As I write this, the calendar still reads “2015.” My usual end of the year pattern is to review what I have (or haven’t) been able to do during the year, so I can look ahead at the new year and make plans. As a Christian, that also means some serious time praying as I do my end of year tasks.
I’ve also been looking at my mistakes and mess-ups in 2015. I know it’s a shocker to most, but I’m not perfect. (It shocked me too!) As I’ve looked back at some of my choices, I’ve been reminded that I, like everyone, needs to ask forgiveness at times. If it wouldn’t cause more harm, we need to ask forgiveness of individuals we have hurt by our behaviors, choices, and mess-ups. But we also need to be asking God for forgiveness.
The other day I sat down at the piano (I can only play one note at a time… and very slowly at that!) and just started looking for a hymn that would be about repentance… you know, saying “I’m sorry for my sins, Lord, would you please forgive me?”
I stumbled into # 351 “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior” and was captured by the second verse:
Let me at Thy throne of mercy
Find a sweet relief,
Kneeling there in deep contrition;
Help my unbelief.
And its refrain goes like this:
Savior, Savior, hear my humble cry;
While on others Thou art calling
Do not pass me by.
The Christian idea of forgiveness, requires that we first repent of anything God calls sin. And that idea of repentance requires that we are actually sorry and intend to not repeat that sin. That’s the idea of “contrition.” You are so sorry that you did that sin (whatever it was), that it hurts you to even remember that you did it, AND you desperately want forgiveness from God.
I just sat there at the piano and continued to pluck out tunes as I “walked through” the next couple of dozen hymns and then I realized that even the titles alone help to remind us of the process of repentance and forgiveness:
“It’s Me, It’s Me O Lord, Standing in the Need of Prayer” (# 352) Too often we’re busy looking at the others around us who REALLY need to repent… But we are responsible for ourselves and how we stand before God.
“I Surrender All” (# 354) If we really want complete forgiveness, we need to repent and surrender completely. We can’t hold anything back from God.
“Just As I Am, Without One Plea” (# 357) I can’t wait until I get my act together before getting right with God, I need to come just the way I am and then (through the surrendering) he will change me into what he wants me to be. We see that in the physical when we don’t expect people to get all cleaned up before they take a bath or a shower. Jesus is the one who makes us clean spiritually, AFTER we come ‘just as we are.’
“My Hope Is Built” (# 368) I can do all this because my hope for forgiveness isn’t based on the number of prayers or good deeds I do in order to earn forgiveness. Rather, my hope is built on the idea that Jesus took care of the requirements for me to be forgiven… assuming I really want to be forgiven (there’s that repentance again).
“Blessed Assurance” (# 369) If I confess my sins and repent, I AM forgiven! I don’t have to wonder IF I’m really a Christian or IF I will go to Heaven, I can have assurance of it!
“Victory in Jesus” (# 370) As I continue this process of repenting when I sin, and surrendering my ways to His ways, then I can face temptations and possible sins and find that I don’t have to “fall” every time I’m tempted. I can have victory over sin!
With the spiritual “new start” and clean slate” that comes from repentance, starting a new year can truly be a new start as well!
Happy New Year!