Tag: confession

Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He works on a much smaller scale as well.

In John 13, Jesus began to wash the disciples feet as a demonstration of His love for them. When He came to Peter’s side of the table, Peter objected and, in a sense, we understand his objection because Jesus was the Master and the Master should be the one having his feet washed; He should not be the one washing. Jesus, of course, overcame Peter’s initial refusal, and then Peter bounced to the opposite side and told Jesus to give him a full-body bath. Jesus again corrected Peter’s misunderstanding by explaining that dirty feet didn’t necessarily mean his face was filthy.

The first lesson of John 13 is about service and Jesus taught His disciples to follow His pattern of humility. But there is another issue as well, the issue of cleanliness.

We are Christians, and one of the things that means is that we are clean; our sins have been forgiven. Our body of sin has been washed in Christ. But our belief of this and our having confessed our sins for sake of salvation does not mean that it was one confession and done. We, as Christians, get our feet dirty with sin. John teaches Christians in 1 John 1 that, for the sake of our ongoing fellowship with God and with each other, we must keep on confessing our sins.

We ought to confess our sins each time we sin. And as a congregation, when we gather for sake of fellowship with God and each other, we do well to wipe our dirty feet at the door rather than track mud all over the place.

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I assume that if you are a Christian, then you want to be wise, and that if you could, you want to be more wise at the end of this year than you are now. This wouldn’t become a competition because wisdom is not a zero-sum pursuit; everyone could get wiser.

You should pray for wisdom. Paul regularly asked God to give wisdom (e.g., Colossians 1:9), and that shouldn’t surprise us because Solomon, who had more wisdom than any other human-only man, explicitly said that God gives wisdom.

For the LORD gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
(Proverbs 2:6)

But that was at the end of a lot of effort. “Receive my words,” “treasure up my commandments,” “[make] your ear attentive,” “[incline] your heart,” “call out for insight,” “raise your voice for understanding,” “if you seek it like silver,” “search for it as for hidden treasures” (Proverbs 2:1-4), then you will be in position to receive it from the LORD.

I hadn’t noticed the following until a few days ago. After all those verbs of effort and focus, Solomon says, “then you will understand the fear of the LORD” (Proverbs 2:5). And, of course, the fear of the LORD is where wisdom starts (Proverbs 1:7).

The fear of the LORD is a response that we have to Him, but that awe, that reverence, that lens through which we see what is wise, comes from the fear of the LORD that is His revelation. That’s part of the reasion that Scripture is called “the fear of the LORD” in Psalm 19:9.

So in order to be more wise you must read the fear of the LORD and worship in the fear of the LORD. Get wiser.

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The end of the year is not magical for life change, but it is as good of time as any for evaluating your life and examining your heart. This flip (or swipe) of the calendar brings a close and opening of a decade. We are just days away from the 20’s, the TWENTY-Twenties. As usual when there are more than two people, one exhortation will have to work for many applications.

Some of you, for sake of increasing growth in Christ this next year, need to take on more. This past year we studied Paul’s exhortation to run to win with full self-control (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). We heard him say to quit like men, be strong, always abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58; 16:13). We were reminded that every believer is part of the body, and gifted for sake of building up the body (1 Corinthians 12:7; 14:12). Watching others work is not a gift, and I mean that in multiple ways. Do you need to add Bible reading and prayer to your disciplines? Do you need to add faithfulness to your participation at small group? Do you need to stop making your husband to all the work at home, or visa versa?

Others of you, for sake of increasing growth in Christ, need to take more off. Hebrews 12 also uses the race metaphor, and running is a lot easier when you lose some weight. I once calculated my weight per step in a marathon, and losing just a few pounds would make a huge different over the entire course. It’s never good to carry sin around, and there are other things, not sinful per se, that we also carry that help no one.

“Lay aside every weight, and the sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1b-2a)

This is the end of a lap but not the end of your race. How are you running to win?

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A common Christian abuse of Christmas poses itself as spiritual behavior. The abuse occurs when Christians reluctantly, or plainly refuse to, love others who don’t rise to the level of understanding that we think they should have about Christmas. In other words, since they don’t get Christmas like we do, they’re not worthy to share our Christmas joy. I might be a relative, it could even be how parents treat their kids. If only they would just grow up, then we wouldn’t have to teach them a lesson by being so condescending.

This behavior reverses the gospel. It abuses Christmas.

Jesus didn’t wait for people to get it before He came. He didn’t take on flesh because that’s where the glory was. Flesh is precisely not where the glory was. He came to redeem and restore fallen men, the very ones who didn’t get it. That’s the point of Christmas.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6)

In some ways, Christmas is the anti-holiday, at least as the Hallmark channel portrays it. The birth of Christ in Bethlehem was the anti- “everything is just right” moment that brings people together. We’re stressing to arrange all the details to be perfect. Jesus came because nothing was perfect, and He came in an inconvenient and unacknowledged way. And, of course, 2000 years or so later, we’re still talking about it.

