Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Forgiving Ourselves, Pt 2 (Forgiving My Sins)

In my last blog, I talked about forgiving ourselves in regard to mistakes. I’d like to pick up talking about something far more sensitive – forgiving ourselves when we’ve fallen into blatant sin.

When I began to write on forgiving ourselves about a month ago, I struggled on what I would say on this topic. By God’s grace, though we all sin, I had nothing recent of which I was ashamed. Oh how quickly we can fall! I hope to walk you through this by being a bit vulnerable myself.

All Have Sinned and Fall Short (Romans 3:22-23)

Though we don’t like to acknowledge it, sin is real. There is such a thing as right and wrong. On many matters, God is very clear; there is no gray. Bad behavior, or sin, is everywhere and the consequences are obvious in our homes, our work, all over our society. It is sin that breaks up relationships. It is sin that causes pain. But it is sin from which Jesus died to free us.

I was shocked by how quickly hurt and longing can cause us to fall to our own depravity. Our flesh is so weak. We don’t necessarily set out to sin. I think we sin because we don’t believe God and we think something good, fun, pleasurable, is being held back from us. Or in pain or frustration, we lash out, in anger, or to numb. Maybe God even let’s us fall some times, so we remember that we are vulnerable and have to stand on guard. Just when we think we have it all sorted, the enemy attacks. He knows our soft spots and will push on them viciously. We always have a choice; God always has a way out. But when caught unprepared, we too often succumb.

Three weeks ago, I fell. Some of you might see what happened as no big deal. Others would be surprised. Regardless, I know I grieved my Heavenly Father in the choices I made, the things I said and did. The enemy found a big weak spot and attacked. I’m not sure I even tried that hard to resist. I feel like a hypocrite, defaming my witness and maybe even hurting others. I felt ashamed and brutally beat myself up for days.

Seeking Forgiveness (Repentance)

Thing is, I asked for forgiveness within hours, and as the Lord promises to forgive any who ask, I know he forgave me then. It took far longer to forgive myself for being so stupid. I realized this too is of the enemy. He wanted me to feel ashamed and in that, hide from God. He wanted me to feel unworthy of God’s love and grace, and ill suited for the ministry I was to serve in that weekend. So often the enemy tricks us into viewing what we’ve done as unforgivable and the consequences beyond repair. That’s so not true.

The beauty of God’s grace is that he loves us and wants a relationship with us, no matter how small or big or ugly our transgressions have been. There is nothing we could ever do beyond his forgiveness, because he’s so desperate to keep us close. We just have to ask.

God called David a man after his own heart, and yet, he had weaknesses. In 2 Samuel 12, David not only committed adultery, but had the woman’s husband killed to cover it up. He tried to convince himself it was no big deal, but at Nathan’s confrontation, he realized how truly wrong he had been.

In Psalm 51 he writes: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge…”

God forgave David. He restored him and in fact, continued his lineage through this relationship, all the way to Jesus. God promises to forgive us too, if we ask. He won’t even remember them!

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1John 1:9

"For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." Jeremiah 31:34b; Hebrews 8:12

There is only one condition; we have to repent honestly. Jesus, in John 8, clearly says to the woman caught in adultery: “Go and sin no more.”

Repentance is to truly turn from our sin and do all we can to flee it in the future. If we jump right back in, it’s like we’re spitting in God’s face. The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 6:1: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” NO! Paul explicitly told the Romans, that they should not take advantage of God, thinking they can continue to sin, so they might experience more grace.

God’s Restoration (Reconciliation)

A “holy sorrow” is grieving our sins so that we learn and don’t act out again. It’s like protection. If you burn your hand, you won’t place it so quickly on the stove again. But shame is not what God wants us to experience. I’m thankful he’s teaching me this, because I believe many of you need to hear this. God loves you, no matter what you’ve done. You are not out of his grasp.

