Before the police officer pulled me over, my conscience had already given me a ticket: I was guilty. But when the siren screamed my sin to the world, I felt ashamed. My guilt was about breaking the law; my shame was about being exposed as a moral failure. Guilt and shame accompany all sin. They are what make sin so grievous and the preaching of forgiveness so urgent.
Several years ago I heard about a minister from western Michigan who entertained a call from a church somewhere in New York. Since they wanted to hear him preach and he wanted to check out the lay of the land, he and his wife booked a flight. The congregation was rumored to be "liberal," but then doesn't almost every church out east seem "liberal" by Midwestern standards?
When most people speak publicly about themselves, there are two things you can usually count on. First, people tend to have a lot to say about themselves. Second, they have generally good things to say. You never hear politicians, for example, herald their mistakes or any misconduct. Doctors hang their diplomas or licenses on the wall, not malpractice lawsuits they may have lost. Some public speakers are self-deprecating, but usually as an attempt at humor in a self-serving way of feigning humility. The truth is that few of us want to publicly expose our failings and weaknesses.
Reflections on Sin by Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. President of Calvin Theological Seminary and Charles W. Colson, Professor of Systematic Theology
The first thing to say about sin is that it spoils everything. Recall the Bible's opening chapters: In the beginning, God delights in his creation. Like an artist stepping back from his day's work, God keeps saying "Good!" And when the work is done, God exults in it. "Very good!" says God.
"Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own!' (Matthew 6:34)
The Shipwreck of Faith
I know someone who trusted God absolutely. Every night he prayed fervently and fell asleep confident of God's loving care. one night someone broke into his home, assaulted him, and left him permanently injured. Recently he explained why he is no longer a Christian. "I was taught that God takes care of those who trust him. I trusted him, but he did not take care of me. Either the God of my childhood does not exist, or he doesn't care about me."
My best friend, Marie, is pregnant for the fifth time. She has two children. She lost two children to miscarriage. When she became pregnant this time, she was relieved to find that soon after conception she felt awful. She was nauseated, couldn't tolerate the smell of coffee, and her most urgent desire was to lie down on the couch and take a nap. But these feelings brought her relief, because when she lost pregnancies through miscarriage she had been feeling great.
Across the years whenever I deposited a sermon into my files, I typically paper-clipped to the sermon a copy of that week's church bulletin. At the top of such bulletins, I had jotted down a list of members in need whose names I wanted to include in that Sunday's pastoral prayer. So when I upon occasion looked up one of my old sermon manuscripts, I'd see also a roster of people for whom I once prayed. But upon reading through the list, I'd realize that a good many of those people were now dead—indeed, most had died of the very disease we prayed God would heal.
Reflections on the work of the Holy Spirit by Calvin Theological Seminary professors Duane Kelderman, John Bolt, John Cooper, Mary Hulst, and Kathy Smith.
Kelderman: What's so important about the work of the Holy Spirit?
Hulst: Without it we do nothing. It's the work of the Holy Spirit in and through us that animates everything we do—not just what we do in the church, but in our everyday lives.
Think about the Holy Trinity and your head may start to hurt. Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Three persons, but only one God. It occurs to you that you do not know how to picture this three-and-one. Who is this mysterious being? How many of him are there? Do you imagine a single transcendent person so versatile that he can create, redeem, and cleanse like a fresh wind? Can he do these things simultaneously? Just one person who, so to say, wears three hats or plays three roles?