In our church, whoever preaches has an opportunity to write up a devotional for some follow up reflection and study. Here is my last sermon and devotion.
ENCOUNTER: Read James 4:7-10
This has been a challenging week, much more than I was expecting. You see, growing up, it was normative to be reflective about your own sin. Confession was a regular part of the spiritual diet. But something has happened, something has changed.
In our culture, nobody confesses. In fact, we are to celebrate who we are and the way God made us with hostility towards anyone who might suggest that we are not beautiful just the way we are. This sounds great and makes for nice songs, but this is totally at odds with the life in Christ that we are invited towards.
The only way we can move towards Christ is by repenting, turning away from the sin, the life, the attitudes, the beliefs, the actions of our flesh, of our worldly selves and then move towards Christ. We can't go one way while our feet are faced another.
This passage of scripture actually invites us into an even deeper level of reflection and spiritual work. We are invited to not just identify our sin, but to grieve, mourn and wail! Let's be honest, this version of sin does not sell!
Most of us are not reflective enough or open enough to really examine the destruction and pain our sin causes on those around us. If you can think back to a time you really did hurt someone you care about and remember the grief you felt and the humility, contrition, that it produced in your life. And for most people who genuinely care about the person they just crushed, that contrition actually changed how we live and how we behaved.
We love that Jesus wants to be in relationship with us and we soak up his love and grace. But we often forget that the back side of this relationship is a person that we can bless and hurt. Our sin impacts Jesus, it squelches the Holy Spirit.
It is an interesting spiritual discipline to not simply confess your sin, but to reflect on it, the pain and distance it causes to others and to God. To grieve and mourn and to pause before we celebrate our forgiveness. This sort of discipline can be used by God to actually transform us and change our tastes and desires.
BE REFLECTIVE: Write out your transgressions. Write out your sins. Then reflect on the ways that your sin and rebellion have caused distance and pain to the people in your life and in your walk with God. Now for the hard part, sit in it for just a minute. Grieve, mourn and wail. Apologize, be contrite, and let the weight of it only add to the gift of Grace that God offers through Jesus.
BE A BLESSING: As humans, it is totally normal and natural to crush each other with our sin. What isn't normal and natural is to go back to those we have wronged and ask for their forgiveness. Would you be willing to go to the people you have wronged and ask for their forgiveness? What a blessing that will be!
BE TOGETHER: Sin, contriteness, forgiveness, and reconciliation is the rhythm of life in Christ. We live this rhythm with God and with one another. Will you lean into reconciliation this week? Will you begin with your side of the street?