Tuesday: 26 February, 2013 –– Second Week in Lent
Isaiah 1:10, 16–20 / Matthew 23:1–12
The Calling of Repentance
The first calling of the Christian life is repentance. Over and over the Scriptures give both exhortations and models of God honoring honesty and humility and being repulsed by pride, self-righteousness and hypocrisy.
Many Christians pray every day: forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. If these are more than mechanical words –– if this is the true desire of our hearts –– we are assured of God’s pleasure, grace and justification.
Religion can be such an insidious way for the enemy of our souls to twist our souls. The grace that cleans us and orients us to holiness can become distorted so that we begin to focus on our own supposed goodness. We can compare ourselves among ourselves (2Cor 10:12) so that God’s grace gets lost in our petty competitions.
Seeking our own honor is mutually exclusive to giving honor to God. And no matter how “good” any person might be, our relative goodness is nothing alongside the ultimate glory of the Lord. Any goodness we have comes from God. Our goodness is derivative –– we are created in God’s image and, because of our sin, we are redeemed by the loving death of God’s Son. Yes, we have a “goodness,” but it is not our own.
Sin and holiness, as so many other things, are inverted in God’s kingdom. John says in his first letter: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us (1Jn 1:8–10). When we focus on our own (supposed) holiness we commit odious sin; when we focus on our sin –– with honesty and humility and confession –– we are actually growing in holiness.
So the Gospel today concludes: Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted. May our Lord give us the grace of honesty and humility.