I’m writing this morning’s cultural commentary from the airport in Amsterdam, where I’m leading a Bible study tour on our way to Italy. It’s being reported here that a Dutch insurance company has announced a program to cut deductibles for those who quit smoking or take up sports. It claims to be the first insurer in the world to reward people for a healthy lifestyle.
Our society needs all the motivation it can get. The Los Angeles Times is alleging that the Boy Scouts have failed to report alleged child molesters to authorities. A new study indicates that teenagers who send explicit texts are seven times more likely to be sexually active. A 13-year-old boy in Florida has been accused of beating his two-year-old half-brother to death.
Are we a nation God can bless? In the Beatitudes, Jesus gave us the keys to his Father’s blessing. His second promise seems especially appropriate this morning: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:5). Biblical scholars believe that his promise relates especially to those who mourn for their sins. If we do, we can claim God’s assurance: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Does our culture encourage us to mourn for our sins and confess them to God? Or does it assure us that our good deeds are enough to justify us? I grew up in a family that never attended church. In my mind, God had a scale in heaven, with my good deeds on one side and the bad on the other. Since I hadn’t done anything terribly wrong, I assumed the scale would tip in my favor and I would go to heaven. So does 98 percent of America—only two percent are afraid they might go to hell. When Warren Buffett made a commitment to give $30 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he said, “There is more than one way to get into heaven, but this is a great way.”
One of Satan’s great deceptions is that we’re good enough for God. Many of us have all of God we want, but not all we need. What about you? When last did you mourn for your sins? Make time for a “spiritual inventory” today: ask the Holy Spirit to bring to your mind anything in your life that displeases God, then write down what comes to your thoughts. The first time I did this, the Spirit showed me sins I had no idea I had committed. Ask the Lord to help you grieve for what grieves him. Then confess your sins with contrition and repentance, and claim the “comfort” of his forgiving grace.
God blesses those who mourn for their sins. By this standard, can God bless America today? Can he bless you?