Thursday, September 4, 2014

Penciled Prayers: At My Best I Need a Pardon

"Let the holiest and best things we do be considered. We are never better affected unto God than when we pray; yet when we pray, how are our affections many times distracted! How little reverence do we show unto the grand majesty of God unto whom we speak! How little remorse of our own miseries! How little taste of the sweet influence of His tender mercies do we feel! Are we not as unwilling many times to begin, and as glad to make an end, as if in saying, 'Call upon Me,' He had set us a very burdensome task? It may seem somewhat extreme, which I will speak; therefore, let every one judge of it, even as his own heart shall tell him, and not otherwise; I will but only make a demand! If God should yield unto us, not as unto Abraham--if fifty, forty, thirty, twenty, yea, or if ten good persons could be found in a city, for their sakes this city should not be destroyed; but, and if He should make us an offer thus large, 'Search all the generations of men since the fall of our father Adam, find one man that hath done one action which hath passed from him pure, without any stain or blemish at all; and for that one man's only action neither man nor angel should feel the torments which are prepared for both,' do you think that this ransom to deliver men and angels could be found to be among the sons of men? The best things which we do have somewhat in them to be pardoned" ("Learned Discourse of Justification," a sermon by Richard Hooker, as quoted in "Holiness," by J.C. Ryle, p. 10).

Father, I thank You for the cross of Your Son, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I come before You, Lord, as I always do, sullied by the filth of my own sin, and finding peace only in the royal garments of Christ my Savior--finding solace only in the righteousness of my King--the only Sovereign God. Even though I am cleansed, washed clean by the blood of Your Son, I confess my sin to You. I take not for granted the gift of Your forgiveness, understanding it is not based on anything I have done in righteousness (in and of myself I have no righteousness), but rather based on Your mercy, that I receive forgiveness and grace.

O Lord, forgive me, please, for the little reverence I show to You and the awe I express in recognition of Your grand majesty. Father, forgive me, please, for what little remorse I show when I come to You for forgiveness. I have yet to comprehend, and I doubt I will ever comprehend this side of heaven, how sinful my sin is--how detestable my sin is in your eyes. So many times I have read the story of Abraham's petition before you, for the sparing of Sodom and Gomorrah, and scoffed or thought with an almost indignant wonder, "How was Lot righteous? Look at Him, Lord! Look at his family!" How arrogant of me, Father, to put myself above Lot--to sit in judgment of him. How prideful of me, Father, to have such a low and casual view of my sin as if to say You would have saved the two cities if I had lived there. Lord, if but a single, dirty worm crawling across the ground rested the sparing of its life upon the genuineness and power of my righteousness, that worm would die in flames. I do not have the inherent righteousness to warrant the saving of even one, filthy worm.

Can I ever speak low enough about myself, Father, without in some way taking pride in my expression of humility? Can I ever take a low enough view of myself, a right view of the sinfulness of my sin, without seeking to elevate myself by way of the admission? O Lord, even my humility is tainted by my sin! At my best, dear Lord, I need a pardon. If ever in a moment I draw remotely close to walking humbly before You, I need Your pardon.

And thanks be to God Most High, the Lord God Almighty, for His indescribable gift! O Father, when I am at my best I need the mercy won at the cross! On my best day, at my best moment, how I need the pardon secured for me at the cross! Thank You, Lord, for the pardon You won for me as You shed Your innocent blood on the cross. Thank You, Lord God, that You determined in eternity past that the shedding of Your Son's blood on a Roman cross would be vicarious, propitiatory, and efficacious for me! O how great is my sin that it would require so great a sacrifice. An how great is the love of my Lord and Savior that He made such a great sacrifice for me!

At my best, I deserve Your wrath, condemnation, and eternal punishment, Lord. At my best, I have no hope apart from Your grace. At my best, I earn and deserve only pain and misery. At my best, dear Lord, I need a pardon--a pardon only You can provide. You alone have the authority, grace, mercy, love, power and judicial prerogative to grant me a pardon--to grant me salvation by Your grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

Oh, how unworthy I am, Father, to receive anything good from You. How unworthy I am to receive the greatest gift You could ever give a sinner like me--a pardon. There was nothing arbitrary about my pardon. You did not pardon me on a whim, Father. While I can speak of what it cost You, and while I can understand to the extent a redeemed man can understand what it cost You, I've yet to fully comprehend the enormity of the price You paid to pardon me. My finite and flawed mind cannot wrap my head around the pure, perfect, and priceless nature and infinite power of Your sacrifice on my behalf, Lord Jesus. So great is your pardon of me!

Father, who art in heaven, help me to grow every day by shrinking my pride. Help me to grow every day by deepening my understanding of the sinfulness of my sin. Help me to grow every day in conformity to the image of Your Son, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Let me never again forget, not for a moment, that when I am at my best, I never rise above my eternal need for a pardon--Your pardon, Lord.

In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

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