Thursday, August 27, 2015

Restore Thou those who are penitent

.... I’m speaking, of course, about confession – a time when the church comes together as a repentant people, and asks God to forgive and cleanse, to renew and restore, to inflame our cold hearts and fill us with overflowing love.

Confession is one of the defining marks of a Christian because it is linked to repentance and faith. When we confess our sins to God, we are agreeing with God that our sin is something that needs to be forgiven. We are recognizing that our sin hurts us, hurts others, and most importantly, hurts the heart of God.

Confession is the expression of repentance in which we name our sin for what it is, turn away from sin, and turn toward a merciful God. The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is not that the non-Christian sins and the Christian does not, but that the Christian sins and repents, while the unbeliever hardens their heart toward God – either by refusing to admit the sin or by trying to deal with the sin in some other way. ....

Today .... [the] problem is not the idea of a God who is perpetually angry, but a shriveled god who is shallow and nice. If we don’t see God taking sin seriously, we won’t take it seriously either. And once we stop taking sin seriously, repentance loses its power. No surprise, then, that confession falls away, and the one thing for which all Christians should be known – repentant faith – is something we no longer express together in public.

My hope is that the practice of corporate confession will make a comeback – whether in a time of silent prayer, corporate confession, or songs that plead for mercy. After all, we are not in a posture to receive God’s Word until we have first renounced our sin. .... [more]
From the Book of Common Prayer:
ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against Thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But Thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare Thou those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore Thou those who are penitent; According to Thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for His sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of Thy holy Name. Amen.
From Challies:
.... Where our knowledge of one another is limited, where it is built upon the little bit we know of the other person, God’s knowledge of us is unlimited by the past, present, and future. He already knows our deepest, darkest secrets, and he loves us still. And this is a profound comfort to us. J.I. Packer says, “There is tremendous relief in knowing that his love for me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench his determination to bless me.”

He goes on:
There is, certainly, great cause for humility in the thought that he sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow humans do not see (and I am glad!), and that he sees more corruption in me than that which I see in myself (which, in all conscience, is enough). There is, however, equally great incentive to worship and love God in the thought that, for some unfathomable reason, he wants me as his friend, and desires to be my friend, and has given his Son to die for me in order to realise this purpose.”
God takes no risk in his love, because he knows everything about me. He knows all I have done, all I am doing, all I ever will do. He will never receive new knowledge of me that may cause him to question his determination to call me his friend. And for that reason, no relationship I have will ever be more secure than my relationship with him. ....