The Lord said:
Ezekiel, son of man, the people of Israel are complaining that the punishment for their sins is more than they can stand. They have lost all hope for survival, and they blame me. Tell them that as surely as I am the living Lord God, I don’t like to see wicked people die. I enjoy seeing them turn from their sins and live. So if the Israelites want to live, they must stop sinning and turn back to me.
Tell them that when good people start sinning, all the good they did in the past cannot save them from being punished. And remind them that when wicked people stop sinning, their past sins will be completely forgiven, and they won’t be punished.
Suppose I promise good people that they will live, then later they start sinning and believe they will be saved by the good they did in the past. These people will certainly be put to death because of their sins. Their good deeds will be forgotten.
Suppose I warn wicked people that they will die because of their sins, and they stop sinning and start doing right. For example, they need to return anything they have taken as security for a loan and anything they have stolen. Then if they stop doing evil and start obeying my Law, they will live. Their past sins will be forgiven, and they will live because they have done right. (Contemporary English Version)
“It ain’t over till the fat lady sings,” is an old adage which means one should not presume to know the outcome of something that’s still in progress. In more contemporary language, we might say, “It’s not over till it’s over.”
Those sorts of proverbs are asking us, “What are you doing today? How are you living your life, right now?”
We need to be present to the time we are inhabiting at this moment. There are two opposite temptations for us in relating to time.
- “I did a lot of good things in the past. I worked hard. I was generous. Now it’s time for me to do whatever the heck I want. Nobody is going to tell me what to do or how to live my life.”
- “I did a lot of bad things in the past. I partied hard. I took advantage of people. Now it’s time for me to do good. I don’t know, though, whether it will ever be enough.”
In other words, the temptations are either to rely on all the good I’ve done, earning me a license to do what I want; or to believe I can never overcome my bad past. In both cases, it’s to keep thinking our past is the controlling factor.
But it’s not.
Just as there was a flip-flop of living, it could very well happen again. The guy who did good in the past, then didn’t, now responds to overtures to stop living a selfish life. He begins doing the good he used to do. And the guy who had a sordid past, then changed and did good, now goes back to his old life, like a dog returning to its vomit.
It’s never over, till it’s over. As long as we’re still breathing on this earth and walking on it, the outcome of life is still yet to be determined. There is always the opportunity for new life. And it begins with identifying and confessing where we are in this present time.
If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from everything we’ve done wrong. (1 John 1:9, CEB)
Being right with God means assessing our relationship at all times. Forgiveness and reconciliation are activated by admitting one’s true condition. Secret sins tucked away deep in the soul will only fester and boil. The result of un-confessed sin is spiritual blindness, darkness, and death.
There cannot be new life and renewal, revival, or revitalization of life and ministry apart from real honest tell-it-like-it-is biblical confession.
If this scares the hell out of you, it really should. Dealing with sin in a radical straightforward manner is what Jesus talked about in his Sermon on the Mount, in saying we should pluck our eyes out if they offend, and cut our hands off if they cause us to sin; because it’s better to be in God’s kingdom with no eyes and hands than to burn in hell with our parts intact. (Matthew 5:29-30)
Confession is more than simply mouthing some words about not being perfect and a sinner like everybody else; it is to lead to a complete turn-around and change of how we live our lives. We can change. We are neither fated to be a screw-up forever nor a good person till the end.
Instead, we have to put the work in – mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Change is what the biblical word “repentance” means. It happens by dealing squarely with our past thinking, choices, and behavior. This is why some form of a prayer of confession really needs to happen at every church worship service.
Ignoring such a vital liturgical prayer and practice will, at best, leave people with no guidance for confronting sin; and, at worst, will teach people that confession is not necessary to Christianity and leave them a spiritual mess.
Yet a carefully constructed prayer of confession can lead believers to unburden the things they have done, and the things they have left undone – which opens us to the advocacy of Jesus Christ who speaks on our behalf because of his once-for-all atoning sacrifice for sins.
Confession, repentance, and change are more than single events; they are a way of life for the believer. As long as you are still able to read this, there’s still the opportunity to live the good life and forsake the wicked life.
Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. (Hebrews 4:7, NIV)
It ain’t over till it’s over.
Creator God, you made us in your image: may we discern your goodness in all that we see, and serve you with all goodness in everything we do, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.