Slow Down and Enjoy Life!

June 14, 2017 at 9:46 am | Posted in Books and Movies, Devotional thoughts, Grace and Faith, Prayer | 1 Comment

I’ve often said that as Americans we are way too busy.  It only seems to get worse as time goes on.  Each time saving device we add to our collection only serves to make us busier, as we try to accomplish more and more.  I read the following today, and thought it was worth the time to share.  It’s  from an interview with Jennie Allen, author of Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard

I think most of us are running on this treadmill that we don’t even realize is happening, we don’t even realize it’s turned on.

We’re just running every day.  I think we notice it most when we’re still, but the problem is even when we’re still, we have a phone pinging us or even just distracting us and causing us to check out rather than self-diagnose or self analyze what’s happening.

.  .  .  even when I was alone with God or just alone, I was performing and executing things that I needed to get done.  So because my job is largely talking about God and teaching and writing, whenever I was alone with God I was getting the next thing ready that I was going to deliver rather than actually just enjoying his presence.

So I think what’s happened is everything has become a performance or something to achieve rather than something to enjoy.  .  .  .  I feel like as Americans and as young people today that we’re all trying to prove ourselves and we’re exhausted and we’re actually not enjoying the best parts of life.

The entire article can be read here.

Slow down!  Take some time to enjoy God and family.  It’s healthy physically, mentally and spiritually!

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Great Biographies

June 5, 2017 at 5:39 pm | Posted in Books and Movies, Grace and Faith, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On Sunday I encouraged our congregation to increase their faith by reading biographies of men and women God has used in mighty ways, and then I mentioned a few that have had an impact on me.  I was asked to repeat that list.  So here are the ones I mentioned Sunday.

You can read my post from a few years ago called “Ten Influential Books” here.  It lists most of these with a few comments about them.

Through Gates of Splendor by Elizabeth Elliot is the story of Jim Elliot and four other men who were martyred taking the gospel to a tribe in South America.  George Muller, Man of Faith and Miracles by Basil Miller is the story of a man who built a huge orphanage on nothing but trust in God.  I’ve read three biographies of William Tyndale, who is my hero in Church history.  The best was the longest one by David Daniell.  Finally, I have recently read Saving My Assassin by Virginia Prodan, a powerful story of one woman’s life in communist Romania.

Happy reading.

Cell Phones and Fast Horses

April 16, 2015 at 12:17 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Grace and Faith, Personal Testimony | Leave a comment

I wrote this story over ten years ago and ran across it while looking for another old file in my archives.  The lesson is just as timely today as it was then.

Cathy and I attended a Pastor’s Getaway at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs.  We were refreshed, albeit suffering from input overload, the feeling one friend of mine called “getting a sip of water from a fire hydrant.”  We were then to have a few days vacation before returning home.  Earlier that day, I had been thinking about what one lesson God wanted me to take from the conference, or at least what one lesson, of numerous ones written down, he would have me ponder while on vacation..

Driving north to Denver, we were to have Sunday dinner with some seminary friends.  It was heavy traffic — the kind where driving the speed limit is almost impossible, because there are only two lanes — the right lane traveling below the posted speed and the left lane moving significantly faster.  A person in the right lane, who wanted to pass the vehicle in front, had a hard time moving left to do so.

There was a slow-moving, big truck in front of me.  When I finally managed to get into the left lane to pass, I noticed there was another slow truck about a quarter mile ahead.  I didn’t want to get trapped between them, so I increased my speed and stayed in the left lane.

That’s when I first saw him in my rearview mirror; he jumped into the right lane to pass the cars behind me.  I just knew he intended on passing me and cutting me off before I caught up with the truck on the right.  Instead, he cut off the car behind me and rode my bumper, until I passed the second truck and moved over, then he sped passed me on my left.  As he passed, I noticed one of his hands on the steering wheel, the other pressed a cell phone to his ear, and he seemed to be reading something on the passenger seat.  Immediately I thought, “Now, there’s an accident waiting to happen.”

