Monday, March 26, 2012

Lord, Teach Us To Pray! Part 26

Prayers of Confession continued...

The prayer of confession is the light by which we see our true condition, our true selves, and come before God asking Him to cleanse us, and remove that which is hindering our walk with Him.

The only way we can come to that point of humbling ourselves, of repenting and confessing before God, is by acknowledging that our iniquity, our trespasses, our sins are harmful to our spiritual man, that they are choking off our intimacy with God, and that they are crushing us into the dust of the earth robbing us of hope and joy.

When we shelter our iniquity, when we protect our transgression, when we hold our pet sin close to our hearts and have no desire to be freed of it, we will not come before God in repentance, nor confess our shortcomings before Him.

If one has no desire to be freed from the prison they’ve fashioned for themselves, though God might open the door to the cell, and show them the way to freedom, they will refuse to walk out, remaining in the prison of their iniquity.

God will strike off the shackles, He will open the door, He will show us the way to freedom, but He will not forcibly drag us from our cells. Once our eyes are opened, once our chains fall off, once the prison doors are ajar, we are responsible for following after Him, and walking out of our prison on our own two feet.

A prayer of confession and repentance is man walking out of the prison in which he had languished for untold years. He sees the open door, he sees the opportunity to be free, he sees his chance to shake off the shackles of sin, and falling to his knees he seizes his moment and through confession and repentance is free indeed.

I have never been incarcerated, but I have heard stories of those who have been and were released, and the way they viewed the world once they walked beyond the prison gates is different than how they viewed it before they walked in. A man who has been imprisoned sees the world in a whole new light once he has been released. The air seems fresher, colors seem more vivid, simple things like chirping birds, or blooming flowers take on a whole new beauty, and it’s not because the world changed while they were imprisoned, it’s because their perception of the world changed.

Only when we have attained freedom, only when we have been freed from the prison of sin and despair, can we look back on our former condition and realize how dreadful, dark, and hopeless it was. Once we’ve attained freedom, we can likewise see the glory, love, mercy, and grace of God in a whole new light. Not as some abstract notion or doctrinal imperative, but something real and tangible and effective on a personal level.

It is vital that when we pray prayers of confession we are honest and forthright with God and with ourselves. Tell the truth! Tell the whole truth, and leave nothing out, because God already knows. Coming before God with prayers of confession and attempting to airbrush the wrinkles, or make ourselves out to be better than we are is a futile endeavor.

We can choose to be as the Pharisee, or as the tax collector. We can choose to stand before God and attempt to justify ourselves in our own righteousness, which the Bible says is as dirty rags, or humble ourselves before Him, and be justified in the righteousness of Christ Jesus which has been imputed unto us.

Two men went up to the temple to pray. To men made the effort to leave their homes, walk however long they had to walk, and go into the temple to commune with God. This however, is where the similarities between these two men end.

The first to pray was a Pharisee, a religious man, a proud man, and there was no humility in him, nor any acknowledgment of the fact that it is the righteousness of Christ in us that justifies us before the Father.

Luke 18:11-12, “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’”

Basically, the Pharisee’s prayer was all about himself, how good he was, how noble he was, and how he was superior to other men because of what he did. He did not thank God for transforming him, and sanctifying him, rather he thanked God because by his own strength and strict adherence to law, he was not like other men.

Luke 18:13, “And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner!’”

The tax collector knew what he was in the sight of God. Because he knew his fallen condition, because he knew that in and of himself he could never find redemption, he would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beating his breast he said, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner!’

The tax collector acknowledged his fallen condition. He did not attempt to elevate himself, or make himself out to be more noble and altruistic than he really was; he stood before God with sincerity of heart, and cried out to Him for mercy.

Luke 18:14, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

What more could be added to that which Jesus already said at the conclusion of this parable?

If we attempt to exalt ourselves before an all knowing God, we will be brought low. Yes, self-righteousness is something God is as averse to as hypocrisy. If however we humble ourselves before Him, confessing our iniquity, He will exalt us. Because the tax collector humbled himself in the sight of God, because he cried out for mercy, he went home free of blame, and free of the guilt and penalty attached to his sin. He went home a man forgiven.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

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