Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

Posts tagged ‘repentance’

18 TEXTS THAT SAY “I’M SORRY”

SOURCE:  Marriage 365

While it’s important to give a formal apology in person when you’ve messed up, it’s also good to follow up with a phone call or text to remind your spouse how sorry you really are.

Sending “I’m sorry” texts shows that you’re trying to rebuild trust and repair your relationship. Now, these texts are to help inspire a more in-depth conversation, and please make them personal… make them your own.

  • I am sorry for arguing with you. I want us to be a team. Please forgive me, babe.
  • I’m sorry for avoiding our issues. I’m sorry for not showing up and working on our marriage, especially when you’ve needed me. I’m sorry for neglecting your feelings.

  • I want you to know that I love you and take responsibility for the words I said. I promise I’ll work on thinking before I speak.

  • Angry is ugly, forgiveness is sexiness. Forgive me, please?

  • I’m apologizing because I value our relationship more than my ego. I’m so sorry my love.

  • I am extremely sorry for hurting you yesterday and want your forgiveness. I love you.

  • I don’t know what to say but to apologize for being such a jerk. I hope you can eventually look beyond this mistake and forgive me.

  • I feel like the worst person in the whole world. I’m truly sorry and want you to know that you didn’t deserve that.

  • I want you to know that I am willing to get help for our marriage. I will do whatever it takes to make sure we are happy and thriving.

  • I need you in my life and I’m very sorry about last night.

  • If I could, I would take back all the things I did to hurt you. But since I can’t, please consider forgiving me. I want us to work on healing our marriage.

  • You need to know that I was a fool. I allowed my pride to get the best of me. I forgot that you are on my side. That you are my best friend. I love you so much.

    I want to validate how you’re feeling. You are completely justified in feeling that way.

  • I love that you help me become a better person. I need you in my life. You are my everything.

  • You are the kindest person I have met. Forgive this fool who can’t live without you.

  • I know forgiving me will take time and is a process. I am waiting patiently. You’re worth it. We’re worth it.

  • You mean the world to me and I want to do everything I can to make up to you for last week. Let me know if there’s anything I can do or say that will show you how much I am sorry.

  • I’m sorry for putting work before our marriage. It’s not healthy and it’s making you feel unimportant. Please forgive me.

TRUE REPENTANCE OR NOT?

Source:  Mark W. Gaither, Redemptive Divorce, 2008, 141-142

How do we know that repentance is genuine?  John the Baptist told the multitudes to “bring forth fruits in keeping with your repentance” (Luke 3:8).  Paul told the Gentiles “they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance” (Acts 26:20).  It appears, therefore, that genuine repentance will make itself evident by its deeds.  The truly repentant sinner will freely acknowledge his sin (1 John 1:9).  The truly repentant sinner will seek to make restitution for the wrong done, especially if material loss or property damage has resulted (Philem. 18-19).  The truly repentant person will exhibit genuine sorrow over sin (2 Cor. 7:8-10).  The truly repentant person will manifest the fruit of the Spirit:  “love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).  (Source:  J. Carl Laney, A Guide to Church Discipline, 1985, 93)

Sometimes people merely pretend to repent in order to avoid loss or retain control.  And they can appear authentically sorrowful, only to return to their destructive behavior later.  An obvious change in attitude and behavior always accompanies repentance.  The following signs of repentance should be observed:

  1. Repentant people are willing to confess all their sins, not just the sins that got them into trouble.  Has the person demonstrated a desire to be completely honest about his/her behavior?
  2. Repentant people face the pain their sin has caused others.  Has the person allowed you to express the intensity of emotions you feel—anger, hurt, sorrow, and disappointment—without trying to justify, minimize, or shift blame?
  3. Repentant people ask forgiveness from those they hurt.  Has the person asked your forgiveness?  Does his/her sorrow seem genuine?  Does the person pressure you to say, “I forgive you?”   Does the person expect you to “get over it” without sufficient time to heal?
  4. Repentant people remain accountable to a small group of mature Christians.  What has the person done to address any issues that may have contributed to his/her destructive choices?  What is the person doing to avoid a relapse and to grow stronger as a God-honoring person?
  5. Repentant people accept their limitations.  Does the person resent your need for reassurance?  Doe he/she seem to understand the need for the rebuilding of trust over time?
  6. Repentant people are faithful to the daily tasks God has given them.  Is the person putting forth good effort to fulfill his/her duties at work and at home?  Is the person moving forward in life with humility, or do you sense that he/she merely wants to get things back to normal as quickly as possible?

4 Steps Every Couple Needs to Take When Trust Is Broken

SOURCE:  MARISSA GOLD/Women’s Day

How to Rebuild Broken Trust:  Experts Share a Four-Step Plan

When trust is broken in a relationship, it can seem impossible to repair. But many couples have dealt with dishonesty—from financial problems to infidelity—and made it through to a happier, more honest place. Here, experts share the exact steps to take to get back on track.

We may enter a relationship with high hopes and rose-colored glasses, but nobody’s perfect. Most couples will run into a trust issue of some sort over the course of their relationship. The most common? “Cheating,” says M. Gary Neuman, LMHC, creator of the Neuman Method. But that doesn’t necessarily mean catching your husband in bed with another woman is the only thing that can cause a rift between you and your partner. “Trust is broken whenever there is lying that creates a shift in the couple’s life,” says Neuman. “Gambling, drug use, and even emotional and online infidelity often lead to severe trust issues.”

The fact is, all of the phones, laptops, and social networks we’re glued to 24/7 provide ample opportunity for foul play. “It’s more common now for affairs to be emotional—on social media, reconnecting with a high school sweetheart—or using office chat apps or email accounts to carry on a flirtation,” says Dr. Vagdevi Meunier, PsyD, a Gottman Institute master therapist. “As Shirley Glass, author of Not Just Friends, has said, affairs are about access and opportunity.”

If trust has been broken between you and your partner, whether it was a physical affair, an emotional affair, or a gambling or drug habit, we’ve asked relationship experts to outline the exact steps you need to take if you want to work on rebuilding your relationship.

Step One: Confrontation

First things first (and no, we’re not talking about yelling and screaming): Have the confrontation in person. “Once you’ve discovered the infidelity, you need to evaluate your partner’s response,” says Neuman. “Is he apologetic and remorseful, or confused and ‘in love’ with this other person?” Don’t assume anything, fight via text or email, or make decisions about your future before having a face-to-face conversation.

In addition to talking to your partner, “you’ll feel a need to tell some people what happened because you’ll need to vent,” says Neuman. “But try to limit this sharing to those who will really be there for you and give you a safe space to share—NOT a lot of advice.” The idea is to get support without being swayed one way or another. You also don’t want to be sitting around the Thanksgiving table a year from now knowing that everyone in your family knows your dirty laundry. So be careful about who you tell, and how much you tell them.

Finally, watch out for urges to “even the score” or make some questionable decisions of your own. “Don’t create a toxic relationship by taking revenge, being vindictive, or bringing other people in,” warns Meunier. In other words, reconnecting with your own high school sweetheart for comfort is not the best idea, nor is recruiting your in-laws to chastise your partner about what he did.

Step Two: Atonement

This is a time for full transparency: “The person who made the choice to commit the act of betrayal should take time to understand the impact of his or her actions, tell the full story of the betrayal, and answer any questions their partner has,” says Meunier. “Your spouse has to want to make this relationship work, be apologetic and—in the case of an affair—be willing to completely end it with the other woman,” stresses Neuman.

It’s also a time for emotional support. It’s not uncommon to lose sleep, stop eating, or even have trouble functioning after discovering an infidelity, so Meunier encourages the offending partner to “be available to support and comfort the hurt partner.” Translation: He needs to be patient and kind and cater to you for a bit, not pop off angrily every time you want to talk about the issue.

You also need to give yourself some extra love right now: “Practicing meditation, daily gratitude, reading books on affair recovery (the ones based on scientific research are best) yoga, and journaling are all good techniques,” says Meunier. “I also encourage both partners to engage in light and easy activities that preserves a sense of continuity, fun, and a feeling of family. This can be as simple as having breakfast or dinner, watching a show on the couch together, or going grocery shopping. If there are children present, this is even more important.”

Step Three: Reconnecting

 

Once you’ve talked through all the details of the betrayal and have decided to recommit to one another, it’s time to start limiting how often you bring up the infidelity. “I encourage couples to only talk about the betrayal in the counselor’s office, or to set a scheduled meeting, like lunch, to do this,” says Meunier. “Avoid talking about it in closed intense environments such as the car or in the bedroom. Instead, go out on the porch—the fear of neighbors hearing will make both of you behave better.”

After you eliminate the constant “threat” environment that comes with discussing the issue, you can begin to learn how to be more connected and emotionally present with each other. How do you do that, exactly? “Once broken, trust has to be earned by small things each person does every day,” says Meunier. It’s about consistency and kindness: Be home when you say you will, avoid that work event where you know the affair partner might be, and give regular, sincere compliments to build back your partner’s self-esteem. It may take time, but if your partner is willing to show you he is committed and consistent in his actions, he’ll slowly earn back your trust. This isn’t always easy—the betraying partner has more of a burden during this time, explains Meunier—but if he sticks it out, you’ll see results. And remember, the effort shouldn’t feel one-sided: “Eventually both people need to be making small gestures of kindness,” adds Meunier.

Step Four: Building a New Relationship

At this point, you’re building a brand new emotional, physical, and social contract for the relationship. You’re connecting in a more honest way, asking for what you really need, and, “Doing whatever is necessary to affair-proof your relationship going forward,” says Meunier.

The key here on out is positive responses: “We use a term developed by Dr. Gottman called turning towards,” says Meunier. “Intimacy is built by repeated experiences of one partner bidding for their partner’s attention or affection and receiving a positive response,” says Meunier. When you receive consistent, positive reactions from one another in everyday life, trust returns. Here’s an example: “If the betraying spouse says ‘Will you watch Real Housewives with me?’ I want the hurt partner to say ‘yes’ not because they suddenly forgive their partner or love the show, but because they recognize that it costs nothing to sit quietly next to someone and watch a television show, and that doing so gives them points in the emotional bank account. Similarly, if the hurt spouse calls while you’re apart and says ‘Can you turn on Facetime and show me who is in the room with you?’ I encourage the betraying partner to do that whenever possible. Not ignoring your partner, not rejecting each other, and being kind are all ways we build a sense of normalcy and safety, which in turn builds trust.”

Does Forgiveness Mean Instant Trust?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Can I Trust You?

Sometimes the burden to trust again has been unfairly placed upon the shoulders of the betrayed person and linked with forgiveness. The thinking goes like this: if you forgive me, then what happened between us is in the past. We don’t need to discuss this anymore and trust should be automatically restored.

But that’s not true.

We can genuinely forgive someone and still not trust him (or her).

Forgiveness is something we do because God calls us to do it, not necessarily because someone is sorry, repentant, or is genuinely interested in rebuilding trust. However, reconciliation of the relationship, including trusting again, requires forgiveness but not just forgiveness. It also requires the one who broke trust to show genuine repentance as well as make efforts to rebuild broken trust.

Typically we think of broken trust, especially in marriage, only in the sexual realm. However below are three additional areas where trust can be broken and must be rebuilt if a relationship is to be restored.

1.  Authenticity: People immediately mistrust someone who feels false. When you are married to someone, work with someone, or are close to someone who has one persona in public and another in private, you intuitively do not trust him, even when you have no specific reason not to. You don’t trust his public persona (i.e. great guy), because you also bear witness to his or her hypocrisy elsewhere. This person’s core self is not authentic and therefore he cannot or should not be trusted.

To rebuild trust with someone who has been inauthentic requires him or her to acknowledge his or her false image and learn to be more real. In most instances a person who has a double self will not acknowledge it nor do they typically change. When confronted, they just get more devious.

2. Reliability: When we are in relationship with someone, personal or professional, we want to know whether we can count on that person to do what he says he will do. Or, likewise, can I trust that he will stop doing the things that he says he will stop doing?

In rebuilding broken trust with someone who has a track record of unreliability, we must look at what the person does, not what the person says that he or she will do. For example, does he say he will put filters on his computer but never does? Does she say she will stop drinking, or spending money on the credit card but does nothing? Does he say he wants restoration of the marriage but won’t go to counseling or do any work towards that end? Does she tell you she will make more efforts to call you and reach out to you in order to have a more mutual relationship but her promises don’t turn into real phone calls?

Proverbs 25:19 says, “Putting confidence in an unreliable person in times of trouble is like chewing with a broken tooth or walking on a lame foot.” It’s foolish.

John Mark was someone who was not reliable and as a result, lost the apostle Paul’s trust (See Acts 15). Later on we see that trust was restored, not because Paul gave him trust, but because John Mark proved he was reliable and Paul’s trust was restored (2 Timothy 4). In the same way, building consistent reliability into our character rebuilds broken trust, not empty promises.

3. Care: In our closest relationships we ask ourselves: can I trust that you care for my good? My well-being?  When I share my thoughts and feelings do you hear me? Value me? Protect me? Or is there mocking, contempt, avoidance, or indifference? Proverbs 31:11,12 says, “The heart of her husband trusts in her.” Why?  Because, “He trusts her to do him good not harm all the days of his life.”

One of the foundations of relational trust is that love does not intentionally harm the other (Romans 13:10).  And, if in weakness and sin there is harm, every effort is made to make amends and not repeat that harm.

A destructive person does not want to hear the other person’s grievances against him. It’s true; it does hurt our feelings (and pride) to hear how we have hurt someone. It takes effort to listen and care about the other person’s feelings when you have broken her trust. Yet without consistent compassion, empathy, and care for the other, rebuilding trust is not possible. And if we don’t trust that someone cares for our well being, a close relationship with that person is not possible.

Rebuilding broken trust takes time and specific evidence of change, not merely words or promises of change.  

3 Characteristics of a Repentant Spouse

SOURCE:  Family Life/Eric Mason

Would you like to revolutionize your marriage?

Then try starting with a little repentance.

It’s amazing how much healing can occur between a husband and a wife when 10 little words are said: “I am so sorry for what I did. I repent!”

As we grow as believers in Jesus Christ and become surrounded by more and more Christians, it’s easy to put on a facade. Often we aren’t willing to admit where we are spiritually because we’ve become skilled at hiding our weaknesses.

But for Christian husbands and wives who want a strong marriage, there comes a time when we have to own up and be honest about ourselves. Will we live our lives bare before the Lord? Will we open ourselves up to our spouses? If so, then we need to learn how to be repentant.

