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The Blessing We All To Often Overlook… The Forgiveness of our Sin

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Devotional Thoughts for the Day:

Watch over this Temple day and night. You have promised that this is where you will be worshiped, so hear me when I face this Temple and pray. 21 Hear my prayers and the prayers of your people Israel when they face this place and pray. In your home in heaven hear us and forgive us. 2 Chronicles 6:20-21 GNT

because they have sinned against you and then when they turn to you and come to this Temple, humbly praying to you for forgiveness, 25 listen to them in heaven. Forgive the sins of your people 2 Chron 6:24-25 GNT

O LORD, listen to them in heaven and forgive the sins of your servants, the people of Israel, and teach them to do what is right. 2 Chron. 6:27 GNT

…listen to their prayers. If any of your people Israel, out of heartfelt sorrow, stretch out their hands in prayer toward this Temple, 30 hear their prayer. Listen to them in your home in heaven and forgive them. You alone know the thoughts of the human heart. Deal with each of us as we deserve, 31 so that your people may honor you and obey you, 2 Chron 6:29-31a

If there in that land they repent and pray to you, confessing how sinful and wicked they have been, hear their prayers, O LORD. 38 If in that land they truly and sincerely repent and pray to you as they face toward this land which you gave to our ancestors, this city which you have chosen, and this Temple which I have built for you, 39 then listen to their prayers. In your home in heaven hear them and be merciful to them and forgive all the sins of your people. 37b-39 GNT

8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us. 9 But if we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing. 1 John 1:8-9 GNT

So then, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you will be healed. The prayer of a good person has a powerful effect James 5:16 GNT

Thus Luther never thought of abolishing private confession. He knew and used its benefits in his own spiritual struggles, and he could not conceive of a Christian who could get along without it. He never designed an order of public confession, but in the Small Catechism he offered two forms of private confession.

Nevertheless I will allow no man to take private confession away from me, and I would not give it up for all the treasures in the world, since I know what comfort and strength it has given me. No one knows what it can do for him except one who has struggled often and long with the devil. Yea, the devil would have slain me long ago, if the confession had not sustained me. For there are many doubtful matters which a man cannot resolve or find the answer to by himself, and so he takes his brother aside and tells him his trouble. What harm is there if he humbles himself a little before his neighbor, puts himself to shame, looks for a word of comfort from him, accepts it, and believes it, as if he were hearing it from God himself, as we read in Matt. 18 [:19], “If two of you agree about anything they ask, it will be done for them.”

A lot of reading accompany this morning’s thoughts. Most of them from one chapter of 2 Chronicles 6. I broke the reading into segments for a reason, to highlight a concept over and over, to help us understand what a priority it holds in scripture, at the very dedication of the Temple, and the place it should hold in our lives.

I have yet to see a Christian church, whether Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox or Lutheran that doesn’t talk about confession at some point in the life of its people. But far too often, once mentioned, it disappears, and with it, the incredible gift of forgiveness, of being forgiven.

At the dedicaiton of the temple, time after time this pattern is seen, we pray, God hears, and forgives.

Not just once at conversion, not just as a rote practice and prayer as part of a worship service. But to confess in a way where we don’t just hear we are forgiven, we depend on it and base our lives on it..

But what if we struggle to believe? What if we hear these words and just can’t get our minds to accept that God forgave this sin that haunts me, that I cannot escape the feelings of guilt and shame about? That no matter how many times I pray in a church service, or on my own, or at the altar, I wonder if I am forgiven of it?

That is where what is called “private confession” or in other churches , “the ministry of reconciliation” comes into play. Confessing those sins to another believer, a pastor or priest who has been tasked by GOd and the church with comforting you, with providing to you the words of forgiveness, on the behalf of God himself. This is what James 5 speaks of, and promises (you can also check out JOhn 20 and Matthew 16 for other places where the church is given authority to forgive sins on God’s behalf)

Over the years as people have spoken of their sin, the most remarkable catharis takes place, as they see God break the hold that sin has on them. As they hear and experience that God has forgivenes them of the darkest sins, as God heals them and makes them whole, as He reminds them that they are His holy people. James doesn’t used “healed” for lack of a better word, it is truly what happens.

It is an incredible blessing, it is a most amazing thing to observe, this transformation that occurs.

Please my friends, don’t let the darkness of sin consume you, rather confess your sins, and find the Prodigal’s Father embracing you, and restoring your life with Him.

AMEN!

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 53: Liturgy and Hymns. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 53, p. 117). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 51: Sermons I. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 51, p. 98). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

The Battle of Our Lives: Knowing this

Devotional Thought of the Day:

21  So I find that this law is at work: when I want to do what is good, what is evil is the only choice I have. 22  My inner being delights in the law of God. 23  But I see a different law at work in my body—a law that fights against the law which my mind approves of. It makes me a prisoner to the law of sin which is at work in my body. 24  What an unhappy man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is taking me to death? 25  Thanks be to God, who does this through our Lord Jesus Christ! This, then, is my condition: on my own I can serve God’s law only with my mind, while my human nature serves the law of sin. 8:1  There is no condemnation now for those who live in union with Christ Jesus.
Romans 7:21-8:1 (TEV)

“The devil can devise the most extraordinary arguments: ‘You sinned. God is enraged against sinners. Therefore, despair!’ In this matter, it is necessary for us to proceed from the law to the gospel and grasp the article concerning the forgiveness of sins. You are not the only one, my brother, who has suffered such anguish. For Peter also admonishes us not to be surprised when the same suffering is required of us in the community of the brothers and sisters [1 Pet 4:12; 5:9]. Moses, David, Isaiah suffered much and often. What kind of anguish do you suppose David may have felt, when he composed the psalm, ‘O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, etc.’ [Ps 6:1]. He would much rather have died by the sword than experience these hard feelings against God and those of God against him.

