I was saying the other week about having been brought up to ‘keep a short account with God’, and the need to be perpetually grovelling and begging for forgiveness.
I remember being beaten over the head with 1 John 1:9: ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness’, the implication being that if I don’t then he won’t.
The problem that crossed my mind was this, if I make a point of confessing my sins, say, every half hour, but on the 29th minute, just as I was about to carry out my religious routine, I get hit by a truck, do I stand before God with an unconfessed sin on my record?
And then in my search for truth I came across the teaching in the letter to the Hebrews in which the writer, thought to be Paul, is likening the Old Testament ritual of the blood of goats and calves being offered in the ‘Holiest of Holies’, to cover the sins of the people once a year, to the sacrifice of Jesus. Here’s what it says: ‘With his own blood - not the blood of goats and calves - he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.’
What struck me was the inevitable conclusion that the sacrifice of goats and calves covered the sins of the Israeli people for a whole year, and yet the sacrifice of Jesus, the one of whom the animals were symbolic, was effective, but only as long as I remembered to ask. Isn’t that just a tad absurd?
But what then about the verse in 1 John? Well, that particular letter is unlike most of the others in that it is not addressed to ‘The God’s holy people at Ephesus...’ or ‘I am writing to God’s church in Corinth...’ No, it begins, ‘We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning...’ In other words, it is reasonable to suggest that whoever John is addressing had not heard the message of the gospel yet and as a result were not believers, hence the need to confess. But my next question was, why the emphasis by my teachers on the need to confess rather than reinforcing the powerful message in Hebrews; ‘...once for all time secured our redemption forever’? And why is it that in almost any church I have ever been in the purpose of the corporate ‘prayer of confession’ seems to be to remind us all what despicable worms we all are?
I had this conversation with a church pastor some years ago and we were reflecting on how free we are, how secure we are in God’s family, how ‘...nothing can ever separate us from God’s love...indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ And I was shocked by his response, ‘I could never tell my people how free they are. They might not come back.’
The incontrovertible fact remains, in God’s family there is total security and total freedom. You can see this in the wonderful introduction to the letter from Jude, ‘I am writing to all who have been called by God the Father, who loves you and keeps you safe in the care of Jesus Christ.’
God’s people are called, loved and kept, and don’t ever let anyone tell you different.
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