Can the Confession of Sin be Joyful?

Thursday is for Discipleship


View from a restaurant above San Bernardino
View from a restaurant above San Bernardino

It was almost 30 years ago. Before I met and married my wife 26 years ago [longer now]. Before I dated and called off a wedding to Dana. Before I spent a year not dating anyone, a godly woman named Pam was the object of my affections. In fact, it was my first official date with Pam, a dinner, at a mountaintop restaurant overlooking the city of San Bernardino, California. Good meal, good company, good conversation and a very memorable question from my date.

I don’t know how we got on the topic. In those days, I traveled on dates with a pocket full of “Ungame”™ questions. I would use them to stimulate the conversation and find out as much as I could about my dates likes and dislikes, their past and perspectives.

Maybe it was in response to one of those questions. Maybe she was just curious, but she asked me a question that until that night, I had never consciously formulated an answer to.

“What is your definition of the Christian life?”

It made me think and so over the next ten minutes or so we bantered back and forth until finally I formulated my answer with these words:

“The Christian life is a
joyful confession to God
that I am not today
what I will be tomorrow
by the grace of God.”

There is a lot that this definition does not state. It doesn’t talk about justice. It doesn’t talk about ethics. It makes no mention of hundreds of doctrines, issues, and practices that should concern the serious Christian. But that doesn’t make it less helpful to the new believer or the old saint who wants to make progress in his or her growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18).

Almost 30 years ago, my date asked me to explain my answer. The conversation went something like this:

“It’s a joyful confession, because God by His Spirit has made me aware of some sin in my life that is displeasing to Him, while at the same time assuring my heart, ‘that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8:1). Those two facts taken together, turns the whole experience on its head. Had God not shown me my sin, I might have continued in it, but now that I have been made aware of it I can rejoice in the mercy of Christ while at the same time plead for and lean on the grace of God to change me from the inside out.”

“Second, because of His grace, whatever failure of conduct, be it commission or omission, I know that on the basis of God’s promises, the work that He began, He will finish (Phil. 1:6; 2:13). In fact, the word of God says that He will bring to perfection the work that He started. Because of His grace there is always hope for tomorrow—that everything from my motives to my understanding, from my action to my inaction, by the grace of God, has the potential to be a better reflection of Him tomorrow as I lean into and upon the grace of His Spirit. And that makes my confession of sin a joyful celebration of God’s redemptive purposes in my life.”

Pam lost my interest. And though both Pam and Dana were beautiful and godly women, I have no regrets about marrying Stephnie (actually, I’m thrilled that she would have me!). But I am thankful to Pam for her question. It has helped me for 30 years to keep my focus on the greatness of the cross in the midst of many ups and downs of my own walk with Christ.

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