“Our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens.” ~Ezra 9:6
“We have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws.” ~Daniel 9:5
“On that day they fasted and there they confessed, ‘We have sinned against the Lord.'” ~1 Samuel 7:6
This past Sunday, in our brand new sparkling beautiful immaculate impressive worship center, seven people put on their Lord Jesus in baptism. They were born again. They were created all over again to walk in newness of life with our God. Five families, 14 people total, placed their membership with the Legacy Church of Christ. They, too, were beginning again. Rededication. Recommitment. Re-focus. There were many of us in this new building who are feeling a strong sense of re-birth. Starting over. Like New Year’s Day, we sit around and eat black-eyed peas and promise to do things differently from this point forward. Like buying a new car and lecturing the kids about food and drinks and Taco Bueno cinnamon chips. Starting over.
Ebenezer. 1 Samuel 7.
Our new building can certainly serve—no, it WILL serve—as an Ebenezer for the Legacy church family. By God’s help we have come this far. We are where we are because of our God’s power, because of his grace. He’s brought us to this point. Just like Kent and the McDowells and the Holts always point back to the Cox’s garage in 1959, from here on out we’re going to point back to August 2008 and say, “That’s where things started again. That’s where the transition really kicked in. Remember that?”
(Jim McDoniel said Sunday the reason we can’t write “Ebenezer” real big on the outside of the new building is that Russ or Cordelia would have a stroke. The real reason is that the City of North Richland Hills would require 19 permits and a special election.)
In our Holy Scriptures we see that everytime God’s people are at a real turning point, everytime they start over, everytime they seek God anew, everytime they’re asking God for a deepening of the covenant relationship, it begins with a time of corporate confession. An intentional time of corporate, congregational confession and repentance before God. A public acknowledgement of sins committed, not by individuals, by the entire body of God’s people. 1 Samuel 7. Ezra 9. Daniel 9. Corporate sin. Corporate confession.
We did this last night in Oasis. In the brand new worship center, we listed together, out loud, the sins of the Legacy Church of Christ. I just asked the group in there to start naming them. And they did.
Apathy to God’s mission to save the lost.
The desire to be a big church.
Tolerance of sin in the body.
Apathy toward social justice.
Selfishness. A Me-Church attitude.
Trying to be like everybody else.
There were still a dozen hands raised when I cut it off.
And we prayed. One of our elders, David Watson, lifted everyone of those Legacy church sins to our Father in prayer. All of them. He confessed them—our past and present sins—on behalf of the whole church. Then we sang together “Just As I Am” and “I Am Mine No More.” and then another of our elders, Gordon Lowry, prayed a prayer of repentance for the church. Turning wholly away from the sins and turning fully toward God as the only source of our forgiveness and strength and renewal. And then we closed with another of our elders, Bill Baker, thanking God for his forgiveness and for his love and for redeeming us, even in our sins.
What a night. Paul says it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. Not confessing, not repenting, shows contempt for God’s kindness and tolerance and patience. Those are the very things that lead us to confess and repent.
We’re promised by our God over and over again in Scripture that if we confess and repent, if we admit our sins, if we turn from our former ways and destroy completely the things in our lives that contribute to our sins, if we have a complete change in attitude and determine with all our hearts to turn fully to our Lord, he promises to restore us and forgive us and cleanse us and reconcile us to a perfect relationship with him. And he promises a renewed sense of unity and peace among us.
May we from this point forward turn away from our sins and turn fully to God. And may our Father bring to us his boundless mercies and limitless grace.