Confession


And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the roster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.

Mark 14: 30, 31

This is a very familiar story, and most of us are probably aware of this time when Peter spoke out of his impulsiveness and in his passion. Of course, he was not able to follow through and stick with Jesus through the Lord’s arrest and trials. Just as certainly, Jesus was exactly right in foretelling how it would all take place. Peter made promises that he could not keep, and he entered into commitments that he would not fulfill. So do I, and in all probability, so do most of you, too. This is our nature as humans. We say things that are not well thought through, and we fail to stick to the course when that path becomes too hard for us to handle. Like Peter, we attempt to go through life operating out of our passions with promises too easily given and without the resources to do what we swear that we will do.

Peter had available to him everything that he would have needed to remain strong, faithful, and true to his word, but he didn’t yet realize that it was so. Peter was standing in the presence of God in human form. He was serving Jesus, and Jesus was generous with gifts of courage and strength that exceeded anything that people could summon up from within their own resources. Still, Peter decided to do it all in his own power and out of his considerably more limited capability and capacity. When I look at Peter, I see myself. I see a stubborn unwillingness to admit when I am frightened by the situation at hand. Peter provides me with a look into a heart that is like mine in that it is uncertain and not willing to admit those areas of doubt in public for fear of looking less than competent and capable. In Peter’s story of gross failure, I see an example of the sort of thing that I have experienced in many settings over most of the years of my life.

So, in this same story, I also see something that gives me great hope, for Peter is not left to suffer in his failure and to live out his days in the misery that he was feeling in these hours right after Jesus was arrested and he refused to acknowledge that he even knew the Lord much less that he traveled with Him and served Him. Jesus sought out Peter, and He brought grace and redemption to the fallen disciple. Christ granted forgiveness to Peter, and then the Lord commissioned Peter into service to Him and in the newly formed Kingdom of God now established on earth in the form of Christ’s church. The setting is not as dramatic as was the one by the seashore when Jesus interacted with Peter, but the result has been the same for me, and this story of redemption and purpose are repeated continually in the lives of other people too. Jesus grants infinite grace to His stubborn, overpromising, and fallen sheep. His love and mercy are unceasing despite all that we might do or fail to follow through with. So, it is important to remember that when I fail, and I know that I will again and again, Jesus is ready to pour out forgiveness on my spirit as He is also there to send me out again into service to His Kingdom.  

Advertisements

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

John 4: 25, 26

It is very likely that you have known someone who acted as if they did truly know it all. This is the sort of claim that is very hard to sustain. Most people who act as if this were true for themselves are portraying a form of arrogance that is often mixed with some strong internal doubts. I would guess that this Samaritan woman had encountered a few people during her life-time who had acted in this manner, but this encounter with the Jewish stranger was different. He knew things about her that were not His to know, and He spoke with a form of authority that pierced through her protective outer shields in a way that allowed His words to penetrate to the center of her heart. This man knew her in a way that was both terrifying and exhilarating. A simple and routine action of going out to the community well to draw water had become the point at which her entire life was being transformed.

This woman had encountered a very practical and direct form of knowledge that Jesus had regarding her, for He knew all about the rather sordid and difficult life that she had lived up until this time. He both knew and understood why she was out at that well when no one else from her community was there. Jesus understood the hurt and the pain that filled her days as He also recognized her heart’s yearning for salvation from the burden that she carried with her every moment of her life. Jesus was fully aware of the woman’s story without her needing to say anything, and He had answers for the real questions that her heart was asking. This Jesus who just happened to be waiting at a particular well at a time of day when most people would have been indoors was seeking after this individual because He was attuned to the deep longing of her spirit. The Christ came to her just as He is continually seeking after all people.

