Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sin and confession

God's grace and forgiveness are meaningless to us unless we recognize our need. A deep and honest conviction of unworthiness in the presence of Holiness is where conversion begins and where the assurance of our dependence on His grace rests. Michael Spencer on "The Corporate Confession," as a part of the "Evangelical Liturgy" series - first, one of the three prayers he quotes, and then excerpts from his comments:
Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all men: We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, By thought, word and deed, Against thy Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent, And are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; The burden of them is intolerable. Have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; For thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, Forgive us all that is past; And grant that we may ever hereafter Serve and please thee In newness of life, To the honour and glory of thy name; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 1665)
.... In most worship services, we need liturgy to do for us what we are lazy and unwilling to do for ourselves. Complain about spontaneity all you want, the BCP prayers above are remarkably helpful teachers. They pretend to be nothing more than the plain script of our situation. There is no magic involved. They simply cover what it means to be a sinner.

.... Are you aware of how unwelcome this kind of language is in many quarters of Christianity these days? Are we aware of how often the depth and scope of these prayers is replaced with some version of feeling moderately bad about our lives for not being wonderful? ....

The confession should, in some way, be a response to the description of God that is presented in the call to worship or opening music. This is God. This is us. The contrast is undeniable. The confession will be followed by the assurance of pardon, and without the right preparation and response, it makes the wrong statement. It must serve the cause of the Gospel. .... [more]
At Christianity Today, an interview with Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, author of Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remedies, in which she emphasizes what to do when we recognize sin in our lives.
Once we identify the influence of sin in our lives, how do we root it out?

The point of self-examination isn't, thankfully, just to beat yourself up and feel guilty. Confession is a way of naming the problem, admitting the problem, and saying, "Look, there's this mess here, Lord, and I'm not going to be cleaning it up on my own. I'm not able, nor am I entirely willing, to let go of these things without some serious divine assistance." The tradition is confession, absolution, and penance. The spiritual disciplines are one way of counter-forming the self, of rightly forming the self.

Is there a danger of becoming obsessed with our sin?

I certainly don't want to encourage people to go back to a works-righteousness approach. But the opposite danger is to neglect sanctification because we have overemphasized justification: "Oh, you're justified; oh good, you're done. Now you can sit on the couch and relax." No, justification is the beginning of the project, not the end of the project. .... [more]

The Evangelical Liturgy 11: The Corporate Confession |, Grace Amid the Vices | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

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