At the end of a show I watched last night, a older priest looked a man in the idea, and told him he was heading to hell. The other charachter acknowledged this fact with a smile, as Jason Bull indicated he knew he had a suite reserved.

Oddly enough, the conversation was one of the most respectful I have ever seen dramatized. You might even say the dialogue was done in a very loving way.

As I read Luther’s words this morning, my mine recalled so many recent conversations about sin, and the grief it causes. The shame and guilt with which Satan and his minions try to crush our soul, The anguish that haunts us, and prevents us from finding the healing so easily available in Christ Jesus.

We have to grasp, and hold on to four our spiritual lives this doctrine of forgiveness, and the teaching of Christ’s mercy that so changes our very lives. We have to get past the sin, and let the law which convicts us drive us to our only hope, Jesus.

Sin isn’t something to hide, it is something to be treated.

It is not something you should fear telling your pastor or priest about but run to them, so they can tell you, that in Christ, you are not condemned. Rather you are reconciled to God, your relationship to Him restored, you are considered by Him to be innocent of sin, He declares this with all the love within Him, as He looks at you and I, His beloved children.

Knowing this, not just with our minds as a theological doctrine, but with our hearts and souls is the battle of our lives. To be convinced with every part of our lives that we are forgiven means we believe it, to the point where we can even forgive ourselves.

Then, we find ourselves dwelling in peace… a peace that is more than the absence of conflict but is the deepest, most unexplainable experience. An experience that occurs as we comprehend the dimensions of God’s love.

So my dear friend, confess your sins to God, and as you need, come to church and confess them, so you can hear the word that you are made new, for there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. AMEN



Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (pp. 16–17). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

C

Ministry Priorities: Do We Have Them Right?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

4  whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
Acts 6:4 (NAB)

22  So turn from youthful desires and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord with purity of heart. 23  Avoid foolish and ignorant debates, for you know that they breed quarrels. 24  A slave of the Lord should not quarrel, but should be gentle with everyone, able to teach, tolerant, 25  correcting opponents with kindness. It may be that God will grant them repentance that leads to knowledge of the truth, 26   and that they may return to their senses out of the devil’s snare, where they are entrapped by him, for his will. 2 Timothy 2:22-26 (NAB)

11  This saying is trustworthy: If we have died with him we shall also live with him; 12  if we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us. 13  If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself. 14   Remind people of these things and charge them before God to stop disputing about words. This serves no useful purpose since it harms those who listen. 15  Be eager to present yourself as acceptable to God, a workman who causes no disgrace, imparting the word of truth without deviation. 16  Avoid profane, idle talk, for such people will become more and more godless, 2 Timothy 2:11-16 (NAB)

I’ve been going through Acts for about 7 months with one of the Bible Studies I teach.  And so as devotional reading got to Acts, I sort of went into glide mode.  Got this, know these words well. Then, as I got to Acts 6 – the passage that gives birth to the ecclesiastical office of deacon, the first quote above hit me between the eyes.

I need to rethink some of my ministry, and especially my priorities. 

We shall devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of word…..

But do we?  

There is no doubt I need to pray more, times of dedicated prayer and in times of just enjoying life as God and I walk together, times as well where the family of God breaks out in prayer.

But what about the ministry of the word?  It is important I think to understand that this is not talking about careful exegesis, or studying the logic and reason to use it to argue and divide.  The ministry of the word is not using it to divide the believer and unbeliever, to prove the who is orthodox and who is heretical.  The ministry of the word is the ministry of reconciliation.

That is why Paul urges tolerance and gentleness in our teaching, that through these words, people can be called to dance with God, to live with Him. 

This is our work, and it is why prayer must be so much a part of our ministry.  For only from growing in our dependence on God, can we understand and commit to His will, to see all come to deliverance.

I need to clarify what I mean by this is our work, our vocation. I am not talking that it is our job as if we work 10-12 hours and then we go off duty.

This is our life work, this ministry of the word, this ministry of reconciliation.  And what we do in our free time is just as much part and parcel of that work as our time in the office, at the pulpit, or beside the hospital bed. So if we blog, or podcast, it must be the goal of that work.  If we are out having a beer, this ministry is still our work, if we are meeting with other ministers, this call to reconciled, to be reconciled to God still is our life.

So let us lay aside the sin, and all other things that hinder this, and let us look to our Lord Jesus, who reconciled us to Himself at the cross – and may we live with Him, praying and ministering at His side.

AMEN

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