An executive wrote about a problem she had: she apologized too much. You’ve probably known people like this. “I’m sorry if I’m bothering you, but can I ask you a question?” “You don’t need to apologize. Go ahead.” “Sorry, <asks question.>” I’m sorry, but people like that drive me…er…wait…I just did it myself didn’t I. Sorry about that. Ok, having fun there with the theme but how do you react when people do nothing but apologize? I think the only thing worse than that is the people who don’t apologize while they’re apologizing. A public figure will burst out in anger with a vile, racist rant and then come back the next day with “I’m sorry if I offended anyone with my words.” Ever notice how that puts the impetus on you. It’s as if they’re saying, “Intelligent people wouldn’t be offended, but since you’re not that smart, I’ll say these words to make up for it.”
There are people who follow Christ who have a deep understanding of their own sinfulness. Because of that, they are always confessing their sins to God. Martin Luther was known to spend a long time in confession as a monk. We can’t apologize enough for our sins and often keep bringing up the same sins in confession. The author of Hebrews deals with that. “’This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.’ Then he adds: ‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.’ And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.” (Hebrews 10:16-18)
In one sense, that recognition of our sinfulness is because of the new covenant God has made with man. The author of Hebrews quotes from the passage in Jeremiah that is part of reading today. The laws of God are written on our hearts and in our minds. We know what God wants. The truth is that everybody has a basic understanding of the laws of God. It is this understanding that makes those of us who understand what our sin has done become sorrowful. We become overwhelmed by our sinfulness leading to the continuous confessions that many people engage in. An even deeper understanding of the mercy and forgiveness of God is that once our sins have been forgiven, no further sacrifice is necessary. Our sins were forgiven at the cross. I believe we need to acknowledge our sins and confess them to God, but continuously confessing the same sins is a lack of faith that God has forgiven them. Perhaps you confess continuously because you can’t forgive yourself. That’s understandable. As a friend asked me when I told him that, “Does that mean you have higher standards than God?”
Ouch. That hurt when I realized what I was doing. But it helped me understand the depths of God’s forgiveness. As I continued in my life of following Christ, I began to fully experience His grace and the power it has to overcome sin. While I am still not sinless, God has worked in my life to improve it and draw me closer to Him. That is the power of forgiveness. That is the power of grace. When we commit our lives to God through Jesus Christ we are not only forgiven by His mercy, we are given the power to overcome sins by His grace. We are blessed to have a God who forgets our sins and gives us the power to overcome them! Whatever you’ve done the solution begins by seeking God in confession, receiving His mercy and forgiveness, and receiving grace to overcome. It’s a long process, but worth it.
Oh Lord, how often I feel like I need to ask forgiveness for sins that You’ve already forgiven. Yet I ask you again and again. Remind me of Your forgiveness for sin and give me the grace to overcome my sin.