As the LORD continues to speak to the nation of Israel through his prophet, Isaiah, we come to the fifth and sixth chapters where we find an amazing juxtaposition. Six “woes” charge forth from the mouth of God to a wicked people. Judgment has come, blessings have become for them curses, and the blazing light … More The Seventh Makes All the Difference
Shame is a powerful force in this fallen world. It comes on the scene immediately after the rebellious acts of Adam and Eve against the Most High God as they both recognized their nakedness and feebly covered the one area most intimately connected with life and love and identity and covenant. We actually see it … More Naked and Not Ashamed
Many words and much ink have been spilled out in recent months about the state of our economy. And let me just add my two cents in saying that it is worse than it appears. Any nation that gives itself over to pride, power, and pleasure will eventually find the foundations crumbling beneath it. I … More The Economy of God
At the church where I currently serve, we structure our Lord’s Day Gatherings around what we think is a good biblical pattern for corporate worship (Call, Confession, Consecration, Communion, and Commission). Within that pattern we see the corporate and private confession of sin as an essential element of our coming together as the Church in the presence of our Triune God.
One of the many areas of confusion among Christians these days concerning confession is how our understanding of justification by faith alone corresponds with the biblical practice of regular, frequent confession of sin. In other words, if God judged once and for all the past, present and future sins of His people as He poured out His wrath upon His Son on the cross, then why do we confess and ask forgiveness for sins already forgiven? Or, for many people, why do we find it so hard to go quickly and confidently before God in confession of known sin in our lives?
Let me try to explain it like this. When we first hear and respond to the effectual call of God in our lives, we come before Him as our Judge. We stand before the Judge of the universe and confess our shameful and infinite guilt against the Righteous God. Our eyes have been opened to our sinfulness. But our eyes have also been opened to the sinless righteousness of Jesus Christ. Because we now see our sin and see His beauty, we turn away from ourselves and look to Christ for salvation.
In that moment, we are justified by faith. That is, the Holy Judge looks at us and sees the righteousness of Christ. We no longer stand before Him guilty of infinite wrath. Our guilt was punished upon the shoulders of Jesus. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Thus, our justification saves us from death to life; from being at war with God to dwelling in peace with God.
However, justification does not result in us simply walking out of the courtroom guilt free. Amazingly, justification allows the Judge to become our Father. God’s purpose in redemption is not to save us from eternal damnation. God’s purpose is to raise up sons and daughters in the image of His Son, Jesus. We are not simply made free, we are made family! We are justified (forgiven) that we might be adopted.
Stay with me here. This is where a very important distinction must be made concerning forgiveness and confession of sin. When God adopts us into His family, He does so on the basis that every sin that will ever flow from our hearts, minds, hands and lips has been forgiven 100% based upon the life, death and resurrection of Christ. Stop reading and let that sink in for a minute. You will never again stand in the eternal courtroom guilty of sin before the Holy Judge. You will never have to ask Him for forgiveness and mercy instead of wrath. Why? Because the Judge is now your Father; because you are no longer a defendant but a son, a daughter. Do you see the difference?
And yet, as justified, adopted children of God we still struggle with sin and are in need of confession and forgiveness constantly. When God calls us by faith to himself we are born again into a new family. This means that we are like infants. Yes, we have a new name and a new heart, but we are still babies. Again, let us remember God’s purpose and goal in salvation. He justifies us that He may adopt us. He adopts us that He may, as a good Father, grow us up into Christ Jesus, our elder brother. Thus, begins the lifelong process of sanctification. Every day God is working everything together to grow us up a little more. To do that, He must instruct us, correct us, discipline us, provide for us, protect us, refine us, stretch us, encourage us, love us, etc.
When we sin we are reminded of just how much growing up we still need to do. We are reminded of just how undeserving we are to be in this family. And we are especially reminded of what a wonderful Father, Brother and Helper we have in the Triune God. We will still stand guilty before God more often than we would like to admit. We will still come before Him confessing once again that we have sinned. Only, now we come as a child before his father not as a defendant before the judge. Confession helps us to recognize who we are not (we do not belong in the pig pen eating the scraps of worldliness) and who we are in Christ (coming back home as sons and daughters who have an eternal inheritance awaiting them). … More Forgiven and Always Asking for Forgiveness
“Sorrow for sins is necessary if it be not unremitting. I beg you to turn your steps back sometimes from troubled and anxious remembering of your ways, and to go forth to the tableland of serene remembrance of God’s benefits. Let us mingle honey with wormwood that its wholesome bitterness may bring health when it is drunk tempered with sweetness. If you take thought upon yourselves in your humility, take thought likewise upon the Lord in His goodness.” –Bernard (as quoted by Calvin) … More A Spoonful of Sugar
“[God] imposes a penalty upon us—not to punish us for past sins, but to correct us against future ones.”—John Calvin (quoting Chrysostom on why believers will still suffer under the hand of God for their sins even while those sins are forgiven in Christ)
“He who feels that God still intends to punish him can never be persuaded that he is loved by God. But he who in the end profits by God’s scourges is the man who considers God angry at his vices, but merciful and kindly towards himself.”—John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (1559) … More Tough Love, Tender Mercies