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 Hebrews 10:26-31, where we read: “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
Those who take sin lightly and imagine they can willfully continue on in sin and disobedience to God’s commandments without consequence need to consider these words of Scripture. It does not refer to our momentary lapses into sin due to the weakness of the flesh but to willfully continuing in sin. Instead of heeding the voice of God’s Spirit speaking through the Scriptures and repenting of sin and evil and looking to Christ Jesus and His cross for mercy and forgiveness, it is spurning God’s Spirit and living in impenitence (not being sorry for our sins, not looking to Christ for forgiveness and not seeking to amend our sinful ways in accord with God’s Word).
Such tread under foot the Son of God and count the blood He shed upon the cross to pay the price for their sins as a common and cheap thing. They treat Christ and His redemptive work as something they can use and abuse – it’s really not that precious to them.
And they do despite unto the Spirit of grace. Instead of heeding the Holy Spirit who guides and directs us by means of God’s Word, they reject His guidance and instruction and go their own way and live in accord with their own sinful desires, with the end being death and eternal damnation (read Romans 6).
Since it is only by God’s gracious dealing with us that we are brought to repentance and faith, willfully yielding to temptation always endangers our souls. It is a spurning and rejecting of the gracious working of the Holy Spirit, and only God knows when the Spirit will cease His gracious working in the lives of the impenitent.
I think of the words of Thomas Hastings’ hymn, “Delay not! Delay not! The Spirit of grace, long grieved and resisted, may take his sad flight and leave you in darkness to finish your race, to sink in the gloom of eternity’s night.”
Some say, “I’ll just do as I please now and repent later.” But how do you know you will repent later? Of yourself, without the gracious intervention of the Holy Spirit, you will not repent! Instead, you will continue on in impenitence and sin and suffer the eternal consequences. And, as the Scripture says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
Rather than continuing on in sin, God would have us repent and look to Him for mercy in Jesus Christ. He tells us in His Word (Ezekiel 33:11): “As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”
Rather than continuing on in sin and disobedience and suffering the eternal consequences, God desires that you acknowledge and confess your sins – face up to your sinfulness and the punishment your justly deserve – and God desires that you look in faith to Jesus and the atoning sacrifice He made for you when He suffered and died upon the cross for the sins of the world. He promises mercy and forgiveness to all who trust in Christ Jesus (John 3:14ff.; 5:24; Rom. 3:21-26; 4:5; 1 John 2:1-2).
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.]