Sins Seldom Confessed

Two notes before I begin:

  1. My usual “MidWeek Message” (this blog post) was delayed yesterday due to a mid-April snow storm leaving 8 inches of snow that had to be removed before our youth programs met that evening.  Combined with a slew of unexpected calls and pressing demands, there was little time to actually sit and write.
  2. I have noticed that recently my blog posts have been highlights from what I have been reading.  I hope you are “okay” with that, because I’ve been doing a lot of reading, and rather than try to summarize, I thought it best to just share what I’ve come across.  Today’s article follows in that channel.

I’ve been reading Murray Brett’s Growing Up in Grace,* and was powerfully affected by the chapter entitled “A Catalogue of Sins Seldom Confessed or Repented Of.”  I have, over the past few months, felt the cutting touch of God’s Word (Hebrews 4:12), exposing my own sinfulness and teaching me to hate those sins that cling so closely to me, and flee to Christ for His cleansing grace.  This chapter was one of those tools, a scalpel, used in the hand our Great Physician, to cut away at my sin and to bring healing and righteousness.

I thought I would share with you here the introduction to the chapter, and a few (not all) of the sins mentioned.

In his book, Words to Winners of Souls, Horatius Bonar writes,

In the year 1651 the Church of Scotland, feeling in regard to her ministers “how deep their hand was in transgression, and that ministers had no small accession to the drawing on of the judgments that were upon the land,” drew up what they called a humble acknowledgment of the sins of the ministry.

I have drawn upon their work in cataloging various sins which we as Christians frequently commit, and I encourage you to add particular sins which you commit and of which you need to confess and repent.

  1. Sins related to know ordering my life according to the gospel
    • seeking a name for self rather than the honor of God.
    • great inconsistency in our walk with God.
    • neglect of acknowledging God in all our ways
    • trusting in natural abilities or past successes rather than depending upon the Spirit
    • fears of persecutions, hazard of loss, loss of esteem, and the fear of man
    • not preaching the gospel to myself daily nor taking delight in it for my own holiness
  2. Sins related to not feeding my soul devotionally
    • lack of nearness with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit
    • studying more to learn the language of holiness than the exercise of holiness
    • not improving prayer and fellowship with God and not mourning over these neglects
    • seldom in secret prayer with God, except to fit ourselves for public performance
    • great neglect of reading Scriptures and other good Christian literature
    • using entertainment that hinders my communion with God
    • speaking of Christ more by hearsay than from personal knowledge and experience
  3. Sins related to not actively putting remaining sin to death
    • not watching over my heart nor the things my mind most often goes to when in neutral
    • seeking our own pleasure when the Lord calls for self-denial
    • abusing time in frequent recreation and pastimes and loving our pleasures more than God
    • hasty anger and passion in our own families or with others
    • being taken up for the most part with the things of the world
    • artificial confession of sin without repentance
    • more ready to search and censure faults in others than to see or deal with them in ourselves
  4. Sins related to the misuse of the Lord’s Day
    • neglecting the preparation of my heart and mind for the Lord’s Day
    • using the Lord’s Day for recreation and entertainment
    • not taking to heart sermons or thinking on them with due care
  5. Sins related to not caring for the souls of other believers
    • not taking measures to lead or order our family spiritually
    • negligent or inconsistent in daily family worship
    • being content with, if not rejoicing at, other’s faults
    • lightness and profanity in conversation unsuitable to a holy calling
    • not knowing how to speak a word in season to the weary
  6. Sins related to not participating in the progress of the Gospel
    • not being concerned that the kingdom of Jesus Christ is not thriving
    • not praying for the work of the revival of true religion
    • neglect of faithful prayer for the lost in my community and neighborhood
    • neglect in proclaiming the law and the Gospel to unbelievers and believers alike
    • neglect in praying for pastors and missionaries
*Excerpt from: Brett, Murray. Growing Up in Grace, The use of means for communion with God. (Reformation Heritage Books: Grand Rapids, MI. 2009) pages 113-119.

Standing on the Promises

I have, by strong recommendation, been reading Joel Beeke’s book, “Knowing and Growing in Assurance of Faith.” It is a wonderful treatise on the blessing of assurance of faith, where this assurance comes from, and how we can grow in it.  And it’s short, sweet, and to the point.  At only 200 pages, it is written in a manageable and easily understood manner; this book was written to be read.  (Available for only $14.99 here at Amazon).

After first laying out the importance of Assurance and why so many lack it, including false assurances, the book then begins to show what is the basis for genuine assurance of faith.  Leaning heavily on the Reformers and Puritans, Beeke draws the foundation for Assurance of Faith straight from the Westminster Confession, specifically, 18.2:

“This certainty is not a bare conjecture and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnesses with our spirits that we are the children of God, which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.”

The first foundation, then, for our assurance of faith, is not in any experience or feeling or mood, but is wholly grounded in the promises of God.  I thought I’d share here some of the highlights from the chapter:

“First, we do not gain assurance by looking at ourselves or anything we have produced apart from God’s promises, but first of all by looking to God’s faithfulness in Christ as He is revealed in the promises of the gospel.” (77)

“Believers in Christ are assured of salvation in the very first place because their God and their salvation are true, sure, perfect, and unchangeable in Jesus Christ forever.” (79)

“God’s promises are the pathways on which Christ meets the soul.” (81)

“Finally, though subjective phenomena may sometimes feel more real than faith in God’s promises, such experiences give less glory to God than divine promises apprehended directly by faith. Burgess (one of the writers of the Westminster Confession) said, ‘Trusting in God and in Christ when we feel nothing but guilt and destruction in ourselves is the greatest honor we can give to God. Therefore, though living by signs is more comfortable to us, living by faith is a greater honor to God.'” (84)

“The smallest degree of saving faith in God’s promises will prove as effectual as full assurance of faith in God’s promises. Though a spider’s thread connected to a rock is much weaker than a strong anchor connected to that rock, the rock is equally strong. So a weak faith that casts itself on Christ and His promises shall find that the Lord Jesus Christ is just as much the rock of salvation for that trembling soul as He is for one who has full assurance of faith.” (85)

Quoting Michael Barrett, “Assurance of salvation does not result from the power of positive thinking; it flows from the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (86)

All quotes from: Beeke, Joel R. Knowing and Growing in Assurance of Faith. (Christians Focus Pub; Tain, UK, 2017).