A Call to Repentance

Tuesday is Election Day. For many Christians, and indeed many Americans, the presidential election has been a cause of great anxiety and internal wrestling. What should we do when faced with two candidates who fall so radically short of basic decency, honesty, and integrity?

 

Now we believe that decisions about voting are almost always a matter of biblical prudence and wisdom. This means that Christians can (and often will) come to different decisions about how to vote in any given election. But I can’t stand here as a pastor and tell you “Thus sayeth the Lord” about how to vote (though, for what it’s worth, all of your pastors have made the prudential decision not to vote for either of the two major party candidates). 

 

But this exhortation is not about how to vote. It’s about something for more important. A few weeks ago, I wrote an article at desiringGod.org arguing that the fact that we’re faced with a horrible choice between two candidates that are high-handedly corrupt, dishonest, mendacious, and self-serving is evidence that God is judging our nation. He is, as it were, holding up a mirror to America. He is showing us who we are as a nation. We may not like what we see, but the two major party candidates represent us well. Lies, corruption, selfishness, unbridled ambition, shameless sexual immorality — all committed with a high hand. That’s our nation. God is giving us the leaders that we deserve.

 

If God is judging America by showing us who we are and what we deserve in these two candidates, then the proper response is to embrace God’s judgment. A pastor friend of mine has wisely said, “The judgment of God is not when things start to go wrong; it’s when God starts to put things right.” So we want to say “Amen” to God’s judgment, to agree with him about who we are as a people, and that begins with repentance.

 

And it begins with our repentance. Judgment always begins with the household of God (1 Peter 4:17). Sins that are celebrated without shame in the wider culture are almost always present and active in the church, even when they are hidden. Removing the log from our own eyes is the prerequisite to speck-hunting in our neighbor’s out there (Matthew 7:3–5). Heartfelt repentance for our sins is where we must start.

 

So that’s what we will do for the remainder of this exhortation. I’ll lead us in a prayer of repentance for seven areas of sin. After each prayer, I will say, “Forgive us, O God, in your great mercy” and you will respond, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on us.” After each prayer, we will have a brief time of silent confession so that each of us can confess to God our own complicity in that sin. And then we’ll sing a song before the Assurance of Pardon.

    This reminds us of our need to confess our sins, so let’s seek the Lord’s face together in prayer. 

Prayer of Confession

Our Father and God, we are people of unclean lips, and we dwell amidst a people of unclean lips. We come into your presence humbled by the greatness of our transgressions and by the weight of our wickedness. Left to ourselves, every intention of our hearts is only evil continually. And so we confess these sins on behalf of ourselves and our nation, casting ourselves wholly on your great mercy in Christ. 

Sexual Immorality

Father, our nation is awash in sexual foolishness. We have exalted our lusts and pursued them with reckless abandon. We have despised our daughters, ruined our sons, and betrayed our wives and husbands. We not only indulge dishonorable passions, but we give hearty approval to those who practice them, and malign those who refuse to join in. We are a people who glory in our shame. This is a great evil.

    Father, as your people we acknowledge our guilt in these sins. We have tolerated sexual immorality in our midst. We have hidden it, swept it under the rug, treated it as a small matter. We have justified and excused our indulgence. We have made provision for the flesh to gratify its desires. We have attempted to make peace with these sins, refusing to cut off our hand in order to pursue your holiness. 

Forgive us, O God, in your great mercy.

Lord Jesus, Have mercy on us. 

Abortion

    Father, for over forty years, our nation has sought to escape the consequences of sexual immorality by legally permitting violence against the weakest members of the human race. We have regarded unborn children as collateral damage in the sexual revolution. Our hands have shed innocent blood, and that blood cries out to you from the ground. We have waged war against our children. This is a great evil.

    Father, as your people, we acknowledge our complicity in this matter. We too have embraced the false idol of personal autonomy. We have thrown our lot in with the sexual revolutionaries. Through our own sinful indulgence, we have strengthened the culture of death. And we have grown weary in our resistance to abortion. The failures of politicians and judges have left us despairing, and so we turn our back on the silent screams.

Forgive us, O God, in your great mercy.

Lord Jesus, Have mercy on us. 

Racial Animosity

    Father, our nation is rent apart by ethnic and racial strife. Our sad history is filled with racial superiority, animosity, and oppression of the most grievous kind. We are still reaping the bitter harvest sown by our forefathers. What’s worse, we are sowing more seeds of racial suspicion and hatred, and thereby afflicting our children with the same ugly fruit. We have despised people because of the color of their skin and the shape of their features and the language that they speak. And in despising them, we have despised you, the God who made all of us in your image. This is a great evil.

