Why We Must Learn To Feel And Recognize Our Sins

Text:  John 1:19-28

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

There was a group of people – distinguished and important people – who had come to John the Baptist from Jerusalem. They were religious leaders, people of authority.  People of importance. 

Now, they came to John with an important question: who are you?  

Keep in mind, though, that this question was not asked respectfully, in the way we ask people where they are from to learn more about them.  No, this was a loaded question.  It was a question that was meant to call John out onto the carpet.  It was a question that was intended to make John fess up.  You see, John had been causing a great stir by his preaching and baptizing in the Jordan River.  And these religious leaders?  They do what paranoid leaders do; they want to control things and keep everyone under their thumbs. 

So, here they are.  The leaders are confronting John. 

“You, who are you?  It is time to quit playing games.  Time to fess up!  Who are you!” 

In the face of such authority, one would imagine that a person would keep their mouth shut.  Isn’t that what we are often told to do when we are outnumbered?  John, though, did not fail to confess, but freely confessed,

“I am not the Christ.”

Think about John’s response for a moment.  John did not think of himself as some high and lofty preacher-man.  When asked who he was, he did not dig out his resume and list off his credentials, his education, and his work experience.  When asked who he was, he did not name drop his family name or any of his connections.  He did the exact opposite.  John confessed his inferiority.  For example, he did not see himself as a speaker but as a mere voice.  He did not see himself as a messenger but a mere message.  He regarded his baptism as something to prepare people for the coming Messiah.  And he looked upon himself as an unworthy servant – a slave of Jesus. 

Dear friends, when we are asked to confess who we are, it is very difficult to confess our lowliness like John the Baptist.  It is a chore for us to speak about our weaknesses, whereas we have joy in boasting about our greatness.  The reason why?  We do not like admitting that we are poor miserable sinners.  No one wants to be stained with the label ‘sinner’ or ‘weakling’ before the stage of the world.  It hurts our pride to admit our lowliness. 

However, we all love to hear how great we are.  We love the praise and honor of others, even when we do not deserve it – especially when we do not deserve it. 

But why is it this way? 

Simply stated, we do not want our sin to be exposed to others.  And for those times when our sin is exposed to others, well… we try to make sure that our sin is not considered to be sin anymore.  So we try to normalize our sin.  We try to flip things around making good into evil and evil into bad.

Indeed, we hate being wrong.  We hate the idea that we have evil hearts.  We hate admitting that we are sinners. 

And yet, this is what is needed in our lives.  That is to say; it is not healthy or beneficial to go around pretending that we are not sinners.  It is especially not healthy to confess that we are awesome when deep down we know that we are not. 

This is why we so badly need the discipline of confession in our church services.  You see, when we confess our sins at the beginning of every single church service, we are confessing reality.  The confession of our sins in church teaches us that we are indeed rascals and sinners of the same stripe – that we are all equally guilty.  When we confess that we are sinners according to our old Adam, that confession is saying that we deserve hell – that the Lord would be completely just to damn us to the hell that we deserve. 

But this is scary. 

Every bone in our body does not want to confess our inferiority.  Every fiber of our being does not want to admit our weakness.  Every part of our conscience does not want to admit guilt of sin.  Instead, we want to deny our sin and run from God.  We want to boast about our supposed goodness and draw out the applause of others! 

Dear friends, denying sin and fleeing from God is the worst thing that you could do!  Do not try to deny your sin!  But rather, confess your sin and flee to the Lord’s mercy!  There is nothing better and safer than to come before God with a confession of guilt! 

John knew this!  And that is why he had no problem confessing that he was not the Christ.  John knew that he was nothing before Jesus because Jesus was everything before him.  John knew that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world! 

So, what this means, is that we can confess our sin, failures, struggles, and weaknesses because no one comes into Christ’s kingdom except sinners.  The church is for sinners only.  Therefore, we must learn to feel and recognize our sins. 

But here is the catch, our confession does not only consist of confessing our sins, failures, struggles, and weaknesses.  Oh, no!  There is a positive side of confession too, and that is to confess not ourselves, but Christ! 

The next day after John was confronted by the religious leaders, he saw Jesus coming towards him and said,

          “Here is the Lamb of God who
takes away the sins of the world!  This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’” 

You see, we not only confess that we are poor miserable sinners in thought, word, and deed but we – like John the Baptist – confess Jesus!  We confess that it is Jesus who forgives us of our sins!  We confess who Jesus is and what He has done for us! 

Several years ago I was in a class with the Bishop of the Lutheran Church of Liberia.  In the class, he shared how many in his churches in Liberia would bow their heads and confess the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed. Yes, they would fold their hands and bow their heads as if they were praying the creeds.  In frustration, the Bishop stopped the service one time and said,

“No, no, no!  We do not pray the creeds, we confess them.  Stand up!  Raise your chins.  Open your mouths and confess the one you rescued you from sin, death, and the devil!  Yes, confess it with boldness and confidence because Jesus is your Lord!” 

This is what John the Baptist did in chapter 1, verse 29! 

“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

This is what Advent does.  It confesses to behold the Lamb of God who comes to take away our sins.

This is what we do when we stand and confess the creeds,

“I believe in Jesus Christ who was crucified, died, and was buried, and rose again!” 

Indeed, we confess and boast not in ourselves as Christians, but in the Christ who is for Christians.  We boast in the one who came for us.  We confess Jesus because Jesus and His forgiveness are truth and reality for you and me! 

And so, dear Baptized Saints, we confess two things for sure this advent and Christmas.  We confess that we are great sinners and we confess that we have an even greater Savior who came for us, His name is Jesus Christ. 

In the name of Jesus: Amen. 

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