It occurred to me that the cell-phone driver typified so many people in our society, always moving full speed ahead, juggling more responsibilities, tasks and adventures than one can safely manage.  Most of our lives rush on so full of activities that we are accidents just waiting to happen.  We are caught in a busyness trap, and someday it will come crashing down.  One of the breakout sessions from the conference came clearly to mind.  We had discussed Isaiah 30:15-18 and the necessity to slow down in rest and quietness rather than flee on swift horses in so many different directions.  The cell-phone driver is the perfect picture of a man on his fast horses.  I laughed at myself, because I saw my life portrayed in his driving.

I could see we were going to arrive at our destination with plenty of time to spare, so I decided to relax my pace and stay in the right lane.

A few miles later, traffic slowed to a crawl.  I could see the vehicles on the left merging into my lane, and I wondered if the cell-phone driver had an accident.  Sure enough, there was an accident ahead, but as I got closer, I saw it wasn’t the man with the cell phone.  However, I recognized one of the vehicles: a pick-up pulling a four-wheeler on a trailer that had passed me right about the moment I decided to slow down and stay in the right lane.  Had I not been reminded to slow down, I may have been the one in the accident.

God’s protection on our trip and the lessons for driving are obvious, but I hope I can also learn a lesson for life.  God reminds us that our strength is in repentance, rest, quietness and trust.  It is not found in fast driving, cell-phones and busyness; these are the things Isaiah would call “fast horses.”  It’s not from driving in the fast lane that God calls us; it is from living in the fast lane that he invites us to quietness and rest.  I have to ask if I am living life in the fast lane, if I am an accident waiting to happen.  Am I getting the necessary quiet time with the Lord which offers strength in and salvation from the rat race?  I hope memories of the cell-phone driver will remind me to slow down in quietness and rest.

The Lord Will Keep Your Life: Memories of 1990 and 1991 (part 2)

June 24, 2013 at 4:23 pm | Posted in Grace and Faith, Personal Testimony | 4 Comments

On Monday, January 7, 1991, I wrote these words in my journal:  “Maybe the emotional roller coaster ride is over for a little while anyway.  The foreseeable future looks ‘normal’ as far as I can see.”  (To see part one of this post, click here)  Little did I know the ride was just beginning!  About one week after I wrote that entry everything in our little mission’s mother church began to unravel.  The United States went to war in Iraq on January 16, but it seemed in my soul that the biggest war was in our mother church, and I was drug into it.

There were many complaints about the leadership brewing, and that week many of them were brought to me.  The complaints were valid, but regretfully, I didn’t send those people to the source of their complaint.  When the church called a meeting to voice concerns and to explore possible solutions, I was asked by people on both sides of the issues to come as a “neutral observer.”  Due to the complaints I received, I may not have been neutral, but I did attend anyway.  Some suggestions involving me were put on the table, but in reality the meeting didn’t accomplish anything, and as the weeks progressed, I was thrust into the middle of the storm.  I was considered by some to be the problem and by others to be the solution.  I had recently read Frank Peretti’s Darkness books, which were very popular at the time, and at one point I wrote in my journal:  “I feel like a character in Piercing the Darkness.  I can’t see what’s going on in the spiritual realm, but am caught in the middle of it.  It appears that my destiny and ministry are in the hands of other people, and some, maybe even all, of them are not seeking the Lord.  My sight is limited, but God is sovereign; this is my confidence through this unsettling experience.”

The situation got ugly at times, and though I usually wasn’t in on the ugly meetings, I was lied to and lied about on some occasions, even by those considered to be spiritual leaders.  Looking back, it is easy to see how people believed what they did.  It was certainly unintentional lies, like bad assumptions or rumors thought to be true, but it hurt nonetheless.  I probably didn’t know the entire truth either, and I’m sure I also spoke more than I should have.  The director of the college ministry we eventually became a part of gave a talk about that time on patience.  Two points he made had quite an impression on me, and I also recorded those in my journal.  First, he said, patience is not a blind resignation to circumstances but a quiet confidence in him who controls those circumstances.  And, two, the best thing God can give us is not changed circumstances but a better relationship with him.  In spite of the pain, God was especially close in those days.  I was reading through First Samuel at the time, and many of my notes reflect encouragement from David’s waiting in confidence and trust for God to open the right doors.