We want to be with people when they get it. Jesus went to people because they didn’t. May your joy in Emmanuel come first, like a gift to your people, rather than held back like a wage that they must earn.

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I recently finished rereading Dante’s Paradiso, the third part of his poetic journey that starts with a tour through hell and ends up in the highest heaven. The whole epic is called The Divine Comedy because it has a happy ending, at least for those in heaven.

One part that stood out to me again is an explanation given by an occupant of the lowest part of heaven that Dante encountered, and, according to his celestial geography, the part furthest away from God’s throne. Dante asks if those in this circle are disappointed that they are not and cannot move closer. Here is the answer:

“If we desired to be higher up,
then our desires would not be
in accord with His will Who as-
signs us to this sphere;

Indeed, the essence of this
blessed state is to dwell here
within His holy will, so that
there is no will but one with His;

While I don’t think the distance imagery is accurate, this description of heavenly desire is gold. What is heaven? To have our wills match God’s will perfectly. Heaven is where we desire exactly what He desires, perfect contentment with the blessings of His will.

I enjoyed reading Dante’s imaginative effort about heaven while reading the apostle John’s inspired vision in Revelation 4 and 5. At the center of John’s sight is the throne, the place where the Lord God Almighty sits. The throne communicates His glory, and His authority. It is the place where He wills what happens.

Isn’t this exactly how we get into trouble? At best we are ignorant of His will, or we forget it, or we reject it. Of course that is misery, not joy. It is rebellion, not worship. It is hellish, not divine.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God

(Colossians 1:9–10)

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Recognizing our identity requires faith.

Many of the ladies in our church have been reading and discussing a book about identity. Being a woman is part of one’s identity (if you are a woman), as is being a man. Recognizing that difference does not require wisdom, though in our day it does require honesty and courage. Some are young, some are old, and God speaks to the different glories of each kind. We are not all the same part of the body, we do not all have the same spiritual gifts. These categories, and others, belong with who we believe ourselves to be as image-bearers of God and as disciples of Christ.

I mentioned a few months ago the difference between optimists and pessimists, not regarding world history per se, but regarding personal sanctification. I want to cover that ground again from a different angle because identifying ourselves correctly affects our hope.

Christian, are you a sinner or are you saint? Are you guilty before God or justified in Christ’s righteousness? Are you a conquerer, or are you a coward, a compromiser, a loser?

Here’s the giveaway: if you are asking those questions, the answer is obvious. If you are not asking those questions, there is an obvious problem.

If you struggle to identify as a saint, knowing that you sin and that you have to repent from sin and that you hate sin, then the Bible commands you to identify as “alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 5:11). This is not telling yourself a lie, it is the way you reckon with having died with Christ to sin. If you see that you are wretched, and long for full deliverance from sin (Romans 7:24), then you must acknowledge that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Are you weak, are you groaning, then you should know that in all these things you are more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37).

This is not trying to convince yourself of something to make it true, this is the life of believing what Christ said is true.

It’s those who say that they don’t have sin who God identifies as liars (1 John 1:10). So speak the truth, confess your sin, as overcomers of the world by faith that Jesus is the Son of God.

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The wise Preacher once observed a heavy and hideous scene.

“There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind: a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous evil.”

Ecclesiastes 6:1–2, ESV

Here is an illustration I’ve always appreciated. “God is the One who gives things, and God is the one who gives the power to enjoy things. These are distinct gifts…just as a can of peaches and a can-opener are distinct gifts” (Wilson, Joy at the End of the Tether). God could give a man a warehouse full of canned peaches, and get that man on the talk show circuit about his terrific warehouse management techniques, and it wouldn’t be enough.

Who knows how many things he has to be thankful for? Sounds, Scripture, salvation; food, family, friendship; life, liturgy, literature; ice cream, the Internet, ibuprofen; butter, bread, beauty; kids, congratulations, compassion; potatoes, promises, pies. These are all wondrous gifts, with whip cream on top, to mankind.

But there is one more gift that puts all of those gifts in place. One other gift that keeps us from serving the gifts as gods or from fearing that we will. The great gift is the power to give thanks. Gratitude itself is a grace. Not letting us think that we have gotten all these things by our own power (see Deuteronomy 8:17), but turning us to the God of generosity and abundant blessings is His own work in our hearts.

Give thanks to God who works and wills thankfulness in your hearts.

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I am not the first to register it, but I definitely want to repeat it: being a victim is a bad identity.

There are genuine victims. Some victims have been treated brutally. This is a world of sin, and sinners sin against others in wicked ways, and not always because the other person brought it on himself. Decisions are made that are unfair, contracts are broken, payments extorted, acts committed that really do damage others.

