“Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.’
– Acts 3:17-23
‘The University of Virginia was founded by Thomas Jefferson. A story relates how misbehavior of students led to a riot. When professors tried to restore order, they were attacked. The following day, [the] university’s board held a meeting with the defiant students. As a member of the board, Thomas Jefferson spoke, “This is one of the most painful events of my life.” Suddenly, overcome with emotion, he burst into tears. Another board member asked the rioters to come forward and give their names. They did. Later, one of them gave the reason for their confession, “It was not Mr. Jefferson’s words, but his tears.”
‘Just like the student was moved by Jefferson’s brokenness, so God is moved by yours. When you are truly broken and sorry for sins, true repentance is the result.
‘”If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Repentance involves confession, but it also involves making a 180-degree turn in lifestyle. God has assured that, for those who come to Him ready to forsake the past and turn over a new leaf, they will be abundantly pardoned.’
– Presidential Prayer Team Devotion
The Scripture above is part of the Apostle Peter’s second sermon. His first is in Acts 2 on Pentecost. Then Acts 3 starts with Peter and John healing the lame beggar outside the temple gate called Beautiful. When a crowd gathers around them, Peter addresses them as being those who killed Jesus, but they would be forgiven if they would repent and turn to God (verse 18). But there were those among the crowd who did not like what they were told. They had done nothing wrong. Jesus was getting the crowd agitated. They were worried that a rebellion against Rome would harm their position. They could not repent for protecting themselves by killing Jesus. This reaction led to the arrest of Peter and John. Of course, that gave Peter a different audience to make his third address, the religious leaders – the Sanhedrin. This third audience said that they’d let Peter and John go if they would stop preaching about Jesus. This third group were the religious leaders who would never repent for having rid the world of Jesus. They would also never admit that Jesus had risen from the tomb. They had done the right thing. They had done something politically expedient. They rested behind their decision. But even though Peter and John refused to quit preaching Jesus Christ and Him resurrected from the dead, they were released under stern threats from the Sanhedrin.
The Apostle Paul wrote that we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s Glory (Romans 3:23).
That was the way I would usually start a witnessing session using the Four Spiritual Laws tract back forty plus years ago. I had some of the tracts until someone took it upon themselves to destroy them. The organization changed its name from Campus Crusade for Christ to simply Cru, but you can still get the tracts. Without the tract, I could still go through the tract from memory. Having the tracts destroyed will not hamper me.
These days, the modern evangelists tell you that that type of introduction (You are a sinner. Sinners deserve death.) is a turn off. People don’t like hearing that. It hurts their self-esteem. Umm. That’s the point, isn’t it? One of our chief sins that everyone gets to be good at doing is to ignore the sin in our lives, or having many, many excuses for it. Full speed ahead and don’t look back. C. S. Lewis wrote the typical excuses for sin in one of his Letters to an American Lady, “I am rather sick of the modern assumption that, for all events, ‘WE,’ the people, are never responsible: it is always our rulers, or ancestors, or parents, or education, or anybody but precious ‘US.’ WE are apparently perfect and blameless. Don’t you believe it.” And what has evolved since the days of C. S. Lewis is even worse, from the boy on the TV sitcom saying, ‘Did I do that?’ to everyone saying, ‘It’s not my fault’ before anyone even notices what went wrong. Don’t get me wrong. I liked the sitcom because I loved Urkel, but to elevate a catch phrase to a modern lifestyle is going too far.
I recently went to a men’s fellowship. The discussion was supposed to be on God’s love, but one of the scripture references went awry. Jesus’ words were strong words, and most of the men rejected Jesus’ message due to the language. Only two or three people, me being one, was willing to leave that verse in the Bible. After I got home, I reread the Scripture, reading the entire paragraph to ensure proper context, and I prayed.
When the lightbulb came on inside my head, I e-mailed the men’s fellowship leader and lamented that I was too dull during the meeting. I then explained how the passage should have been interpreted. He said that I was being too hard on myself. He didn’t understand that for the last 20 years of my employment I had to have the right answer to all questions asked by the customer. My employer would never settle for failure. Failure could lead to a customer’s employee getting hurt or killed and our company being sued. There was a large crowd at the men’s fellowship that day, but I was the only one who felt guilty for not having the answer to the question. I didn’t want a group of men going home with the idea of rewriting Holy Scripture, because I could not think of the best answer. All the guys were Christians. What about those who might be teetering on the fence think?
Part of the problem is that the higher levels of any organization (family, school, the workplace, the church) want to blame someone or something. No one at the bottom wants to have that curse placed upon them. Some in the middle are worried about the self-esteem of the bottom dwellers.
Then everyone goes into name tag defilade.
Sorry, old Army term. A defilade position is one where you can see them, but they can’t see you, like you hide just over the crest of a hill. They can’t see you until they are almost on top of you, but you can peek over the top of the hill and see them the entire time they are climbing the hill.
Name tag defilade is used in two situations. The boss is looking at who to blame or the boss is looking for volunteers. That’s when everyone leans over to tie their shoes or places a book so that the boss can’t see their name tag. Reading a report while holding the report over your name tag works well also. The boss knows everyone by name, but hiding the name tag seems the only way out at that point. Maybe name tag defilade will confuse the boss just long enough to make a quick escape.
If God has all the hairs on our head numbered, he knows us whether we are wearing a name tag or not. When we sin, we will not get away with it. “Did I do that?” will not work. “It’s not my fault” will not work.
The quoted devotion speaks of 1 John 1:9, but let’s look at 1 John 1:8-10.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
If blaming others or denying involvement does not work, what does work is the compassion of God. He loves us. And when we are truly broken because we have not performed perfectly before a perfect God, we have a God who will forgive us. We have to believe in Him, repent of our sins, and keep our eyes on Jesus. Peter preached to the people who participated in the crowd yelling, “Crucify Him!” Peter was in the crowd, hiding. He probably recognized faces in the crowd on this occasion. Peter assured them that they would be saved, if they only repented of what they had done. They had nearly incited a riot before the Roman prefect in order to have Jesus killed. Yet, Jesus would forgive them. He said it from the cross. Why should the Father forgive them? Because they did not know what they were doing.
So, there is no reason for name tag defilade. God is no longer keeping a tally sheet of all your sins once you accept Him as your Lord and Savior. That tally sheet is gone and forgotten. No, Jesus took those sins to the cross. That debt is paid. I’d rather admit that I am a sinner and suffer an unnoticeable dip in self-esteem than to lose having Jesus in my heart while holding onto an abundance of self-righteousness.
Have you ever screwed up? We all have. Come, repent, I have a friend that I want you to meet. His name is Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria. Glory to God Alone.