On Saturday, January 8th, 2011 in Tucson, Arizona an event called “Congress on your corner” occurred at a local Safeway. The goal of the event was to give the people a place to voice their opinions and also meet the Rep. Gifford. This event turned tragic as a Jared Lee Loughne shot Rep. Gifford in the head at a range of ten feet.
Over the past few days, I’ve had some time to watch the news, read some blogs, and reflect on the events that occurred on Saturday. The most obvious thing that sticks out about this event is the sheer horror of it. The man from his own statements defines himself as a “terrorist” and wants to inflict pain and suffering on people. This man did this act of severely injuring a Representative of the people of Arizona and of the United States House of Representatives with premeditation and precision. Not only did he severely injure Rep. Gifford but he also killed a nine year old girl, a federal judge, four others, and injured more. To say that this event is a national tragedy would be the understatement of the year.
In an effort to process this tragedy, I would like to highlight some but not all of the lessons that this event has to teach us. The first is the frailty of human life, and the second is the depravity of our hearts. None of us know when our time is going to be up here on earth. The Bible speaks to this when it says that the Lord knows the very hairs on our heads (Matthew 11:30; Luke 12:7).
We know human life is frail because many of you have family members, or know close friends or associates who have died, had cancer, have a serious health condition or a disease. Everywhere we go we are confronted with the reality that human life is frail. The hospital is but one place where we are confronted with the frail nature of human life. People go to the hospital because they are sick, have a disease and need help. The funeral home is another place we are confronted with the frailty of human life.
This event in Tucson, Arizona ought to remind everyone of the frailty of their human lives. It ought to remind each of us about the precious gift of time. It ought to remind us of the gift that is the ability to breathe. This event ought to remind us of the gift of family, friends, a job, education and whatever else occupies our time. Every good and perfect gift comes from above and is a means God desires to use in our lives to draw our attention to the reality of our sin and our need for Jesus Christ.
For believers who hold the name of the Lord Jesus Christ precious- we ought to be reminded that every single one of us is capable of the evil that this young man did. We may not ever shoot a person with calculated premeditation like this young man did, but each one of us has sin in our hearts. We live in a world dominated by sin, and we ourselves are also sinners. The believer in Christ is engaged in a life-long journey of progressively conforming into the image of Jesus Christ.
Luke 6:45, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 15:19, “For out of the heart comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”
The media today is saying that Jared’s mental illness is one of the reasons he did what he did on Saturday, but that only addresses a symptom and does not get to the root cause. Jared’s root problem is his sin. The real problem is that Jared is a sinner and he acted on his sin in the most depraved way by murdering six, injuring Rep. Gifford and many others. Jesus said it in Matthew 15:19, “For out of the heart comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”
National tragedies have a way of uniting a county. Even as I write this article on Monday morning, President Obama has called for a time of silence, reflection and prayer. As the people of God we ought to pray and reach out to the victims of this shooting. As Americans during national tragedies’ we are often drawn together for a purpose greater than ourselves. Consider how Americans responded after Pearl Harbor was attacked or even more recently when the airplanes slammed into the Twin Towers on September 11th, 2001. These events are meant to open our eyes to the frailty of human life and also the depravity of the human heart.
Every single day people are confronted with major and minor events in their own lives or the lives of people they know, and such situations are meant to open our eyes to the reality of our own human frailty. Events like those that happened in Tucson, Arizona or even major or minor events in our own lives grant us a time for repentance. On Sunday night (January 9th, 2011), as I lay in bed, I was deeply burdened by the events that occurred on Saturday (January 8th, 20011) in Arizona. President Obama calling for a time of prayer for the victims was a good move on his part, and yet as a nation we need to repent for our own moral failings in addition to praying for our own nation and her leaders.
It would be a big giant mistake on my part to simply stop at calling for believers to pray for the victims of the shooting in Tucson, Arizona. The fact is that whether it is in six months, six years or sixty years- it is highly likely that most of us will altogether forget the events that occurred on Saturday January 8th, 2011. This is why during times such as these in the history of America- not only the events of our daily lives but also the events that shape our nation- we as believers ought to stop, examine ourselves in light of Scripture, repent and return to the Lord.
As a nation, American spends trillions of dollars a year on pornography. The divorce rate continues to climb and more and more men and even women are falling for the lie of pornography. America is a pseudo-conservative country. We say we believe in conservative values as a nation and yet our marriages, our economy and the future of our great nation lay in shambles. How many of us who profess the name of Christ really pray for our nation? How many of us who profess the name of Christ are really living what we say we believe as Christians? How many of us who profess the name of Christ are deeply burdened and saddened by the events in Tucson? How many of us who profess the name of Christ truly grieve over our own sin and understand that our sin is repulsive and disgusting in the sight of a holy God?
