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.