Face-to-face with sin

If you are looking for an example of repentance, go no further than 2 Samuel 12. You probably know the story. The prophet Nathan came to King David to confront him about committing adultery and murder. Nathan told David about two men who lived in the same city. One was rich and had a large number of sheep and cattle. The other had only one little female lamb that he treated as a member of his family. The rich man took the poor man’s lamb to use as a meal.

“As surely as God lives,” David said to Nathan, “the man who did this ought to be lynched! He must repay for the lamb four times over for his crime and his stinginess!”

Then Nathan stunned David with his reply: “You’re the man!” (2 Samuel 12:5-7,The Message).

It’s interesting that David had a lot of self-righteousness when it came to somebody else’s sin. But when he realized that he was the man who had sinned, he begged for mercy.

After finally coming face-to-face with his sin of adultery, David penned Psalm 51. It begins, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love, according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. … cleanse me from my sin! … Against you, you only, have I sinned …”

David was far more than sorrowful for his sin. He was repentant.

Psalm 51 gives us a picture of what genuine repentance looks like. Applying it to marriage, here are three characteristics of a repentant spouse:

1. A repentant spouse trusts the character of God. In Psalm 51 David says, in essence, “God, I know I’ve messed up beyond the worst level of messing up. What I need is the God who will deal with me based on His commitment to covenant, not my failure of the covenant.” Twice he mentions God’s merciful character. “Have mercy on me, O God,” he pleads.

It’s important to trust the character of God before you focus on your sin. If you focus on your sin first, you’ll get depressed. You’ll get frustrated. You’ll feel locked in. But if you put your mind on the character of God, then you’ll have encouragement to deal with your sin.

We need the gospel, not self-righteousness. We need to submit ourselves to the beauty of the character of God so that Christ’s righteousness can cover our sin and deal with it.

How does this look in marriage? If you and your spouse mention your sin to each other all the time, then all you’re going to do is argue. “Well, you sinned against me!” … “No, you sinned against me!” But if you focus on God’s mercy, looking at all God has done for you, then the situation seems very different.

A deeply-repentant spouse first sees the attributes of God: His mercy, love, grace, long-suffering, spirituality, omniscience, omnipresence. When God’s attributes permeate your relationship with your spouse, your mind will be more on the Lord and your marriage. You won’t just be focusing on the faults of your spouse, and you’ll be better equipped to deal with your sin.

2. A repentant spouse owns the extent of his or her sin. David says, “I know my transgressions.” Now, the word here for “know” means to be acquainted with something intimately. When he says, “I know my sin,” that means he is able to absolutely, unadulteratedly acknowledge what he did. One of the most authentic and powerful things Christians can do is own their sin. You can’t even get saved until you do that.

If you want a godly marriage, you better get used to learning how to repent. I fight with it every day myself. I have to fight self-righteousness! I have to fight not wanting to acknowledge stuff. I have to fight unforgiveness and anger.

In Psalm 51, David not only talked about knowing his sin, but also said that God would be justified in saying to him whatever He wanted to. “Against You, and You only, have I sinned and have done what is evil in Your sight, so that You may be justified in Your words.”

David didn’t waste a lot of words when he admitted that he had sinned against the Lord. How often have you presented a paragraph of information to your spouse explaining why you have sinned? David didn’t do that. He owned his sin. Likewise, in marriage we need to face up to our individual offenses.

3. A repentant spouse yearns for long-term transformation. Just look at what David says in Psalm 51:6, “Behold, You delight in truth in the inward being…and teach me wisdom in the secret heart.”

When David says “delight,” he is talking about what God likes inside of His people. He is saying to God, “You desire the places that I’ve closed off from You to be reopened in my life, for You to deal with.” In this passage David is getting beyond the sin of adultery and getting to the heart that led to adultery.

Jesus Christ did not die on the cross so that we would have the same old, nasty, funky, trifling, hard heart in our marriages. He says in Ezekiel 36:24-28 (The Message): “… I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed. I’ll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands. …”

Whiter than snow

No matter where we are in life, each of us is in desperate need of the cross of Christ. And that’s what David expresses in Psalm 51:7, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean. Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

The gospel gives freedom to our lives and to our marriages. Jesus has already paid for our sins. He gives us the ability to look into our spouse’s eyes and say, “I am so sorry for what I did. I repent!”

How to Repent: 5 Steps

SOURCE:  Joel Lindsey/The Gospel Coalition

The importance of repentance is hard to overstate.

After all, Jesus’s first public exhortation was “Repent!” (Mark 1:15)—and if it was that high on Jesus’s list, we probably should pay attention too.

But how do we repent well?

Psalm 32 is a wonderful place to explore the nature and process of deep repentance. Here are five vital steps.

1. Be honest about your need for repentance.

How happy is the man the LORD does not charge with sin, and in whose spirit is no deceit! (v. 2)

Repentance requires honesty. No one comes to God with true repentance in their heart unless they’ve first acknowledged their need for forgiveness and reconciliation with him. Only those who have ceased trying to cover up their sin with self-righteousness and deceit can experience the deep and lasting change that comes only through repentance.

2. Acknowledge the danger of sin and damage of guilt.

When I kept silent, my bones became brittle from my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was drained as in the summer’s heat. (vv. 3–4)

Let’s face it: you are seeking repentance because God’s Spirit has convicted you. We often blame others for our stress and general moodiness, but many times we simply feel bad because we’ve done bad things. David describes physical and emotional symptoms associated with a guilty conscience. We must honestly assess the consequences of our sin, which means assessing both personal consequences and the impact it has had—and will continue to have—on others.

3. Confess fully.

I acknowledged my sin to you and did not conceal my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” (v. 5a)

Deep repentance demands full confession. Though it seems counter-intuitive, the only way to be truly covered by Christ is to fully expose your sin. In the process of repentance, we must fight to be utterly transparent before God about the depth and breadth of our sin. Only ruthless honesty will suffice—and lead to freedom and joy.

4. Hide in God.

You took away the guilt of my sin. Therefore let everyone who is faithful pray to you at a time when you may be found. When the great floodwaters come, they will not reach him. You are my hiding place; You protect me from trouble. You surround me with joyful shouts of deliverance. (vv. 5b–7)

Adam and Eve hid behind inadequate, self-made coverings to mask their sin and shame. We too often hide behind self-made righteousness in order to make ourselves appear more acceptable than we really are. If you want to change, to really change—which, by the way, is the mark of true repentance—then you must hide in God alone.

It’s not enough just to repent of overt sins. It’s not enough to say, “I admit to my wrong behaviors.” All kinds of people repent that way, especially religious people with an image to maintain.

A Christian doesn’t just repent of their outward sins, but also of their attempts to hide behind shoddy self-made righteousness. Stop hiding in your effort. Hide in God.

5. Seize the hope.

Many pains come to the wicked, but the one who trusts in the LORD will have faithful love surrounding him. (v. 11)

How can you be sure God will forgive you? His unfailing love. Recall and find assurance in the great promises he has made throughout history, and how they have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ:

  • His promise to Adam and Eve to crush the enemy
  • His promise to Abraham to claim and protect a people
  • His promise to Moses to provide a way for sinful humans to meaningfully relate to a holy God
  • His promise to David to provide a once-and-for-all eternal King for his people

All throughout history—right on up to the moment when you’re repenting—God has been saying, and continues to say, “I love you. I will not fail you. I am enough.”

Look to the promises of God, seize the hope, and “be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous ones; shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (Psalm 32:11).

Does He Need to Confess Adultery to His Wife?

SOURCE:  Russell Moore

Today I have an email that came in from someone who is writing—he is a Christian man, a member of a church, who writes and tells me that he had an affair several years ago, that this affair only lasted about a week, that he put an end to it, but he writes and wants to know whether or not now—even though he has confessed it to God, he has repented toward God, he has talked to a couple of key accountability partners in his life—whether or not he ought to tell his wife. Now, this man says that their marriage is already precarious. It has been precarious for some time. He is not sure whether or not his wife knows the Lord—or if she does, how mature she is in Christ—and he doesn’t want to jeopardize their marriage. He doesn’t want to split up their marriage and really wreck the lives of their children.

And so he says do I have to tell my wife?

Now, what I want to say is first of all I just stopped and prayed for this family because I know that this has to be absolutely agonizing.  It is agonizing for him. It will be soon agonizing for her and for the children—those who are completely innocent in this saga.

I do think that you need to tell her and for several reasons: One of those reasons being, you have sinned against her. Your having this adulterous affair is a sin against your wife, and until you have confessed to her and until you have repented to her I don’t think you are finished with the process of repenting. Biblically she has ownership—that is radical language, I Corinthians, chapter 7—she has ownership over your sexuality, and so your sin affects her, even if she doesn’t know about it. And it affects her in several ways: one of them being you have joined yourself with some other woman outside of your marriage, which has a spiritual, mysterious effect, Paul says in I Corinthians, chapter 6.

Secondly though, you have brought to the marriage a breakdown in intimacy. You are keeping a secret from her about something that is at the core of your marriage. She deserves to know this, and I don’t think you have finished repenting until you confess it to her and until you ask for her forgiveness. I also don’t think that you are going to be free from the weight of conviction that you feel from that sense of guilt that you either feel—or if you don’t feel, it’s because you have covered that over and you have a heart that is numb to that. I think that you need to confess this and get that out in the open.

Having said that, I want to say to you be prepared for the consequences of your sin.

And I think that you need to make it very clear when you confess this to your wife that she is more important to you than the risk that may come along with your confessing this to her. And so you need to own your sin. You need to communicate this to her as a sin, and do not give any indication that you blame her at all. She is already probably going to be looking for that in whatever it is that you are saying. Do not give even the appearance that you are blaming her. So whatever problems you may have had in your marriage, whatever sorts of issues that you may have with her, this is not the time to talk about those things. You have no ground to give any list of grievances to her—regardless of whether or not those things may be legitimate. She is not to blame for your immorality and your sin, and so don’t imply that she is.

And I would also say don’t take her first reaction to be necessarily her last reaction. She is going to feel betrayed. She is going to feel outraged. She is going to feel as though she doesn’t even understand what her world means right now. That is all completely natural because you have broken the covenant. You have sinned against her, and you have done so with a breach of trust. Don’t defend yourself. Don’t give excuses, reasons. And let her express the grief and the anger that comes out of this. You have been carrying this sin with you now for several years. It could feel to you almost as a relief to get it out in the open in front of her. But this is the first time she is hearing about this, and so, you can’t expect her to forgive you immediately, reconcile with you immediately, move on. She has to grieve this, and she has to express the sort of anger that she has. Let her do that, and then wait patiently for her to forgive you. Don’t expect that she owes you some sort of immediate reconciliation. You are going to have to spend in many ways the rest of your life in your marriage rebuilding the trust that is there, even when she does forgive you.

So I am really sorry about this, and I am praying for your entire family, but yeah, you need to tell her. That is the second step for you, after confessing to God, in your repentance.

How Can I Forgive Myself?

SOURCE:  R.C. Sproul

I know God has forgiven me for my sins, but how can I begin to forgive myself?

Frequently in his epistles, the apostle Paul goes to great lengths to describe what we call Christian liberty. In these matters God allows us freedom; he doesn’t set down laws prohibiting something or commanding something. The apostle warns us against being judgmental toward our brothers, giving as an example in the Corinthian community the question about eating meat offered to idols. Paul says this has nothing to do with the kingdom of God. He says, “Those of you who have scruples about it, don’t judge those who don’t” and vice versa. This is a case in which we just have to respect one another.

In those admonitions, Paul uses as his basis this statement: “We are not to be judging people for whom Christ died.” He reminds us that “your brother or your sister belongs to Christ. God has forgiven them. Who are you to withhold forgiveness from someone whom God has forgiven?”

Let’s look at it this way. If somebody sins against me and that person repents, God forgives them. If I refuse to forgive them, can you think how ghastly that is in the sight of God? God is not obligated to forgive that person. That person has sinned against God, and God has never sinned against anybody. Here I am—a person who is a sinner refusing to forgive other sinners while God, who is sinless, is willing to forgive. Have you ever stopped to think about the arrogance that’s in me when I refuse to forgive somebody that God has forgiven?

Now, how could you forgive yourself after God has forgiven you?

I’ve had people come to me and say, “R.C., I committed such and such a sin, and I asked God to forgive me. I’ve gone to him ten times and asked him to forgive me, but I still don’t feel forgiven. What am I going to do?” I don’t have any brilliant theological answer to that. I can only tell them to ask God to forgive them one more time. When they say they’ve done it, I tell them this time I want them to ask God to forgive them for their arrogance. “Arrogance!?” they say. “What do you mean arrogance? I’m the most humble man in America. I’ve confessed this sin ten times.” Doesn’t God say that if you confess a sin one time, he’ll forgive you? Who are you to refuse the forgiveness of God, and who are you to condemn one whom God has forgiven? That’s arrogance. You may not feel arrogant, you may not mean to be arrogant, you may be rolling in humility with all of your confession. But I am telling you that if God has forgiven you, it is your duty to forgive yourself. It’s not an option. You must forgive those whom God forgives, including yourself.

Christians Should be Forgiving People

SOURCE:  R. C. Sproul/Ligonier Ministries

When someone orders us to do something, or imposes an obligation, it is natural for us to ask two questions. The first question is, “Why should I?” and the second is, “Who says so?” The why and the authority behind the mandate are very important to the question of forgiveness.

To answer the question of why we should be forgiving people, let us look briefly at the teaching of Jesus in the New Testament. In Matthew’s gospel, chapter 18, verse 21 and following, we read this account:

Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’

Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.

‘But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.

‘So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.’”

In this parable, the point of Jesus’ teaching is clear, that the why for forgiving others is rooted in the fact that we have been the recipients of extraordinary mercy and compassion. We are all debtors who cannot pay their debts to God. Yet God has been gracious enough to grant us forgiveness in Jesus Christ. It is no wonder that in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus instructs His disciples to say, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” There is a parallel, a joint movement of compassion, that is first received from God and then we in turn exercise the same compassion to others. God makes it clear that if we lack that compassion and harbor vengeance in our heart, rather than being ready to forgive again and again, we will forfeit any forgiveness that has been given to us.

Thus, the foundation for a forgiving spirit is the experience of divine grace. It is by grace that we are saved. It is by grace that we live. It is by grace that we have been forgiven. Therefore, the why of forgiving is to manifest our own gratitude for the grace that we have received. Again, the parable of Jesus points to one who took the grace that he received for granted and refused to act in a way that mirrored and reflected the kindness of God.