    Father, as your people, we acknowledge our guilt in these matters. We have tolerated racial divisions because the pursuit of racial harmony is hard. We have shrunk back in fear; we have failed to be peacemakers; we have allowed ourselves to be manipulated by race hustlers of all colors. We have rejected your justice and righteousness, and sought to establish our own. 

Forgive us, O God, in your great mercy.

Lord Jesus, Have mercy on us. 

Anxiety

    Father, we are an anxious and fearful people. For all of our bluster and bragging, we are so easily shaken. We are anxious about money, anxious about the future, anxious about the economy, anxious about the election, anxious about our enemies, anxious about food, anxious about health, anxious about safety, anxious about everything under the sun. We live in so much fear. And we confess that anxiety is fundamentally a form of pride. Our anxiety is our sinful and arrogant reaction to the truth that we are not ultimately in control. This is a great evil.

    Father, as your people, we too live in fear. We have baptized the worries and anxieties of the world. We have feared what they fear, and lived in dread of what they dread. And in our fear and anxiety, we have become reactionary and easily manipulated. And because our anxiety and fear feels so justified by the riskiness of life, we do not feel it to be really sinful. We do not feel the arrogance in our insecurities. 

Forgive us, O God, in your great mercy.

Lord Jesus, Have mercy on us. 

Envy, Covetousness, and Greed

Father, our nation is shot through with envy, covetousness, and greed. We crave and crave, and demand and demand more and more. Our envy masquerades as a concern for justice. We say, “That’s not fair,” when what we really mean is “Why not me?” We have loved money and possessions and the false stability that it brings us. We have looked to our wealth to deliver us; we have served Mammon, rather than you. This is a great evil.

Father, as your people, we too have committed covetousness, which is idolatry. We have sought to store up treasures on earth. We have tried to serve two masters. What we’ve received, we’ve hoarded for ourselves, and when we’ve not received, we have resented the blessings and success of others. We too have cloaked our envy and greed behind a façade of justice.

Forgive us, O God, in your great mercy.

Lord Jesus, Have mercy on us. 

Lies

    Father, we are nation with a lying tongue. We love lies. We have exchanged your truth for a lie. We are willing to lie and deceive in order to get our own way or save our own skin. What’s more, we will believe any lie, provided it reinforces our own biases. We especially love to believe lies about our enemies; we want them to be as wicked as possible, in order to justify our hatred of them. This is a great evil.

    Father, as your people, we too have loved lies. We love the convenient lie, the falsehood that gets us off the hook or allows us to indulge a sinful desire. We twist your Word in order to get the result we want. We massage the truth, sanding off its rough edges and sharp points, so that it doesn’t offend us and others. We cover up the truth in order to be accepted by the world. 

Forgive us, O God, in your great mercy.

Lord Jesus, Have mercy on us. 

Pride

    Father, at the heart of our nation’s sins is the great sin of Pride. We have placed ourselves and our wants and desires at the center of reality and sought to conform reality to us. We have exalted ourselves. We have insisted on our own way. In our prosperity, we have rejected you and sought to make a name for ourselves. And now in our distress, when all of our idols have failed, we find ourselves hopeless, despairing, reactive, and afraid. But still proud. This is a great evil.

    Father, as your people, we too are proud. We cloak our pride behind a mask of humility. We try to make a name for ourselves in appropriate “Christian” ways. We live to impress other people so that they see how godly we are. We look down our noses at those we deem beneath us. We pay lip-service to you, but for all practical purposes, we rely and depend on ourselves. 

Forgive us, O God, in your great mercy.

Lord Jesus, Have mercy on us. 

 

Our sins have arisen to heaven. They are a stench in your nostrils. And so you are bringing your judgment; you are giving us over to our sins. Father, we see what you are doing, and we confess that it is good and right. Those who practice these things deserve to die. But you are a God, merciful and gracious, abounding in steadfast love and kindness. And so we appeal to that mercy and ask for that grace through your Son Jesus. Forgive us, O Lord, and lead us back to life in you. 

Assurance of Pardon

The most important political act that you will do this week is not on Tuesday. It’s right now. The most important political act that anyone will do this week will not be done by you or any other human being. It will be done by God, and it is being done right now. It is his act of forgiving and embracing guilty and helpless sinners for Jesus’s sake. It is the most important political act because it is the greatest of all acts that will be done this week. The gospel frees us—from sexual immorality, from the violence of the culture of death, from racial suspicion and animosity, from anxiety and fear, from greed and envy, from lies and corruption, from pride and selfish ambition. The good news of Jesus forgives and frees us, so that when the earth gives way and waters foam, God himself is the stability of our times. 

You have confessed your sins, you have acknowledged your iniquity. Therefore, by the authority of Jesus Christ and as a minister of his gospel, I declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. 

Thanks be to God!