In time, the situation became such that I felt compelled to resign my position at the mission.  In May we left there and stepped into student ministry in Laramie; that was a great fit for Cathy and a learning experience for me.  In all this, I was learning that God made me to be a Bible preacher and teacher, a fact that was confirmed even more through three years on campus.  Though I liked what I was doing, it became clear that God had other plans for me, that I was wired for a different ministry.  Another journal entry from those days is interesting in this regard:  “Last night I was reading No Compromise, the life story of Keith Green.  At one point he quit playing music in public because he wasn’t sure that’s what God wanted him to do.  A few months later while doing a benefit concert, God moved among the audience, and Keith realized God made him to play music for people.”  I too had wondered if what I was doing came from pride, and the entry goes on, “Last night, after reading the book, I woke up in the middle of the night with the realization that expositing scripture is what God created me to do.”

Though those first five months of 1991 seemed like a desert in terms of ministry; God was working in our lives, conforming us to him, teaching us his will, and bringing about his desired ends in ministry.  That was one of the most formative times in my life.  And looking back, we see the incredible faithfulness of God.  Such a reminder has been needed in recent days.  God is faithful; God knows the end from the beginning; God is in control!  In his amazing grace God has an amazing way to use sins against us, and even our own sins, to bring us where he desires in character, place and ministry.  “The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.”  Amen.

The Lord Will Keep Your Life: Memories of 1990 and 1991

June 23, 2013 at 5:25 pm | Posted in Grace and Faith, Personal Testimony | Leave a comment

This morning I read Psalm 121 in my devotions.  It was appropriate because Cathy and I have been talking about how God watched over our lives through a particularly trying time of ministry and emotions in 1991.  The encouragement is that God is watching over our lives during the trying time we are in now as well.  This hasn’t yet been as trying as that period was.  Here is the text of Psalm 121 followed by the first installment of the story about that year.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?  My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.  He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.  Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.  The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.  The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.  The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.  The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.”   –Psalm 121 (ESV)

It had been over a year since Cathy and I discovered we couldn’t have children, and we had been jumping through the hoops of the adoption process ever since.  Probably in November of 1990 we heard about an adoption situation through the Cheyenne Crisis Pregnancy Center that we would pursue.  There were many emotional ups and downs before we learned that the mother had chosen another family.  The emotions settled, and life seemed to return to normal, until the middle of December arrived.  The first bump in the road was the death of my aunt.  Though not particularly shaking for me, it was the second of my mother’s siblings to die that year and was hard on everybody in the extended family.  We went to Fort Collins, Colorado so I could be a pallbearer in the funeral.

The day after the funeral, I had a temperature of 101°F.  I was down with the flu for three days, including a Sunday where I missed preaching – still the only time I’ve missed a Sunday in my 26 years of ministry.  In our little mission church, in a rural area, there wasn’t another preaching option, so Cathy led some songs and a prayer time, and everybody went home.

About the time I started feeling better, the extreme cold weather hit.  As I recall, it was below zero Fahrenheit for a week straight with lows colder than 20 below for many days.  This was extreme, even by Laramie, Wyoming standards.  We had to take our batteries into the house every night so the cars, especially the old truck, would start the next day, but even then it took some work and special attention to get them going in that weather.  We lived in a rural setting and getting to town, a normal 40 minute trek was taking an hour and a half.