Why should we forgive? Simply, because God forgives us. It is not an insignificant thing to add on to the why the point that we are commanded by that God of grace to exercise grace in turn.

When we look at the question of forgiveness, however, we also have to ask the second query, “Who says so, and under what conditions are we to keep this requirement?” If we turn our attention to another gospel, we see in Luke 17 the following (vv. 1–4):

And he said to his disciples, ‘Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.’”

It’s important that we look closely at this directive from Jesus regarding forgiveness.

It is often taught in the Christian community that Christians are called to forgive those who sin against them unilaterally and universally. We see the example of Jesus on the cross, asking God to forgive those who were executing Him, even though they offered no visible indication of repentance. From that example of Jesus, it has been inferred that Christians must always forgive all offenses against them, even when repentance is not offered. However, the most that we can legitimately infer from Jesus’ actions on that occasion is that we have the right to forgive people unilaterally. Though that may be indeed a wonderful thing, it is not commanded.

If we look at the commandment that Jesus gives in Luke 17:3, He says, “If your brother sins, rebuke him.” Notice that the first response to the offense is not forgiveness but rather rebuke. The Christian has the right to rebuke those who commit wrong doing against him. That’s the basis for the whole procedure of church discipline in the New Testament. If we were commanded to give unilateral forgiveness to all, under all circumstances, then the whole action of church discipline to redress wrongs, would itself be wrong. But Jesus says, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents…,” — here is where the command becomes obligatory — if the offender repents, then it is mandatory for the Christian to forgive the one who has offended him. If we refuse to give forgiveness when repentance has been manifest, then we expose ourselves to the same fate as the unforgiving servant. We open ourselves to the wrath of God. If, indeed, I offend someone and then repent and express my apology to them, but he refuses to forgive me, then the coals of fire are on his head. Likewise, if we fail to give forgiveness, when one who has offended us repents of the offense, we expose ourselves to the coals of fire, and we are in worse shape than the one who has given the offense.

In other words, it is transgression against God when we refuse to forgive those who have repented for their offenses to us. This is the teaching of Jesus. It is the mandate of Jesus. As we are united in Christ, we are to show that union by extending the same grace to others that He extends to us.

I’m Wrong — BUT — What About Him (or Her)?

SOURCE:  Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 120.


Going the Wrong Way Down a One-Way Street

Because most of us do not like to admit that we have sinned, we tend to conceal, deny, or rationalize our wrongs.

If we cannot completely cover up what we have done, we try to minimize our wrongdoing by saying that we simply made a “mistake” or an “error in judgment.”

Another way to avoid responsibility for our sins is to shift the blame to others or to say that they made us act the way we did.

When our wrongs are too obvious to ignore, we practice what I call the 40/60 Rule. It goes something like this: “Well, I know I’m not perfect, and I admit I am partially to blame for this problem. I’d say that about 40% of the fault is mine. That means 60% of the fault is hers. Since she is 20% more to blame than I am, she should be the one to ask for forgiveness.” I never actually say or think these exact words, but I often catch myself resorting to this tactic in subtle ways. By believing that my sins have been more than canceled by another’s sins, I can divert attention from myself and avoid repentance and confession.

“It’s two-way street, you know … I did stuff, but he did stuff, too! Why aren’t we talking about HIS stuff?” These words, which were spoken in the midst of an actual conflict, reflect another variation of the 40/60 rule. We say it’s a two-way street, but the problem is that in reality we still treat it like a one-way street. “When the other person is willing to ‘drive’ to me, only then will I think about confessing my part of the conflict.”

But that’s not the way Jesus spells things out in Luke 6:41-42. There he gives his famous words on “getting the log out” of your own eye first, before you ever get around to removing the splinter from your brother’s or sister’s eye. And just a few verses earlier, Jesus tells us to love our enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. (Luke 6:35)

What about the confessions we make?

Do we withhold our confession until we have assurance that the other person will confess his or her part? Or are we willing to confess “expecting nothing in return”?

It is a two-way street, but the responsibility that God calls each of us to is all one-way.

5 Steps to Recover from a Failure

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

You’ve failed.

It was huge…at least to the people impacted by the mistake. Perhaps you did it on purpose. Maybe it was an accident. You may have stumbled into gradually over time. Bottom line: It was wrong. You did it. No denying it now.

What next?

Here are 5 steps to recover from a failure:

Admit – Be honest…with yourself and others who need to know. Quit hiding from the truth. Stop making excuses. Own up to what you did and take responsibility for your actions. It’s a sign of maturity and few make it past this point. You my have consequences to deal with. don’t run from them.

Repent – Ask God for forgiveness. If you are a believer, He’s already paid your penalty on the cross, but you need to acknowledge your sin to keep the relationship pure. Ask any injured parties for forgiveness. You’re not responsible for their granting of grace, only for your attempt to live at peace with them.

Plan – Create a new path. Consider the right way to do things next time…so you won’t make the same mistake again. Do you need new friends? A new environment? Should you step away from a position for a time? How can you ensure those around you, whose trust

Commit – Commit to your plan. Commit to new accountability. Commit to the people you love. Commit to yourself. Commit to walking a new path and writing a new story.

Grow – Learn from every failure. You do not have to be defined by this season of your life. Move forward, looking back not to feel bad about yourself, but only enough to remind you to never go there again.

You can do it!

I Am Sorry…Really, Really Sorry

SOURCE:  Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 130.

Hard To Say You’re Sorry?

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation
and leaves no regret…
 2 Corinthians 7:10

If you want someone to respond positively to a confession, make it a point to acknowledge and express sorrow for how you have hurt or afflicted them. Your goal is to show that you understand how the other person felt as a result of your words or actions.

Here are a few examples of how this can be done:

“You must have been terribly embarrassed when I said those things in front of everyone. I’m very sorry I did that to you.”

“I can see why you were frustrated when I didn’t deliver the parts on time. I’m sorry I failed to keep my commitment to you.”

How easily do you say, “I’m sorry”?

There was a pop song back in the 80’s that got a lot of radio play; the title was Hard for Me to Say I’m Sorry. The lyrics accurately named the tension of “I really want to say it, but it’s really hard for me to do it.” Does that tension feel familiar? Yeah, me too.

My, how quickly we forget. We forget how incredibly powerful those two little words are — “I’m sorry.” They can defuse a tense situation in a heartbeat. When we honestly express sorrow for what we’ve done, we’re taking the initiative to level things. Rather than looking down our nose at someone, we look him square in the eyes. And it is there, on that face-to-face level, where words like “confession” and “forgiveness” really mean something.

A life lived without regret is a tall order. But being able to say, “I’m sorry” — as hard as it is — is a step in the right direction.

So move beyond just wanting to say you are sorry and actually do it.

How Much Will God Forgive?

SOURCE:  Charles Stanley

Can you always count on God’s forgiveness?

Yes, always.

God will forgive you of your sins committed against Him. God will forgive you of your trespasses against others; He will strengthen you and help you as you confess your sin to others and ask their forgiveness. God will heal you of false guilt and help you to put completely into the forgiven past the sins of others in which you were involved.

One day Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus replied, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (See Matt. 18:21–22.)

This number—seventy times seven—refers to an unlimited perfection of forgiveness. We are to forgive others without end. Would Jesus ask Peter to do something that God wouldn’t do? No. Our Father holds out unlimited forgiveness to us. We need to come to Him and receive it.

Does this give a license to sin?

No.

People who think they can sin because they can always come to God for forgiveness make a serious error.

In the first place, true believers have no desire to sin. People who think salvation gives them permission to sin and then be forgiven repeatedly may not ever have experienced a true spiritual conversion.

In the second place, people who repeatedly sin and then seek forgiveness develop a hardened heart—a callous attitude toward their behavior and a cavalier attitude toward God’s mercy.

Finally, people who sin must face the consequences for the sins. Forgiveness does not erase consequence. The Lord chastises those who sin until they seek and accept forgiveness; the consequences of sin are related to the perfection of God’s law. The soul may be cleansed and redeemed, but people reap what they sow in their bodies, relationships, material possessions, and other areas of the natural life.

The Scriptures tell us, “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits.’ Awake to righteousness, and do not sin” (1 Cor. 15:33–34).

————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Stanley, C. F. (1997). Becoming emotionally whole (electronic ed.). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

How To Forgive And Why It’s Good For You

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Sheila said, “I know I’m supposed to forgive my husband for hurting me, but how exactly do I do it? I try but I still feel angry and bad thoughts come into my head. How do I know when I’ve let his offense go?”

I find many believers struggle with the practical application of biblical truths. We know where we want to go, we’re just not sure how to get there. Here’s a roadmap that will help you navigate through the process of forgiving someone.

First, forgiveness is a decision not a feeling. It’s a choice we make. You must decide to work toward forgiving those who have hurt you or sinned against you.

I find that people either forgive too quickly, before doing the emotional work they need to in order to process and get rid of their hurt and anger, or they don’t forgive at all because they have erected large, thick walls of bitterness and resentment.

Jesus tells us to forgive one another, and that alone is a good enough reason to do it, but forgiveness is a good thing to do even for those who don’t know Jesus or believe in him. Long before modern medicine studied the physiological effects of chronic anger, resentment, and bitterness on the body, God knew that harboring these toxic emotions could not only damage our health but also ruin our lives. He warns us to get rid of them promptly.

God knows sin destroys us. It is not the sin that is committed against us that wields the fatal blow. Rather, it is our own sinful reaction to the things that have happened to us. Unresolved anger often turns to depression, self-pity, bitterness and resentment, and these things poison our body and our soul. A person finds healing through the process of forgiveness–both receiving forgiveness and extending forgiveness. That is why God is so insistent that we forgive. He doesn’t want sin to ruin our lives.

Please don’t misunderstand what forgiveness is. Forgiveness isn’t excusing the offender or minimizing their offense. Forgiveness is your decision to cancel the debt they rightfully owe you. Many protest here and become stuck because they are rightly deserving of justice or an apology or some restitution for the offenses done to them. They don’t want to cancel the debt owed because it feels so unfair to them. Yet if they are waiting for the person to repent, apologize or show remorse, they may wait a very long time.

In the Old Testament story, Joseph forgave his brothers for selling him into slavery. Joseph’s obedience freed him to be used by God in Egypt. But Joseph never initiated reconciliation with his betrayers—nor did he expose himself to them when he first saw them again. Why? He did not trust them. He was kind and gracious to them because he forgave them, but he tested them to see if they had repented and changed their jealous and self-centered ways. Joseph invited them back into relationship with him after they passed the test (see Genesis 42–46). Joseph’s forgiveness and his brothers’ repentance were both necessary to bring reconciliation andrestoration to their relationship.

Some of you may never see repentance from the person who hurt you. Sandy lived stuck in her past, angry that her father abused her. She refused to give up her anger until “he admits what he did and says he’s sorry.” When she confronted him and asked for an apology, he told her she was crazy and denied everything she accused him of doing. That left her waiting for something that may never happen. She allowed her father to continue to ruin her present and her future because he would not do what she longed for him to do. Sandy’s anger and lack of forgiveness wasn’t hurting Sandy’s father. He lived selfishly just as he always did. It was Sandy’s life that was hurt by her angry and bitter heart. Finally forgiving her father released Sandy from those toxic emotions. Her father will still have to give an account for what he did to Sandy, only it will be God, not Sandy who will judge him.

In my own life, forgiveness usually comes in steps and cycles. It is not a one-time, over-and-done-with event. First, I decide to forgive, exercising my will. Then I begin the process of letting go, releasing the anger, the hurt and my desire to retaliate. I appeal to God for justice and turn the situation over to him. I also ask him to help me see my offender and myself differently. This is very helpful. When God shows me my own sinful nature and the things I am capable of doing, then I can have some genuine compassion for my offender because, but for God’s grace, I may have done the same thing. I no longer want to see my offender only as someone who did something wrong, but also as someone who has done some things right. I no longer want to see him or her as a victimizer, but as a person with weaknesses of character and a sinful heart, just like me.

When hurtful memories surface and I’m tempted to dwell on the wrongs done to me, I continue this process and keep at it until the negative emotions and thoughts are no longer in the front of my mind. They are fading and moving to the past, right where they belong.

To practice forgiveness, walk regularly through these four steps: Decide—Begin—Continue—Keep at it.

As we do this, we are changing. We are no longer defining ourselves by what has happened to us, but we are instead seeing ourselves by what God is doing in us. Our healing becomes a powerful conduit for God’s love and grace to flow to others, and we can honestly say what Satan meant for evil, God is using for good.

Q&A: How To Forgive

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question:   I know God’s word tells us to forgive, but how do you do it? I try, but I still feel angry and bad thoughts come into my head. How do I know when I’ve let it go?

Answer:   Forgiveness is a decision not a feeling. It’s a choice, so the process starts there. You must decide in your heart to work toward forgiving those who have hurt you or sinned against you.

I find that many people either forgive too quickly, before doing the emotional work they need to do in order to process and get rid of their hurt and anger, or they don’t forgive at all because they have erected large, thick walls of bitterness and resentment.

Jesus tells us to forgive one another, and that alone is a good enough reason to do it, but forgiveness is a good thing to do even for those who don’t know Jesus or believe in him. Long before modern medicine studied the physiological effects of chronic anger, resentment, and bitterness on the body, God knew that harboring these toxic emotions could not only damage our health but also ruin our lives. He warns us to get rid of them promptly.

God knows sin destroys us. It is not the sin that is committed against us that wields the fatal blow. Rather, it is our own sinful reaction to the things that have happened to us. Unresolved anger often turns to depression, self-pity, bitterness and resentment, and these things poison our body and our soul. A person finds healing through the process of forgiveness by both receiving forgiveness and extending forgiveness. That is why God is so insistent that we forgive. He doesn’t want sin to ruin our lives.

Please don’t misunderstand what forgiveness is. Forgiveness isn’t excusing the offender or minimizing their offense. Forgiveness is your decision to cancel the debt they rightfully owe you. Many protest here and become stuck because they are rightly deserving of justice or an apology or some restitution for the offenses done to them. They don’t want to cancel the debt owed because it feels so unfair to them. Yet, if they are waiting for the person to repent or apologize or show remorse, they may wait a very long time.

