are weary; we are given no rest.” (Lamentations 5:5) “The joy of our hearts has ceased; our dancing has been turned to mourning. The crown has fallen from our head; woe to us, for we have sinned!” (Lamentations 5:15-16)

After our near total destruction because of our unrecognized sins, the Lord restores to us all He has taken — “what the swarming locust has eaten.” With this restoration, God pours out His Spirit. His great promise comes true: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh: your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out My Spirit.” (Joel 2:28-29) “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Joel 2:32)

“Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong, fear not!'” (Isaiah 35:3-4) “‘He will come and save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water.” (Isaiah 35:5-7)

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

“Free Indeed” (1 John 1: 7, NEB) by Carley Evans

“We are being cleansed from every sin by the blood of Jesus His Son,” writes the author of 1 John. The act of cleansing us is not ours, but God’s. This act occurs through His Son’s blood, not through our blood. Jesus’ blood cleanses us from every sin, not only from some sin.

As Jesus makes us free, we are free indeed.

Yet, “if we claim to be sinless, we are self-deceived and strangers to the truth.” (1 John 1: 8) Our part in this process is to recognize our sins, confess them, turn from them even if we must recognize them repeatedly, confess them repeatedly, and turn from them repeatedly. Our task is to trust in Jesus’ cleansing blood, which covers us with His righteousness and not our own.

Jesus’ disciples ask how many times we must forgive; Jesus says that forgiveness has no bounds. Forgiveness is limitless as is God’s mercy. For mercy triumphs over judgment.

“Do You Believe This?” (Romans 10: 14, HCSB) by Carley Evans

People must hear about Jesus before being able to believe in Him as Lord and Savior. And of course, writes Paul, someone must tell about Jesus before people are able to hear about Him. In order to tell others about Jesus, someone must be willing to preach.

The message to preach is: “One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.” (Romans 10: 10) Furthermore,”everyone who believes on Him is not put to shame.” (Romans 10: 11)

Jesus witnesses of Himself, saying: “Anyone who believes in [Me] is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the Name of the One and Only Son of God.” (John 3: 18)

And He says, “I Am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die — ever. Do you believe this?” (John 11: 25 – 26)

“Go Privately” (Matthew 18: 15, ESV) by Carley Evans

“Go and tell his fault, between you and him alone.”

Jesus is not saying that we should be fault-finding of one another. Instead He is telling us to take our brother aside if he sins against us. We are to discuss his sin privately, not publicly.

If our brother listens, our relationship is restored. Here is God’s objective — restoration.

If he does not listen, only then do we bring together witnesses. Here, it becomes a charge. This step is serious, and is not to be taken lightly. We are making his sin public. And, this is not God’s objective. God prefers that sin remain private, between the two persons it has affected.

If your brother does not listen to your witnesses, only then do you take it “to the church.” Before moving to this step, you should spend time in prayer for your brother, asking the Holy Spirit to do His great work in the heart of your fellow Christian. Once public, sin can never be forgotten by the body of Christ. Of course, the sin and sinner can be forgiven but human beings have great difficulty forgetting a sin.

If your brother does not listen to the church, Jesus says “let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Of course, this is definitely not God’s objective. God does not want your brother outside the church. Rather, God wants him restored. Therefore, always go to your fellow Christian in private, behind a closed door to confront and rebuke gently. Give plenty of time for repentance; do not rush to witnesses and a charge. Allow the Holy Spirit to work as He has great power. Pray, fast, wait. Your brother is likely to apologize and come back to you whole.

“The Prayer Of Great Power” (James 5: 16, ESV) by Carley Evans

“And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” (James 5: 15)

James calls us to pray for one another. Our prayers are for healing; our prayers are for forgiveness. We forgive each other; God forgives us.

“The prayer of a righteous person has great power.”

James tells us of Elijah who “prays fervently that it might not rain.” (James 5: 17) For three and a half years, no rain falls until Elijah “prays again, and heaven gives rain, and the earth bears its fruit.” (James 5: 18)

James is certain to remind us that “Elijah is a man with a nature like ours.” (James 5: 17) Yet, his prayer is powerful beyond what we often expect our prayers to be.

Let us pray fervently, confessing our wrongdoings to each other, expecting the best gifts from God. For “the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” (James 5: 11)

“What Shall We Say Then?” (1 John 1: 9, HCSB) by Carley Evans

In confession resides purification. Jesus promises to purify us from all unrighteousness as we confess our sins to His Father and to one another.

“If we say, ‘We have no sin,’ we deceive ourselves.” (1 John 1: 8) On the other hand, if we recognize our sin, and confess it as existing, as undesirable, as unworthy of our relationship with Christ; then God the Father is willing and able to forgive us.

Jesus presents us as His clean brothers and sisters to His Father — we are washed in the blood of Christ so that “though [our] sins are like scarlet, they are as white as snow; though they are as red as crimson, they are like wool.” (Isaiah 1: 18)

Jesus says this is reasonable; that we are able to discuss this truth — “if [we] are willing and obedient, [we] eat the good things of the land.” (Isaiah 1: 19) Our obedience consists of believing on Christ, of recognizing our core unworthiness, of placing our entire trust in His sacrificial grace and in His righteousness.

Paul rhetorically asks, “What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace might multiply? Absolutely not!” (Romans 6: 1 – 2) We are not to sin, but “if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father — Jesus Christ the Righteous One. He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.” (1 John 2: 1 – 2)

“How To Be Saved” (Romans 10: 10, ESV) by Carley Evans

Tracts are dropped on your desk, front door, mailbox — SAVED? they ask. Everything, of course, depends upon your answer to this simple question.

Paul writes that if you believe in your heart, you are justified. The Oxford English Mini-dictionary defines ‘believe’ as ‘accept as true, think, suppose’ and ‘feel sure of the worth of.’ And, the same dictionary defines ‘justify’ as ‘show to be right or reasonable.’ So, if you are sure of Jesus Christ, if you accept Him as being true and worthy, you are shown to be right. You are reasonable, having come to a correct conclusion.

Paul further writes that if you confess with your mouth, then you are saved. Webster’s Vest Pocket Dictionary defines ‘confess’ as both ‘acknowledge one’s fault or misdeed’ and ‘declare faith in.’ The same dictionary defines ‘save’ as ‘rescue from danger, guard from destruction, redeem from sin’ and also ‘set aside as a reserve.’ So, if you acknowledge your need for salvation and your faith in Jesus Christ and His provision for that sin, then you will be set aside for God who then guards you from destruction, rescues you from danger, and redeems you from your sins.