I was to perform a wedding in Laramie on December 21st, so the rehearsal was on the 20th, a day when the high temperature was about 20 below zero.  The rehearsal was fine, but the next morning our thermometer read -47°F!  (We took a picture of the thermometer which was already catching the morning sun!)  We told the groom we knew he wasn’t going to marry until hell froze over –which appeared to have happened over night!  While getting ready for the ceremony, the door of the church fell off its hinges, so we worked that old, and already stressed, furnace way too much.  In that environment, it’s no wonder that one of the bridesmaids passed out during the ceremony!December 21, 1990 Thermometer

That evening, we picked up my two nephews to spend the Christmas holiday at our mountain home, where a white Christmas was almost always guaranteed.  The boys’ parents were to join them in a few days.  We really had to bundle them up for the cold ride in the old truck.  But we got home fine, company came, and, even though we had to do everything indoors, Christmas went off without a hitch, and the weather began to warm up.   But that’s when things got really crazy.

The next week is just a blur in my mind, but, according to some old journal notes, here is what happened.  My best friend’s younger sister passed away from a genetic disease.  We received the news the night we arrived home from the cold wedding with two frozen kids in tow.  On Thursday, December 27, we drove to Cheyenne for our second funeral in two weeks.  It was particularly hard, because their brother had died from the same disease just a few months prior.

We arrived home that night to learn that the adoption situation had changed dramatically, and we were now to be adoptive parents.  On Friday we again drove to Cheyenne to meet with the CPC counselor, the birth mother and the lawyer.  The child was to be delivered by C-section on Sunday.  After preaching two services, because I was also filling the pulpit in our mission’s mother church that day, we drove to Cheyenne, a third time in four days, where the mother placed a little boy in our arms and announced that he was our baby and we should raise him well.  However, on Monday we received word, from the lawyer, that the birth mother was refusing to sign the papers; she had decided to keep the baby.  That was a tough blow.  Since we were in Cheyenne, we went to my best friend’s daughters’ birthday celebration.  After all they’d been through, that family needed a reason to celebrate something positive, and so we joined them in the party.

The next day was New Year’s Day, 1991, and we returned to Cheyenne because the New Year’s party was at my sister’s house and because the next day, Wednesday, January 2, my mom was scheduled to have surgery.   She checked in early and had all the preoperational tests and medications, some of which made her sick, only to discover that the hospital had so many dire emergencies that her surgery was postponed.  We were all in the hospital, waiting from early morning until late afternoon, and then she was released.  On Friday, she was in the hospital again, and this time the operation went as planned.  We made our fifth trip in nine days over that familiar road.  We got home that night to a message that the pastor of our mother church had cut his wrist, was in the hospital, and unable to preach on Sunday, so I was requested to fill in.  It turns out he was fine and just needed time to heal, but that brought us half way to Cheyenne anyway, so that afternoon we drove over to check on my mom.  Everything turned out fine for her as well.  I didn’t get done preparing my sermon for that Sunday (surprise!), so I told the story of our last ten days of life, with a reminder from Psalm 46 that God is our refuge and strength, even if the earth seems to give way.  I was preaching to myself!

On Monday, January 7, I wrote these words in my journal: “Maybe the emotional roller coaster ride is over for a little while anyway.  The foreseeable future looks ‘normal’ as far as I can see.”  Little did I know it was just beginning!  But that has to wait for the second installment of this post, which is now available here.

The Basics Are Always the Basics

April 30, 2013 at 9:53 pm | Posted in Grace and Faith | Leave a comment

On Saturday I was in a board meeting for Campus Ventures college ministry.  We spent some time with campus ministers discussing the question of how we can know a student has a genuine relationship with God.  Over thirty years of my association with Campus Ventures, as a student, a staff member, and now a board member, we have seen too many who were very involved as students, apparently growing as followers of Jesus, who completely fell away after college.  The discussion was to the effect that it is better to do less with students and impact their entire lives than to do more but only impact their college years.  But how can we know when the relationship is genuine and when it is just a fun thing to do or when they are going through the motions to please a peer or campus minister?