In the Old Testament story, Joseph forgave his brothers for selling him into slavery. Joseph’s obedience freed him to be used by God in Egypt. But Joseph never initiated reconciliation with his betrayers—nor did he expose himself to them when he first saw them again. Why? He did not trust them. He was kind and gracious to them because he forgave them, but he tested them to see if they had repented and changed their jealous and self-centered ways. Joseph invited them back into relationship with him after they passed the test (see Genesis 42–46). Joseph’s forgiveness and his brothers’ repentance were both necessary to bring reconciliation and restoration to their relationship.

For some of you, you may never see repentance from the person who hurt you. Sandy lived stuck in her past, angry that her father abused her. She refused to give up her anger until “he admits what he did and says he’s sorry.” When she confronted him and asked for an apology, he told her she was crazy and denied everything she accused him of doing. That left her waiting for something that may never happen. She allowed her father to continue to ruin her present and her future because he would not do what she longed for him to do. Sandy’s anger and lack of forgiveness wasn’t hurting Sandy’s father. He lived selfishly just as he always did. It was Sandy’s life that was hurt by her angry and bitter heart. Finally forgiving her father released Sandy from those toxic emotions. Her father will still have to give an account for what he did to Sandy, only it will be God, not Sandy who will judge him.

In my own life, forgiveness usually comes in steps and cycles. It is not a one-time, over-and-done-with event. First, I decide to forgive, exercising my will. Then I begin the process of letting go, releasing the anger, the hurt and my desire to retaliate. I appeal to God for justice and turn the situation over to him. I also ask him to help me see my offender and myself differently. This is very helpful. When God shows me my own sinful nature and the things I am capable of doing, then I can have some genuine compassion for my offender because, but for God’s grace, I may have done the same thing. I no longer want to see my offender only as someone who did something wrong, but also as someone who has done some things right. I no longer want to see him or her as a victimizer, but as a person with weaknesses of character and a sinful heart, just like me.

When hurtful memories surface and I’m tempted to dwell on the wrongs done to me, I continue this process and keep at it until the negative emotions and thoughts are no longer in the front of my mind. They are fading and moving to the past, right where they belong.

To practice forgiveness, walk regularly through these four steps:  Decide—Begin—Continue—Keep at it.

As we do this, we are changing. We are no longer defining ourselves by what has happened to us, but we are instead seeing ourselves by what God is doing in us. Our healing becomes a powerful conduit for God’s love and grace to flow to others, and we can honestly say that what Satan meant for evil, God is using for good.

Homosexuality: Tammy’s Story (1)

SOURCE:  Living Free/Dr. Jimmy Lee/Tammy Webb-Witholt

 

“So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:20-24 NIV

Dr. Jimmy Lee interviewed Tammy Webb-Witholt on several of our radio programs. [These] devotions are taken largely from the thoughts expressed in those interviews.

Twenty years ago, Tammy moved out of a lesbian lifestyle into a walk with God. Today she is ministering to people struggling with homosexuality and to churches who want to minister to these individuals. 

“One of the first things I learned,” began Tammy, “was that the love of my life that I had searched for so diligently could only be found in a personal relationship with Jesus.

“During my eight years in the gay world, my quest for security and lasting love became an endless cycle of relationships that I hoped would bring healing and perfect love. I proudly displayed my gay relationships to the world, but not one relationship filled the void that remained in my heart.

“Early one morning after leaving a party, I realized I had been looking in all the wrong places for love and security. When I called out to God, it seemed as though a dam broke in my heart. I confessed my sins and told God that I needed him, but he should not get his hopes up because I could not change who I was. I promised to do two things: read the Bible and attend church once a week.

“Though this was a small step toward God, he—like the father in the story of the prodigal son—ran toward me with open arms. And so began my journey from homosexuality to holiness. Along that journey, I have learned beyond a doubt that there is only one place of complete love and security—Jesus.”

Are you looking in wrong places for love and security? Perhaps you too are struggling with homosexuality. Or maybe you are looking for love and security in an unhealthy heterosexual relationship, or in striving to be a people pleaser. Tammy discovered that Jesus is the only place to find total love and security. And as she came to him in total honesty and repentance, he ran toward her with open arms.

 His open arms of love are waiting for you as well.

Prayer
Jesus, I am beginning to realize that I have been looking in all the wrong places for love and security. Please forgive me for all I have done wrong. Thank you for opening your arms of love to me. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Lessons Learned: Moving from Homosexuality to Holiness by Tammy Webb-Witholt. This group study offers biblical tools, along with an abundance of hope, to anyone struggling with homosexuality.

True Repentance: What does it mean to turn your back on sin?

SOURCE:  Douglas Wendel/Discipleship Journal

“What’s it supposed to look like?” a Christian friend questioned me from across the table one day at lunch.

In discussing his recently failed marriage, I suggested that he had not repented of his own wrongdoing in the messy ordeal. He seemed overly focused on his ex-wife’s wrongs, while he had barely mentioned his own shortcomings. I grieved over my friend’s broken marriage but also over his unrepentant heart. Unfortunately, I see unrepentant attitudes becoming more and more common among the conflict-filled lives Christians lead today.

In Is. 30:15, we are told, “In repentance and rest is your salvation.” In other words, the road to a restored relationship with God and with others begins with repentance. Denying sin separates us from God in our day-to-day walks with Him; repentance and confession bring reconciliation.

If repentance is so important in our relationships with God and with others—especially those we love most— why is it so difficult to do? Perhaps one of the answers lies in our inability to answer the question my friend asked me: What does repentance look like? If we don’t know what repentance should look like in our own hearts and lives, we’ll have a difficult time recognizing whether or not we are truly repentant.

What Repentance Is  . . . and Isn’t

The original biblical languages give us some interesting insights into the meaning of the word repentance. The Hebrew words nacham and shub and the Greek word metanoeo are all translated “repent” in our Bible. In the Old Testament, nacham denotes a change of mind or heart, while shub indicates a turning away from evil and then a turning to God. In the New Testament, metanoeo means a change of one’s mind or purpose. Repentance, then, is the inner change of one’s mind and heart that results in outwardly turning away from sin and turning toward God.

Notice in this definition that the focus is on my actions and attitudes, not someone else’s. This is a key in understanding what it means to repent. Blaming someone else is not repentance. Crying is not repentance. Even feeling sorry for people who’ve been hurt by our sin is not necessarily repentance. True repentance is the inner focus of my heart on my own sin—realizing the pain and separation I have caused in a situation, feeling sorry about my wrong actions and attitudes, and being willing to turn away from my sin. It is recognizing and dealing with the plank in my own eye before trying to remove the speck in my brother’s eye (Mt. 7:3–5).

Aspects of Repentance

Here’s what true repentance should look like in our lives:

Grieving over my sin. When we realize how much our sin hurts God and other people, it should cause deep grief within us. In Ps. 51:3–4, King David stated, “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.”

David did not ignore or gloss over his sins of adultery and murder once God brought them to his attention. He faced them squarely, looked at the horrible results of his evil acts, and grieved over the hurt he had caused, especially his sins against God. Though David also sinned against people, the severity of his sin against God was almost more than he could bear.

In their book Rekindled, NBA general manager Pat Williams and his wife, Jill, tell how they resurrected an almost dead marriage. One day Jill told Pat of her lack of love for him and her apathy about their marriage. Pat was driven to his knees before God. He began jotting down in a notebook all the specific ways he had sinned against Jill during their 10 years of marriage. As he meditated on this list, Pat realized that “he himself had been the man who was tearing that relationship asunder.” The reality of his own sins and the hurts he had caused his wife tore his heart apart.

The hurts and heartaches brought on by our sin should be almost more than we can bear, too. We would also benefit by writing down the specific ways we have sinned against God and other people in thought, word, and deed. Listing these offenses will help us see the severity of our sins and give us a starting point for the next aspect of repentance—confession.

Confession. Grieving over our sin should create a desire to confess our sin to God and to those we have offended. Confession means we agree with God that our attitudes, words, or actions have been wrong. In the latter part of Ps. 51:4, David states, “You are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.” David’s attitude here comes through loud and clear: “God, You are right in judging me, because I have been dreadfully wrong!” Once David realized the horror of his wrong actions, he openly agreed with God about his sin.

Not only did David agree with God about his sin, but he also agreed with others about it. Nathan accused David of having Uriah killed and then taking his wife. David replied to the prophet in humility, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam. 12:13).

As a young Christian, I attended a weekly Bible study where the leader gave members of the group an opportunity to share how God was working in their lives. One week a brother in Christ solemnly stood and confessed that he had committed fornication the week before. Most of us were speechless at this brother’s admission, but our group leader spoke to him with kind words of encouragement and restoration. As hard as it was for this young man to admit his sin, we all learned from his experience. We also saw our leader respond graciously and gently, and the young man experienced the truth described in Prov. 28:13: “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

Amidst the stench of sin, confession is a breath of fresh air. If we are truly repentant, we will humbly agree with God and with others about our sins. Only the fresh air of confession will cleanse our hurting relationships. We must breathe deeply and frequently of confession.

Calling to God for inward change. Once we have confessed our sin, we should have a desire to forsake our sinful habits and replace them with godly ones. As we look through Psalm 51, we see David crying out to God for inward change. In verse 2 he asks God “to wash away all my iniquity.” In verse 6 he prays, “Teach me wisdom in the inmost place.” And in verse 10 he asks God to “create in me a pure heart.” David wanted God to replace the evil within him with God-honoring attitudes and actions.

As a 19-year-old air force airman, my self-centered life was characterized by dissatisfaction. I worked at a “boring” desk job and lived around other unhappy airmen who gave themselves to all sorts of sinful pleasures. Then one night I heard a clear presentation of the gospel message and placed my trust in Jesus Christ as my Savior. I asked God to take away my sinful, self-centered desires and replace them with His desires for me.

The next morning when I awoke, I was still living amidst my unhappy neighbors. I walked to the same desk job. My outward circumstances hadn’t changed a bit, but over the weeks and months that followed, my inner attitudes changed. My desk job became a place to learn endurance, to share my new faith in Christ, and to glorify God. I began to see my neighbors as lost people who needed to hear the life-giving message of the gospel. God answered my cry for inner change and gave my life meaning and purpose by transforming my self-centered attitudes into God-centered ones.

In his book Understanding People, Lawrence J. Crabb, Jr. says this about our need for inward change:

Repentance involves much harder work than apologizing for losing our temper and promising never to do it again. Sin hidden from view needs to be surgically removed like a tumor.

God is the surgeon who can remove the tumor of sin from within our hearts. We must allow Him to do His supernatural surgery in us so that we can overcome our sinful nature.

Only God, with our willing obedience, can transform our hideous, sinful habits into channels of blessing to others. No doubt we will fall short as we strive to change, but the inner transformation God brings from our repentance should result in consistent, long-term changes, inwardly and outwardly.

The Benefits of Repentance

As we genuinely repent, we’ll begin to see the benefits of the heart changes we’ve made.

Fruit. In Mt. 3:8, John the Baptist rebuked the religious leaders of his day, saying, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” John’s statement makes it clear that true repentance is evidenced by a changed life on the inside and outside.

I recently heard the story of a Christian man who was confronted by his fellow workers. They shared with him their concerns about some of the attitudes they saw in him, pointing out how his pride and controlling behavior would often come out in staff meetings. Although these were tough words for this man to hear, he accepted their reproof and humbly asked the Lord to change him from the inside out. I met this man a year later. I was impressed by his humility, his listening ear, and his concern for me as an individual. The positive changes in his outer person were proof of his genuine repentance before God.

Repentance always brings identifiable changes in our attitudes, words, and actions. Do you remember what happened when Jonah preached to the people of Nineveh? They repented, turned to God in prayer and fasting, and humbled themselves before Him (Jon. 3:5–9). Just as the people of Nineveh produced fruit with their repentance, we, too, should demonstrate the fruits of repentance, such as a changed thought life, kinder words, and victory over destructive habits.

Inner peace. A changed inward and outward life before God and others will result in inner peace. And this inner peace will stay with us even when things are not going our way.

King David was chased out of Jerusalem by his own son Absalom (2 Samuel 16). During his flight, a man named Shimei pelted David and his men with stones (v. 6). In response to Abishai’s offer to kill Shimei, David said, “If he is cursing because the Lord said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who can ask, ‘Why do you do this?'” (v. 10). Why was David able to respond this way while being showered with rocks and dirt? Because peace ruled in his heart. David had fully repented of his sins against Uriah and accepted the consequences of his wrongdoing.

I was once in an air force Bible study in which one of the members, a young man named Dave, was arrested for using illegal drugs. He was a struggling believer who repented of his sin and recommitted his life to Christ after this incident. Dave’s life drastically changed as he began growing in his relationship with the Lord and sharing his faith with others. Although he was now right with God, Dave still had to face the consequences of breaking the law, including the possibility of imprisonment for his wrongdoing.

Did this discourage Dave from following the Lord? No. With peace and joy that come only from above, Dave stepped into the courtroom for his trial, confessed his use of illegal drugs to the judge, and talked about how his life had changed because of his relationship with Christ. The judge mercifully let Dave out of the military without sentencing him to serve any prison time.

Just like King David, we may have to face significant consequences because of our sins, even after we have repented. But the fact that we have grieved over our sins, confessed them to God and to those we’ve offended, and allowed God to bring inward and outward change to our lives will give us a peace that endures these hardships. This deep, lasting, inner peace can be attained no other way.

Taking Stock of Your Soul

Repentance is not easy. It requires honesty, humility, obedience, and endurance. Our reputation before others may suffer. Yet the devastating damage caused by failure to repent is far more costly than the self-sacrificing price of repentance. Many broken lives and relationships bear witness to this fact.

Ask God to reveal any sin in your life that you haven’t fully repented of. By His grace, determine to do what’s right in His eyes.

We Must Take SORROWS and SINS To God

SOURCE:  C. H. Spurgeon

    “Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins.”

         — Psalm 25:18

 It is well for us when prayers about our sorrows are linked with pleas concerning our sins—when, being under God’s hand, we are not wholly taken up with our pain, but remember our offences against God. It is well, also, to take both sorrow and sin to the same place.

It was to God that David carried his sorrow: it was to God that David confessed his sin.

Observe, then, we must take our sorrows to God. Even your little sorrows you may roll upon God, for he counteth the hairs of your head; and your great sorrows you may commit to him, for he holdeth the ocean in the hollow of his hand. Go to him, whatever your present trouble may be, and you shall find him able and willing to relieve you.

But we must take our sins to God too. We must carry them to the cross, that the blood may fall upon them, to purge away their guilt, and to destroy their defiling power.

The special lesson of the text is this:—that we are to go to the Lord with sorrows and with sins in the right spirit.