There are also bogus victims. Some victims have never been a situation that they couldn’t twist to find themselves into the victim’s role. It could have started with a small misperception turned into a federal case, it could be a complete misrepresentation of reality, a lie to cover your own conduct with a story that keeps throwing the bucket in the sympathy well. There are micro-aggression chasers, how-have-you-hurt-me-today journal keepers, and these demean real victims while doing no good for themselves.

Christians will be tested, reviled, beaten, lied about, discriminated against, and even killed. They will suffer, unjustly, and Jesus said: Don’t be surprised (1 Peter 4:12). Jesus also said: Rejoice (1 Peter 4:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:16; Philippians 4:4).

Jesus also became the ultimate sacrificial victim in order to give you a new name, a new identity. He laid down His life so that you could have life, not so that you could more accurately complain, with Bible references and everything.

If you are a true target of another’s sin, trust God. Repent from your sin, and obey. If you are tempted to blame your bad feelings on others, if you always see yourself as the Oppressed, if you find it easier to live by complaint than by faith with thanks, repent. Your identity is Whose you are, not what has been done to you.

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We’ve been talking at our house about how no one could have predicted that the two people doing the most for Christianity on a national level in our day are Donald Trump and Kanye West. They are not having influence for Christianity the same way; to talk about how the President’s influence works is another discussion. I’m also not bringing them up in a belief that influence must be national in order to be God-honoring and important. But this definitely seems to be an example of God drawing straight lines with crooked sticks.

Do you know who Kanye West is? Some don’t want anything to do with him, others attach to him for reasons that aren’t great, others reading this maybe really don’t recognize his name. He’s an A-list celebrity hip-hop artist, married to an A-list celebrity Kardashian. In his rap music Kayne used to celebrate all the sins that unbelievers exalt. But he’s changed his tune. A few months ago he professed that he became a Christian. His new album came out a couple weeks ago titled, “Jesus Is King,” and all ten songs made the Billboard top 100 list last week.

I wasn’t in to hip-hop, or Kayne before his profession of faith. If I was a single man I probably wouldn’t have heard any of his new album. But I keep seeing videos where Kanye keeps doing things that aren’t cool for no apparently good reason except for Christ.

He’s spoken out against abortion. He’s lamented the damaging effects of pornography. He’s described new convictions about how he wants his wife to dress more modestly. He’s explained that he loves his wife and kids, that he hopes to have more kids, that he thinks having kids is the greatest treasure. And when asked directly about the difference between his current life and not that long ago, he said that Jesus has caused him to wake up (also part of the previous video). He even wrote an ode to Chick-fil-A.

What should we do with all of that? We must give thanks, because God says to (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and it’s not actually that hard to find reasons. We can also pray for Kanye and his life as a new professing believer. But also, we should pray to be that sort of not ashamed of the gospel. Jesus is King. Kayne has been giving true, clear, and honoring testimony to Jesus. Even if, in the unlikely but possible worst case scenario, this gospel seed is on rocky soil or among thorns, and only grows for a short season, it’s still a challenge to those of us in good soil to bear the fruit of bold witness for our King.

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Some of us are reading Dante’s Inferno again, the first third of his epic poem, in which a poet leads a Christian pilgrim through hell. As Virgil and Dante enter and then prepare to cross the first river of the underworld, the Acheron, Dante sees thousands of the wicked packed along the shore waiting to cross the darkened waters.

“They were cursing God, cursing their own parents, the human race, the time, the place, the seed of their beginning, and their day of birth.” (Canto III, lines 101-103)

The souls are eager for their judgment, while also refusing to take responsibility for their souls. They rage against reality, against all the good gifts God gave them in family, in the fellowship of other men, of their very birth and breath and existence.

Mankind are rebels; sin is rebellion against the Maker of man. As rebels we prefer to imagine that we can reject what God gives and create life as we want it to be. Our current culture is willing to lie (in rage) about reality at insane levels. Mrs. Warren states that people will have jobs if we shut down sectors of business. Mr. Sanders (and his envious offspring) says that we can pay for everything and it will be free. Judges accept that boys are the best female athletes. It’s extreme, and extremely stupid.

But our job is not to point out the foolishness of others who lie if we still lie about less obvious things. Christians, in the grip of learning to obey all things Christ’ commanded, are still tempted to deny reality, to deny their own responsibility.

If we want Marysville to be a destination, with a reputation as those who love and honor Jesus as Lord, then we must continue to confess our own sins, whatever they are, as hard as that may seem, and not merely complain about the sins of others, as obvious and easy as that is. We must not become a destination for sin-pointers, sin-coverers, or sin-complainers. We must make repentance look good.

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