1 John 1:3; Psalm 139:23-24; Psalm 32; Exodus 34:6-7
It’s the end of July, and that means our garden of lettuce, cucumbers, string beans, carrots and cherry tomatoes is ready for harvest. Planting a garden is exciting in early May. Eating the fresh produce is wonderful now through August. But everything in between, such as the watering and the weeding – the pruning – is not nearly as much fun, at least for me. It’s hard work.
Weeding often requires a spade because some are so deeply rooted that our hands aren’t enough. It’s not so bad if done consistently, but like anything else that is ignored for too long, they become dense and it’s more difficult to discern weed from the good seed.
My husband spent nearly two hours for two evenings in a row, sitting in the fenced garden with a spade, patiently digging up a tangle of weeds. Each year for the past six years, we have had the same conversation.
I heave a big sigh. “We’re not planting a garden next year. It’s too much work.”
He rolls his eyes. “Garden vegetables taste so much better than store-bought vegetables. And you know you like planting.”
“Ugh. I hate weeding. I’m not doing this again.”
Weeding ranks right up there with confession. Those weeds are like my sin that I want to ignore. I am well aware and overwhelmed with all the ways in which I fall short of being all that God created me to be. I don’t know where to start so it feels easier – in the moment – to hide from the garden and ignore it.
One of those weeds represents my temper, at times. It can flare quickly when I am frustrated with all my failures. When I’m grumpy with my husband, impatient with my kids, and don’t spend enough time in prayer. Then I am vulnerable to the lie that Jesus is fed up with me too, and he will quickly move on to someone better behaved to get his important kingdom work done.
Then I remind myself of the truth found in Exodus 34:6-7. “And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.’
Slow to anger.
Did you catch that?
It’s not that the Lord is never angered by sin. Of course, he is. Because he is a just God, he punishes sin. But for those who love him and are genuinely seeking him, the Lord is patient and slow to anger. With me. With you. The Lord is far more patient with me and you then we are with ourselves and others. What a relief and blessing! If the Lord is patient with me, then I can learn to be more patient with myself.
With all my heart, I want to live an authentic Christian life. Part of that means learning to recognize and deal with my sin. Confession. The more time I spend in God’s word, the more aware I am of how HOLY he is, and how not holy I am. Since I am only human, I will always struggle against my sin. When my weeds of sin choke me, I must allow the Lord to uproot them.
“If we believe we are without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us, but if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).
Why is this a difficult truth to live out? Two reasons.
First, religious institutions have a long, unfortunate history of planting weeds of a vengeful God eagerly waiting to inflict brutal punishment on us when we falter. That’s a man-made image, not Biblical truth. Some of us have been shamed into believing that we are horrible people and God’s love is conditional only when we can earn it by good behavior.
Secondly, culture wants to ignore sin because it’s uncomfortable. Our nation has slowly evolved in accepting and tolerating ALL sin under the disguise of “rights” so we can live “in peace.” That isn’t real peace. We are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.
What it really amounts to is developing an understanding of who God is, and the best way to do that is to spend time studying his word and prayer. It’s like spending time in our gardens, swatting away the insects, sitting in our sweat and accepting the reality of our sin condition.
Slow to anger, gracious, and merciful. That is who our Lord is for those who seek him. We need to acknowledge our sins, not because of some legalistic, religious requirement, but because sin shatters the wonderful relationship that he delights to have with us. We need confession not to gain God’s acceptance and love, but to remove the barrier to fellowship that our sin puts between us and him.
Honestly, sometimes I don’t always know what I need to confess, so then I ask God to reveal my sin because I am often blinded to it. We all are. It’s easy to see sin in others, but it’s harder to see it in ourselves. We are either annoyed with others when God seems to be “slow to anger” in dealing with their sins, or we’re smug when the unjust received their consequences. But seldom are we grateful to God when he is slow to anger in dealing with us. In his mercy, he gives us time to confess and repent. Otherwise we would be dead.
We need to confess our sin privately to God and collectively as a church body so that forgiveness and healing can take place. If we allow sin to fester and grow roots in our hearts, it will take a shovel to yank out those weeds and thistles. God is ready and willing to forgive and heal our wounds, but because he is a perfect gentleman, he does not force anything on us. He honors our free will.
Our enemy doesn’t want us to confess and draw closer to the Lord. That’s why David’s example in Psalm 139:23-24 is so helpful. “Search me, God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way of everlasting.”
What do you need to confess? What have you been ignoring? The Lord is patiently waiting for you to go to him. He knows the issue. He knows your struggle. Nothing will surprise him. Get your Bible, find some quiet and privacy, and get right with the Lord. He’s ready whenever you are to forgive you and restore himself to you. You will feel so much better! What are you waiting for?
Dear Heavenly Father,
I am on my face before you, grateful for your patient, slow to anger approach in dealing with my sin. I confess that I don’t always receive your mercy you so freely give and I’m not always as quick to forgive myself as you are to forgive me. Forgive us, oh Lord, for turning our hearts away from you. Give us a hunger for your word and your ways. Give us wisdom and discernment when our culture tries to lead us away from your Truth. Help us to walk humbly down the path of righteousness as we are forgiven and cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. Amen