REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.
Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 44: Conciliatory confession.
Looking at God [as we saw last week in adoration] often throws our own lives into stark relief. There is much to be ashamed of- much to repent of and confess. But as we bring our sins to God, we have the great assurance of forgiveness because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross. It is therefore not morbid introspection that we engage in, but realistic self-examination [David Hewetson in Christianity made Simple p.130/1].
The closer we get to God, as we meditate on Scripture and pray, the more we will be shown up by His holiness and grandeur. Satan delights in reminding us of our failures and insinuates that God could not possibly be interested in pardoning us. But we defeat Satan when we humbly confess our sins. Our gracious Father wants to correct us, and while this may be painful at the time, will always be for our joy. Repentance is far more than the regret of being found out or the remorse of failure. Though including both, repentance leads us back into restored and renewed relationship with God [and others]. The apostle Paul expresses it like this: Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death [2 Corinthians 10:10].
Forgiveness takes us to the heart of God’s grace and into the heart of Jesus. Jesus not only provided the just means of forgiveness at the Cross [Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 2:1-2] but an example of forgiveness for us to follow in our relationships [Luke 23:34; Ephesians 4:32]. The transforming power of forgiveness and the tragedy of a refusal to forgive, are starkly contrasted in the parable of the prodigal, where the elder brothers refusal to forgive, brings great sadness to their father [Luke 15:28-32]. So serious is this that our Lord teaches us that unrepented-of unforgiveness, will disqualify us from receiving God’s forgiveness [Matthew 6:11-12 and 14-16].
Though God’s forgiveness cannot be earnt it must be received through confession [which includes hearty repentance to God and trust in Jesus]. We see this in the prodigals recognition of his sin against both God and his father [Luke 15:17-20] and return [in repentance] to his father. C S Lewis reminds us that mere time does nothing either to the fact or the guilt of sin. The guilt is washed out not by time but by repentance and the blood of Christ.
What has this got to do with the pandemic? A couple of thoughts. There are those who resent being told what to do by the authorities. In our reaction we can so easily sin in either of two directions: become self-righteous or to join in their rebellion. We react by submitting to, and honouring our earthly rulers [Rom 13:1-7] and praying for them [1 Tim 2:1-7], since this is a way of using our freedom as a testimony and act of love for others [1 Pet 2:13-17].
The pandemic may well prove to be a time of reflection for some [this is certainly my prayer for my fellows, especially un- believers]. This means we ought to be ready to share the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, especially if asked [1 Peter 3:15]. We need to be ready so that we can share our real hope, who is Jesus, and not conveyors of false hopes like, ‘O you’re a good bloke’ or ‘everyone who is sincere will go to Heaven’. We will have failed the love test, if we fall into this awful sentimentality. Rather we must be as loving as Jesus was when He spoke to people about the main sin that must be repented of. To the friends of those massacred by Pilate and the acquaintances of those killed when the tower fell on them, He said: I tell you [they were not worse sinners than you who survived], but unless you repent, you too will all perish [Lk 13:1-5]. In the previous chapter Jesus, lovingly gives us all the most needed and important reality check: He said: I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell [Lk 12:4-5]. Here is our royal priesthood of all believers ministry [1 Pet 2:4-10]: praying for the conversion of others and commending our gracious Saviour’s deep love in our words and lifestyle [2:11-12].
These Bible verses, set before us in the Prayer Book, are a great encouragement to confess our sins:
To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness; though we have rebelled against Him, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by following His laws which He set before us [Daniel 9:9-10].
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness [1 John 1:8-9]
God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life [John 3:16].
The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners [1 Tim 1:15].
Peter Brain 6th October, 2020