The Joy of Being A Sinner

 
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When we focus on Christ crucified do we think, "How terrible that Jesus sacrificed Himself for us in this way, yet people just go on sinning," or do we say, "I must be a terrible sinner if God had to suffer such torturous annihilation to rescue me from sin, death, and hell"? Do we view the bloody suffering and death of Jesus as an opportunity to call others out on their lack of gratitude and failure to show it in lives devoted to thanking, praising, serving, and obeying God? Do we imagine Jesus' passion is an opportunity to pile sins on our neighbor while we ignore the sin on our back and the log in our eye? Do we use the cross to judge and condemn others? Or do we confess, "I am an evil tree, and from the moment I was conceived until the moment of my death, my words, thoughts, works, and life resist, rebel, judge, and condemn God's cruciform way of rescuing me from sin and death"?

When we refuse to be sinners, we reject all that the Bible has to say about Jesus' suffering and death. In fact, all Scripture points to this event, as Luke writes (Luke 24:46-47). Every page of the Bible points us to the promised grace and forgiveness of sin that comes through the suffering of the Christ, that whoever trusts His work is for us will be saved. But we do not want to admit we are selfish, self-centered, self-righteous, "Team Me-First," people. We would rather engage in a constant legal war with God, demanding He justify His words and works to us. We will not allow God to be justified by His words and works, or to justify us through the same. Instead, we heap all our best intentions, good works, and pious fantasies before God as if these are evidence that even though we may need Jesus when the going gets rough, give us enough time (and a divine slap on the wrist here and there) and we will prevail. We even praise Jesus' sacrifice while simultaneously denying we are from top to bottom, beginning to end, inside and out, nothing but sinful.

No matter how great our efforts or how righteous our intent, we will go from troubled to scared, and scared to terrified, unless we are sprinkled with the blood of the Lamb.
— Donavon Riley

This is why confessing our sin is so painful, and why so many Christians have expunged confession and absolution from worship and daily life. It is not that we have progressed past such an antiquated practice. It is not because we become less sinful and more saintly as we apply ourselves to following Jesus' example of Godly obedience, moral uplift, or spiritual awareness. We rebel against confession of sin because when we say, "forgive us our trespasses," we are expressing the truth that until we are dead and decayed, Christ cannot arise wholly in us through the power of His resurrection, which is completed in our death. Confession is troubling for us because we do not want to die so that Christ can be all in all for us. 

We want to live, not just in the present tense, but forever. We do not want to die, not for family or friends or co-workers, and especially not in the fragile hope that our Creator will remember to raise us from the grave at some far-flung future date. Better to prove to the Almighty that our life is worth keeping us around. And even though our motives may be driven by fear, shame, and guilt that does not mean our outward works should not be considered by God to be of benefit for the kingdom and growing the church. In this way, we seek God's grace and favor entirely in reverse from what He has done for us at Calvary.

But none of our outward righteousness, behavior, or actions will bring comfort to us or take away our sin. No matter how great our efforts or how righteous our intent, we will go from troubled to scared, and scared to terrified, unless we are sprinkled with the blood of the Lamb.  Then, even when we are exhausted and crushed by sin, we can go and hear the good news that we are forgiven Jesus-much. That is, all our sin is covered by the blood of the Lamb, today and always. And nothing and nobody can take away this forgiveness, not by actions, words, or finger pointing judgment. For this reason, there is no end to confession and absolution for Christians in this life because God must constantly remind us that we are miserable sinners and that He is a faithful, loving, and kind Savior who is quick to forgive, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. In this way, we can say before God and the whole world, "I am a sinner and joyfully confess it since I know that You, Jesus, died to save sinners, of which I am the worst."

Donavon Riley is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author, Online Content Director for Higher Things, a contributing writer at 1517 Legacy Project, Christ Hold Fast, and LOGIA. Pastor Riley co-hosts the podcast: 'As Lutheran As It Gets'.




 

 
 

 
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