Pastor's Pondering


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What Can Produce Increased Confidence and Joy in Your Life?

by Duane Mabee on January 7, 2021

When Jesus taught us how to pray, He included a prayer for forgiveness – “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”.   Tim Keller addresses confession and repentance in his book, Prayer; Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, and he picks up Martin Luther’s understanding that “this petition is not only a challenge to our pride but a test of spiritual reality.  If we find confession and repentance intolerably traumatic or demeaning it means ‘the heart is not right with God and cannot draw… confidence from His Gospel’.  If regular confession does not produce an increased confidence and joy in your life, then you do not understand salvation by grace, the essence of the faith.”


Keller is right.  We tend to avoid confession and repentance because they deflate our ego.  We don’t want to see ourselves as fallen and sinful.  We would rather think of ourselves as basically good, with a few minor imperfections.  Certainly, our imperfections are not as bad as the ones other people have.  As Keller and Luther point out, though, that pride does two things (at least). 


First, it shows that we do not understand the gospel.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is that salvation and forgiveness are available to everyone who has sinned and fallen short of God’s perfect standards.  But salvation and forgiveness are only available to those who admit that they have sinned and fallen short of God’s standards, ask for forgiveness, repent, and receive Christ as their Savior and Lord.  It is not available to anyone else.  Those who haven’t sinned, don’t need a Savior.  Those who won’t admit their sins say they don’t need a Savior, and Jesus will not force salvation on them.


The other thing pride does is it robs you of the joy of knowing that Christ loves you in spite of your sinfulness.  It robs you of the experience of being accepted and forgiven when you don’t deserve either.  It cheats you out of the peace and security of knowing that Jesus accepts you at your worst.  Without that knowledge, you will always be left to wonder if you’ve messed up one too many times or blown it just a little bit too bad.  How sad, empty, anxious it is to live without the knowledge of Christ’s complete and unconditional acceptance. 


No one should ever suggest that we should sin more so that we can comprehend God’s grace better.  That would be foolish.  It would demonstrate that we don’t care much about God Who gave His absolute best to save us.  We don’t need to sin more to experience grace better.  We have enough sin already.  We must openly admit our sin, however, to experience God’s grace at all. 


Keller goes on to discuss what sins we need to admit, confess and repent of.  “Not only does prayer require the confession of explicit sins and wrong doings, we are also to uncover inward postures, attitudes, perspectives and inordinate desires that lead us to sins small and large.  It is a simple fact that the nearer we get to supreme beauty or intelligence or purity, the more we are aware of our own unsightliness, dullness, and impurity.”  In other words, the more we see God as He really is – absolutely holy – as Isaiah did in Isaiah 6:1-8, the more we recognize how unholy we are.  We see our deep need to confess and repent. 


When we confess and repent, God Himself cleanses us, removes our guilt and our sin, and assures us of His love and acceptance.  As believers, we need to regularly allow the holiness of God to accost our pride and test the reality of our spirituality.  We need to remind ourselves that the gospel is only for sinners, who will admit their sin, ask for God’s forgiveness, and turn away from continuing in that sin.  We need to regularly experience the joy of receiving God’s forgiveness and assurance of acceptance based on what Jesus Christ has done for us. 


Christian, do you regularly repent?  Do you keep short accounts with God, going to Him as soon as you know you’ve messed up to seek His forgiveness and cleansing?  Do you regularly ask God to show you areas where you are out of sync with Him and need to come back in line?