Amazing Grace

If you attended Genesis this Sunday, you heard me share a bit about the life of John Newton, the man who wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace.” I won’t bore you with a retelling of the story (you can find his biography online). Newton was a former slave trader who became a follower of Jesus. At the end of his life, he said something that sums up the teaching of 1 John 1, “When I was young, I was sure of many things; now there are only two things of which I am sure. One is, that I am a miserable sinner, and the other, that Christ is an all-sufficient Savior. He is well taught who learns these two lessons.” I have found it amazing in my life that the closer I get to Jesus, the more desperately I need Him, and the more I realize that I am a miserable sinner. The closer I get to His glorious light, the more I see the darkness that exists in me. But the other thing that happens, at least for me, is that all of this leads me to worship more.

When I stand in front of people with messages like the one this week on the issue of sin, I really get uncomfortable. It’s no fun to talk about this issue. People can get disgusted, or even mad at me (and I really want people to like me). They might also think that I am on stage with some sense of superiority, as if I had it all together, and I need to let everyone else know how messed up they are (I don’t have it all together, and believe me, there are times you are better than me). Some may say, “What right does this guy have to talk to me about my choices?!” The answer is that I don’t have a right to talk about sin. On the other hand, to honor God and be true to His great message of the Gospel, we have to talk about sin. I never like to hear that in my heart, when I am left to myself, I will always choose to place myself on the throne, and choose to rebel against my Creator. I’d rather hear about how God loves me because I am a pretty good guy. But the Bible shows us that we are pretty messed up, and that we desperately need Jesus.

I am so thankful there is a remedy. “If you confess your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.” When I openly confess my sin, when I agree with God about the messed up stuff in my life, wow, what a promise. Forgiveness, which leads to a renewed relationship, and cleansing. To be honest, forgiveness would have been enough. If God would look at me and say, “Mike, you are alright in my book,” that would be enough reason for worship. But the promise also includes cleansing, making me clean from the filth I made for myself. Most of the time, this is more of a process than an event. As I get closer to the light, God shows me the darkness in my own life. Hopefully, I choose to confess the sin. God forgives! But the process of cleaning the residue of the sin in my life takes time. I may fail with the sin often, and the consequences of my choices may be ugly. Yet, over time, God is faithful to His promise and the cleansing has taken place in my life.

Confession should be a regular part of the life of a follower of Jesus. You will find incredible joy in confession over time. Give it a try.

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