The actions of Jared on Saturday January 8th, 2011 are deplorable in every sense of the word. It would be all too easy to go ahead and condemn this young man to the death penalty, but before this is done- one also needs to remember that not only are we sinners, but we are all criminals. Every single one of us has sinned, and while it’s likely that your sin was not as deplorable as this young man- all sin is repulsive in the sight of a holy God.
The events of Saturday ought to cause every single born again believer to do some serious self-examination and repentance. It ought to cause us to see just how repulsive our sin is. After all a young man murdered a federal judge, a nine year old girl, four others, and injured many more. This event reminds me afresh of my own need for the grace of God. This event not only reminds me of my own need for serious self-examination of my walk with God, but also celebration of the fact that Jesus Christ died for sinners and that He now offers pardon for sin through His death, burial and resurrection.
I don’t want you to be introspective about your sin; I want you to be realistic about the fact that you are a sinner. I want you to see your sin for what it is and behold the majesty of God in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was born in a manager, lived a sinless life, died a brutal bloody death on the Cross, was buried and rose again. Today many people have a hard time coming to grips with a Savior who could forgive a man who committed a crime. Let us remember that Jesus Christ committed no crime and yet He died in our place for our sins on the Cross. Furthermore, this is the same Christ who forgave a criminal on the Cross, and said he would be with Him in heaven.
Throughout this article we have seen that Jared’s sin and our own sin are root causes of our problem with God. Now we are going to turn to look at what true repentance and confession of sin is and conclude this article by applying the Gospel to the situation in Tucson, Arizona.
Thomas Watson said, “Repentance is a grace of God’s Spirit whereby a sinner is inwardly humbled and visibly reformed.” John the Baptist warned the Pharisees and Sadducees who were arriving with bath towels at his baptism, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:7-8)
Thomas Watson said there are six ingredients for true repentance. The first is sight of sin, whereby a person comes to himself (Luke 15:17) and clearly views his lifestyle as sinful. If we fail to see our own sin we are rarely ever motivated to repent. The second ingredient for true repentance is sorrow for sin (Psalm 38:18). We need to feel the nails of the cross in our soul as we sin. Repentance includes godly grief; holy agony (2 Corinthians 7:10). The fruit of repentance is shown in genuine, anguishing sorrow over the offense itself and not just the consequences of it. Sorrow for sin is seen in the ongoing actions it produces. True repentance lingers in the soul and not just on the lips.
The third ingredient is confession of sin. The humble sinner voluntarily passes judgment on himself as he sincerely admits to the specific sins of his heart. We must not relent of our confession until all of it is freely and fully admitted. We must pluck up any hidden root of sin within us. “Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit” (Deuteronomy 28:19). At least seven benefits of confession are found in Scripture:
1) Confession of sin gives God glory.
2) Confession of sin is a means to humble the soul.
3) Confession of sin gives release to a trouble heart.
4) Confession of sin purges our sin. Augustine called it “the expeller of vice.”
5) Confession of sin endears Christ to the soul that needs atoning.
6) Confession of sin makes way for forgiveness.
7) Confession of sin makes way for mercy.
The fourth ingredient for true repentance is shame for sin. The color of repentance is blushing red. Repentance causes a holy bashfulness. Ezra 9:6, “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens”. The repenting prodigal was so ashamed of his sin that he did not feel he deserved to be a son anymore (Luke 15:21). Sin makes us shamefully naked and deformed in God’s eyes and puts Christ to shame, the One who took the scorn of the Cross on himself.
The fifth ingredient in repentance is hatred of sin. We must hate our sin to the core. We hate sin more deeply when we love Jesus more fully. Repentance begins in the love of God and ends in the hatred of sin. True repentance loathes sin. Finally the sixth progressive ingredient of repentance is turning from sin and returning to the Lord with all your heart (Joel 2:12). This turning from sin implies a notable change, “performing deeds in keeping with their repentance” (Acts 26:20). “Thus says the Lord God: Repent and turn away from your idols and turn away your faces from all your abominations” (Ezekiel 14:6). We are called to turn away from all our abominations- not just the obvious ones or the ones that create friction in others. The goal of repentance is not to manufacture peace among others with perfunctory repentance, but rather to turn to God wholly.
This repentance most importantly is not just a turning away from sin but also a turning in “repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). Here is the joy in repentance. “It is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance” (Romans 2:4). We rejoice that Christ has done so much for us and continues to do for us.
A community, a city, a state and a nation mourn the deaths of those who died and were injured on Saturday January 8th, 2011. The only solution to the problem of sin that pervades each one of us is the Gospel. The Gospel addresses our greatest need and is the only means that God has provided for hope and healing. The people in Tucson are going to need the prayers of the people of God. They are going to need the Gospel.
The Gospel is good news for people like you, and I, as well as the people in Tucson, Arizona, and around the world. The Gospel alone addresses the deepest need we have for our sin to be exposed and for our sin to be forgiven. May the people of God in the midst of this situation- all around the world stand up and proclaim in word and deed the precious Gospel that saves sinners and restores joy to broken people.