O God, the Protector of all that trust in Thee, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy; Increase and multiply upon us Thy mercy; that Thou being our Ruler and Guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
--Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church
Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” So He spoke this parable to them, saying:
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.
“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
--Luke 15:1–10 (NKJV)
Of ourselves, we are not holy, but Jesus 'receives sinners and eats with them.' These twin realities, when held together are truly good news! Too often in today's society we refuse to talk of sin and refuse to see ourselves as sinners in need of a savior. This is dangerous thinking, for as one author has warned, "Those who refuse to be counted as sinners also refuse Jesus who came only for sinners." If we are not sinners, Jesus does us no good. If we are not sick from our wickedness, the Great Physician can be of no aid. Instead, we must rightly understand our condition, crying out to God that, by the mercy of Christ, "we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal."
O Thou, the Contrite Sinners' Friend (Charlotte Elliot, 1835)
O THOU, the contrite sinners’ Friend,
Who loving, lov’st them to the end,
On this alone my hopes depend,
That Thou wilt plead for me.
When weary in the Christian race,
Far off appears my resting place,
And fainting, I mistrust Thy grace,
Then Saviour, plead for me.
When I have erred and gone astray,
Afar from Thine and wisdom’s way,
And see no glimmering guiding ray,
Still, Saviour, plead for me.
When Satan, by my sins made bold,
Strives from Thy Cross to loose my hold,
Then with Thy pitying arms enfold,
And plead, O plead for me!
And when my dying hour draws near,
Darkened with anguish, guilt, and fear,
Then to my fainting sight appear,
Pleading in heaven for me.
Photo by Raimond Klavins on Unsplash