Note that all David asks concerning his sorrow is, “Look upon mine affliction and my pain;” but the next petition is vastly more express, definite, decided, plain—“Forgive all my sins.” Many sufferers would have put it, “Remove my affliction and my pain, and look at my sins.” But David does not say so; he cries, “Lord, as for my affliction and my pain, I will not dictate to thy wisdom. Lord, look at them, I will leave them to thee, I should be glad to have my pain removed, but do as thou wilt; but as for my sins, Lord, I know what I want with them; I must have them forgiven; I cannot endure to lie under their curse for a moment.”

A Christian counts sorrow lighter in the scale than sin; he can bear that his troubles should continue, but he cannot support the burden of his transgressions.

 —————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Spurgeon, C. H. (2006). Morning and evening : Daily readings (Complete and unabridged; New modern edition.). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

Lord, Show Me The Way Out

SOURCE:  Living Free Ministry

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT

Thoughts for Today
Enabling is anything that stands in the way of or softens the natural consequences of a person’s behavior.

God does not want us to enable others in their wrongdoing. Neither does he enable us when we choose to walk in disobedience to him. He loves us too much to enable us in our wrongdoing. He knows that we will not come to our senses and change our ways unless he allows us to suffer the natural consequences of what we do.

The great thing is that, just like the father of the prodigal son, our heavenly Father is loving us and watching for us. He wants us to come home and will run out to meet us, showering his love, mercy and forgiveness on us when we return.

Consider this … 
Do you need to return? Perhaps you have recently fallen into something you know you shouldn’t do … Your Father is waiting for you.

Perhaps you have been locked into a downward spiral and feel as though there is no way out. God always provides a way. He is just waiting for you to come to him with a repentant heart. His arms are open wide … no matter what you have done. Jesus has already paid the price for your sin. Receive his forgiveness. He loves you unconditionally and is waiting to help you.

Prayer
Father, I am so sorry for what I have been doing. Please forgive me and show me the way out. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee. 

When [I] Look Like Satan

SOURCE:  Adapted from a post by  John Piper

When People Look Like Satan

God made humans to reflect his image and advance the display of his glory over the created world (Genesis 1:26–28). But Adam failed in this commission.

Rather than have dominion over the serpent he succumbed to its craftiness. As Greg Beale explains, “Instead of wanting to be near God to reflect him, Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8 [so also 3:10])” (NTBT, 359).

Sin brought chaos and disorder. Things got all messed up. In fact, things became so backwards that Adam could be seen as actually supressing the image of God to reflect the image of the serpent, like a back-story to Romans 1:18–25.

Adam was the first human idolator who became something he was not supposed to become, looking more like the snake than he did his Creator. Beale explains how:

“Idol worship” should be defined as revering anything other than God. At the least, Adam’s allegiance had shifted from God to himself and probably to Satan, since he came to resemble the serpent’s character in some ways.

[He Lied]
The serpent was a liar (Genesis 3:4) and a deceiver (Genesis 3:113). Likewise Adam, when asked by God, “Have you eaten from the tree of the which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:11), does not answer forthrightly. Adam replies, “The woman whom you gave me to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate” (Genesis 3:12). Adam was deceptively blaming Eve for his sin, which shifted accountability from him to his wife, in contrast to the biblical testimony that Adam, not Eve, was accountable for the fall (e.g., see Romans 5:12–19).

[He Didn’t Trust God’s Word]
In addition, Adam, like the serpent, did not trust the word of God (with respect to Adam, see Genesis 2:16–173:6; with respect to the serpent, Genesis 3:14–5). Adam’s shift from trusting God to trusting the serpent meant that he no longer reflected God’s image but rather the serpent’s image. . . .

[He Exalted Himself]
[Adam] not only stood by while his covenantal ally, Eve, was deceived by the serpent, but also decided for himself that God’s word was wrong and the devil’s word was right. In so doing, perhaps Adam was reflecting another feature of the serpent, who has exalted his code of behavior over and against the dictates of God’s righteous standard. But, if not, certainly Adam was deciding for himself that God’s word was wrong. This is precisely the point where Adam placed himself in God’s place — this is worship of the self.

G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011), 359f., headings and full biblical citations added.

Adam was a deceiver. He didn’t trust God’s word. He exalted his standard above’s God’s in the worship of himself. Humans, created to image the majesty of God, rebelled and imaged the character of the serpent. This was the fall.

And it’s not just Adam’s story, it’s our story, too.

Sin is not a thing we can just sweep under the rug. It’s not a little this or that. Oh no. Sin is most fundamentally our acting like Satan instead of reflecting the glory of God.

Think about that for a moment.

Fudging on the truth, spinning things a bit, ignoring God’s word, elevating our reason above what he’s said — these are neither struggles nor foibles, they are Satanic. It is to deny the most fundamental purpose we exist: to glorify God and bear the imprint of his holiness.

One motivation to a life of repentance is to see our sin for what it truly is.

Forgiving Your Spouse After Adultery

SOURCE:  Cindy Beall

Four lessons from my journey of regaining trust in my husband.

Editor’s Note: In 2002, Cindy Beall was a happily married wife to Chris, her husband of nine years. Chris had been on staff with a church in Oklahoma City for only six weeks when he made a confession that would change their lives forever: He had been unfaithful with multiple women over the course of two and a half years, and he was pretty sure one of those women was now pregnant with his child. He also admitted an addiction to pornography. 

His complete inability to control his addiction had left Chris utterly broken, humbled, and repentant. Over the course of several weeks and much prayer, Cindy sensed God calling her to stay in her marriage. The following is an excerpt from her book, Healing Your Marriage When Trust Is Broken, which tells the story of how God redeemed their marriage, making it “better than new.”

Every week I receive e-mails from women who ask many questions about getting through infidelity in their marriage.  Of all the questions I am asked, one of the most common is, “How did you learn to trust him again?”

And every time I give the same answer: “I am still learning.”

I would love to be able to come up with the perfect algebraic formula that shows exactly how to restore trust. But that isn’t going to happen—not because I barely squeezed out of algebra with a 71 percent, but because trust and forgiveness don’t exist in the land of numbers. They are born of God’s grace, mercy, and healing.

You don’t have to have endured infidelity in your marriage to lose trust. Trust can be broken in many different ways. I am still on my journey of having my trust restored in my husband, but I have learned a few things that I hope you will find helpful.

1. Trust means taking a risk.

My husband works hard to regain my trust, but I still struggle. I wish I could say otherwise, but I’d be lying.

Isn’t that the way it is with all of us? I’ve come to realize that we are all capable of doing things we never imagined we’d do. So trusting a person is a risk. We must learn to trust people, but we must also realize that people will fail us. It’s part of life. But if we place our utmost trust in our heavenly Father, we will never be let down.

There is a mental battle going on inside me as I strive to trust my husband more every day. I engage in this battle on a regular basis, and it can be exhausting. But the more I do it and believe what God has shown me, the easier it becomes.

I stand on the one thing that is trustworthy and never fails. I stand on the Word of God. Praise Him that His words are sharper than any double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). There is power in them, and when we claim them, believe in them, stand on them, and trust in them, we will be lifted up. We will find peace.

2. Replace anger with forgiveness.

We’ve all been wounded. I am no stranger to the pain I see in the eyes of so many people. We can try to cover it up and “get over it,” but if we don’t truly forgive, we will be stunted individuals going about our lives and becoming more and more embittered. Forgiveness is essential. It’s also possible.

The Bible doesn’t mince words when it comes to forgiveness. We don’t have to wonder what our heavenly Father thinks about the idea. He’s the author of forgiveness, and we’d do well to follow His commands. Matthew 6:14-15 says, “If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, you Father will not forgive your sins.”

Ouch. That stings a bit, doesn’t it? Especially when you’ve been wounded by someone you’ve loved as unconditionally as possible. It sounds like a cruel joke to expect us to just let it go, doesn’t it?

Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” If you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you know that you have a sinful nature. If we don’t recognize that nature, we won’t recognize our need for a Savior. We also need to understand and remember the true meaning of God’s love. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). If we truly understand God’s forgiveness, can we really withhold our forgiveness from those who have hurt us?

3. Stop nursing your wounds.

It can become second nature to tend to our wounds with such care that we begin to identify only with the wound and not with a life of healing or restoration. When something reminds us of our pain, we nurse the hurt and then just can’t get past it. It’s almost as if we forget that we, too, need a Savior. We’re so busy saying, “Look at my hurt!” that we forget to give it over to God.

Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Sure, I haven’t been unfaithful to my husband physically, but I have committed sins, too. And when we sin, we are not just sinning against one person; we are also sinning against our heavenly Father.

I know how hard this is. I am profoundly aware of how badly my flesh wants to throw my husband’s sin back in his face when he gets mad at me for something small. I know how easily I could remind him of his failures and make sure he knows just how picture-perfect my marital resume is. But reacting like that will never bring about forgiveness.

4. Don’t wait until you feel like forgiving.

One of the harder parts of forgiveness is that we don’t always feel like forgiving. The problem is that feelings are often misleading and erratic. I learned a long time ago that you rarely feel your way into positive actions, but you can act your way into better feelings. You may not really want to wake up at five for that morning run, but you do it anyway. Afterward, you are so glad you made the extra effort because you feel good and have more energy. There is great satisfaction in making a choice to do something that your flesh was yelling at you not to do! You acted your way into a feeling.

How to know you’re healing

The results of forgiveness look different for everyone. Some relationships will be mended in spite of betrayal, and some will end because of it. The key, though, is to make sure you are healing from this wound. You don’t want to get a knot in your stomach every time you think about this person, especially if he or she is your spouse.

Here’s one way you can know you have healed from a wound caused by someone else: You cease to feel resentment against your offender. My mentor says, “You know you’ve healed from the hurt that someone else’s actions have caused when you can look back on the situation and it’s just a fact.”

We all make mistakes. We all have done things we regret. We all need forgiveness. And we all need to extend that same forgiveness to others—not just today, but every day.

It’s time to forgive.

——————————————————————————————–

Taken from: Healing Your Marriage When Trust is Broken. Copyright © 2011 by Cindy Beall.  Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR.  Used by permission.

Cindy Beall is a writer, speaker, and mentor to women. She and her husband, Chris, share openly about their journey of redemption through Chris’s infidelity and pornography addiction.

Q & A: Husband says he’s sorry and will change, but doesn’t. Now what?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question: My husband has had two affairs, he throws things when he’s angry, abandons me for days at a time after an argument, and now has just completely detached himself from our family. He also lies about his whereabouts. I want to be the wife God has called me to be, but I can’t continue this way. My husband always says he is sorry and will change, but these behaviors continue to resurface. Please help.

Answer: I think the first question you must settle is what kind of wife do you think God wants you to be for your husband? Is it a wife that allows herself to be abused, abandoned, lied to, and cheated on with no consequences?

You say I can’t continue this way. I don’t blame you. No one would want to be married this way. But I think your dilemma is that although you can, with God’s help, be the wife that God wants you to be, that doesn’t guarantee that your husband will become the husband God wants him to be or that you want him to be.

But the question remains, what kind of wife do you think God wants you to be here? Do you think he wants you to be passive and continue to live with a man who lies to you, cheats on you, leaves you, and scares you when he’s angry? Or, might God be calling you to love your husband in such a courageous way that you boldly confront his sinfulness, refuse to accept his excuses, and, if he wants to remain married to you, require him to show through his behaviors that he’s repentant and truly wants to change. His words are meaningless. He lies. If he wants to be married, it’s time that he takes specific and consistent action steps that demonstrate that he’s serious and willing to work hard to change.

What might that look like? For starters, he needs to get some accountability partners that will help him stay honest, engaged, and sexually faithful. He needs a plan to help him learn how to manage his emotions when he’s angry or hurt so that he doesn’t get destructive, deceitful, or disengage for long periods of time. Obviously he hasn’t been able to change these habit patterns by himself, so he will need to get professional or pastoral help to learn how to deal with his emotions and understand why he does the things he does. These changes do not happen quickly or painlessly but, with God’s help, are possible for the person who is committed and teachable.

I think you fear that if you hold your husband to these necessary changes and he refuses, then what? I’m going to tell you the unvarnished truth. Your relationship is broken. You may stay legally married, you may even still live together, but you cannot have a good marriage if your husband will not change.

Hear me. You can make a bad marriage better all by yourself (by not retaliating or repaying evil for evil), but you cannot make a bad marriage a good marriage all by yourself no matter how good a wife you are. We only have to read through the book of Jeremiah to see how God longed for Israel to repent, to come to her senses and change, but she would not. God loved Israel, but He could not and would not have a close and intimate relationship with her until she was willing to change her sinful, adulterous, deceitful ways.

God knows what you’re going through. Let him empower you to be the wife he wants you to be and the wife your husband most desperately needs. You don’t have to live this way.

The Gift of Forgiveness

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Leslie Vernick

Forgiveness is the oil that smoothes over the rough spots as two people struggle to love when it’s hard and become what God calls them to be. When we keep score on marital wrongs, love is impossible. Although some excellent books have been written on the subject of forgiveness, I still find in my counseling practice a common misunderstanding of what it is. When I asked one client how she will know she has forgiven her husband for his adultery she replied, “When I don’t hurt anymore.”

Getting past the emotional pain caused by someone who has hurt you is a reasonable goal, but not a prerequisite for forgiveness. In fact, it was while Jesus was in pain he forgave those who abused him saying, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Forgiveness doesn’t remove the hurt or the consequences that sin has inflicted upon the victim. Sometimes the life-long consequences are worse than the original sin.

For example. Susan wasn’t honest with her husband about how much debt they were in. She had started her own business just a few years earlier and the expenses were much greater than she had ever anticipated. Instead of sharing that burden with her husband, Susan kept it to herself and tried to resolve the household cash flow problems by taking cash advances on all the new credit card offers she received.

When the creditors finally started calling the house because of unpaid bills, Danny hit the roof. Although it wasn’t easy, eventually Dannydecided to forgive Susan for her deceit and pride even though he stillfelt hurt and angry. They had to file for bankruptcy. They lost their home and Susan’s business. If Danny waited until he felt no more anger or pain before he forgave Susan, their marriage may not have survived. The consequences of Susan’s deceit was devastating and would impact their lives for years.

Extending the gift of forgiveness doesn’t guarantee an absence of pain. Neither does it imply an automatic restoration of the relationship. Sometimes we confuse forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness is something we can choose to offer because of who we are. God tells us we are required and empowered to forgive because we have been forgiven, not because the other person deserves our forgiveness or has even asked for it. In fact, it is often the person who has hurt us the most that never asks us for forgiveness. They are not sorry, or they simply don’t care.