Jesus does know all. He, as God, sees everything that we think, say, and do, and in an even more powerful demonstration of His complete knowledge and understanding, Christ is aware of the condition and the intentions of our hearts. He comprehends the pain and the hurt that we experience deep inside of our being, and He has the answers for us that will bring about true and lasting healing for those wounds and for the struggles that come about in life because of them. Most importantly, Jesus is the answer to the greatest questions that exists in all people’s lives, which are those of my own identity, my value and worth, and my purpose in being here. Jesus takes everyone who responds to His offer of answers into the presence of our Creator, God Himself, and Christ then opens our minds and our hearts to hearing the truth about all of these vital questions. Jesus comes seeking after everyone on earth, He waits for us at our own well of questioning, and He answers all of the doubts and fears that we may possess with His unfailing comprehension, grace, and love.     

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

2 Corinthians 3: 17

Freedom is not always easy to accept, and living in its fullest expression is even more challenging for most people. The challenge of freedom might be found, in part, in the fact that everyone is born into its opposite state. That is, we all come into this world enslaved to sin and owned by Satan. That is hard to envision when a baby is new born, but after a few months and certainly by the age of two or so, the self-centered and often uncontrollably angry person that is inside the cute beauty of the baby begins to demonstrate itself in mighty outbursts and unceasing demands for her or his way. As adults we care for and love these little ones regardless of how they might be acting, and in time, they mature and learn to control and to moderate their expressions of want and need. They also grow into people who can give love and provide guidance to others who are not as far along in their developmental journey.

The Lord does much the same sort of thing with us. We are born sinners, and we stay in that state of deadness and remain separated from God’s full presence until we relent to Christ’s unceasing pursuit of us and surrender our being to Him. When this happens, something far greater than simple membership is given to us, for we are not just granted access to an eternal existence with Christ in Heaven, great as that gift is, in fact, but we are also given the gift of the presence of the Spirit within us from that moment of acceptance onward. We are set free from that state of enslavement to Satan that was our form of being from birth. However, most of us are challenged by what it actually means to live in the complete and total expression of that freedom. It is a state of being that we do not know how to enjoy and that we are not yet mature enough in Christ to grasp onto and to live out in all aspects of our lives.

That is where the presence of the Spirit within us becomes especially important, for He provides love, care, support, guidance, and discipline to our still formative new selves in Christ. The Spirit takes us into God’s Word and provides us with understanding of its meaning and with the wisdom to apply those truths to the situations and circumstances that we encounter in life. The Spirit provides us with a form of strength that is deeper and more durable than anything that we have been able to develop on our own, and He also brings the power of eternity to bear upon the obstacles and challenges that we face as we seek to follow Christ’s calling for us. Over time we are grown up and matured by the Spirit in our ability to dwell more and more fully in the way of Christ. This growth process is accelerated as we yield to the Spirit and surrender ourselves ever more fully to His work within us. So, as we become ever more Christ-like in the ways that we think, speak, and act, we gain freedom, and freedom finds its expression in an increase in our faith in the working of Christ is our world and in the expressions of the presence of the Spirit through the full exercise of the spiritual gifts that we have been given by God. 

And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

1 John 5: 11, 12

A great trial is underway in our world. Evidence is offered up and presented on a regular basis, and the jury is soaking it in as it is set forth. Perhaps the greatest difference from this trial and those that we are most familiar with is the fact that this jury is not comprised of a set number of people who hear all of the testimony before rendering a singular verdict. This jury is populated with an ever changing group of people and their number is enormous. Although the stated object of the trial might be faith in Jesus; so, Jesus is on trial, the lives that are really on the line as they will be subject to the life or death outcome of the adjudication that is on view are all of the participants in the jury itself. They see the evidence, and each of them is placed in the position of making a decision, of rendering a verdict, that either accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior or that rejects Him.

 Those of us who know Christ are placed in the position of being living witnesses to the life that we have been granted in Christ. Our testimony is fleshed out and placed on view for the jury to consider in the form of the lives that we live as a result of the presence of Christ in us. The transformative work that Christ does in our hearts and minds presents a powerful expression of the grace, mercy, and love that God pours out upon His Creation and that Christ grants to each of us in His Spirit. All that we speak and do is seen by the world around us, and it is evaluated as either legitimate evidence of the effectiveness and the truth of the claim that Christ is the singular answer to the question of life or death, or it is rejected as fabrication or self-deception. The credibility of us as witnesses is primarily determined by the sincerity of our faith in Christ.

