Lord's Day Liturgy

Get It Right

This week we will finish our short Confession 101 series. We’ve been reminded that sin is bad, everyone sins, no one else makes us sin, and that my sin is worst. Lesson #5 is that we must confess our sin to whomever we’ve sinned against.

That means that confession of sin always includes confession to God. God defines sin and disciplines sin. He is the One with whom we have to do. David once wrote, “against You, You only, have I sinned.” What David meant was that, by comparison, the stink of adultery and murder on earth didn’t compare to the stench of his offense against God in heaven. Every disobedient attitude and act is disobedience to God’s standard. We must confess our sin to Him and seek His forgiveness.

We do that at least once a week on the Lord’s day. Confession of sin to God is a regular part of our worship liturgy. But this isn’t Las Vegas. What happens here isn’t meant to stay here. We are learning to confess sin so that we would confess sin whenever we sin and to whomever we sin against. Sunday morning confession is more than practice, it is a pattern for all of our lives.

Bitterness toward your wife requires that at least two relationships be reconciled, both the vertical and the horizontal.[1] Disrespect toward your boss requires at least two responses. Disobedience to parents requires at least two requests. Confess to whomever you sinned against, God and men.

We ought not to think that the gospel heals relationships in theory. Forgiveness is not an hypothesis, it is promised by the Father, purchased by the Son, and proven by the Spirit. If you blow up at your spouse and confess it to God later on in your quiet time, that’s good and you’re not done. The gospel enables us to get right with God and get it right with one another.

Requesting and receiving forgiveness from men can’t save us, but it is the habit of those who are saved. We must confess our sin to whomever we’ve sinned against.

[1] It’s almost impossible to reconcile the multitude of theologically precise Christians, the kind who always make sure to cross the t in total depravity, who have never actually asked their spouse to forgive them.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Second to None

We’ve gone over three of five lessons in our exhortation series titled Confession 101. First, sin is bad. Second, we all sin. And third, no one else makes us sin. Today we come to lesson number four: my sin is worst.

Because we live with and around other sinners and because we beat the confession drum around here at least once a week, we have to be creative in coming up with strategies to keep ourselves above others. One such strategy is to acknowledge that we sin, even to acknowledge that no one makes us sin, and yet to believe that our sin just isn’t quite as bad as the other person’s. This betrays the wrong perspective.

When we approach God to confess our sin by reminding Him, or just thinking to ourselves, that at least we’re not as angry as him or as gossipy as her, we’re still thinking about the wrong person. We should be thinking about whom? God. He is perfect in holiness. He is the standard, not someone else. We are to approach Him in humility, which isn’t happening if we’re still lifting ourselves over someone else.

To say that my sin is worst is not to say that it is categorically worse than Hitler’s sin. But I don’t have to deal with Hitler’s sin in my heart, I have to deal with mine. I can’t judge someone else before dealing with my own heart, so that makes mine sequentially worse, if not actually worse.

Paul exclaimed, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24), not “Wretched man that I am! But have you considered my cousin?” Paul declared that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15), not “Christ came into the world to save sinners, and I sure hope you are paying attention.”

My sin is worst, so I need to confess my sin first, second to none. Imagine how well we’d all get along if we raced to be that sort of ruthlessly humble about our own sin.

Lord's Day Liturgy

In the Bag

We are half-way into a short series of confession exhortations under the banner of Confession 101. The first two lessons were that one, sin is bad, and two, we all sin. The third reminder is that no one makes us sin.

This is easy to believe right up until we sin. In the heat of disobedience every heart goes looking for the escape hatch. Since we learned that everyone sins, that means that you sin too, in fact, it must be your sin that caused me to sin. Another man’s sin, however, is never the cause of my sin.

You may have sinned or you may not have but, even if you did, the most you could do is give me an opportunity to sin. You are not the boss of my soul and I cannot throw you under the confession bus for my sinful response.

Nothing outside a man ruins him. This truth is stated by Jesus in Mark 7:20-23.

What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person. (Mark 7:20–23, ESV)

Everything we need to make a mess we already have. The hot water doesn’t determine the taste of the tea, it just pulls out what was already in the bag.

Adam was the first contestant to play the blame game. When confronted on his disobedience, he blamed the woman and ultimately God Himself. “The woman You gave me…it was her fault.” When we apologize for sinning because someone else sinned first, we are still trying to make ourselves look better.

If a man couldn’t help sinning when another person sinned against him then we could never be saved. All kinds of people sinned against Jesus and yet He never sinned back. That’s good news since we needed a perfect substitute. We might be tempted to say, “Yeah, but He’s God.” True, and it’s God’s plan to make us like Him. We’re called to walk in Christ’s steps, which includes confessing that no one else makes us not.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Confession Ex Nihilo

Last week we began a short series called Confession 101. Lesson #1 was, and is, that sin is bad. Sin blinds and rots and kills. Sin is bad.

Lesson #2 is: we all sin. Not only is sin destructive, it destroys every son of Adam and daughter of Eve. The apostle Paul wrote that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We sin by transgressing, by crossing lines that God said not to cross. “Don’t lie.” We also sin by missing the mark, by failing to live up to other lines. “Love God with all your heart.” We all sin, both ways.

The apostle John wrote that “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Any claim to be sinless is senseless. Additionally, “If we say we have not sinned, we make [God] a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:10). Believing lies may seem foolish, but saying that God lies is foul, heaping sin upon sin.

We all sin. This is not only the pronouncement of an evangelist, but also of a worship leader. John addresses his readers as “little children” and acknowledges that while we ought not to sin, “if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:2). We all sin, Christians too.

Our weekly time of confession is not a conscience goose chase, it is not confession ex nihilo, confession out of nothing; we each have plenty of material to work with. As Christians, we’re in even more trouble when we think we have not sinned. The Advocate works on behalf of guilty people who make the plea for forgiveness. That’s good news, because we all sin.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Confession 101

It may or may not be obvious to those who attend our church, but the exhortation during the corporate confession part of our Lord’s day liturgy usually connects to some thread or theme from the sermon to follow. Why plow two fields when one field plowed twice might be more fruitful? That said, I have a few ideas for smaller, separate confession “series,” and this past Sunday I started a four-parter titled “Confession 101.”

The first lesson in Confession 101 is that sin is bad. Here are four reminders why.

First, sin separates man from God and, by consequence, from one another. No relationship can survive sin unchecked. Sin relentlessly pounds a wedge between persons. We cannot be close to our spouse, our kids, other Christians, or to God if sin reinforces her fences.

Second, sin blinds men from truth. Sin suffocates men with darkness; they cannot see the light because the eyes of their hearts misbehave. Sin scars the spiritual organ intended for insight with ignorance. We cannot be free from slavery to lies if sin be the tyrant.

Third, sin deceives men about reality. Not only are men blind, sin convinces them that they can see better. They have no need for a physician’s help because they believe themselves to be in excellent shape. Sin imagines substance out of shadows. We cannot be safe if sin confines men within her distortion field.

Fourth, sin kills men. It destroys the soul, spoiling a man’s today and stealing his tomorrow. Sin drives a man to work for a paycheck of death. We cannot live, now or eternally, if sin’s poisoning of the heart isn’t cured by Christ.

As Christians, we know that in Christ, on one hand, we are already dead to sin and that, with the other hand, Christ requires us to kill sin. Sin is bad. Don’t make a sandwich for sin and sit down to enjoy a picnic together (Romans 13:14). Either we will kill it or it will kill us. Let’s begin by confessing our sin to God.