He sits there shivering in his sin-cloak.
He is covered by these rags but they are no shield against the cold. Alone, so alone. He hears no music to entertain him. No colors or shapes distract his abused mind. On the other side of the room a cheap lamp is on the verge of exhaustion. The only voice he hears is that of the Accuser rehearsing his guilt, reading the charges against him over and over until the din of this silent indictment envelopes him completely.

The only movie playing in his mind unfolds scene after scene, sequence after sequence of sin after sin:

  • his own words and deeds—profanities cloaked in humor,
  • his passions parading as aesthetics,
  • his hate and prejudice crammed deep into his heart, remaining unspoken,
  • his selfishness—the wolf dressed like a lamb—masquerading as service, and
  • his greed giving no space to charity.

Something somebody said has plunged him into this depressing study, this contemplation of his past. Desperately he tries to turn his thinking in a different direction—the future! It is there, waiting and full of promises. Things could be different tomorrow. He could be different. Past is not necessarily prologue. Change is possible—isn’t it?

Try as he will, thoughts of the past spread outside the lines of the future he was trying to paint. Now, in addition to the guilt that assaulted him before, his thoughts throw open a window to the freezing winds of failed attempts at personal reformation. Like a year filled with Januaries, his life is littered with broken resolutions, frozen in failure.

Shaking, he tries his best to close that window and lock out that frigid blast of guilt but it will not close.

Someone, somewhere is praying for him, calling his name out to a listening Savior.

An old children’s song comes to mind: “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.” This simple song of memory begins to muffle the noise of the Accuser’s recording. The Bible! He searches his mind for things he had once known. The Holy Spirit is there to help him remember fragments—but in this dark room fragments are mighty things:

  • “For God so love the world…”
  • “The wages of sin…the gift of God…”
  • “If we confess our sins…”

With a faith he barely knew was there, he starts turning each accusation of guilt into a prayer of repentance. Through the open window a grace-breeze clears the room and the chamber begins to warm. The nearly useless lamp seems to surge in light just as a long unused smile dances lightly on his lips.

Suddenly he can breathe again, and not just the newly clean air in the room but a different oxygen that flies straight to his spirit. He breathes more deeply than he can ever remember breathing. He needs the air for he is now singing, his spirit draped in shining white robes: “Jesus loves me this I know!

Psalm 51 NIV
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways and sinners will turn back to you. Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem. Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar.
Mark 1:14-15 NIV
“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
1 John 1:9-10 NKJV
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us
Romans 10:8-11 NIV
“The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

Prayer of Repentance
from the Book of Common Prayer (adapted SRP)
Most merciful God, I confess that I have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what I have done, and by what I have left undone. I have not loved You with my whole heart; I have not loved my neighbor as myself. I am truly sorry and I humbly repent. For the sake of Your Son Jesus Christ have mercy on me and forgive me; that I may delight in Your will, and walk in Your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Jesus, I Come to Thee
Words and Music: William T. Sleeper

1.Out of my bondage, sorrow and night,
Jesus I come, Jesus I come;
Into thy freedom, gladness and light,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of my sickness into Thy health,
Out of my want and into Thy wealth,
Out of my sin and into Thyself,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

2.Out of my shameful failure and loss,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into the glorious gain of Thy cross,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of earth’s sorrows into Thy balm,
Out of life’s storms and into Thy calm,
Out of distress to jubilant psalm,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

3.Out of unrest and arrogant pride,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into Thy blessed will to abide,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of myself to dwell in Thy love,
Out of despair into raptures above,
Upward for aye on wings like a dove,

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

4 thoughts on “April 20, 2017

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