Third Sunday after Pentecost
Confessing our sin, we look to Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins.
Once we were innocent. Now we are guilty. The story of Adam and Eve is repeated over and over again. This is our story as well as Adam and Eve’s story. Even in the face of sin, we see something else. We see the God of love, seeking to restore the fallen to Himself. In His words, ‘Where are you?’, we catch an early glimpse of the Gospel of salvation: ‘the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost’ (Luke 19:10). Adam and Eve had lost their way. Now, God was looking for them to bring them back to Himself. In the question, ‘Where are you?’, there is the searching question, ‘What have you done?’, but there is also the passionate appeal, ‘Will you not return to me?’. This is the call of mercy: ‘Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling, Calling, “O sinner, come home”’ (Sacred Songs & Solos, 414). Our loving Father is waiting patiently to welcome the returning prodigal (Luke 15:20).
Having chosen the way of sin, we are ‘naked’ and ashamed (Genesis 3:10). The Gospel teaches us that ‘there’s a way back to God from the dark paths of sin.’ We can be clothed with the righteousness of Christ. We can bring the ‘filthy rags’ of ‘our righteous acts’ (Isaiah 64:6) to God, and we can exchange them for the perfect righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Putting our trust in Christ, we need not be ashamed in God’s presence (Romans 10:11). There must be no ‘passing the buck’ – the man blaming the woman, the woman blaming the serpent (Genesis 3:12-13). We are to confess our sins and receive God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:9). This forgiveness comes to us through the Cross where the suffering Saviour becomes the victorious Victor and the subtle serpent became the defeated devil. This is the message of Genesis 3:15: through the Cross, God has provided for us a full salvation!
We are not to pray to God with superficial words that don’t mean very much to us. Our prayer is to be a real cry from the heart: ‘Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord’ (Psalm 130:1). We are to ‘cry for mercy’ with a deep awareness of how sinful we really are: ‘If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?’ (Psalm 130:3). We must come to God with deep humility – ‘My heart is not proud, O Lord’ (Psalm 131:1). When we truly confess our sin, we receive God’s ‘unfailing love’ and ‘forgiveness’ (Psalm 130:4). ‘In the Lord’ we have ‘full redemption’ (Psalm 130:7). It is for ‘now’ – ‘The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.’ It is ‘for evermore’ – ‘But purer and higher and greater will be our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see!’ ‘Praise the Lord! … Give Him the glory!’ (Psalm 131:3; Church Hymnary, 374).
Confessing our sin, we pray that God will deliver us from evil and renew our strength.
Israel’s demand for a king did not arise from love for God. It was motivated by human pride (1 Samuel 8:5, 20). Having ‘rejected’ the Lord as King, the people made their choice. They did not choose for God! They ‘chose for themselves’ (1 Samuel 8:7, 18). God allowed them to have their king but He did not approve of their choice (1 Samuel 8:22, 18). Humanly speaking, Saul was well qualified (1 Samuel 9:2). There was, however, something tragic about Saul’s reign. From the very outset, it was rushing headlong to its inevitable outcome: ‘I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly’ (1 Samuel 26:21). ‘He gave them what they asked, but He sent a wasting disease among them’ (Psalm 106:15). Saul did more harm than good. There was not much blessing during Saul’s reign. God had greater things in store for Israel – but not until Saul’s reign was over!
Everyone was so happy – ‘Long live the king! (1 Samuel 10:24). Everything seemed to be so promising – ‘The Spirit of God came mightily upon Saul’ (1 Samuel 11:6). God’s people were victorious (1 Samuel 11:11). God’s people ‘rejoiced greatly’ (1 Samuel 11:15). This is not, however, the whole story. Things were to get worse, much worse – ‘You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from Him who calls you’ (Galatians 5:7-8). Remember the parable of the sower: ‘Satan immediately comes and takes away the Word… When tribulation or persecution arises on account of the Word, immediately they fall away… The cares of the world and the delight in riches, and the desire for other things, enter in and choke the Word, and it proves unfruitful’ (Mark 4:15, 17, 19). Pray – ‘Deliver us from evil’ (Matthew 6:13).
‘How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?’ (Psalm 137:4). It is not easy to keep on worshipping the Lord when so many show no interest in worshipping Him. What are we to do when our faith seems so weak and we are on the verge of giving up? ‘Ask the Saviour to help you, comfort, strengthen and keep you’. What will we find when we come to the Lord, looking to Him for strength? ‘He is willing to aid you. He will carry you through’. God gives us strength – ‘You answered me when I called to You. With Your strength, You strengthened me’ (Psalm 138:3). ‘To him that o’ercometh, God giveth a crown. Through faith we shall conquer, though often cast down. He who is our Saviour, our strength will renew. Look ever to Jesus. He will carry you through’ (Church Hymnary, 482).
Forgiven and strengthened by the Lord, let’s serve Him in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The conflict intensifies. The ‘twelve’ are ‘sent… to cast out demons’ (Mark 3:14-15). Jesus is accused of being demon-possessed (Mark 3:22). Jesus warns against ‘an eternal sin’ – blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:28-30). With the offer of forgiveness – ‘the blood of Jesus… cleanses us from all sin’ – , there is the call to ‘confess our sins’ (1 John 1:7, 9). ‘If we say we have no sin’ (1 John 1:8, 10) and no need of Jesus Christ as our Saviour, we resist the Holy Spirit who seeks to convict us of our sin and lead us to the Saviour (John 16:8-9, 14). Are you anxious about ‘an unpardonable sin’? Let the Holy Spirit lead you to the Saviour. Take your sin to Jesus, and let His ‘perfect love cast out your fear’ (1 John 4:17). Do you think you cannot be forgiven ? God’s thoughts are ‘higher’: ‘Return to the Lord… He will abundantly pardon’ (Isaiah 55:6-9).
God has called us to salvation – ‘God has shone in our hearts…’ (2 Corinthians 4:6). He has called us to service – ‘having this ministry by the mercy of God’ (2 Corinthians 4:1). We receive salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’ (Acts 16:31). We are not to keep our faith to ourselves. We ‘believe.’ We are to ‘speak.’ This is God’s way of reaching ‘more and more people’ with His ‘grace’ (2 Corinthians 4:13-15). Our experience of salvation and our empowering for service are both grounded in one great gift from God: ‘God… has given us the Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 5:5). We fail our Lord often. Our faith is weak. Our witness seems so ineffective. When you feel such a failure, remember the Spirit. He will not fail you. He is our ‘guarantee of heavenly and eternal glory’ (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:5).
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary - Year B.