Since we will gather for worship and to partake of Christ’s body and blood given and shed for the remission of our sins, it is indeed good and right that we examine ourselves in accord with 1 Corinthians 11:28-29: “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”
We do so this week on the basis of Isaiah 1:16-20, where we read: “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.”
Many go through the outward motions of confessing their sins and hearing the absolution, but they don’t truly receive God’s mercy and forgiveness in Christ Jesus. They may say the right words but lack true faith in Christ. They just continue on in their sinful ways, nothing changing, and imagine they are forgiven because they have said the prescribed words with their lips.
The Lord speaks of such when he writes ( Isaiah 29:13-14): “Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men….”
God desires that our repentance be true, that we acknowledge our sins and agree with God concerning our sin and guilt and the just punishment we deserve on account of our sins; and such agreement with God includes agreeing that our sinful ways are wrong and God’s ways are good and right.
In addition to godly sorrow over our sins, true repentance includes faith in Christ – believing that Christ fulfilled all righteousness for us and that He suffered our just punishment when He died upon the cross and then rose again on the third day. True repentance acknowledges sin as sin and deserving of God’s wrath and looks to Christ’s perfect righteousness which is imputed to those who place their hope and faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ Jesus for the sins of the world.
With David, we say: “For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest” (Psalm 51:3-4). And with David, we pray: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:1-2).
We acknowledge our sin and flee to the altar where Christ was offered up and atoned for the sins of all and pray with the tax collector: “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13)!
And what does God say when we truly repent and look to Him for mercy in Christ Jesus? “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Through faith in Jesus, all our sins are washed away! We are counted righteous and holy in God’s sight for Jesus’ sake!
And so, I ask you before God: Do you acknowledge that you are a sinner and have sinned in thought, word and deed? Do you confess and agree with God that you are guilty and deserving of his wrath and punishment? Do you trust that Christ Jesus has truly redeemed you and made atonement for all your sins? Do you also believe that Jesus, in the Sacrament, gives you to partake of His body and blood which were given and shed that your sins might be forgiven you? As a fruit of your faith, do you truly desire and seek God’s help to amend your life and live it in accord with God’s Word?
If you are truly sorry for your sins and look to Christ and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross for pardon and forgiveness, I announce unto you the grace of God and, in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.
“And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” Luke 21:34-36
Jesus tells us what will happen before He suddenly appears, coming in clouds of glory to judge the living and the dead. He speaks of what would happen to Jerusalem and what would befall His disciples (Luke 21:5ff.; cf. Matt. 24:1ff.; Mark 13:1ff.); and then he speaks about what will take place immediately before His coming.
“And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken” (Luke 21:25-26).
He tells us that, “when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (v. 28). And He adds the parable of the fig tree: “Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; when they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand” (v. 29-31).
Jesus said (v. 32-33): “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.” And, indeed, these signs were already fulfilled in the first century after Christ. There were wars and commotions, false Christs and false prophets. Christians were betrayed and persecuted, and Jerusalem was destroyed for its impenitence and unbelief as Jesus had warned (cf. Luke 19:41-44).
And, Jesus warns us: to “take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.”
Instead of living in drunkenness and excess, and being wrapped up with the cares of this life, we are to be watching and praying that we not be caught off guard and, like the rest of the world, be found living in sin and impenitence and not ready at Jesus’ return. Rather, we are to live in continual repentance, confessing our sins and holding fast to Jesus and His cross for pardon and forgiveness that we might be found ready to stand before Him when He appears.
The Bible tells us in Acts 3:19-21: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”
If we are found acknowledging our sins — agreeing with God about our sinfulness — and looking to Jesus and His cross in faith for pardon and forgiveness, we will be ready on that day. Instead of being condemned, we will be given eternal life for Jesus’ sake (cf. 1 John 1:7 – 2:2; Psalm 32:1-6; John 3:14-18). But, if we are found continuing on in our sinful ways, impenitent and unbelieving, that day will find us unprepared and bring upon us God’s wrath and judgment (cf. 2 Thess. 1:7-10; John 3:18; Mark 16:16).
O gracious and merciful Savior, grant that we continue in daily repentance and faith that we might be found ready on that day when You come to judge the living and the dead. Amen.
[Scripture quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]