Forgiveness is choosing not to hold onto our right for justice or vengeance. We cancel the debt they owe us. In order to be able to do this we must free our heart from the bitterness and resentment we often feel when someone has wounded us. Although love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 3:8), there are times that reconciliation of the relationship depends upon the genuine repentance of the one who has sinned. 

When we sin, God eagerly desires to forgive us, but our relationship with him is broken until we repent. In order to move back into right relationship with God, we must acknowledge our sin, turn away from it and seek his forgiveness. Like God, we too must extend the gift of forgiveness to those who have hurt us, but for true reconciliation to take place, repentance and forgiveness must work together.

Part of Susan’s repentance involved cutting up all credit cards, allowing Danny to handle the checkbook and being accountable for all expenditures. The restoration of their marriage relationship involved both Danny’s decision to forgive and Susan’srepentant heart and behaviors, leading to their eventual reconciliation.

As fallen human beings, forgiving someone is not something akin to our nature. Justice and revenge come more naturally. We can only truly forgive someone if we learn how to do it from the great forgiver himself—Jesus. Part of seeing what God is up to when our spouse acts wrong is understanding that God teaches us how to become more like Jesus through this process. For how do we ever learn how to forgive if no one ever hurts us?

There is wonderful freedom in knowing we do not have to react to a painful wrong either by shutting down or retaliating. As we grow in our relationship with Christ, we become a reflection of who he is in us rather than a reflection of what others have done to us. Gary Thomas author of Sacred Marriage writes, “We will be sinned against and we will be hurt. When that happens, we will have a choice to make: We can give in to our hurt, resentment, and bitterness, or we can grow as a Christian and learn yet another important lesson on how to forgive.”

**The gift of forgiveness as well as the other gifts are from chapter 9 of How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong (WaterBrook, 2001).

The Secret To Dealing With Fear and Anxiety

SOURCE:  Dr. Ed Welch/CCEF

“Humble yourselves.” That’s the secret. It has been there all along, but we rarely use it.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

Fear and anxiety sufferers like myself have tried on a number of Scripture passages over the years. We might start with Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life . . .” (Matthew 6:26). When we need something easier to memorize we move on to Philippians 4:6, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

These passages work very well as counters to low-level anxiety. But, in the face of an anxiety assault—they aren’t enough. At those times, they can sound like mantras that are devoid of power, which is actually a good thing. Anxious and fearful people can easily slip into taking Scripture as a pill. Take one passage twice a day for two weeks and your symptoms will be gone. When the pill doesn’t work we have two choices. We search for another treatment, or we confess that we are using Scripture as a self-help book for symptom relief, in which case it is time to get back to basics. If you choose to get back to biblical basics, Peter’s exhortation to humble ourselves is a great place to start.

I had an anxiety assault recently. I was facing perhaps the worst fear I could imagine, and there was nothing I could do about it. What a mercy that I was confronted with the call to be humbled before the Lord. It resulted in a simple prayer.

“Lord, you are God and King. I am your servant. I know you owe me nothing. For some reason you have given me everything in Jesus. I trust you. And please give me grace to trust you.”

A few minutes later, my prayer moved even closer to Scripture.

“Father, forgive me for always wanting things my way. By your mighty hand you have created all things. And by your mighty hand you have rescued your people. I want to live under your mighty hand. Please have mercy.”

It sounds very simple—and it is—but it changes everything. This is the secret to dealing with fears and anxiety. The words of God, and the comfort of the Spirit, become much more obvious when we are repentant and humble before him. No deals—“if you spare me from this suffering then I will . . .” Just simple trust. We trust him because he is God, not because he is going to immediately remove our anxieties or our fear-provoking situation.

This passage has been a secret because we have typically entered it at verse 7, “cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.” But to understand its meaning, you need to start with the preceding verse, “Humble yourselves.”

“Humble yourselves” is the only exhortation in the passage. This is what Peter wants us to hear (and obey). If we jump in at the middle—it makes no sense. We can’t cast our cares on him until we have recognized that he is God and we are his servants who have also been elevated to become his children. A paraphrase could read like this (and I highly recommend putting Scripture into your own words.)

Humble yourself before the Lord. This shouldn’t be too difficult. After all, he is God and King, Lord of all. He is the Creator. You belong to him. The creature is the possession of the Creator. Humble yourself before your King. And here is one way to express this new-found posture of humility: cast your cares on him. Did you catch that? When you come humbly before the King he reveals his unlimited love. Who would have thought? He actually wants you to cast your burden on him. You were never intended to carry those burdens alone. He is the mighty God who never leaves. You can trust him. And this casting is no mere act of your will. It comes as you know that he is God and you are not. Oh, and you can be sure that he will lift you up from your kneeling position and give you more than you ever expected.

A little wordy, in contrast to Peter’s more succinct version, but rambling and embellishment give us more time to meditate on the logic of the passage.

The secret is to
…pause before you head into your favorite passage on fear,
…consider the greatness of God,
…add some of your own confession and repentance as a way to drive the message of humility home, and then
…remember some of those sweet words of God to fearful people.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Edward T. Welch, M.Div., Ph.D., is a counselor and faculty member at CCEF and holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology with a neuro-psychology specialty from the University of Utah as well as a Master of Divinity degree from Biblical Theological Seminary. If you want to read more on fear, Ed has written two books on the subject: Running Scared andWhen I Am Afraid.

If a Christian commits suicide, is he still forgiven?

SOURCE:  Christian Aplogetics and Research Ministry

This might seem like a perplexing question, but it does have an answer. Though the Christian who has committed suicide has committed a grave sin, he is still forgiven. But, in order to understand why a Christian who commits suicide is forgiven, we first need to understand what salvation is and what it is based upon.

Salvation is the state of being saved from God’s judgment upon the sinner. The only way to be saved is to trust Jesus for the forgiveness of one’s sins (John 14:6Acts 4:12). All who do not trust Jesus alone, by faith (Rom. 5:1Rom. 6:23Eph. 2:8-9) are not forgiven and go to hell when they die (Matt. 25:46John 3:18). When Jesus forgives someone, He forgives all their sins and gives them eternal life and they shall never perish (John 10:28). He does not give them temporary eternal life — otherwise, it would not be eternal.

Salvation is not based upon what you do. In other words, you don’t have to obey any Law of God in order to become saved. This is because no one is saved by keeping the Law of God (Gal. 2:21Rom. 3:24-28). But that does not mean that you can go and sin all you want. Rom. 6:1-3 expressly condemns such action. Instead, we are saved for the purpose of purity (1 Thess. 4:7). Our salvation is strictly from God: “By grace through faith you have been saved…” (Eph. 2:8). Other than acting by faith in trusting and accepting what Jesus did on the cross, you don’t do a thing (John 1:12-3) in order to become saved. Since you did not get your salvation by what you did, you can not lose it by what you do.

What about the unforgivable sin? Is that suicide? No. Suicide is not the unforgivable sin. Jesus spoke of the unforgivable sin in Matt. 12:22-32. The context is when the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of the devil. Therefore, suicide is not the unforgivable sin.

Is repentance necessary for salvation?

This is a good question and the answer is yes — and no. Now, before you throw stones, hear me out. Repentance is a necessary result of the saving work of God, not the cause of salvation.  If repentance brought salvation, then salvation is by works; or rather, the ceasing of bad works.  That isn’t how it works.  God grants repentance to the Christian (2 Tim. 2:25). The Christian then turns from his sin; that is, he stops sinning. He is able to repent because he is saved, not to get saved.

In 1 John 1:9 it says, “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Confession of sin and its natural result of repentance are necessary elements of the Christian’s life. But, what about the sins that we do not know we commit? If we do not confess them and do not repent of them, are we still saved? Of course we are! Otherwise, we would be forced to confess and repent of every single sin we ever commit. In effect, we’d be back under the Law, living by a rule of absolute repentance of every detail lest you be damned. This is bondage, not freedom. Jesus said His yoke was light, not hard (Matt. 11:27-30.

So, repentance is not the cause of salvation, but it is a result of salvation.  The believer repents from his sins upon trusting in Christ and thereafter, continues to repent of further sins that the Lord reveals to him.

Back to the suicide issue

Suicide is, in effect, self-murder. The unfortunate thing about it is that the one who commits it cannot repent of it. The damage is permanently done. We can see in the Bible that murderers have been redeemed (Moses, David, etc.), but they had opportunities to confess their sins and repent. With suicide, the person does not.  But that does not mean the person is lost.  Jesus bore all that person’s sins, including suicide. If Jesus bore that person’s sins on the cross 2000 years ago, and if suicide was not covered, then the Christian was never saved in the first place and the one sin of suicide is able to undo the entire work of the cross of Christ. This cannot be. Jesus either saves completely or he does not.

Is suicide always wrong?

That I cannot answer because I cannot list every possible situation. But, it seems obvious that suicide is clearly wrong, though forgivable. However, there are general categories of suicide on which we could briefly comment:

Medically Assisted Suicide – I’ve never seen this as being acceptable. The doctor is supposed to save life, not destroy it. But, lately as destroying the lives of the unborn is more common place, destroying the lives of the sick has become the next logical step.

Suicide to prevent prolonged torture – Let’s say that someone was being tortured in an excruciating manner for an unbearably long period of time, is suicide an option? Perhaps. But if it were in this situation, why wouldn’t it be all right in the medically-assisted context if the patient were also in excruciating pain for long periods of time? Quite honestly, I’m not sure how to answer that one.

Suicide due to depression – Of course, this is never a good reason for suicide. Seasons pass and so does depression. The one who is depressed needs to look to Jesus and get help. Depression is real and powerful and is best fought with help. Also, severe depression robs the mind of clear thinking. People in such states are despondent, not in their right mind.

Suicide due to a chemical imbalance in the brain – The human brain is incredibly complex and the medical community is full of accounts of extraordinary behaviors by people whose “circuits got crossed.” I don’t see how a situation like this would make it justifiable. I think it simply would make it more explainable.

Accidental suicide – Sometimes people accidentally kill themselves. This could mean leaning over a balcony too far and falling to one’s death, or actually, purposefully taking a stupid risk like playing with a gun. Of course, with either, stupidity does not remove us from the grace of God.

Conclusion

Is the Christian forgiven for suicide? Yes. But suicide is not an option. We do not have the right to take our own lives. That belongs to God.

“Should I Try to Forget My Past?”

SOURCE:  Dr. Robert Kellemen

As a biblical counselor, people often ask me the important question, “Should I try to forget my past?”

I first respond with a one-word answer. “No.”

Then I respond with a blog-size answer using the words:

• Remember

• Reflect

• Repent/Receive/Renew

• Reinterpret

• Retell

• Resources

Remember

Even if we wanted to, we couldn’t forget the past. It’s impossible. More importantly, it’s ungodly.

Memory is our God-given capacity to store and recall what we have experienced and learned. Remembering is part of our design by creation—before the fall into sin. “Remember” is used 167 times in the Bible (NIV), thus reminding us of the importance of remembering.

Some people mistakenly interpret Philippians 3:13 to mean that we should try to forget our past. “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” The Greek word for “forget” does not mean not to remember, but not to focus my attention on. More importantly, the biblical context is whether Paul would focus his attention on his works of the flesh, attempts at self-righteousness, and putting confidence in the flesh, versus focusing on Christ’s righteousness and the power of Christ’s resurrection.

Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians is a testimony to the biblical value of remembering. “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia” (2 Cor. 1:8a). Throughout the epistle, Paul recalls and rehearses a litany of past suffering.

Reflect

In a similar way, the Psalms are a biblical testimonial to the power and value of remembering face-to-face with God. I call it reflecting.

People typically ask about forgetting in the context of dealing with past suffering—being sinned against, or dealing with past sin—sinning against others. I believe that attempting to refuse to remember our past can actually be a symptom of sin.

Trying to suppress past memories of pain (either regarding our suffering or sin) can be a refusal to face and deal with life. It can be an attempt to deal with pain apart from God. We could compare such attempts to self-sufficient “coping mechanisms” such as drinking and drugs—where we try anything to numb our pain, emptiness, or guilt.

In my book, God’s Healing for Life’s Losses, I describe how the Psalmists, Job, Jeremiah, Jesus, and Paul remember face-to-face with Christ through “candor and complaint/lament.” In biblical candor, we’re honest with ourselves regarding our past and present. In biblical complaint/lament, we’re honest with God regarding our past and present.

Rather than attempting to forget, we are to bring to mind past external events and our current internal thoughts and feelings and bring them to Christ. As I put it in the book, “No grieving, no healing. Know grieving, know healing.” Reflecting on our past is our admission to ourselves and God that we can’t handle our past on our own, that we desperately need Christ.

Repent, Receive Grace, Renew

When our memories of the past relate to our past sin, Christ’s soul-u-tion is to remember, repent, and receive grace. “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first” (Rev. 2:5).

In Psalms 32 and 51, David models remembering, repenting, receiving grace, and renewing his life by God’s Spirit. Rather than trying the impossible and sinful mental activity of suppressing the memory of his sin, David recalls to mind his sin against God. He repents deeply not only of behavioral sin, but of heart motivational sin.

Having repented, David receives grace—he accepts God’s gracious forgiveness and prays for shalom—a conscience at peace with the God of peace. He then prays that the Spirit would renew a right spirit within him so that he could turn from his path of sin (put off) and return to the path of righteousness (put on).

Reinterpret

But what do we do with our emotional agony when we remember past suffering—being sinned against? God’s Word is clear. We never forget, we re-member.

Think about that word: re-member. To put our memories back together again, to shape our memories through God’s eternal grid.

In God’s Healing for Life’s Losses, I use the life of Joseph to portray how God wants us to remember and then reinterpret our past with spiritual eyes. There I call it “weaving.”

In Genesis 50:20 and 45:4-8, Joseph refuses to forget. He calls to mind his suffering past with these words. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

In the Hebrew, the word “intended” can be used in a physical sense for weaving together a tapestry, such as Joseph’s coat of many colors. It can be used in the metaphysical sense in a negative way for weaving together an evil scheme or plot, such as Joseph’s brothers did. Or, it can be used in a positive sense of God weaving together good out of evil.

How do we deal with our past suffering? We look at life with spiritual eyes by bringing to bear God’s eternal narrative, spiritual 20/20 vision, and larger story perspective. Weaving is re-membering—to create wholeness using God’s perspective to bring meaning to our suffering.