Unfortunately, there may be significant consequences of our sin. Abraham impregnated his wife’s maidservant, being impatient with God. Those descendants to this day are the people who rise up against Israel. Though pregnancy is an easy example, the same is true for far more than sexual sin. Our sin can do a lot of damage. And yet, God is the author of second chances and is well known for rising up beauty from ashes. So many stories could I tell of dear friends who’ve suffered grave initial consequences of sin, yet today, are blown away by God’s love and graciousness. He’s brought blessing out of it. God can redeem anything.

I often identify closely with the Apostle Peter. He loved the Lord so much, yet consistently said and did all sorts of silly things. He was passionate and yet a bit naïve. And then, when given the ultimate test of his loyalty, denied Jesus three times. Each time we sin, it’s like we’re denying Jesus – who he is and what he did for us.

Like he did with Peter though, Jesus is eager to restore and help us move forward. In John 21, after the resurrection, Jesus appears on the shore while the disciples are fishing. Peter is so excited to see him he jumps out of the boat and swims to land. They cook breakfast and Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him. Each time Peter responds yes. Jesus cancelled out his transgressions and moved forward still trusting Peter with a great task, to build the church. Peter goes on to do this and because an amazing writer and evangelist. His sin was merely a temporary set-back that once he repented, he learned from and moved on.

We have to forgive ourselves, let go of the shame, and let God love us again. We must ask him for his comfort and healing. We must discover what in us made us sin in the first place, so we can cut it off at the pass the next time around. By understanding our own weaknesses, wants, and sensitivities, we can protect ourselves against many future failings. We move forward. God can still use us, even in mighty ways, if we return to his sovereignty.

One last mention though before I close. There are some temptations, some sin struggles, so great that we cannot conquer them alone. Many of these begin to form additions that will consume us if we don’t get help. If you feel you are falling into the same sin over and over again, confess to a trustworthy friend and seek assistance. Don’t get stuck in shame.

Psalm 103:11-13 reads as follows: “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;” What a beautiful reminder and promise!

That said, as my closing prayer, I’d like to finish with a song by Casting Crowns:

Here I am Lord and I'm drowning
In your sea of forgetfulness
The chains of yesterday surround me
I yearn for peace and rest
I don't want to end up where you found me
And it echoes in my mind
Keeps me awake tonight

I know you've cast my sins as far
As the East is from the West
And I stand before you now as
As though I've never sinned but today
I feel like I'm just one mistake away
From you leaving me this way

Refrain:
Jesus can you show me
Just how far the East is from the West
Cause I can't bear to see the man I've been
Come rising up in me again
In the arms of your mercy I find rest
Cause you know just how far the East is from the West
From one scarred hand to the other

I start the day the war begins
Endless reminding of my sin
Time and time again
Your truth Is drowned out by the storm I'm in
Today I feel like I'm just one mistake away
From you leaving me this way

Refrain

I know you've washed me white
Turned my darkness into light
I need your peace to get me through
To get me through this night
I can't live by what I feel
But by the truth your word reveals
I'm not holding on to you
But your holding on to me
Your holding on to me

Jesus, you know just how far
The East is from the West
I don't have to see the man I've been
Rising up in me again
In the arms of your mercy I find rest
Cause you know just how far the East is from the West
From one scarred hand to the other

3 comments:

Truth4thejourney said...

Hi there,

I am in the writers critique group from She Speaks with you,. This was a very well written, touching blog post! You should definitely consider publishing devitionals.

You are insightful and compassionate about your reader. Well done! I wanted to say that we've all had times of falling into sin for the moment only to feel ashamed and repentent. I am so glad that we have the blood of Jesus to forgive us!

Looking forward to reading more in days to come.

I had a post recently describing a time for me in the ashamed zone. The link is:
http://razn6.blogspot.com/2008/06/this-little-light-of-mine.html

Joshua Patrick said...

Hi
May our LORD bless you for the comfort this blog brought into my life. I was struggling with few things in my life and your blog really helped. God bless you.

Sarah said...

Hey. thank you for this...you have no idea how it touched me today in reading it....blessings sister!