Originally scheduled for April 21
There is one thing that human beings do with
excellence: self-justification. It’s as old as Cain and Abel; you
will remember Cain’s question — “am I my brother’s keeper?” When
your conscience is bothering you, there are usually some time tried
strategies that will come to you quickly.
The first is relatively simple: I
have an excuse. I understand that there is a general rule against
what I just did, and my conscience is bothering me about it, but I
have an excuse. There is some sort of special exception that applies
to my case. So often, we like the fella trying to explain it to the
traffic cop — we were only speeding because we had to get ahead of a
dangerous speeder. You’re right, it’s a bad thing in general, people
shouldn't do it — but I have an excuse.
The second is simple also: you see
that other guy over there? He’s a lot worse than I am. You don’t see
him repenting. So let’s get our priorities straight here: go over to
that guy get him to repent and straighten out his life. Then we can
deal with a small stuff, like me.
Perhaps the most common of all is the
idea that, if we just wait long enough and our memory fades well
enough, God will forgive us because it’s been so long since we did
it. Time, in our view, heals all wounds — and forgives all sins.
Of course, there are many other techniques. But
have you ever looked at it this way? We are so good at
self-justification because we need to be. Self-justification is
really a form of self-condemnation. You wouldn’t be justifying your
conduct if you didn’t feel the guilt of sin.
You have an excuse? Why did you think
you needed one? If what you did was right, why would you ever need
an excuse? The truth is that coming up an excuse is usually a good
sign that you are in the wrong.
Of course, comparing yourself with
somebody else doesn’t work at all. Your mother taught you that. If
all the other lemmings are running off the cliff, does that mean you
need to run off the cliff too? Worse, just because somebody else is
a wicked sinner does not imply that you are a perfect saint. There
is really no logical sense to it at all.
We are quite correct in saying that
God will forgive us — but not just because a certain amount of time
has passed. He will forgive us based on our confession and
repentance. If you want God’s forgiveness, you have to get it God’s
The real cure for guilt and sin was given at
the cross — the blood of Christ. That guilt and sin is real;
otherwise there would of been no need for the atonement. The fact
that he went to the cross for you and me tells you that you and I
More than that we need to remember it. We need
to be reminded regularly of the sacrifice that He made for us. That
memory is not just a polite nothing; it is also meant to be a spur
to repentance and confession. In communion we take time to examine
ourselves. The result of that examination is meant to be repentance
and confession. Therefore, as you partake this morning, throw away
the excuse; ignore the comparison to the other guy and seek your
forgiveness in the way in which God intended — by repentance and