Saturday, June 6, 2009

6/6-Forgiveness and Graduation

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.


15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. 19 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in [b] Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 7:15-23)

Calvin: So, carrying, as we do, the traces of sin around with us throughout life, unless we are sustained by the Lord’s constant grace in forgiving our sins, we shall scarcely abide one moment in the church. But the Lord has called his children to eternal salvation. Therefore, they ought to ponder that there is pardon ever ready for their sins. Consequently, we must firmly believe that by God’s generosity, mediated by Christ’s merit, through the sanctification of the Spirit, sins have been and are daily pardoned to us who have been received and engrafted into the body of the church. (IV.1.21)

Forgiveness is such an important concept. It is how we get beyond the past. It is how we are able to escape paralyzing guilt, and have confidence for the future. Calvin talks about how forgiveness is related to the church. He says unless we believe in forgiveness we won’t last a moment in church. Many have quit coming to church because they think they are not worthy to be there. But the church (as the old saying goes) is a hospital for sinners not a museum for the saints. The church is THE place where we are reminded that there is forgiveness and hope after we fall and mess up. And EVERYONE falls and messes up. On the other hand, if we believe in the Lord’s forgiveness, we ought to come to church to be encouraged not to mess up again- or at least not as much. In church we are encouraged to live for the Lord, and not for ourselves.
On the front page of The State paper today is an article about how graduation is helping a young man start a new chapter. It speaks of how he messed up as a young man, but now he has overcome his problems and gets a new lease on life. The milestones we pass are reminders that we get a fresh start. One of the reasons I love the whole New Year’s Day concept is that it is a turning over a new leaf. Calvin spoke of each day as a fresh page to write on. Today my son graduates from high school. He is not perfect, but he gets to move to a new place- Clemson- and go to college and start again. Our culture has low expectations for graduates. We do not expect them to be moral or to not drink or to go to church. It shows in the way our college students do not attend church. More than two thirds (according to Lifeway research) of Protestant young people quit church between 18-22. The majority 52% say they quit church to get a break or because of the transition (22% say they have to work on Sunday). Instead of seeing college as an opportunity for spreading the wings of their own faith- they see it as an opportunity to escape the faith. So Calvin is right. A new chapter- graduation, without the church to sustain the power of forgiveness doesn’t mean much. To be forgiven and then to not seek to live in that forgiveness is as Bonhoeffer said “cheap grace.”

Prayer: Thank you God for putting milestones in our lives that give us a fresh start. Help us to use these as opportunities for good and not for evil.

On a different (and random) topic- 66 years ago on 6/6 D-Day took place.

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