Recently I have been feeling the weight of my sinfulness and the many ways I go off God’s path, following my petty selfish desires. Even my righteous acts don’t make the grade:
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags. Isaiah 64:4
Thankfully, at the same time I have been aware that Jesus can wash me clean and restore my relationship with Him. With Peter, I’ve been praying, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” [John 13:9] I am finding it helpful to follow a personal liturgy for confessionadapted from The Book of Common Prayer, with commentary by David Powlison on each phrase in the prayer.
“Even when your thoughts and feelings are chaotic, these words can serve as your guide. They are a channel for honesty. Instead of wallowing in misery and failure, these words help you to plan how you will walk in the direction of honesty, mercy, gratitude, and freedom.”
Today, I didn’t get further than the prayer’s opening greeting:
“Almighty and most merciful Father”
Here are Powlison’s comments on that simple phrase:
“Notice that you are talking with someone who is both all powerful and most merciful. The God and Father of Jesus Christ is the God of comfort and Father of mercies. God becomes your Father, our Father who art in heaven, through Jesus. He loved you in the exact way you most need help and rescue from outside yourself. He died in your place. He laid down his life for you. He is alive. He pursues you. Someday you will see him face to face. He comes to you in person, giving his Holy Spirit, who makes you childlike towards him: “Abba, Father!” You need this Father of life, this living Savior, this life-giving Spirit. Turn to him. Call on him for help.
Don’t mistake the true God for other things. For example, what if your human father was weak, absent, fickle or harsh? The reason you know that such things are wrong is that you have a God-implanted sense within you: a true father should be strong, involved, faithful, generous and tender. Your true Father welcomes you. He is glad to see you and willingly listens to you. He will protect you. He will hear you. He is merciful. He is generous-hearted. He will help you. He will give you what you truly need.”
In particular, this echoed in my heart:
“He pursues you… He comes to you in person, giving his Holy Spirit, who makes you childlike towards him: “Abba, Father!” You need this Father of life, this living Savior, this life-giving Spirit.”
God does not wait for me to come to Him. He is pursuing me. He comes to me with life, and welcomes me into His holy of holies. He makes it possible for me to enter into His presence. The work and effort is His.
Because of this, I don’t have to wait until I have cleaned up my act. And I don’t come as a grown-up who has it all together, but as a child, calling out, “Abba–Papa”.
I am not asking forgiveness from some distant, impersonal divine being. I’m approaching my Father who created me in love and with love, to be loved by Him. He is personal, intimate, present with me. He answers back to me, “Yes, I am here for you now. Come. Be washed. Be clean.”
This is my confidence. I can come without any hesitation. ‘Father’ is not just a name. It describes our relationship. It explains why He wants to forgive me. It testifies how His love never runs out on me.
“In death, In life, I’m confident and
covered by the power of Your great love
My debt is paid, there’s nothing that can
separate my heart from Your great love.”
[One Thing Remains]
Because of this, perhaps the biggest wonder is not that the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-holy God lavishes His love on me, but that it takes me so long to come to Him.
I want to learn to stay closer, to return faster, to delight more in His love. And this is just what my Father wants for me too.
He waits. He beckons. He invites. He whispers, “Come.”