That’s how, like Joseph, we find hope when we’re hurting. That’s how, like Joseph, we grant forgiveness to those who have caused our suffering. In so doing we can say, “I grieve, but I don’t despair.”

Retell

Being human involves shaping our personal experiences into stories or narratives. That’s part of our God-given capacity of memory. We shape our sense of self and who we are in Christ from our retelling of our experiences.

As spiritual friends, it is when we listen carefully and compassionately to one another’s most important stories that we gain access to how our friends are attempting to make sense of themselves in the context of their past experiences. Our one-to-one relationships and our small group meetings should be places where we retell our stories.

In God’s Healing for Life’s Losses, I discuss how the retelling process moves us from “weaving” to “worshipping.” In worshipping we are committed to finding God even when we can’t find answers. We are committed to knowing God more than knowing relief from our past. We worship God by retelling our stories like Joseph did—in a way that honors and glorifies God and His role in redeeming our past (see Genesis 45:4-8).

There is no power in forgetting our past. God doesn’t want us to pretend. Of all people, as Christians we must be the most honest about our past. We must remember, reflect, repent/receive/renew, reinterpret, and retell.

Resources

Two biblical counseling resources that I think you will find helpful in dealing with your past are:

• God’s Healing for Life’s Losses: How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting by Bob Kellemen.

• Putting Your Past in Its Place: Moving Forward in Freedom and Forgiveness by Steve Viars.

Surrendering Our Failures

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/John Ortberg

Sometimes we forget to surrender. Sometimes we refuse. Then our sense of guilt and inadequacy can cut us off from the current of God’s presence. On the occasions when we have failed to surrender, then we have to learn to surrender even our failure.

The most important thing about failure is this: Even when we have failed, the flow of the Spirit can be restored in our lives at any moment. All we have to do is ask.

Since my family moved to northern California, we have become surfing addicts. Actually, my son is the addict; I am more or less an enabler. I am not at all good at surfing. I fall off the board a lot. I spend much of my time in the water looking around for sharks.

But the good news about surfing is this: If you miss one wave, if you fall off, if you wipe out, there’s another wave coming right behind it. God just keeps sending them. He never runs out of waves. He has an inexhaustible supply. The Bible’s word for that is “grace.”

It works this way:

I stopped at a gas station but was in a hurry to get to work. The car in another lane was leaving. The right-of-way was not real clear. He cut in front of me.

I felt a surge of anger that shocked me. He looked at me; I looked at him.

He started gesturing, with intense hostility in his face.

I gestured back—differently, because I’m a pastor. I’m thinking, Get out of my way. Don’t you know I have to get to the office, write a book about how to flow with the Spirit of God every moment of your life?

When my car pulled into the street, I could feel it in my belly: For that little exchange I had extinguished any sensitivity to the Spirit’s presence or guidance in my mind. I was a resistor instead of a conductor. I had broken the circuit.

But my failure doesn’t get the last word.

For then I say, as I’ve said a thousand times before, “God, I’m sorry. I don’t want to live that kind of life. I don’t want to be that kind of person. Forgive me. Help me try again.”

And Jesus says to me again the words that are His specialty, the words He Himself cried out to His Father from the garden of Gethsemane, the words that death itself cannot stop. They are the same words by which the Princess Bride finally recognizes her true love, the words that can align a straw to the Gulf Stream.

As you wish.

Handling My Mistakes

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article at  Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

Since every [one of us] makes mistakes regularly, the categories [in which we can find ourselves] are:

1. Make a mistake, get down on yourself, follow it up with another mistake, don’t learn from either mistake, continue in a minimal growth process imposing a glass ceiling on your potential;

2. Make a mistake, follow it with corrective or atoning action, then learn from your mistake to improve and grow yourself and your skills, and achieve your maximal God-given potential.

Even the most mature Christian’s faith falters at times … we all make mistakes. But this must not be thought of as failure. None of us are perfect … we don’t have the total functioning mind of Christ now.  We will be fully sanctified when we are with Him in heaven. Until then, we will stumble at times … not always believing and acting on the truths we intellectually know are true.

Peter’s faith faltered when he was walking on water, even in the presence of the Lord. When your faith does falter, do as Peter did, reach for Your Lord’s hand. Peter was able to use that situation as an opportunity to draw closer to God … to use God’s lenses to examine his heart … to see where he mistakenly placed his trust instead of in God’s teachings, promises, and character.

So too, when you put your faith or confidence in something other than God … like others’ opinions or approval … your finances or possessions … skills or intellect … looks or status … you will falter. Confess your sin … that in that moment you are worshipping another false god.

Today, receive God’s forgiveness and instruction. Examine how life would be if you put your confidence and faith in God instead of yourself or the things of this world. Growth, peace, and awesome worship of God will be your reward when you seize this opportunity instead of wallowing in shame, self-pity, and wasting God’s power to transform your life. When your faith falters, don’t follow it up with another mistake. Instead, confess your mistake and learn why your faith was in yourself or this world.  Your choice, so why choose to struggle if you don’t have to?

Prayer

Father God, my Lord, when my faith falters, remind me that I have not totally failed. When Peter’s faith faltered, he reached out to You, Lord, the only One who could save him. When I am afraid, I look to You, my Savior. I take Your hand as You reach out to save me. Thank You, Jesus. Help me remember each second that You are the only one who can really help. I pray that You touch me with Your healing power. Help me, Lord, to maintain my faith when situations are difficult. Help me keep my eyes on Your healing power rather than on my inadequacies or Satan’s masquerading idols. I pray this in the name of my safety net when I stumble, Jesus Christ;  AMEN!

The Truth

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said,”why did you doubt”

Matthew 14:30-31

 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

Hebrews 12:2-3

We’re all prodigals: Isn’t it time to take the long road home?

Have you given in to temptation … again? Your heavenly Father eagerly awaits your return to Him.

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Penelope Stokes

Carey is running scared.

Four years ago she grew tired of Church Life, weary of a religious system that boxed her in and made her feel as if she never quite measured up. She couldn’t stand it any more, couldn’t bear up under the weight of condemnation pressing down on her. She rebelled.  And she ran.

That is, she tried to run.

She tried to leave her faith behind. She quit praying, substituted the Sunday paper for Sunday worship, left her Bible to gather dust on a forgotten shelf. But God, it seems, has not let go of Carey. She is haunted by the memory of her former closeness with the Lord. The deep longing for the intimacy she knew with Him at the beginning still exists. She tries to ignore it, but it just won’t go away.

God is drawing her back. I know, because she told me.

Runaway

Carey’s story makes me think of a morning long ago—nearly forty years—when I ran away from home. I was four, and old enough to know better. It wasn’t an act of rebellion or a desire to leave my parents forever; it was, rather, a choice for adventure.

The boy came along on his bike, invited me to ride with him, then pedaled off down the road, across the forbidden railroad tracks, through the forbidden woods, down to the forbidden creek. It was a glorious, heady, wonderful, time-arresting experience—until I realized that the sun was setting. My parents would be furious.

In my child-mind, I could see my father’s face and hear my mother’s voice. I would probably get the spanking of my life. So I did something really stupid—I stayed out even later.

It never occurred to me, at that moment, that plans for punishment had probably long since vanished from my parents’ minds. They only wanted me home, safe, back in their embrace and protection again.

Just as God wants Carey home.

The Lost Child

We are all prodigals, you and Carey and I, although some of us have forgotten our distant Prodigal roots and taken on the role of Elder Brother. We are all Lost Souls, broken and bewildered, in need of the saving embrace of a loving, waiting Father.

But when we have sinned (and sinned, and sinned again, even after promising to change), we sometimes forget, in our shame and despair, how much God longs for us simply to come home to Him.

To help us remember, Jesus told a story (Lk. 15:11–32):

There was a man who had two sons. One, the elder, was an obedient, compliant boy who always did what Daddy told him to do. The younger, an impetuous and reckless type, demanded his half of the inheritance and roared off into the sunset on his Harley-Davidson, headed for the bright lights of the wicked city.

The tale is a familiar one, repeated countless times in different ways. It is the age-old story of God’s people wasting their spiritual inheritance in disobedience—the wild and visible life of immorality, or the hidden rebellion of spiritual pride.

But usually, whatever our sin of choice, we end up where the Prodigal landed. Having spent everything, and having no spiritual reserves against the famine in the land, we wind up in the pigsty—hungry, lonely, and despairing.

My days among the pigs will forever be burned into my memory. For years I led a double life. On the outside, I was a competent Christian leader, sought out for Bible teaching and counseling; on the inside, I was a lonely, love-starved child, splintered by doubt and guilt and self-reproach. I faced temptations that I could not resist, and every time I sinned, I fell further into the pit, increasingly convinced that God could not, or would not, forgive me this time. I bargained and bartered, promising God that I would never, ever do it again. But I always did.

Then, while floundering in the mire, I discovered a wonderful truth in Jesus’ story of the Lost Son. The Prodigal, even while he was still a prodigal, was always, always, a son. He belonged to his father, no matter what he had done, no matter how low he had sunk. That truth gave me hope, and the motivation to respond as the Prodigal did: “I will arise and go to my father.”

When the Prodigal started for home, he had no way of knowing what his father’s response would be. He prepared a pat little speech: “I am not worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.”

But his father wasn’t interested in explanations; he didn’t even ask where the boy had been or what he had been up to. He didn’t demand an accounting of the inheritance. “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Lk. 15:20).

The Prodigal never got to give his speech; he had come home, and that was enough.

The Waiting Father

In the story that Jesus told, we see the depths of the son’s degradation and the infinite measure of the father’s love and acceptance. But we aren’t told what went through the boy’s mind as he made the long trek home. We aren’t told, but we can guess.

If he was anything like me, no doubt he felt the acid churning in his stomach as he plodded along the homeward road. He probably had envisioned himself returning in triumph, rich and famous, and the utter indignity of his condition shamed him.

I imagine him stopping at a roadside rest, trying to wash the stench of the pig- sty out of his clothes, hoping somehow to make himself a little more presentable. But it was a futile effort. He could still smell himself. There was no doubt that his fall would reek in his father’s nostrils.

Perhaps, more than once, he thought about turning back, trying again to make it on his own—this time, to make his father proud of him. But there was nothing to go back to, nothing but famine and despair and a lifetime of slopping hogs. At last he saw the clear light of reality: There was no place to go excepthome to his father.

And for all his preparation, I’m sure his mouth went dry when he saw his father in the distance. For heknew what he had done, and there was no getting around it.

I imagine that the Prodigal might have felt this way, because it is the way I feel when I have sinned and turned my back on God’s love. Ironically, I resist throwing myself upon the grace of God because I feel I don’t deserve it. I haven’t been good enough. I have repeatedly committed those chronic sins—the very behavior patterns I promised to change. I haven’t proved myself worthy.

And so, instead of running to my Father’s arms, I drag my feet—as the Prodigal might have done, as Carey is doing now—ashamed and humiliated, searching desperately for a way to clean myself up before I have to face Him. The trip home becomes, not a journey to a joyful reunion, but a long march toward a dreaded judgment.

But if I look at the Waiting Father, I see a different picture entirely. He doesn’t pace up and down, angry, waiting for my return so He can attack me with accusations. Every day He stands in the road, shading His eyes against the sun, watching for my familiar figure to come around the last turn.

And when at last He sees me, shuffling along reluctantly and muttering my memorized confession to myself, He runs, with His arms open wide, to sweep me up in an embrace of complete forgiveness and reconciliation. He doesn’t care what I look like; He takes no notice of the stain of sin and the stench of the pigs. The Lost One has come home, and that is enough.

God waits for you, Carey, with tears of love and welcome in His eyes, longing to see you round the corner and stumble up the road into His arms. He is ready to forgive you, clean you up, dress you in righteousness, and celebrate the long-awaited feast of reconciliation. Jesus Christ, the Son who sacrificed Himself for the forgiveness of your sins, has paid the ultimate price to bring you home.

Run to Him, Carey. Arise, and go to your Father. Run home. He is waiting. And He loves you.

Everyday IDOLS: Have One? You Bet!!

What competes with God for your affections?

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Stacey Padrick

Riiinnngggg !!!

The doorbell outside the lobby of my apartment building alerted me to an unexpected visitor. I suspected it might be the man I had been admiring for some time. But my immediate thought was, Whoever it is, I can’t answer it! My apartment and I were both a mess, and I was not prepared for a Saturday morning visitor.

After much deliberation, I finally pushed the buzzer to allow him into the building. But by then he had already gone. I felt awful about not answering the door. As I expressed my regret to the Lord, I sensed that something more significant than a mere lack of hospitality had motivated my actions.

“Why was I so reluctant to welcome him in, Lord?” I questioned. Having recently studied the topic of idolatry, the answer hit me hard: I had made my image into an idol. What people thought of me had become too important. Though I could have given 100 softer-sounding explanations, I knew that only this one revealed the root of my response.

“Idolatry? That sounds a little extreme,” one might argue. “Isn’t idolatry about pagans in the Old Testament bowing down before gold or wooden images? We don’t prostrate ourselves before statues; what does idolatry have to do with us today?”

To answer these questions, we must look at the essence of idol worship: the spiritual posture of a worshiper’s heart. When we do so, we will discover that everyday idols are still a strong temptation for believers.

God’s View of Idolatry

In the Old Testament, people looked to idols for provision, meaning, significance, and identity. Worshipers bent their knees in submission and devotion to the idols they believed could save them. When the unfaithful Israelites turned to idolatry, God asked, “But where are your gods which you made for yourself? Let them arise, if they can save you in the time of your trouble; for according to the number of your cities are your gods, O Judah” (Jer. 2:28, NASB). But God made it clear that only He could save them. “You were not to know any god except Me, for there is no savior besides Me” (Hos. 13:4, NASB). His people were to worship Him alone.

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol. . . . You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.

Ex. 20:2–5, NASB

So abhorrent was idolatry in His sight, God commanded the Israelites not to leave even a remnant of the pagan peoples they conquered:

Tear down their altars, and smash their sacred pillars . . . and burn their graven images with fire. . . . And you shall consume all the peoples whom the Lord your God will deliver to you; your eye shall not pity them, neither shall you serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you.

Dt. 7:5, 16, NASB

Yet despite these clear commands, book after book in the Old Testament drips with the tears of those who strayed to follow false gods. When the Israelites failed to destroy the pagan altars as God instructed, the idols of those nations ensnared their hearts. Though the prophets entreated God’s people to repent many times, Israel continued to live in rebellion. In righteous wrath, God ultimately responded by destroying Jerusalem with plagues, famine, war, and captivity (Ezekiel 6–11). Clearly, God took His people’s infidelity very seriously, and His response was severe.

