March 17th, 2013: The Fifth Sunday of Lent

March 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” 

On Sundays, this blog will take a “break” from the normal pattern of Scripture and reflection. This year, our Sunday focus will be the Jesus Prayer. I’d encourage you to consciously pray this prayer on Sundays, as often as you feel the need. In this space each week, we’ll discuss a different truth that the prayer teaches us.

Today, let’s think about the very end part – the part where we recognize ourselves, the ones praying this prayer, as sinners. There’s a lot of “spin” in church circles that goes around this word. Some traditions are extremely uncomfortable with the idea of “born-again” Christians sinning or struggling with their lives, and so they are hesitant to allow the word “sinner,” or other seemingly negative words, to define oneself within the Christian experience. Other traditions are quite comfortable with an understanding of Christian life that allows for sin and imperfection within one’s spiritual life.

This prayer is a great corrective for both of these camps. We get into trouble when we reject the idea that our spiritual growth, our sanctification, our being-made-holy, is a process. Not to put too fine a point on it, but you’re a piece of work, and a lot of work needs to be done before you reflect the image of Christ truly. It won’t be easy, and it will hurt. Some parts of you will be redeemed and changed quickly, others slowly; but it will all take time. This prayer reminds us that Christ is ever-present in this experience; he is behind us, pushing us forward. He walks next to us, holding our hand. He stands in front of us, beckoning and encouraging us to take the next step. Yes, we are wretched and we have far to go; but we do not go without the help of Christ.

We also get into trouble when we allow for sin and complacency to remain in our Christian walk. When we begin our Christian walk, we start as broken people, spiritually incapable of our own redemption. That never changes. However, as we pursue the realities of Heaven, we are remade; we get polished in areas that are dull, we have dead and diseased pieces pruned away, and we experience the growing pains that come along with growth spurts. Christ reaches down to us in our brokenness. He does not stand idly by and allow our sin to remain and fester. He is holy, and he desires us to be holy as well.

This prayer recognizes both our broken state and the fact that Christ can redeem us. By praying this prayer and focusing on these things, we open the doors a little wider for our own sanctification to happen. Some people won’t pray this prayer because they don’t want to self-identify as a sinner. Some people won’t pray this prayer because it’s a challenge to the state of sin that tries to hold God’s people captive. Yet, it’s a perfect prayer for all who desire to follow Christ.

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” 

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