Call to Confession
Reformed theology is unique among the different strands of Christian belief because we have a particularly low view of man and our depravity.
We will often confess that man is morally incapable of doing anything good apart from God’s grace. But that is not all that we will say. Reformed theology goes further to confess that man is wholly dependent upon God to restrain us from perpetrating the full potential of our evil. In other words, we are not as bad as we could be—and that is only because God is actively holding us in check and preventing us from further sin.
This doctrine is found in many places in Scripture. For instance, in Genesis 20 we read about how Abraham gave his wife to Abimelech. And it says that God kept Abimelech from touching Sarah. The idea is that God restrained Abimelech and prevented him from doing what he had every intention of doing with Sarah.
This past week in our Sunday evening study we came across that passage in David’s life where he was snubbed by the wicked man named Nabal. We read how his wife, Abigail, ran out to meet David and attempted to keep him from coming and slaughtering Nabal’s household. And in that passage it says that the Lord prevented David from doing that.
We could cite a number of New Testament passages as well. The foremost among them is Romans 1, where it says that “God gave them over to their sinful desires.” The idea there is that God punishes us by removing his hand and the restraints he places on our evil propensity.
Well, this morning I wish to lead us in a prayer of repentance, and I will be dealing with this theme of God’s gracious restraint. So I’d ask that you bow your heads and agree with me in prayer as we come before the Lord.
Confession of Sin
Apart from you we can do nothing. And before you we are nothing. For we are sinners who are desperately lost and powerless in and of ourselves to rectify our moral condition.
Father, we confess that, were it not for your restraining hand, we would have long ago plunged headlong into every sort of grave and grievous sin. Yea, had you not held our nature in check we would have destroyed ourselves, our neighbors, and every good thing in our path. For we do not just have a vulnerability for being tempted, but we are predisposed by nature to all that is evil and we do earnestly yearn for the vile pits of ruin and misery.
Lord, we thank you that you have not let our depravity follow its natural course nor let it escalate to its full potential.
And this day we do confess our desperate need for your pardon and saving power. Our sins will not be diminished in one least bit if you do not intervene and renew us in righteousness. We can no more change our heart’s disposition than a leopard change his spots. Our only hope of reformation lies in the effectual power of your grace and the inward working of your Holy Spirit.
So we pray that your mercies may fall upon us and quicken us. Put to death what is unrighteous in us and bring to life any and all godly affections. May you, through the shed blood of our Dear Savior, forgive all our thoughts, words, and deeds that have violated your law, and may you crucify them there with Christ once and for all.
God we know that even this prayer does not find its origin in us. That we even look heavenward is owing to your kindness. And we count it but a token of what you may do to revive us in newness of life.
We only ask that you would continue to override our hearts and let the Spirit of grace rule in us.
Assurance of Pardon
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Eph. 2:8
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