It’s Easter Saturday – so in place of the normal Saturday review, here is a personal reflection/confession- with apologies to St Augustine. (The block quotes are from his Confessions)
O Lord God, I confess to you because I know that all sin is ultimately against you. I confess to you my sins against my fellow human beings. They are made in your image; in knowledge, righteousness and holiness; therefore when I sin against them I sin against you.
“No one knows what he himself is made of, except his own spirit within him, yet there is still some part of him which remains hidden even from his own spirit; but you, Lord, know everything about a human being because you have made him…Let me, then, confess what I know about myself, and confess too what I do not know, because what I know of myself I know only because you shed light on me, and what I do not know I shall remain ignorant about until my darkness becomes like bright noon before your face.”
That too often I am guilty of the sin of idolatry. I don’t’ create golden or wooden images and bow down before them. But my heart is a factory of idols – how easy it is to lift up the gifts that you the Giver have so graciously given – and let them replace you in my heart. I love you for what you can give, which really means that I love the gifts more than I love you. O Lord, grant me the explusive power of a new affection. Help me to seek first your kingdom.
“But my sin was this, that I looked for pleasure, beauty, and truth not in him but in myself and his other creatures, and the search led me instead to pain, confusion, and error.”
That I am not pure. I know that I can be thankful for what you have kept me from, but that is only in externals. Instead of thinking of things that are noble, right, pure, lovely, excellent or praiseworthy, I find myself far too often thinking about the ignoble, wrong, impure, ugly, gross and shameworthy. Sometimes I think I am not as bad as some other people and I can list the outward sins that I have not committed. But that is my standard – not yours. When your Word goes deep into my heart, dividing soul and spirit, I am shattered in a thousand pieces, because my heart is a whirlpool of a thousand conflicting desires. I can say with the Apostle Paul, ‘I am the chief of sinners’, but when I feel it…Oh, what an overwhelming burden!
“For what am I to myself without You, but a guide to my own downfall?
That selfish ambition, rather than humble love of you and your humanity and world, has often been my driving motive. Even though I know that it is wrong to love to be first, yet I love to be first – even in holy matters. The good that I would I do not; the evil that I would not do, is right there with me. Who will deliver me from this body of death?
“For what am I to myself without You, but a guide to my own downfall?
Not just my sins of commission, but my sins of omission. I read that the fruit of your Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. When I read that list I am tempted to despair. I look into the mirror of Your Word and see that my heart only reflects Your fruit as through a glass darkly. I am told that against such things there is no law, and yet I find another law at work in my life, mortifying the fruit of Your Spirit. O Lord, that is not the kind of ‘putting to death’ I want. I belong to Christ Jesus and I have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. But have I? Am I keeping in step with the Spirit? Am I living by the Spirit? Sometimes O Lord, that question is almost laughable…I am so out of step. There is conceit, there is provocation and not of the kind that stirs up to love and good works.
I am trying to be honest with you, and myself. I did not think that envy was part of my nature. How wrong I was! Sometimes I see people being blessed and rather than rejoice with those who rejoice, I ask ‘why not me?” But you owe me nothing, and I owe you everything. It is of your great mercy that I am not consumed.
“How high a price we pay for the burden of habit! I am fitted for life here where I do not want to be, I want to live there but am unfit for it, and on both counts I am miserable.”
Lack of Love. But how can this be? I know that you are Love. I know that love covers over a multitude of sins. I know that love bears all things. I know that there is nothing more Godlike than love. And yet….how hard it is for me to love selflessly. I love what I love. I love what pleases me. I love what gives to me. I love those who love me. But to love sacrificially? To love purely? To love the poor and the broken? To love those who do not love me? To love my enemies? To love for the sake of love – out of goodness of heart is to me impossible because my heart is not good. And yet your command is to love. O Lord, command what you will, and will what you command. How else can I inherit your kingdom?
“What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.”
That I do not praise and glorify you as I ought. How perverse that we were created to praise you, and yet we have made even that praise an idol. I praise out of duty. I praise because I want to feel something. I rarely praise you out of an overflowing heart. I have experienced being lost in wonder, love and praise. But not enough. It is like getting a few drops of water when I need an overwhelming shower. Nothing demonstrates the depth of sin in my own life than the fact that I am more often concerned for my own honour than yours.
““Man is one of your creatures, Lord, and his instinct is to praise you…. The thought of you stirs him so deeply that he cannot be content unless he praises you, because you made us for yourself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in you.”
That though I love your Word and cannot live without it, yet I often do not have ears to hear. My mind needs renewed. Too often I read it as a tick box exercise – rather than the words of a Lover speaking into my inmost being. What use is it for me to be a hearer of your Word, rather than a doer? O Lord, forgive me for the times that you speak so clearly to me and I immediately go out and forget. Forgive me when I misuse the doctrine of Grace to excuse my inactivity, indiscipline and sin.
“Your best servant is the person who does not attend so much to hearing what he himself wants as to willing what he has heard from you.”
That this confession is not enough. The more I see the less I know. The deeper I go, the harder it is to look up. The closer I get to you the more I feel unworthy to be in your presence. And yet I look to your Word, not my confessions.
“What wonderful profundity there is in your utterances! The surface meaning lies open before us and charms beginners. Yet the depth is amazing, my God, the depth is amazing.”
You are faithful and just and if I confess my sins you will forgive them and purify me from all unrighteousness.
Just as you help me to feel the weight of my sins, grant that I may feel the depth of your forgiveness. When I was not a Christian it was very easy for me to believe that you loved me. How strange that now I believe in and follow you, it is harder for me to believe that you love me. And yet your word says that Jesus is the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. Sometimes I know that…but it is in my head, like a fact of history or a mathematical equation. To know it as an ever-present reality – that is something different. On Thursday I sat at your table and I felt it. Last night I listened to your Word and I sang your praise and I felt it. Such moments are unspeakably precious. Only those who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good can know the taste of something so sweet and precious.
“My soul is like a house, small for you to enter, but I pray you to enlarge it. It is in ruins, but I ask you to remake it. It contains much that you will not be pleased to see: this I know and do not hide. But who is to rid it of these things? There is no one but you”
I grieve for my sin. I grieve for my self. I grieve for this world. But I do not grieve this Easter as those who have no hope. What is my only hope in life and death….it is not my faith, it is not other people, it is not my church.
I Confess …
That I am not my own,
body and soul,
in life and in death—
to my faithful Saviour, Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven;
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.
In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My comforter, my all in all
Here in the love of Christ I stand
In Christ alone, Who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
‘Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live
There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ
No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the pow’r of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
‘Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand
This I confess….