June 15, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. Instead, grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forevermore. AMEN. (2 Peter 3.17-18)
Yesterday, I reflected on the following question:
“What might Peter have meant when he directed Christ followers to ‘grow in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ?’”
I asked us to consider that he was speaking of forgiveness. But, is there another consideration? I do not mean one that excludes forgiveness but stands alongside forgiveness and gives us a fuller understanding of what he was directing the followers of Christ to do. How about repentance?
Yes, Jesus never had to repent because He never sinned. Well, if you listened to the Temple leadership of His day and that of many people today, He did sin and was somehow in league with Beelzebub. Jesus refuted that thinking by saying “How can Satan drive out Satan? A house divided against itself shall fall!” That would be the desire to tear down the House of God as if it were a house of cards- with a single breath or a shake of the table. Jesus certainly did that when He stepped into the Temple courts one day and threw down on the moneychangers. Oh, I don’t mean He tore down the House of God. But, what He did was show how fragile and false the House of God had become made so by those who failed to see the need for their own repentance. He even reflected on that thought when He drew His disciples’ attention to a poor man and a rich man who had come to pray and make offering. The poor man approached with a humble spirit weighed down by his sins. He knew he needed forgiveness and repented before God. Meanwhile the rich man stood far off and “repented” this way: “Lord, I am grateful that I am not like that poor sinner.” Really? Doesn’t repentance means a desire and intention to turn in the opposite direction in which you are headed. Most generally, it alludes to having gone in the wrong direction and then heading in the right direction. Usually the wrong direction was of one’s own choosing believing that all their decisions were good for them and without error. Until they were filled with error. Sometimes that wasn’t realized until the 11th hour. For some it may happen a bit sooner. Sadly, for many it will come at the 12th hour and by then it will be too late.
So, what would the prayer or declaration of repentance be that would come from the heart of the rich man. Out of the mouth comes forth the fullness of one’s heart, right? We heard the condition of his heart when he said “I am glad I am not like that sinner.” That was no repentance. That was judgmentalism and disdain. But, if he had a heart of repentance, I think his prayer would have sounded like this: “Father, forgive me because I am not more like that poor sinner.” Instead of keeping distance, repentance draws us nearer to the truth about who we are in God’s eyes. The truth is that “we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory intended for us by God.” It happens because we live in a broken world and measure ourselves by brokenness instead of by healing. When we look into the mirror, we see more of our humanity than our divinity. One day that can be different when we stay in the process of wise change caused by God’s grace. Paul wrote “in a mirror dimly but one day face to face.” In part, there are those times when we come face to face with who we have become. We either surrender to it and continue to struggle or we surrender it to God and in repentance move on to striving for righteousness.
Yes, we can speak of forgiveness. We can speak the words “I forgive you.” We can even say them and not feel them or mean them. True forgiveness is not checking a box on the “expected Christian list of to dos” like it is some kind of “ta-dah.” There is no magic in saying the words “I forgive you” any more than “Hocus Pocus” can move an object from here to there. Forgiveness is far more than words. Forgiveness is a lifestyle of the Christian attitude. True forgiveness of others must be generated by the forgiveness we have for ourselves as God has forgiven us. Not one of us is good enough to stand apart from the need for forgiveness from God, ourselves or others. To confess our need for forgiveness is an act of repentance. The act is based on the desire to grow in the grace of Jesus our Savior which has been given to us. It is an act of healing which confesses we need healing.
Not many know that better than Peter himself. He who professed vehemently “Let us go to Jerusalem to die with Him if that is the direction He is going” was also the same who three times in the cover of darkness said “I do not know the man. I am not one of His people.” And then the rooster crowed just as Jesus had prophesied. Peter was struck to the very marrow of his being. Now, who was Peter? Judas was the betrayer? What now of Peter? Judas did not give himself a chance to repent. He instead became the judge. He became the very thing Jesus warned them all of becoming- like gentiles who easily judged and ruled over people and not live for God. It was spoken as such to shame even the Jews who did the same. It was the shame of accountability and condemnation. But, Peter didn’t go that far. He sulked. He fell into depression. He experienced the brokenness of a promise given which he had made. But, he was also able, by the grace of Jesus Christ who is Lord and Savior, to experience the promise which Jesus had made: “Tear down this house and I will build it up again in three days.” And by the power of resurrection that is what He did and His Father through Him. He did it for Peter who professed His love in repentance. Three times he was asked “Do you love me?” It was a reflection in the light of day of that similar question in the dark of night “Aren’t you one of ‘them’?” His affirmation was repentance and bore the fruit of restoration and confirmation. Jesus called him to “continue to grow in the grace of your Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.” He would still struggle with this new condition of repentance but he would never fail in it again. He would maintain his new self until the very day when his life was taken in persecution.
Oh to live in such grace today, mighty ones of God; and to do so until the very last breath even in persecution if need be.
OUR CALL TO PRAYER: Father God, maker of Heaven and earth, we bow before You and give thanks. You are seeking to make us wise in the ways of Your Kingdom through the knowledge and grace of Your Son, Jesus who is the Christ. We are seeking to be wise by embracing Your word and Your revelation in Him. Thank You for honoring His request to share His Spirit with us. We come before You repenting of our sins and embracing Your forgiveness. It is the very forgiveness we are called to share with one another, even our enemies, so that none of us will continue to be Your enemy. Thank You for cultivating the environment of grace around us so that we can be better disciples and share the Good News with the world. Come with us, Lord, we pray. AMEN.