salvation

Contemplating Confession

No,  I didn’t rob a bank, pick up a hooker, or stab anyone.  No, it is none of your business exactly what I am guilty of.  But, I am a sinner and I did sin.  The medication for this sickness is confession and repentance.  In Orthodox Christianity, there is a process of coming forward to the icon of the Theotokos and the Christ child beside the priest in the presence of the church.

It is a bit intimidating of a process.  Granted, with the chanting going on and speaking in a low voice with the priest, no one can hear your business.  Only when the priest declares absolution does anyone hear anything during the sacrament and even then nothing is disclosed about what was done.  Plus, the early fathers never demanded that everyone confess every sin in the church beside the priest before attending Divine Liturgy.  There may (and probably should) be a spiritually reliable person in one’s life to confess to.  Father does not need to hear every time you took an ink pen from work, drove over the speed limit, or fantasized over the new office intern.  We don’t believe anyone should beat up themselves over every sin.  Confession and repentance is an on-going process that we should be experiencing in our daily spiritual disciplines.  A daily and frequent seeking of God’s mercy and salvation from evil should and must be pursued and is enough to absolve us from sin if done in sincerity.

But, there are some things we do because of severity, frequency, and the potential danger that going before God during Vespers, Matins, or completely in private with the priest is advisable for the sake of our souls.  Such a confession can be the first act of recovery from an addiction or prevention of a bad situation from becoming worse.  In some cases, it may be a preparation for one to confess to legal authorities and prepare for civil consequences.  While such things as 12 step programs, anger management, and the like may be useful and effective in correcting outward behavior, sin is the illness of the soul and only the blessing of forgiveness from God can correct it.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9)

There was a time when I would have deemed such a practice as unnecessary.  But, when I think about it, Protestants sometimes have similar practices of confession.  At altar calls people can ask the preacher to pray for forgiveness.  Certainly, a pastor keeps an open door and heart to anyone to confess privately.  Many churches advocate prayer partners and spiritual mentors where one can go to when they can’t reach the pastor, or feel more comfortable spilling their guts with than with the pastor.  And all Christians are encouraged to repent of sins in private as part of their daily prayers.  So, why should anyone go before an icon, beside a priest, in a prayer service, and confess sins?  Let me briefly name three:

  1. The ordained priesthood has the ability to forgive sins through the Holy Spirit and succession by the resurrected Christ and his Apostles (John 20:22,23).
  2. Confession is essential for repentance and cleansing from sin (Mark 1:4,5).
  3. We are a community of people who seek to live anew, not just individuals seeking personal salvation (Matthew 3:5).

I am called to be the salt of the earth.  If I lose my savor to my sins, I am useless.  I am called to be the light of the world.  If I hide under the basket of my failures, I cannot fulfill my purpose to share the True Light (Matthew 5:13-16).    I pray and believe that confession will heal my wounded soul, give me the ability to heal those whom I have harmed, strengthen my Christian journey, and unite me even closer with my fellow believers and humanity as a whole.

Memory Eternal: For Brandon

“Lord, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.”  (Luke 23:42)

Just when he started to make some good choices, death chose to take him from us.  Just when the potholes in his road were being filled so he could go somewhere, he went away.  Brandon not only turned his life around.  But, he was young and had plenty of time to achieve great things.  At least, that’s what we thought.  That’s what I thought as I admired his laughter and good nature as we all sat and joked around the table this past Thanksgiving.  None of us knew that the crime he tried to turn from would turn on him.

Memory Eternal Brandon Glover

Memory Eternal Brandon Glover

There was a thief on a cross who, unlike Brandon, had no hope of redemption on this earth.  He was condemned and nailed.  Left to hang on that tree until breathlessness or a merciful death blow would relieve him.  And yet, the thief did have one hope.  It was in a world to come.  It was through the Sinless One that was crucified with him.

Among the better decisions Brandon made, he looked upon Jesus as his source of hope.  He did’t know all there was about discipleship.  Nor did the thief.  But, they both had sense to believe in and call on the gateway to a better world.  Christ answered the one with faith,

Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.  (Luke 23:43)

The thief on the right of Christ is the upward side of the lower bar.

