30 July – 5 August 2017.
One thing that surprised me when I first started teaching in Taiwan was just how quiet the students are. In class it’s always difficult to get students to share their ideas or even ask questions. When I spoke to another professor about this, he told me that in Taiwan many students are worried about saying something wrong and embarrassing themselves, so they prefer to say nothing, act as if they understand everything, and pretend that they have no problems at all. I was so sad to hear that. After all making mistakes is an important part of learning – and an important part of life.
In the church we also often face this same problem. When it comes to sin, we much prefer to stay silent and pretend like we have no problems at all. But whether it’s in school or in church, this approach hurts us. How can we grow and learn in our faith unless we bravely face the truth that we aren’t perfect and that we have made mistakes? Even worse, if we don’t face our sins and acknowledge them we stay trapped by them. Our pride and our fear of embarrassment start to oppress us, and we live in constant fear and worry that someone may find out we aren’t perfect.
In Psalm 32, the writer describes this problem so well. In vv. 3–5 he writes, “When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. … My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, ‘I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.’ And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone!” What a great description of the blessings that come with repentance, and of the peace we receive when we let go of our arrogance and pride and instead acknowledge our mistakes before God.
Today, confession has become so uncomfortable that many churches no longer even practice it. But we need the blessings of repentance so much. That’s why I’m glad that in our English Ministry service each week we do take time to confess our sins to God and to hear God’s promise of forgiveness. What great news! We don’t have to pretend to be perfect. Christ has forgiven our sins and given us a new chance to bravely try again – a chance to re-devote our lives once more to following him.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis