Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Best 2 Paragraphs I Could Possibly Write Today

[I'm currently working on a number of sermons that I will preach in 2008. Some will be with my church and some will be in other contexts. I think I have about 18-24 sermons in the works. The excerpt below is one on the Spiritual Discipline of Confession. At this point in the sermon preparation I gather notes from authors, construct paragraphs, jot down notes that I think are applicable, write down passages that come to mind as I think, write and pray. This paragraph may or may not end up in the sermon in the long run, but it is something that I hope permeates all of what I do.]

As a pastor I have a look into the lives of others that many don't have. Sometimes it is a great blessing and burden, a burden not necessarily being negative. I get to share weddings, births and even funerals with people. I get invited into the personal lives of strangers and friends. People tell me things they wouldn’t tell Oprah. At times I have received phone calls in which people tell me they’re about to give up on a relationship that means a lot to them, or hat they have committed a sin they need to confess. At times I’ve been in my office and someone has come in with a frightful, panicked look on their face and they begin to lay bare their very deep hurts. With many experiences and failures I have had to come to grips that some people just want to temporarily ease their guilt. Some don’t want answers; they want a listening ear. Some want answers, but I can’t give it to them (people want to change overnight, not over time). I can be quite passive in these events and just sit back and listen. But I have become convinced that I have to put that aside and really step up and proclaim the gospel to them as they are on the phone or two feet away from me.

I have begun taking people to 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I like to preach; I call it the ministry of proclamation. I have learned too that it is appropriate to preach to people, to declare to people one-to-one, even if they are Christians already. When someone sins and has unconfessed sins they really have unresolved guilt and shame too. They need to have their minds captured by the gospel again. I need it too. If I am completely sure they understand the gospel I preach to them, it goes something like this:

“Let me tell you something right now. I’m so glad that you felt like you could come to me. I’m glad that God has opened your eyes so that you can see you are wrong and that he is right. I’m very happy that you are following the Spirit’s prompting. God is not mad at you right now. He is not angry with you right now. He placed his anger on Jesus and turned away from Jesus so that now in your sin he could turn his face toward you. He placed his wrath on Jesus so that your life would not grow dim like that the day at Calvary when the sky grew dark as God turned his face away from Jesus. God is not abandoning you. He abandoned Jesus for you. You might feel that right now you have been at your worst, but God is at his best. You might feel that you are very far from God, but God has moved your sin very far from you, from the east to the west. When you walk out that door in a moment you do so under the forgiving and cleansing blood of Jesus. When you go to church and worship you can do so under the satisfaction that your sins are forgiven. . . let me tell you about the power of Jesus' forgiving blood. . .”

[I try to explain, when I can, how Jesus’ blood is different from Abel’s. Abel’s blood cries out for vengeance and justice. Jesus’ blood cries out for mercy and forgiveness. Jesus’ blood atones and advocates for us. That is what I tell you today.

Have a Merry Christmas and let us not forget that the Jesus in the crib is the Jesus on the cross. Both crib and cross are evidence that God loves us and came down to redeem us. . .Peace on Earth and Mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.]

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