Thursday, December 07, 2006

embracing grace 12: enlivened by embrace

In this chapter of Scot McKnight's book, Embracing Grace: A Gospel for All of Us, we read of our need to tell the truth about ourselves- to God, and to each other. This is key for us to experience God's embrace of grace.

All God requires, Scot says, is that we tell him the truth about ourselves. About what we have done and failed to do. Unlike Adam, not covering our sins and ourselves, in attempting to hide from God. But uncovering our sins and true selves before him. When we do that, our sins in a true sense, to God, are beside the point. He has what he wants. Our expression of faith in him, in this truth telling. And in Christ, he has provided, and provides for us his embracing grace. This is why some of the times I have sensed the Lord's nearness the most, were times of genuine repentance on my part.

The Litany of Penitence from The Book of Common Prayer (1979) is a good prayer to say on a regular basis. Here is part of it:
We confess to you and to one another, and to the whole communion of saints in heaven and on earth, that we have sinned by our own fault in thought, word, and deed; by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.
Within this prayer is what all such prayers require: after thorough confession there is the request for God's mercy, and then the promise of God's grace and forgiveness in Christ.

To tell the truth about ourselves involves, in Scot's words: "searching the cracks of the Eikon" to find the truth about ourselves. I think of the prayer of the psalmist (139):
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.

24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
I want to take this personally always and deal with sin. In Christ and by grace we can master it (cf., God's word of warning to Cain in Genesis and Romans 6). But this attitude must be ongoing. I know that's true. I must continue to be open to seeing and then telling the truth about myself. Then I can know that enlivening by God's embrace.

How do we avoid confessing our sins, and why do we do this? Is it good to say these prayers (such as The Litany of Penitence) together as God's people on a regular basis, and why?


Mark Goodyear said...

This post reminds me of some things I was hearing people say on blogs several weeks ago.

Evangelicals (I'm one) talk about the power of God's Spirit to change our lives.

That means if I am continuing to struggle with a pattern of sin in my life, I have to ask the question--Why isn't God's Spirit working in my life?

Too often, because I don't want people to think God's Spirit isn't in my life, I stop confessing my sins. Or at least I give it serious thought.

Ted Gossard said...


Thanks for your true thoughts.

Yes. We do get victory over sin in general, and over sins in particular.

However we easily lapse again into sin and sins. And sometimes into the same sins.

That, in part, is why this need of telling the truth about ourselves goes on.

And I think it's true, too, that a large part of Christian growth is to see areas in our lives that need work, that we were incapable of seeing before. This is the work of the Spirit of God and the Word of God, I believe. And it is ongoing throughout our lives. So that, as it has been said, those walking closest to the light, are more aware of their own darkness, or dark places.

Not pleasant. But necessary, surely, if we're to know that embracing grace of God in our lives.

Ted Gossard said...

I would like to add, too, what Francis Schaeffer once said. Something like: "We get substantial victory over sin, and make substantial progress in our Christian lives."

Certainly not like it's complete and final in this life.

Dan Brennan said...

Amen to Schaeffer's quote, Ted.

Ted Gossard said...


Yes. I love Francis Schaeffer.