We can do nothing about the receptivity of others. These witnesses will evaluate and think about what they see with various forms of personal filters in place. Some will remain skeptical and unbelieving for the full term of their lives, others will turn away from unbelief and enter into a relationship with Christ in a moment, while still others will contemplate and consider what they have seen for a long while before rendering their final verdict. The only aspect of this courtroom drama that we do get to control is found in the way that we live and the consistency of the testimony that we give to the unfailing love that Christ provides to us. As followers of Christ, our lives are on view by this large array of jurors, and our testimony is heard over and over again throughout the course of our days. During each of those days there will be members of that jury who will render a verdict for themselves by choosing life in Christ or death without Him.   

Therefor whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.

Luke 12: 3

Keeping something secret requires a lot of effort, but people are willing to put forth that amount of work when the stakes are high enough. This is the way that we are wired, and it is the manner in which we often engage in the business of life. There are aspects of our days that we just do not want people or God to know about. We all operate like this, for there are things that go on in each and every one of our minds that we would not want our mothers or our Lord to be aware of. Yet, when we look at the ways of our world with objective clarity, those moms do know most of what we are trying to keep obscured, and God is fully in the know about every thought that passes through our brains. There is no hiding the darkness of our souls or the meanness in our hearts from the One who made us and who loves each of us to the point of death and beyond.

Christ does not bring the hidden aspects of our hearts and minds into view in order to shame, humiliate, or defeat us. His desire is to have each person on earth come into a realization of our need for Him as our Savior and our Lord. Christ wants us to live in an open and a truth-filled manner so that the light of God’s wisdom, grace, justice, and peace are poured out into the darkness of the world by us as we live out our days in service to our Lord. So, the revealing that Christ does is restorative and healing in its nature. He never exposes our sin and shame in order to stand over us as superior or to bury us in the impossibility of our transgressions against His holiness. Instead, Christ brings our dark aspects into the light of His righteousness in order to touch the wounded places that are beneath them with His balm of redemption and His healing salve of grace and mercy.

We can live out our days in fear of Christ’s promise of revelation. This approach to life requires constant effort and extraordinary vigilance to maintain the concealment, and a remarkable amount of energy is consumed in just attempting to hold in place the façade of wholeness and the appearance of holiness that we have fabricated for the world to see. The alternative to continuing to live with all of our deep selves hidden from sight but impacting what we think, say, and do is to yield it all to Christ. In doing this we are called upon by our Lord to repent of all that we have been holding onto, for this process of grasping tightly to the darkest aspects of our beings reflects the ways that we have not entered fully into trusting Christ. As we repent of that which we have been attempting to conceal, God asks us to grant the Spirit access to the recesses of our inner being so that His grace can enter into those caverns of pain and begin to transform their hard edges into the polished marble that forms the chambers of a redeemed heart. So, Christ’s revelation may be painful and even fearful for us to consider, but stepping out in faith into its light brings relief from pain and peace to the heart. 

Open to me the gates of righteousness,

   that I may enter through them

   and give thanks to the LORD.

Psalm 118: 19

When this psalm was written, this was a real place, and it was the portal through which people could go into the temple in Jerusalem as they came together to worship God. The righteous were people who God had selected and designated as His own; so, these were primarily those who were born Jewish. The fact that there are people who God sees as righteous and as thus having a special right to stand before Him in worship is still true today, but the place where they are to gather for this purpose and the fundamental nature of who they are and of how they obtained this right has been altered significantly by God. Now there is no specified building to come to, no human constructed portal to pass through, and access to God is granted to people of every nationality, race, gender, family origin, religious background, and societal position. Today there is truly no Jew or gentile in the fullest sense of what that expression means.