There were a few things on which everyone agreed.  First, students must truly understand and live the lordship of Jesus; he must be the centrality of their lives.  This would be demonstrated in attitudes about doing hard things and submitting to leadership, and by priorities students set while in college.  Second, they must have a true commitment to the authority of scripture, an understanding that the Bible really is the Word of God.  This is demonstrated by a desire to be in God’s Word beyond the basic assigned duties and by decision making based on biblical principles.  Third, students must demonstrate a life of grace, recognizing the sufficiency of Christ in all things.  This is demonstrated by their motivation for doing what they do; by getting away from the performance track; by an attitude of grace toward others.   This one is difficult in a disciple-making ministry since so much of what is done can be interpreted as performance based activities.  Things like having quiet times, memorizing scripture, and going through discipleship materials can easily become performance rather than response to God’s grace.  Finally, students who have a genuine relationship with Christ will be committed to Christian community.  This could be demonstrated by their involvement with, and enthusiasm for, church and small groups.

One of the campus ministers pointed out that these issues are all presented in the Navigator’s “Wheel” illustration about the Christian life in balance.  That illustration is often used by Campus Ventures.  My thought, being the theologian I am, was that the first three items are all foundational issues of the Reformation:  The lordship and sovereignty of Jesus, the authority of the Word, and grace.  Sola Christus, Sola Gloria, Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia!  It seems, as I was taught in Campus Ventures, the basics are always the basics.

It’s All About God — Joshua Edition

March 13, 2013 at 7:50 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Grace and Faith, It's All About God | Leave a comment

The book of Joshua is the story of God’s people entering the Promised Land.  The book makes it clear that the land the people were going in to possess was given to them by God – that it had nothing to do with their goodness but was all about his grace.  And it makes clear that they were his people by his grace and not by their choice.  The book begins with God’s first words to Joshua: “Arise, go over this Jordan, you and all the people with you, into the land that I am giving to them.” (1:2 ESV)  In that same commission are these famous words for Joshua, “I will not leave you or forsake you.  Be strong and courageous.”  The reason for this is clearly stated:  “for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.”

I underlined every reference to what God did as I read through this book this past week.  I was surprised at how often it shows up.  There is only one two-page spread where I didn’t underline anything, and that is in the list of how the land was divided between the tribes in chapters 18-21.  But even that section ends with these words: “The LORD gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. . . .  And the LORD gave them rest on every side. . . .  Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.” (21:43-45)

Finally, the book ends with a renewal of the covenant at Shechem.  Here God again reminds the people of all that he did for them.  He is the subject of the entire section.  “I took your father Abraham from beyond the river . . .  I gave him Isaac . . .  I gave Jacob . . .  I sent Moses . . .  I plagued Egypt . . .  I brought you out.”  And so it goes for 13 verses – half a page in my Bible.  That section concludes with perhaps the most famous verse in the book, Joshua’s challenge: “Choose this day whom you will serve . . .  As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (24:15)

And then the people made their commitment to God.  “It is the LORD our God who brought us and our fathers up from Egypt . . .  who did those great signs in our sight. . . .  And the LORD drove out before us all the peoples who lived in the land.  Therefore we will serve the LORD, for he is our God.” (24:16-18)

This is how it always works.  God did everything for a people who didn’t deserve anything – that’s called grace.  Their choice to follow him and serve came as a result of his goodness and grace.  It isn’t the other way around.  God does it all, and he gets all the praise.

Be Strong and Courageous

March 6, 2013 at 8:59 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Grace and Faith, Personal Testimony | 1 Comment

I have a confession to make.  As I get older, I seem to get more fearful of change.  I hadn’t realized that until just recently.  In these past few months I have been more uptight than ever before about talking to certain people, about e-mails or phone calls from certain sources, about anything I perceive as a challenge to my current comfort level.

Our church is working through a “Retooling” process, but these insecurities have made thinking about retooling rather difficult.  I know we need change, and though in the past I’ve always been one who has been able to welcome change in the church, I don’t feel like I am as open to it now.  I am very comfortable with my job and could easily spend the rest of my career doing what I currently do.  When something threatens that, insecurities and anxieties arise.

I also have sensed more insecurity over things like church finances, worship changes, attendance numbers, and families that decide to leave.

