Mark 1: 4-5

Welcome the Lord; Observe the Scripture

Recognise What is true

Mark does not think John’s background or history are important to relate. What is important is what John is doing now.

John is baptising “in the wilderness” — away from the hurly-burly of the town, away from the established churches, away from where people live and work normally. People are “going out to him” — John is not baptising where people are already, they are taking a journey to go and meet him.

Irrelevant perhaps, but I can’t help recalling that “in the wilderness” is where Jesus is taken and tempted by the devil (verse 12, a different bit of wilderness perhaps).

Baptism involves: going out, confessing sins, repenting, and receiving forgiveness. Forgiveness is not given by the person baptising, but by the higher authority (?). The confession is public, at least in the sense that it is given to another person.

Though to take

This process of confession and repentance — including having that process recognised — will free me from the sins I have committed. Free me from guilt and remorse, and more importantly, free me from the demonic pull to sin again. It doesn’t seem to be something I can do alone … and it’ll be a long time before I can confess anything to anyone IRL.

Confession in prayer is not effective: it is irregular, it is separated from the moment, it feels fleeting and ephemeral. By the end of the day (when I pray) I often have more than one thing to confess (!) and I will generally dwell on one of them. At bedtime I’m mostly thinking about my family and my wife.

An apology is a bit like a confession. An apology is recognised like a confession is. An apology is about something specific. I shall be eager to apologise when I sin against people around me.

I want to confess failures promptly. One way I can do this is with written confessional prayers. Opening my diary and writing down the confession will take me out of my day. The writing and addressing the confession to God will challenge me to be specific and sincere, and to reach out for the help I need. Receiving forgiveness there and then, in the aftermath of shame, will help attach the forgiveness to the sin and help me remember and avoid next time I am tempted.


  • Confess and repent, and receive forgiveness.
  • Confess in the moment, confess specifically.

Help, Yield

I had a bad relapse last Friday (in fact last week was a very relapsy week) and read this passage soon afterwards. Remorse and my failure to extricate myself were very much in my mind. Reading these verses exacerbated that.

This week these verses have weighed on my mind, and that has kept me from failing in the same way.

This week I apologised promptly to my sister for a fairly gratuitous slight.

This morning I had a little victory over myself, opting for the right actions and ways of thinking.

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  1. That is a great start. Apologize with a sincere heart and ask for forgiveness in the same manner.

    I’ve failed several times in the last…a lot of stressors, but I confessed those failures nonetheless. Very freeing. To me it’s the only way to heal from the Shane and guilt of letting God down no matter the fault.

    • Thanks very much for your comment. Apologising doesn’t come naturally to me, but yes making a prompt and specific and unconditional apology did feel freeing and uplifting.

  2. I love reading all of your thoughts as you comb through the passage, David. You have always been so insightful and an impressive deep-thinker.

    I’d like to offer some of my thoughts and interjections. I hope that’s okay!

    First off, I really like that you’ve identified that it was wilderness for John’s ministry, as well as the place that Jesus was led to in order to be tempted by Satan. I’m sure there were lots of areas of open wilderness in that region and I don’t know that there is any significant link between these two, but it’s an interesting idea to ponder.

    I believe you are right about forgiveness not being given by the person baptizing, but by God–the higher authority. You also bring up an important point about confession–it being public and being recognized by other people present–means it has more staying power. Jesus urged people to confess Him publicly in Luke 12:8 and elsewhere, saying it was only then that He acknowledges our confession before the Lord.

    I do hope you challenge yourself to be more aware of any sins you commit in the moment so that you can pray for God to forgive you of that sin. Remember, you don’t have to confess that to someone else. And though you could write down, as you’ve suggested above, it can also be silently prayed. I do think it will give you more resistance to that sin in the future. Besides, we are asked to pray “continually.” Staying in a constant dialogue all day with the Lord will also help you to resist the temptation in the first place.

    Why do you think reading these verses “exacerbated” the problem? It sounds to me as if it might be actually helping you. Do you mean you felt great shame over not the sins you committed? If so, then remember that there is quick relief from that shame found in confessing and receiving Christ’s grace and mercy. Of course, it can make it “harder” the next time you face that temptation. You might feel more pain and growing awareness of how you offend God through your sin. That’s certainly hard to swallow, but can–through God’s continual healing and release–eventually make it easier for you to resist the sin in the first place.

    I’m curious about whether your sister sees these changes in you? Does she ever ask you, “What’s gotten into you?” ;) Now you can say, God! God has gotten inside me!

    Keep up this wonderful work, my friend! You are growing by leaps and bounds!

    • Thank you very much for your comments. Yes, I mean reading the verses — and having them in my mind — exacerbated my shame and remorse. Confessing (in prayer) immediately will be upsetting but I think if I can find that relief through the confession that will build up my strength.


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