The thief on the right of Christ is the upward side of the lower bar.

May Brandon’s faith suffice for his deeds.  Lord, please let his confession be sufficient for salvation.  Let your mercy shine upon him both now and forever.  And may your spirit of comfort be on his family.

Guidelines For Witnessing To Your Baptist Friends

Guidelines for Witnessing to Your Orthodox Friends

1. Remember that salvation does not depend on works or on your association with a church. It depends on a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. This relationship comes through faith (see Eph. 2:8-9).
2. Pray and trust the Holy Spirit to reach the hearts and minds of those who are lost with the gospel message.
3. Share your testimony. Many Orthodox have never experienced a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Your testimony of what Jesus has accomplished in your life could have a great impact on them. Keep your testimony short. Avoid using terms that are unfamiliar to Orthodox, such as: “walked the aisle,” “got saved,” and “born again.”
4. Explain that you are certain of your salvation because of God’s grace. Make sure that you communicate that your assurance is derived from God’s grace and not from good works or your ability to remain faithful (see 1 John 5:13).
5. Give them a copy of the New Testament. Lead them to texts that explain salvation.
6. Avoid issues that are not central to salvation.
7. Keep the gospel presentation Christ-centered.

Taken from “4Truth.net” http://www.4truth.net/Eastern_Orthodox/

I have to thank my friend Sabrina Messenger for alerting me to yet another reason why I am considering converting to Eastern Orthodoxy.  Arrogance has to be one of the worst traits of the Baptist denomination (Q:  How do you tell a Baptist?  A:  You can’t tell a Baptist much).  While not all of us are narrow-minded toward other faiths, there is a tendency among our leaders to act as if everyone else is wrong without entertaining the idea that we could be wrong.  I find this attitude very disturbing when it comes to Orthodoxy.  How do we have a nerve to try to teach the Gospel to the church who put the books together and canonized them for us?  Are we to correct the likes of Ignatius and Polycarp about church doctrine when they were trained by the 12 Apostles?  Which Southern Baptist Convention president or National Baptist Convention USA Inc. (?) preacher gave the opening address at any of the Seven Ecumenical Councils?  We Baptist are products of the radical reformation, rebels against the first rebels (the classical reformers), against the most successful rebel (the bishop of Rome).  Having been so far removed from the foundation of the church, us criticizing Orthodoxy is like a junior high school basketball team playing against the Miami Heat.  So please, my Orthodox friends, be patient with us.  We have little exposure to you and too many of us already “know” that we are right.

Guidelines for Witnessing to Your Baptist Friends

  1. Remember that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26).  Jesus requires disciples to deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow him (Matthew 16:24-27, Mark 8:34-38, Luke 9:22-26), which clearly calls for disciplined effort. 
  2. Pray and trust the Holy Spirit will guide you to people who are sincere about learning Christian history and spirituality and will listen (Acts 8:26-39, John 6:66-68).  Have confidence in God when some people reject the truth (Matthew 13:14, 15, Mark 4:10-12, Luke 8:9, 10, Isaiah 6:9, 10)
  3. Let them see you work out your salvation in the model of Christ (Philippians 2:1-16).  Many Baptist have never befriended someone who prays The Hours, fast, and venerates icons.  The example of your lifestyle will have a major impact on them.  Don’t force them to kiss a large icon of the Theotokos.  Share with them basic examples of prayer that do not conflict with Baptist doctrine and practice.
  4. Explain to them that salvation is not to be taken for granted and that we must be mindful of how we live (Matthew 25:1-46) and that God can reject even those who have been called if they try to come into the kingdom on their terms instead of his (Matthew 22:1-14).  This is why Orthodox Christians observe the traditions of the church fathers handed down orally and written from the apostles as well as the Bible (2 Thessalonians 2:15, I Corinthians 11:2). 
  5. Explain to them that the church existed 300 years before the Bible came into being and that it was the Orthodox fathers that finalized the canon.  Ask them to compare your Orthodox Bible’s Old Testament to theirs (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).
  6. Be humble toward them (Matthew 20:24-27).
  7. Remember, God alone judges a person’s confession (Luke 23:39-43).