Day 33: How to Confess, and How Not To

We are sinners who need to confess our sins. When we do so, God is able and willing to forgive us. The question, then, is how we ought to confess. Jesus’ parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector who went to the Temple to pray provides an answer (Luke 18:9–14). Luke explains the context of this parable in verse 9: “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable….” From this introduction we can deduce that the spirit of confession is the antithesis of self-righteousness and judgmentalism. Verses 11–12 … Continue reading Day 33: How to Confess, and How Not To

Day 32: The Cross and the Problem of Forgiveness

How does God forgive us? Ephesians 1:7–8 gives the answer: “In him [i.e., Jesus Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Redemption and forgiveness are powerful images. Redemption portrays a slave set free. On several occasions, Paul refers to us as “slaves to sin” whom God has liberated through Christ (e.g., Rom 6:6, 16, 17, 20; 7:14, 25). Forgiveness portrays a debt being canceled. We are debtors to sin and owe God more than we can pay, but God has canceled our debt. According to Paul, redemption and forgiveness come at a great cost go God, … Continue reading Day 32: The Cross and the Problem of Forgiveness

Day 31: God’s Desire to Forgive

God has the power to forgive our sins, but does he have the desire to do so? I know that my question sounds strange. We simply assume that God will forgive us. With Heinrich Heine, who refused deathbed confession, we say, “God will forgive me. That’s his job.” Actually, forgiveness is not God’s job. It is his choice. He is under no obligation to forgive habitual sinners any more than a governor is duty-bound to pardon convicted criminals. Forgiveness is a grace God freely gives. He does not have to do so, and we certainly have not deserved or earned … Continue reading Day 31: God’s Desire to Forgive

Day 30: The Crooked Timber of Humanity

Reflecting on Adam and Eve’s original sin, Paul writes, “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). Death refers to physical mortality and spiritual inability. Not only will we stop breathing one day, but without God’s power, we are presently incapable of becoming the people God wants us to be. We are dead in our “transgressions and sins” (Eph. 2:1). We are “slave[s] to the law of sin” (Rom. 7:25). Is sin really so disabling and enslaving? We like to think of ourselves … Continue reading Day 30: The Crooked Timber of Humanity

Day 29: Original Sin

The fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer teaches us to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt. 6:12). It brings us to the core problem of the human condition—sin. What is sin? Why does it require God’s forgiveness? A look at Adam and Eve’s original sin (Gen. 3:1–24) answers both questions. According to Genesis 1–2, God created Adam and Eve in his “image, “blessed them,” made them stewards over animals, and pronounced their existence “very good” (1:26–31). Unlike us, they lived in such simplicity and innocence that they were “both naked” but “felt no … Continue reading Day 29: Original Sin

Day 28: Praying Day by Day

Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us today our daily bread” (Matt. 6:10). Notice the time markers: “today” and “daily.” Throughout his ministry, Jesus was concerned that his disciples learn to follow him and love God on a twenty-four hour basis. Consider this random sample of statements from the Gospels: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:34). “No one knows about that day or hour [i.e., when Christ will return], not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matt. 24:36). … Continue reading Day 28: Praying Day by Day

Day 27: Growing Up through Prayer

God always answers our prayers. We have looked at “Yes,” “No,” and “Wait.” Now let’s look at “Grow up!” In James 4:1–3, we read: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” This passage begins with … Continue reading Day 27: Growing Up through Prayer

Day 26: Being Patient with God

One of my favorite biblical books is Revelation. And one of its most curious scenes takes place in 6:9–11. John writes: “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of … Continue reading Day 26: Being Patient with God

Day 25: When God Says, “No”

God does not always answer our prayers affirmatively.  Sometimes he says, “No!” When he does, he has our best interests at heart. Even God’s negative is positive for us. Paul’s life provides an example of this. We are accustomed to thinking of Paul as Christ’s ambassador par excellence, so we forget how controversial he was in his own day. A vocal minority of early church members doubted his message, distrusted the messenger, or both. In Galatians, Paul defended his message. “I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did … Continue reading Day 25: When God Says, “No”

Day 24: God Always Answers Our Prayers

God always answers our prayers, but not necessarily in the way we want him to. He has our best interests in mind. So, sometimes he says “Yes,” sometimes “No,” sometimes “Wait,” and sometimes—frankly—“Grow up!” Over the next four days, we will look at each of these answers. Today, let’s look at “Yes!” James 5:13–18 says this about prayer: Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil … Continue reading Day 24: God Always Answers Our Prayers