“The Comfortable Confession”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
One of the most practical books of the Bible is the letter of James. James was the half-brother of Jesus. James may have written this letter as early as 40 A.D. In his introduction, James called himself a “bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” James did not consider himself to have a more special relationship to the Risen Lord Jesus than any other believer. His letter is often described as the “Proverbs” of the New Testament. The Epistle of James provides very practical insight for living the Christian Life.
Early in his ministry, the great Reformer Martin Luther called James a “straw epistle.” Yet in his later writings, Luther saw the connection between the Apostle Paul’s writing and James’. Specifically, whereas Paul defined the gift of faith through which God justified a believer, declared a sinner “right” with Him. James defined what that gift of faith actually looked like in the life of one who possessed it. James was not writing about earning one’s salvation, as Luther first thought. Rather, James declared the kind of behavior exhibited by one who possessed saving faith.
A “comfortable confession” is one that accommodates evil rather than exposes it. A comfortable confession of Christ avoids the attack of the evil one by ignoring it. Luther wrote this, “Also it does not help that one of you would say: ‘I will gladly confess Christ and his Word on every detail, except that I may keep silent about one or two things which my tyrants may not tolerate… For whoever denies Christ in one detail or word has denied the same Christ in that one detail who was denied in all the details, since there is only one Christ in all His words, taken together or individually.”
James 4:7 commands the one who possesses saving faith to “Submit to God and resist the devil and he will flee from you.” It is at the very point at which Satan and evil present themselves that the Christian is commanded to resist it, literally standing against it.
This is the point of attack at which the believer’s confession of Christ becomes uncomfortable. As the believer stands against evil, exposing it he or she is proving himself or herself to be a genuine follower of Christ.
The context of James 4 is critical in our understanding of the cost of following Jesus. The command to resist the devil comes after the proposition that friendship with the world is enmity with God, James 4:4. So then, the word of God puts before the believer the truth that worldliness is directly opposed to God. It is so opposed to God that He has said that to be a friend of the world is to be His enemy.
In accordance with the Epistle of James, a comfortable confession is one that is in friendship with the world and therefore at enmity with God.
I should say that God’s command doesn’t mean that Christians should go out of their way to be offensive! I believe that it does mean that whenever an issue is raised to a level of visibility such that it is put forth for all to see and declared to be the “right and loving” way, Christians are commanded to speak out against what is contrary to God’s word.
Attacks on truth such as redefining marriage, approving of alternative lifestyles, suggesting that abortion is a matter of one’s choice are all points at which Christians are tempted to have a comfortable confession.
When lies such as these are put forth as truth or when men and women suggest that the truth doesn’t matter or is relative, Christians are exhorted by God to expose the lie and the liar, Ephesians 4. It doesn’t matter if these attacks occur in the Church or the Public Sphere. God is sovereign over the government, the church and the family. Truth is absolute. All truth is God’s truth and He is sovereign over all.
The challenge is coming at an ever-increasing rate. Those of us who profess Christ are being confronted by evil. Men seem to regularly call evil good and good evil. God expects His people to act. We are called to be salt and light. Christians do not possess a comfortable confession. We are people who submit to God in every aspect of life. Caution, confession is meaningless unless it’s carried into the world!