“So, obviously,” she explained, “I couldn’t come to church on Sunday.”
A sister in the faith was confessing her Saturday night sin to me over the phone, looking for forgiveness and encouragement. I forgave her in Jesus’ name and encouraged her with God’s Word, but that word stuck in my brain.
Obviously she believed that Saturday’s sin disqualified her from Sunday’s service.
Obviously she believed that only a hypocrite would dare to sing about loving God after a night of ignoring God.
Obviously she believed she didn’t deserve Lord’s Supper or community after her choices.
Have you ever felt like this woman did? Like something you did before church disqualified you from church?
Maybe you got into an ugly argument with your roommate before coming to church. Maybe you texted something snarky to your ex the Friday before church. Maybe your Sunday morning headache is evidence of your Saturday night indulgence. Maybe your Sunday started in bed next to a person you haven’t vowed to love ’til death do you part. Maybe you snapped at your kids who were in slow motion when you were already late for church. Maybe you sinned the same sins on Monday that you confessed last Sunday at church. Maybe you feel embarrassed by your lack of progress with patience, with kindness, or with purity.
If so, let me suggest that you need less “obviously” in your life.
From God’s perspective, there’s nothing obvious about staying away from church if you’ve sinned. In fact, there’s no better time to run to God, his Word, and his people than when you’ve failed embarrassingly. If Jesus came for sinners, as he often preached, why would you stay away from Jesus after you have sinned?
The prophet Jeremiah straightens out our souls: “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:19-23).
Jeremiah remembered the night before. The wandering. The choices that left a bitter taste in his mouth. The memories that left his soul depressed when his alarm went off. He didn’t minimize or justify his sin.
So what did Jeremiah do instead?
He called to mind the Lord’s great love. He called to mind the Lord’s compassions. He called to mind the Lord’s faithfulness. He forced his mind to think about something other than his sin. He forced his mind to think about the salvation of his God.
And notice that Sunday-saving word—every. Every morning, there is new compassion for you. Every morning, there is great love for you. Every morning, God is faithful to you.
Which means every morning covers that morning. The one when you feel like a hypocrite and unworthy and embarrassed to even show up.
That’s what every means.
So no matter what happens Saturday night, I’ll see you Sunday.
Pastor Mike Novotny has served God’s people in full-time ministry since 2007 as a pastor in Madison and now Appleton, Wisconsin. He also serves as a host and speaker for the Time of Grace television program and contributes to the written resources of Time of Grace Ministry. Pastor Mike is married to Kim and has two daughters.
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