Saturday, 19 April 2014

I'm Sorry

Recently I read an article titled “A Better Way to Say Sorry” (  I thought it was brilliant.  It came down to the following little formula:

I’m sorry for ..
This is wrong because …
In the future, I will ….
Will you forgive me?

The idea was to move away from the insincerity of the forced apology and to encourage more reflection and responsibility by the person making the apology.  Immediately my mind jumped to applying this simple procedure with my children in their day to day squabbles.   After all, my desire is that they show true repentance when they have wronged another.  As a parent, I want them to take responsibility when they hurt someone and see them mature in their relationships.

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Later it occurred to me that my response to the article was a little “log eyed” (Matthew 7:3-5) .  I gave no thought to my own sinfulness and need for repentance, but went straight for the specks in my children’s eyes.  I gave no thought to how I apologise or seek forgiveness from others or how I ought to model this sincere repentance to our children.  In fact, I often find myself apologising for the sake of restoring a relationship without taking much responsibility for the wrong I have done in the first place.  This is not true repentance at all.

It also occurred to me that our Father in heaven also desires us to come to him in true repentance.  In fact, this repentance is central to the gospel: 

Luke 24:45 “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

As the Easter weekend progresses and we focus on God’s great act of salvation for us I realise that coming before him in repentance goes far deeper than a few formulaic lines (as helpful as they may be).  It is very difficult to comprehend his saving work in us.  In his book “An Infinite Journey”, Andrew Davis expresses it far better than I am able to:

We cannot know the full measure of our salvation for a variety of reasons:
  1. We don’t perfectly understand how sinful we were, still are, and will continue to be, until we are glorified.
  2. We don’t perfectly understand how holy God is and how offensive were our sins against him, how hot and righteous was his wrath against us, and how great was our danger (eternity in hell).
  3. We don’t perfectly understand how great is our heavenly inheritance, how much joy and blessing awaits us when we are finished being saved, nor do we understand what kind of glory will be revealed to us (the amazing perfection of the New Heaven and New Earth) and in us (for we will shine like the sun).
  4. We don’t perfectly understand the price that was paid on our behalf, the infinite value of the blood of Christ and of the immense suffering he absorbed in propitiating the wrath of God….
Repentance (which literally means to turn around and go in the opposite direction) is often not easy.  In fact, it can be downright painful.

This Easter (or any other time) let us pause and consider the magnitude of our rebellion and rejection of God which took his Son to a horrific death on a cross in our place and allow the grief that comes with our guilt to bring us to a place of true repentance before Him.

1 Corinthians 7:10 “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

Friday, 18 April 2014

He breathed his last...

At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah". Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said. With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died,he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” {Mark 15:33-39}
I've read the Easter story countless times, I've seen the movie, read each gospel account...
And yet I am stunned that each time I read it, something stands out that I never noticed before. The last couple of weeks have felt as if a thick fog has lingered over our family. A good thick fog of general busyness but also a time of incredible sadness as we have grieved for the loss of a dear family friend, more than a friend, a dear sister that will just be irreplaceable and my heart bursts even thinking about her that I'll never get to hear that beautiful voice of hers...well...until I meet her again in Heaven.
In the Lord's beautiful sovereignty he placed her right next door to us and it wasn't until a conversation began soon after we moved in that we realised we were both Christians, loving the same Lord, sharing the same faith.
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Except she was fifty years older than me...
In her final days, though she was weak, though her body was slowly wasting away, perishing before our eyes. Her faith grew stronger everyday. From that hospital bed, in her suffering, she was shining the light of Christ before every nurse, every doctor, patient and visitor. We sang hymns, we prayed together, we read the Bible, we shared memories of the past, and we shared glorious visions of the future.
Each night after I visited I couldn't fight back the tears walking back to the car, I felt alive, I was awakened to the fact that we will all die one day, we will all have to face death and suddenly every care I ever had about trivial things, just didn't seem to matter anymore...
On her final day, my day was filled with things "I had to get done", end of term busyness and as I rushed to the hospital that night eager to spend another few precious moments with her I remember praying "Oh Lord, just give me one more moment with her, please keep her alive for me". The room was quiet, yet she was breathing, but each breath seemed as though she was running a marathon.
How often we take our breathing for granted, for her I felt as if each breath might be her last. Her eyes were opened and she was gazing at me, but tears were rolling down her face. And so I talked, I showed her photos, I talked about what it will be like in Heaven, I talked about the great party that was waiting for her, and the room Jesus had prepared just for her. I told her, it was time to go home to Him, her maker. I cried with her, I said she was beautiful, and she was. Every wrinkle she ever had was gone, she looked different, yet I knew it was my friend...
And then her breathing suddenly slowed right down...and then she breathed her last...
The Lord, in his great love for me, gave me this beautiful privilege to be with my dear sister as she breathed her last breath on earth, and he would be with her as she breathed her first breath in Heaven.
And so reflecting on Mark's account of Jesus breathing his last breath. I couldn't help but be reminded of her last breath, the grief I felt, the grief the disciples must have felt watching their dear friend die before their eyes. This wasn't the way it was supposed to be, and yet it was...
He was destined to suffer, as we are.
But this is not the end of His story, and it is not the end of the story for my dear sister...