All of this was on my mind the other night; I was awake for a few hours in the middle of the night thinking about it, or maybe fretting about it would be more accurate.  When I got up in the morning, I was scheduled to read the last few chapters of Deuteronomy in my devotions.  These words are the final speech of Moses to Israel, just before he died and they were to enter the Promised Land.  This part jumped out at me:

 “The LORD your God himself will go over before you.  He will destroy these nations before you.  . . .  The LORD will give them over to you, and you shall do to them according to the whole commandment that I have commanded you.  Be strong and courageous.  Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you.  He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it.  It is the LORD who goes before you.  He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed.”  Deuteronomy 31:3-8 (ESV)

Now I am not saying that I am a Joshua or that God has promised us a great land, or that every place our foot touches will be ours.  But I am reminded that God gives the strength for us to do what he wants us to do and the courage to face what he wants us to face.  The command to not fear and the command to be courageous are scattered throughout the books of Deuteronomy and Joshua.  The following morning I read them numerous times again as I began through Joshua.  For example:   “Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (1:9)  I was encouraged, and I pray for more courage to face whatever God may have us face.

Isn’t it amazing how God uses his word to speak so clearly to us in the situations we face!

The Nature of True Confession (part 2) Two Examples

June 7, 2012 at 8:07 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Grace and Faith, Questions for Pastor Glenn | 6 Comments

I was on vacation for a week with no electronic communication.  My family had a wonderful time camping at Mesa Verde National Park.  We took all the guided tours through the ruins and a number of the self-guided ones too.  I thought it might get boring after the first few tours, but the rangers kept it interesting.  One guide was a forester, one studied history and the third anthropology.  They each had a different perspective on the evidence of who lived there and why they left.

So many people read the previous post on confession, that I wanted to follow it up with some other thoughts.  Then yesterday morning I read Ezra’s prayer in my devotions (Ezra chapter 9).  As a teaching pastor, Ezra is one of my heroes, for he devoted himself to study God’s word and teach it’s truths to others.  Ezra 7:10 is one of my “life verses.”

After Ezra moved to Israel from Babylon to teach God’s Law, it was discovered that the people were doing what God had forbidden, and that “in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men had been foremost.” (v2 ESV)  Ezra was appalled.  He fasted and mourned until evening, then fell on his knees to pray.  He confessed Israel’s sin before God, even though he had not taken part in it.  His entire prayer is not about “their sin,” but about “our sin.”

There are probably books that could be written about the sin Ezra confessed and the nature of corporate sin and corporate confession.  But in this context I just want to point out that Ezra was quick to confess.  He demonstrated sorrow for and hatred of sin (“As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled.” v3).  He recognized the guilt that was theirs because of sin (“O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens.” v6).  And he demonstrated a willingness to repent (“Shall we break your commandments again?” v14).  This prayer is a good example of a true confession.

Another example can be found in David’s prayer known as Psalm 51.  David wrote this prayer after the prophet Nathan confronted him about his sins of adultery and murder.  He too demonstrated sorrow and hatred for sin (“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.” v3); he confessed guilt before God (“Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” v4); he wanted to turn away from the sin (which vv10-15 demonstrate in many ways).  Reading the prayers of these old saints (or should I say redeemed sinners) can teach us much about the nature of true confession.  God’s people are quick to confess their sins and their sinfulness.

The Nature of True Confession

May 24, 2012 at 10:25 am | Posted in Grace and Faith, Questions for Pastor Glenn, Theology | 6 Comments

“If I’m pretty sure that I’m going to commit the same sin again, how can I repent and turn the other way?  Does confession at some point become a lie?”

What a great question!  It came to me from the comments of a fellow blogger, who then asked me for my opinion on it.  It’s a great question because it is so honest, because it reveals the depth of our sinfulness, and because it reveals the nature of genuine faith in Christ.

