Sebastian Moore made this astonishing confession: “It has taken me thirty years to understand that the admission and forgiveness of sin is the essence of the New Testament.” Paul Claudel once stated that the greatest sin is to lose the sense of sin. Humility, recovering alcoholics like to say, is stark raving honesty. We cannot receive what the crucified Rabbi has to give unless we admit our plight and stretch out our hands until our arms ache. If we search for one word to describe the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ, ‘reconciliation’ would not be a bad choice. The Crucified says, “Confess your sin so that I may reveal Myself to you as lover, teacher, and friend, that fear may depart and your heart can stir once again with passion.” His word is addressed both to those filled with a sense of self-importance and to those crushed with a sense of self-worthlessness. Both are preoccupied with themselves. Both claim a godlike status, because their full attention is riveted either on their prominence or their insignificance. They are isolated and alienated in their self-absorption. The release from chronic egocentricity starts with letting Christ love them where they are. Brennan Manning, Chapter Nine
So, after twenty-seven blog entries covering eight chapters in Brennan Manning’s classic book, Abba’s Child, here’s the gut honest truth.
Left to my own devices, I am a self-centered, self-consumed, selfish ‘what’s-in-it-for-me’ sinful, son-of-a-gun.
I don’t care how many prayers I pray or how many times I go to church, asking God to change me, I will always be, at my core, a self-centered man who needs to repent daily for my sinful selfishness. A selfishness that will consume me lest Jesus, my loving Savior, comes and rescues me from myself.
And thank God, I have a loving Father in heaven who sees my plight and has made every arrangement for me to come to Him daily, asking Him, once more, to forgive me for my sinful self-centeredness and fill me with His heart of compassion and unconditional love.
Now some of you may be reading this and saying to yourself, “Boller, you have it all wrong. Don’t you understand, Marty? Once you’ve given your heart to Jesus, you don’t need to be constantly second-guessing yourself, calling yourself a selfish sinner on a daily basis!”
But to that viewpoint, I politely say, “Bull”.
As I see it, Jesus isn’t expecting me to live a sinless, self-less life here on earth. The idea that I will be able to be ‘perfect’ (i.e. flawless or sinless) on this side of heaven just isn’t in the Scriptures. But what Jesus is expecting of me is that I’m learning, day-by-day, to recognize my sinful condition, my selfish heart and get in a regular habit of falling on my knees, repenting for my selfishness, asking Him to lead the way into His life, His way, and His truth.
As a matter of fact, I think we evangelical Christians really miss the boat when we categorically assign the act of repentance to some one-time prayer for salvation. In truth, I need His salvation on a moment-by-moment basis. And if more Christians could live in this place where we all need the washing of our self-centered souls on a regular basis, I think we might find the Gospel of on-going Grace much more appealing than this ‘one-and-done’ approach to Christianity so many of us put our faith in.
As these quotes above from Manning’s book indicate, real Christianity is a willingness to live in the on-going, 24-7 outpouring of God’s Grace, covering all of our sinful selfishness and shame for the entirety of our earthly existence. The idea that you and I today can live a sinless, self-less life that needs no forgiveness or grace sets up, in my mind, an army of cold-hearted Christian monsters who go around the world pointing pridefully at our ability to avoid sin while accusing those god-less sinners of living lives less honorable than ours!
Yuck! These Bible-thumping puritans, parading around in our white robes of righteousness, quite honestly, do more harm to God’s Gospel of Grace than we might dare imagine.
So, how about if we all get real?
The essence of the New Testament message, as Sebastian Moore states here, is the on-going admission and forgiveness of sin.
Now, let’s get down and dirty honest about our daily need for forgiveness, and get on track with the reconciling God of mercy who loves to welcome us home on a daily basis of Grace and Grace, alone.
My prayer: Thank You, Lord, for Your reconciling Gospel of Grace that never grows tired or weary of my repetitive selfishness followed by my heart-felt prayers of confession. Keep this river of reconciling mercy flowing over me for the entirety of my life, so that in Your Grace, I can always find myself safe and secure in Your loving arms. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: How have I under-estimated the on-going rhythms of my admission of selfish sin followed by His outpouring of forgiveness and grace? Why is it that I refuse this on-going flow of reconciling mercy, preferring instead for some one-stop shopping experience with God where I dump my sin when I ‘get saved’ and than believe I must live some sinless life on my own after that?
So what is God speaking to you today as you live as Abba’s child in the midst of His Gospel of Grace?
Over an eleven-week period, you and I will take a deeper look at God’s Gospel of Grace; Exploring the Good News of God’s Unconditional Love & Acceptance. We are using Brennan Manning’s classic book, Abba’s Child – The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging as our guide. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Gospel of Grace home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
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