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Lenten Teaching Series 2024

God's Mercy for Our Flourishing

by The Rev. Dr. Christopher Beeley on March 20, 2024

Have you ever felt like you were unworthy to come to God?

Have you felt separated from God by something you’ve done or by something somebody else did to you?

God knows our needs before we ask, and God wants us to come to him always in response to his invitation and his loving outreach to us.

The Gospel of Reconciliation

Our prayers for forgiveness are part of God's mission of salvation. Jesus came to live, die, and rise from the dead for us to reconcile us as sinners.

So we are beneficiaries of the gospel of reconciliation. Let’s look at a couple Scripture verses that illuminate this:

For 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)

That’s God’s plan for us. That’s the big plan. Before we even get into what’s separating us from God.

Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 5:17-18:

"If anyone is in Christ [that’s you and me, even while we stumble and trip], he is a new creation. Everything old has passed away. Look, new things have come into being. All this is from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation."

We cannot reconcile ourselves to God. It cannot be done. We are trapped in our sinfulness. And we can’t pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. Christianity is not a self-help religion. Christianity is about God’s work for us. A work that St. Paul calls 'reconciliation.' God has reconciled us through his Son Jesus.

The Point of It All

The aim and intention of all this is that God’s beautiful creation would reflect his glory throughout. And for you and me, when we think about our sin, when we come to God as sinners in need of forgiveness, the result is the same.

God wants our healing. He wants our restoration. He wants our growth from whatever bad habit and false belief that caused the offense.

God’s intention is to build us up not tear us down.

It can be very easy to approach practices of penitential prayer as a time for getting down on ourselves. But the message we should be living from is God's intention to reconcile us, to build us up, to heal and restore us.

It’s imperative when we think about the ways we’ve fallen short to know who God is and what God’s plan is for us. He wants to bring us back, and he wants us to heal and grow.

A Daily Practice

Let’s think, now, in light of all that, about our need to confess our sins. Think back to the Lord’s Prayer. This is how Jesus taught us to pray daily, even two or three times a day. And it’s right there: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who've trespassed against us."

St. Augustine said that this is how we know that we will always need forgiveness — otherwise, why would Jesus have taught us to pray for this every day?

The truth is we can fall back into the trap of self-righteousness, of being cold and distant from God. And when we’re cold and distant from God, one of the main ways that looks like is we stop praying for forgiveness. But God wants us to have open and warm hearts, and that means that we need to confess our sins.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9)

That’s a strong word, isn't it?

We need that wake-up call, because so often we get going on our own head of steam and become self-righteous.

And so, we must come to the Lord daily — to confess, to repent, to find his mercy, and to let him restore us.

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