The simple answer is, “No.  Confession of that nature is not a lie; it is, in fact, more honest than most confessions.”  Moore to Ponder’s words about 1 John 1:8-10 are a great commentary on this point.  (My gut reaction is to say that the most damaging lie we could utter is “I have no sin.  I sinned once, but I will “never” commit “that” sin again.)  True confession recognizes not only the sinful act but also the sinful heart from which the act proceeds, and it admits dependence on God to overcome that sinfulness because we know we probably will do it all again, if not the same act, another which comes from the same heart.

A more in-depth, theological answer could take an entire book, and indeed the theological issues that touch on this have filled many books.  But here is my brief attempt:

Those who follow the biblical teaching are quick to confess that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone.  And this question was wisely asked on a post about that very issue.  However, those of the Reformed tradition are also quick to point out that, though salvation is through faith alone, genuine faith is never alone.  In other words, saving faith is always demonstrated by how we live our lives.  Biblical faith is not simple head knowledge, or even assent to the facts of Jesus’ death for our sins.  Biblical faith is a total trusting of one’s self to those facts.  Faith and repentance, as understood correctly, are two descriptions of the same thing.  Faith emphasizes turning to Christ, while repentance emphasizes turning away from other things; for if genuine faith is total trust, then nothing else can be trusted, and whatever one trusts before following Jesus must be trusted no more.  Just like faith in Jesus has a beginning, sometimes in an event, but is an ongoing experience for the Christian, so also repentance may have a beginning in an event, but is really an ongoing experience of Jesus’ disciples.  In other words, confessing and repenting should be a part of our normal and daily experience.

This thought raises the question of what confession really is.  We often think of it as admitting certain acts of sin to God.  However, confession should go much deeper than that; it must include the heart attitude that gives rise to the act of sin we committed.  Acts of sin come from a sinful heart, a heart that in some way or another puts self on the throne where the Lord belongs.  Many Christians may confess a certain act, like offending people by speaking out of turn (I know that one well), but never confess the heart attitude of wanting to be noticed or thinking of one’s self as the expert or of wanting to prove someone else wrong.  Yet those things are the deeper sins that also must be confessed.  Sometimes we don’t even know the depth of our sinful motives. I addressed that issue in this post.

Also confession must never be seen as the condition of our forgiveness.  That attitude puts our salvation into our own hands, but the truth is that our salvation is in God’s hands and not ours.  We are forgiven because of Jesus, not because we confess.  The popular misunderstanding of 1 John 1:9 that gives rise to this idea is one I addressed here.

There is much in 1 John that touches on this topic.  This little New Testament book was written so that Jesus’ followers would have assurance of their salvation (5:11-13), and it gives many tests of the true believer.  True believers, according to John, trust in Jesus; they confess their sinfulness; they love Jesus’ other followers.  However, there is one particular test in 1 John which is important to this discussion:  True believers make some sort of progress in righteousness.  Though we are and always will be sinful, if we are truly regenerated by God’s Spirit, then we will demonstrate that regeneration by how we conduct our lives (2:4-6, 15-17, 29; 3:4-10; 5:4-5).  The discussion of faith in James makes this same point; genuine faith is demonstrated by good works.  I mention this here because we must understand the nature of new life and of true repentance.  If your attitude is, “I will go out and sin as much as I want, because I can confess it to God and be forgiven,” then you either confuse the sinful act with the sinful heart or you may not have experienced a genuine conversion.  God’s people may have to confess the same sins over and over, maybe even for a lifetime, but they will not intentionally sin with the attitude that they can simply confess later.  When they do sinful acts, and when they see the depths of their sinful attitudes, they will be repentant in attitude and action.

If you struggle with certain sinful activities and attitudes, confess those to God, trust Jesus’ death as the payment for your sin, and tell God that with his help, you will go out and live a righteous life.  When you fail, do it all again, knowing that Jesus’ sacrifice has already covered all your sinful acts and all your sinful attitudes and motives.

I think this post is too long already.  If some of you are interested in more on this topic, read a good theology book about regeneration and/or perseverance of the saints.  Those are the theological terms that I’ve touched on here.  In the meantime, keep pursuing righteousness and keep confessing when you don’t

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