Each of us decides to accept what is offered by to us by God. That is, Christ seeks after people without regard to any of the distinguishing or separating factors that humans hold as barriers to engaging in relationships; then, it is up to each of us to accept the gift of salvation and relationship with God that the Lord is placing before us. In Christ, we have the Spirit in and with us. He is our entry into the contemporary version of those historic gates of righteousness. The presence of Christ also seems to bring about a desire to go thorough those gates on a very regular basis, for my heart wants to express the strong feelings that I have about and for the Lord. Yet, there is something challenging and even, at times, troubling about going to this place of worship with its call to be open, honest, and sincere about all that is taking place inside of my mind, in the deep places of my heart, and by the actions of my hands. 

These same gates of worship that are a portal for entering into personal and corporate expressions of joy and thanksgiving are also an opening to a safe place where each of us can enter into repentance and grieve over all of the harm that we have caused to others and the sorrow that our sinfulness has brought to the Lord. Repentance and joy, grief and salvation; these are all of equal importance and are each granted the time and the space needed for their full expression when we pass through those holy gates. Christ is our true High Priest, and He ministers to each of our needs in a way that leads us deeper into healing for all that is damaged or lost within our hearts and minds. The Lord calls us into His presence as individuals and as His gathered body. He provides us with the freedom that we need to express our thoughts and emotions in a manner that fits with how He has designed and constructed us as He leads us through those gates and into the courts of His temple of praise where joyous thanksgiving choruses are sung throughout every hour of each day.     

He also told them a parable, “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?”

Luke 6: 39

Although Jesus is talking about the very common human problem of judging others while remaining oblivious to one’s own sinful thoughts and actions, He is also speaking about a part of the way that God would have us change that way of life. You see, even Jesus needed to be under the influence and the guidance of a teacher. In His case, when He was living as a human on earth, He turned to the Father on many occasions for wisdom, guidance, strength, and encouragement. Jesus was Himself a man of prayer, and the numerous prayers that Scripture records are certainly nothing more than examples of the many others that were spoken or thought during the course of everyday life. In turn, Jesus taught His followers on any and all topics that related to living and to conducting those lives in a manner that was righteous, just, and that brought glory to God. In so teaching His followers, Jesus, in turn, instructed them by example and in words in how to teach others along the same lines as He did.

This process of sharing the truths contained in God’s Word with others has continued throughout time and is still present today. Additionally, Jesus’ pattern of going to God in prayer as a part of being instructed and informed about God’s will and the intricacies of His way of living remains critically important still. On our own, all of us are blind, and we also tend to function like the beggars in Jesus’ day did in that we are dependent upon others for all that we need to survive the day, and we are unable to access the bounty of wisdom and truth that God provides to us to feast upon during our journey through this world. Without instruction and guidance, we are left standing on a street corner crying out for bread when God’s grace has placed a banquet’s worth of provision a short distance from where we are standing in helpless distress. Additionally, if we are not trusting Christ to provide the proper words of instruction and guidance for us to share with others, we are not entering into the fullest aspects of growing more mature in our faith by reaching out to engage in the lives of others.

In order to stop living in the darkness of being blind, we need to be aware of our foolishness, lack of wisdom, and need for guidance and then repent of the sinful attitudes and self-oriented ideas that have caused this condition to continue. Christ will grant us grace and mercy for all that we have done that is contrary to God’s will, and His Spirit will work in our heart and minds to reshape and transform each of us into a person who can see clearly and who is also equipped to guide others into the light of the Lord’s truth. Sadly, the world where we live has more dark corners than it does places where the light of God’s glory prevails; yet, it does not need to remain like this. When people who know Christ choose to actively seek His wisdom as guidance for all that we think, say, and do, we bring God’s clarity into those obscured places, and as we turn toward others and offer them Christ’s grace and love while also leading them to the eternal wisdom of God’s Word, we help to amplify the brightness of that heavenly radiance in our corner of the world.   

Next Page »