The Weight of our Sin

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking
but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 14:17 (ESV)

So Lent has begun (you know that because McDonald’s Fish Sandwich is back), and apparently that means it’s time to ramp up the guilt.  I know that this is a time when we reflect on the passion of Christ, his suffering for our salvation, a time of leaving behind the things of this world in order to “seek first the kingdom of God.”  But seriously, how is giving up chocolate, or caffeine, or anything else for that matter going to help?  What it will most likely do is make you irritable, until you cave in and break your fast, then all your left with is even more self-imposed guilt.  Where’s the sanctification in that?

Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that the life of the Christian is a life of constant warfare against sin.  It was the puritan pastor John Owen who put it so vividly, “Always be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.”  Any opportunity, no matter how painful or upsetting, to identify sin in my life and, in the power of God’s Spirit, conquer that sin is welcome.  But should that holy war against sin be limited to the 7 weeks of Lent?  I don’t think so.

Keep in mind, I write this to you with ashes on my forehead.  Yes, I began this Ash Wednesday in confession of my sins, seeking the mercy and grace of God for my forgiveness, confessing my trust and faith in Christ my savior.  But I do that every day.  Why should these next few weeks carry with them an extra burden?  Do we, for the sake of some liturgical drama, lay aside the receipt of the bloody cross, the blessings of the empty tomb, the assurance of our salvation, just so we can make ourselves “feel” more holy because we “feel” more guilty?

As you grieve your sins, remember the gospel!  Take your sins seriously, but remember we have a savior!  I heard Pastor Doug Wilson a few weeks ago say “We are privileged to carry our sins like David carried Goliath’s decapitated head.  The weight of the sin is cut off, the only weight you should feel is victory.”  Yes, I wear my ashes, but they are not heavy.

This Lenten season, turn the fast into a feast.  Rather than giving up stuff, revel in the one thing that will bring you great joy – revel in the gospel, the good news of your salvation.  I think the following is perhaps one of the best Lenten hymns I’ve ever heard.

 Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea
A great High Priest whose name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me
My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in heav’n He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart

 When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me

Behold Him there the Risen Lamb
My perfect spotless Righteousness
The great unchangeable I Am
The King of Glory and of grace
One with Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God
With Christ my Savior and my God

Before the Throne
© 1997 Sovereign Grace Worship
Charitie Lees Bancroft | Vikki Cook
CCLI License No. 783539

 SDG

Get Real

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 
(I John 1:8-9 ESV)

Today being Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten Season, there is a lot of attention placed on penitence and confession.  Fat Tuesday was spent in wild celebration so that there would be something to confess on Ash Wednesday (as if there wasn’t enough already). 

But what does it really mean to confess your sins?  What does a genuine confession look like?  Now that there’s an App for Confessions (see here), what is the proper form of confession?

If you do a quick study on the word “confess” in Scripture, you will find it has less to do with producing a laundry list of the things for which we feel sorry, and more to do with a humble and heartfelt acknowledgement of the truth.  In the Hebrew, the primary word used for confess is “yadah,” which literally means to throw or shoot, but is also translated as to give thanks and praise to God, to confess that the Lord is God (2 Chron 6:24), and to confess the truth of our sinfulness before God (Lev 5:5).  Interestingly, this word is closely related to the word “yada” which means “to know.” 

In the Greek, the word for confess is “homologeo” which literally means “to speak as one.”  Again, in the Greek this refers not only to our confession or acknowledgement of our sins (James 5:16), but also our confession of Jesus as Lord (Rom 10:9; Phil 2:11), and even His confession of our name before the Father (Rev. 3:5).

So to make a confession is to acknowledge what we know to be true (we do this every week in worship when we make a “Confession of Faith”).  The word confess means that you stand with God and you say what God is saying.  It means to acknowledge the truth of Scripture.  It means to acknowledge the truth of Jesus Christ.  It means to acknowledge the truth about ourselves and our sins. To confess is to say about your sin exactly what God says about it. You call your sin what God calls it. That is what it means to confess.

I heard one pastor put it this way: “To confess your sin is not simply that you come with this general acknowledgment that you have messed up, that you have not been everything you should be as a husband or a wife, that you have not attained to all that you would like to have attained in your life. Confession of sin is not some vague, acknowledgment of being a general flop. But it is a confession of your sin: that you have deliberately missed the mark of God’s call and God’s law.”

Kevin DeYoung writes in the book “Why we love the Church”

It’s all to easy for me to say, “I’m sorry for not doing more to help the poor, and I’m sorry I haven’t been more loving, and I’m sorry I haven’t done more for the homeless.”  But is this real repentance if I don’t go out and do something differently after my confession… Before we loudly protest all our general failings, we would do well to remember that repentance entails a change of direction and not merely a public declaration that “I could have done more.”  We shouldn’t say we’re sorry because it sounds good or makes us look good before others, but because we actually feel regret for some wrongdoing and are intent on living more like Christ in the future. (DeYoung, Kevin.  Why we love the Church (Moody Publishers, Chicago; 2009) page 137).

As long as your confession of sin is kept at arm’s length, an utterance of the generalities that, yes, we are all sinners, nobody’s perfect, but never really acknowledging the truth about ourselves, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.  We are not saying the same thing God is saying, we are, in fact, calling God, and His word, a liar.

But if you confess…  If you acknowledge the revelation of Scripture, that God is Holy and Righteous in His judgment against sin; that we are all sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God and stand condemned under His righteous judgment; that Jesus is the Christ, the only begotten Son of God, the sinless one upon whom all our sins were laid, died to redeem us and to set us free from sin and death, and has taken God’s judgment and wrath upon Himself that we might be free to live for God… If you confess, if you acknowledge the truth, then you stand with God and the truth dwells in you (I John 4:15).

Friends, let today be a day of confession.  A day of acknowledging the truth about God and the truth about ourselves.  Get real with God.  Confess your sins, yes, and confess your faith as well. 

SDG