Call to Worship
Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered, O offspring of Israel his servant, children of Jacob, his chosen ones! Sing to the Lord, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the Lord made the heavens. [1 CHRONICLES 16:8-13, 23-26]
Father of mercies, we confess that we have sinned against you. By your Holy Spirit, come and work repentance into our hearts. Help us to see you as you are: with outstretched arms, a loving heart, and power to save. Help us to see Jesus, the friend of sinners, and to follow him more faithfully. As we have received him, so strengthen us to walk in him, depend on him, commune with him, and be conformed to him. Give us an experience of your grace that makes us bold, that we might joyfully live for the good of others. Amen.
And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them. And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” [MARK 10:1-12]
I have a friend who tells me, “Reality is your friend.” I have another friend who replies, “But sometimes your friends are ugly.” When we bring our lives into the light, they aren’t as pretty as we thought they were. But that is the reality we must embrace. It truly is our friend because it points us to God, who “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
The primary means by which we walk in the light with God is the simple act of confession. Confession does not secure forgiveness, but rather facilitates the power of forgiveness and its cleansing effects in the life of the believer. The acting agent is the blood of Jesus, his sacrificial death on the cross (1:7). Jesus is willing and able to cleanse us and restore our relationships if we will just get the real us in the light.
To walk in darkness means to neglect or even deny the truth about God, or about ourselves. A toddler may close his eyes and believe that he cannot be seen, but only because he does not see. So it is with the one who walks in darkness. He thinks his way of seeing things is in fact reality, but nothing could be further from the truth. He will not be able to have fellowship with God or with others until he sees according to truth. In the realm of truth, he will be able to relate to God and others on the basis of what is real, and experience the cleansing power of Jesus’ blood.
That sounds great “on paper,” but when it comes to our actual lives, we are not always so eager to be honest. Instead, we deal with reality in other ways. We distract ourselves with the artificial lights of work, entertainment, and hobbies. When ordinary busyness doesn’t work, we take it up a notch and give ourselves to something so completely that it consumes us. These are our addictions. When we feel stressed or bored or frustrated or empty inside, they take us to another world where we can forget all our troubles, at least for a little while. Addictions are dangerous because we are not only ignoring reality, but also making it far worse.
Pretense, excuses, busyness, addiction, and despair are not our friends. They turn us in upon ourselves, which leads to death. An honest look at reality, with God’s help, gives us insight into the way sin works and how God can bring healing and transformation to those areas of our lives. We can only repent of what we are able to see.
This is why community is such an essential context for true repentance. Our friends and family can see our blind spots, and we need them to tell us. We need a community where it is okay to talk about our struggle against temptation and sin, how sin is wrecking our lives, and how our brokenness causes us to look for worth and joy and peace outside of God. Can we talk about these things without condemning each other, or condoning sin? Can we talk about our problems without someone always fixing it with their “solutions”? Can we weep with those who weep, and pray for those who are struggling?
Search us, O God! Every dark corner and every hidden place.
- What is your practice of confession and repentance like? Where do you need to grow?
- In what areas of your life are you guilty of walking in isolation? What areas of your life does no one know about? What areas of struggle do you need to invite your community into?
God of call, God of transformation, God of the Lenten journey, help us to discern your still, small voice. Open us to change and growth, that we may walk with Christ. In Jesus’ name, Amen. [WSB]
All biblical quotations taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Journey to the Cross: Readings & Devotions for Lent © 2013 by Providence Church. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from Providence Church.
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Cover design by Andrew Shepherd. Book design by Kendal Haug.
Special thanks to Melanie Hebert, Todd Stewman, and Laura Szymanski for their invaluable contributions in editing and writing.