Promises, Promises

“But that was in the Old Testament. Do we need to be concerned about idolatry today?” some might ask. We, too, fall prey to serving other gods by sacrificing the best of our time, energy, and attention to them instead of the Lord. Idolatry today takes many forms, from careers, entertainment, technology, and relationships to physiques, fashion, stock portfolios, and cars.

Though the shapes of contemporary idols may differ from those in the Old Testament, the temptation of idolatry—looking to something other than God for what only He can provide—remains strong. In the New Testament, Paul admonishes, “My beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 10:14, NASB). No matter what the century, idolatry threatens to ensnare God’s people.

But we must go further than simply identifying the typical idols in our culture. For the sin of idolatry does not lie primarily in the object we worship, but in the act of worshiping anything other than God. The root of idolatry lies within us, for we set up idols in our hearts (Ezk. 14:3).

God created us with hearts that long to worship. Ever since the fall, Satan has corrupted our passion to worship the Creator and redirected our hearts toward created things. The problem, then, is not that our hearts are prone to worship, but that they are prone to wander. “Thus says the Lord to this people, ‘Even so they have loved to wander'” (Jer. 14:10, NASB).

When we allow anything apart from God to rule us, compel us, or control us, we have created an idol.

For example, does God want us to love our family and children? Yes! But when we allow these God-given gifts to define our worth and value, we make them into idols. Martin Luther pointed out, “Whatever your heart clings to and relies upon, that is your God.” We worship idols when we look to something other than God to fulfill our deepest needs, satisfy our longings, give us hope, or define our identity.

Many idols are not inherently “bad.” Money, for example, is not a bad thing; the love of money is (1 Tim. 6:10). God’s blessings—love, family, hard work, exercise, food, sex, ministry—become idols when we begin to set our hearts on them above God. John Calvin observed, “The evil in our desires typically does not lie in what we want, but that we want it too much.”

Idols promise everything we desire: love, acceptance, worth, happiness. But they deliver bondage. Glistening like a spider’s web, idols intrigue and lure us but ultimately ensnare our hearts and lives. The lie of the idol hisses: “You cannot be truly fulfilled or have significance unless you have _____.” We begin thinking, Unless that person esteems me, I am of little worth. Unless I am married, I cannot be fulfilled. Unless I graduate with honors, I’m not valuable. Unless I have a date to the prom, I am a nobody. Unless I work at a well-known company . . . Unless my children excel at school … Unless I am financially successful. . . . But these idols can never deliver us or save us; God alone claims that privilege, and He asks us to set our hearts upon Him, not the things of this world (Col. 3:1–3, 1 Jn. 2:15–17).

Destroying the Destroyers

Our enemy diligently seeks to keep us enslaved to idols. Satan will whisper that our idols are harmless and insignificant, certainly not worth the effort it takes to destroy them. But when God’s people did not totally destroy their idols and those of their captives, idolatry plagued the Israelites for generations. When we allow anything to usurp God’s place in our hearts, we estrange ourselves from Him (Ezk. 14:5).

God wants to set us free from enslavement to false gods. Following are some ways we can begin to unshackle ourselves from the idols in our lives.

Unveil them. As we have already begun doing, we must detect and expose the idols in our lives. Prayerfully consider the following list of questions. They are designed to help you unmask any idols in your heart.

  • What preoccupies or rules my heart? Thoughts? Time?
  • What compels me? Controls me? Drives me? Motivates me?
  • To what does my heart cling?
  • What competes for my time with God?
  • What gives me a sense of worth? What defines my identity before others?
  • What do I crave?
  • If everything else were taken away, what is one thing I could not bear to live without?
  • Am I looking to something or someone to provide what only God can?
  • What do family or close friends think may be idols in my life? (Often others can see more clearly what we are too close to see.)

Remember, idols are not necessarily “bad” things. We can make idols of good, even “spiritual,” things. The Israelites worshiped foreign gods not only on pagan altars but even on altars within God’s own temple (Ezk. 8:16). Similarly, we may also erect false gods on altars within our churches and ministries. Consider the following potential idols:

  • Our strengths. Our culture and pride tempt us to rely upon our own strength, yet God calls us to depend wholly upon His strength.
  • Our gifts. We are often prone to rely more upon our God-given gifts than upon God’s Spirit to empower our ministry.
  • Our ministry. No matter how worthy our ministry, if we make it our central focus, we’ve created an idol.
  • Our productivity. We look to our achievements and accomplishments to validate our worth before God and others.

Repent of them. “Thus says the Lord God, ‘Repent and turn away from your idols'” (Ezk. 14:6, NASB). Isaiah instructs us in what to do with our idols: “Throw them away like a menstrual cloth!” (Is. 30:22). For some, that might mean throwing away (or at least fasting from) the things that hold sway in our hearts: TV, a leadership responsibility, a form of entertainment, a material item, coffee, a relationship. For others it may mean limiting the amount of time, money, thinking, or energy expended on potential idols. Dedicate the time previously devoted to an idol (such as working overtime, watching sports, surfing the net, serving on a church committee) to the Lord. Sit at His feet and delight in Him.

Again, none of these pursuits is necessarily wrong, but if we find ourselves serving them with the best or the bulk of our time, energy, and devotion, we may be worshiping them as idols.

Return to unadulterated fellowship with God. “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity” (Hos. 14:1, NASB). God is jealous for our hearts and devotion. Just as a husband would grieve if his wife desired another man, so God grieves when we turn to false gods and become enamored with them: “How I have been hurt by their adulterous hearts which turned away from Me, and by their eyes, which played the harlot after their idols” (Ezk. 6:9, NASB).

Yet, knowing our waywardness, God reaches out to restore our fellowship with Him.

“Return, faithless Israel,” declares the Lord. “I will not look upon you in anger. For I am gracious. . . . I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against the Lord your God. . . . Return, O faithless sons, I will heal your faithlessness.”

Jer. 3:12–13, 22, NASB

And again in Hosea, He promises, “I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely” (Hos. 14:4, NASB). In His ultimate act of love, God took the initiative to reconcile us through Christ while we were yet sinners (Ro. 5:8).

Vigilantly guard against new idols. Just when we think we have forever banished false gods, idols in new clothing will arise to tempt us. John, like Paul, warned his readers, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 Jn. 5:21, NASB). When we move to a new place, develop a new relationship, or enter into any new circumstance, dazzling idols lure us to worship them.

For example, when I moved to England to pursue graduate work, an air of intellectualism pervaded the university. I found myself prone to overly esteem well-known scholars in my field and to base my self-worth upon my academic performance.

More recently, I moved to San Francisco, a very image- and fashion-conscious city. Here I must guard my heart against allowing my appearance to become a god that I serve with my time, money, and energy. I must also be careful not to trust in my appearance to establish my sense of worth as a person.

At Rest in God

On any given day, our hearts are prone to wander. We must continually ask ourselves, “Who or what is ruling my thoughts and behavior: the Lord or an idol?” Idolatry drives us to seek life from false gods; they are never capable of providing it. As we devote ourselves to knowing God more intimately, we will be less likely to buy into the lies of false gods when they promise what only He can deliver.

We are a worshiping people, created to freely worship and serve God. He abhors idolatry because He knows that when we serve anything else, it will enslave and ultimately destroy us. Only worshiping Him will satisfy our soul’s deepest hunger for the food we’ve been craving in idols. Only in worshiping God, and God alone, can our hearts finally rest.

What Happens When “I” Get What “I” Want?

Source:  Based on an article by Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

Jesus taught the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. This young man really showed the classic mentality guiding his decision-making: “I don’t need authority or rules because it’s all about what I need and want … now!” We’ve all been there, even in our adult life.

Deciding to set out on his own, he asked his father for his inheritance and off he went. He proceeded to make more bad choices, squandering his money on wild living. Eventually, the money was gone and he fell to the position of feeding another man’s livestock. He was so hungry, even the food he was feeding the pigs looked good. He thought of home … even his father’s servants were eating better than he was.

“I think I’ll return home and become one of my father’s servants”, he thought. “I don’t deserve more than that, but I believe he’ll hire me.”Several good decisions here: to admit his error, stop blaming others, and most importantly, to face up to and take responsibility for his actions.

The young man’s father was waiting for him and when he saw his lost son coming home, he ran out to meet him with open arms, killed the fat calf, and had a huge party to celebrate his son’s homecoming. This is one of the most powerful messages provided in the Word of God’s incredible love, yearning, and forgiveness for us.

Don’t we often ask God for our inheritance, our salvation and other spiritual assets, and say, “thanks, but I don’t need you anymore. I’m off to satisfy my needs, my way, on my timeline, with no regard for my future growth?” Like the prodigal’s father, God gives us free will, hopes we choose to follow His instruction, but is always waiting with forgiveness and open arms when we come to our senses.

Have you made some bad decisions? Wandered off and squandered your talents or your opportunities to do good? Felt that your way was a better way than God’s? We all have, but don’t continue to wallow in the pig slop of your wrong decisions. Return to Him and enjoy the contentment and celebration of letting Him be your Father, Teacher, Counselor, Coach, and Lord.

Today, many opportunities exist to run with your inheritance and do life on your own. When you get that urge, stop! Count to 5 then say a prayer asking God for wisdom. Make the right choice to follow the stepping-stones to your Heavenly Father and submit to His authority and guidance. Make good decisions, because you have to live with the consequences, or get to reap the rewards. Your choice, choose well.

Prayer

Dear Father God, I’ve made so many mistakes. I know many of the things I’ve done have not pleased You, but I thank You for this assurance of Your love and forgiveness. Please forgive me and take me into Your loving arms. I need You Father … I need more of You. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the one who opened His arms on the cross for me, Jesus Christ – AMEN!

The Truth

So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.

Luke 15:20

 

As A Christian, I Struggle With Sin — Do You?

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by John MacArthur

Christians struggle with sin. That surely comes as no surprise to you. As you mature in Christ, the frequency of your sinning decreases, but your sensitivity to it increases. That doesn’t mean you are more easily tempted, but that you are more aware of the subtleties of sin and how it dishonors God.

Some people think you should never confess your sins or seek forgiveness, but the Lord instructed us to do so when He said for us to pray, “Forgive us our debts” (Matt. 6:12). That’s the believer’s prayer for the Father’s forgiveness.

John said, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10). That passage doesn’t tell us how to get saved, as many have taught. It tells us how to distinguish believers from unbelievers: believers confess their sins; unbelievers don’t.

The phrase “forgive us” in Matthew 6:12 implies the need for forgiveness. “Debts” translates a Greek word that was used to speak of a moral or monetary debt. InMatthew 6:12 it refers to sins. When you sin, you owe to God a consequence or a debt because you have violated His holiness.

When you sin as a believer, you don’t lose your salvation but you will face God’s chastening if you don’t repent. Hebrews 12 says, “Those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives . . . . He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness” (vv. 6, 10).

If you are harboring sin, confess it now and allow God to cleanse you and use you today for His glory.

Hidden Sins Can Eat Us Up

SOURCE:  Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 120

If it is difficult for you to identify and confess your wrongs, there are two things you can do.

First, ask God to help you see your sin clearly and repent of it, regardless of what others may do (Ps. 129:23-24). Then prayerfully study his Word and ask him to show you where your ways have not lined up with his ways (Heb. 4:12). Second, ask a spiritually mature friend to counsel and correct you (Prov. 12:15; 19:20). The older I get, the less I trust myself to be objective when I am involved in a conflict. Time after time I have been blessed by asking a friend to candidly critique my role in a conflict. I have not always liked what my friends have said, but as I have humbled myself and submitted to their correction, I have always seen more clearly.

Food for Thought

In Psalm 32, David talks about how hidden sin eats us up. “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of the summer.”

Yet as we read on in the chapter, David identifies no less than seven mighty acts God will work on our behalf as we confess our sin. He begins with the stunning promise that “surely in the rush of great waters they shall not reach him” and ends with the assurance that “steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord”.

Are you struggling with private or unconfessed sin? Read Psalm 32 and see if you can identify all seven of the ways God promises to intercede on your behalf as you take the difficult step of acknowledging (even publicly, if appropriate) your wrongdoing. Then read 2 Timothy 2:21 and take comfort in the knowledge that God is seeking to cleanse you from your sin to use you for noble purposes ahead.

Repentance And Change Are Much Better Than Guilt

SOURCE:  Jan Johnson

My views on guilt have evolved over the years. Like many people, I beat myself up and thought that guilt was the Christian thing to do. I figured guilt motivated me to do better so I heaped it on myself. My first and early realization was that I lived in false guilt or shame. It wasn’t just that I’d done something wrong, but I was wrong. So I worked on breaking free from false guilt.

But I still thought true guilt was useful because so many people don’t admit when they’re wrong. Then I started listening to my friend Dallas Willard, who made blanket statements such as, “Guilt never helps.” I was puzzled though because he wasn’t from my psychobabble generation; he was of that generation that seemed to love guilt. Why did he say that?

But over the years, I’ve seen how even true guilt doesn’t help me. It just makes me hopeless. Even worse, it fixes my eyes on me (what I’ve done wrong!) rather than on God and what God has done right. My view of guilt actually made my spirituality about me and my performance (and lack of it), not about God. So I became suspicious that Dallas might be on to something. I’ve experimented with dumping guilt and I’ve discovered some important things.

First, repentance is much better than guilt. Repentance isn’t feeling bad, bad, bad about sin. It’s metanoia, thinking about my thinking—examining how I think. It’s making changes in how I think, which then makes changes in how I act. A short cut version of this is that I began focusing much more on, “What is my next step?” instead of “Wow, my last step was really dumb!”

Next, I realized that we need better training in how to confess sin. Glossing over things doesn’t work; we’re as sick as our secrets. It’s healing to say to God exactly what I did and why I think I did it. Then we allow space to hear this truth of God: “In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.” We bask in this: Lord Jesus Christ, how merciful you are to me, a sinner! And, very importantly, we allow space for asking God about what our next step might be.

Lately, I’ve noticed something else. In general, the devotional masters and saints throughout the ages weren’t depressed by their sins. The closer they were to God, the more they felt their sin, but the more they focused on God’s greatness. They saw God as a Helper (Psalm 54:4) not as Condemner, picking out their sins. In monasteries, abbots didn’t allow monks to think obsessively about their sin. God’s purpose in revealing sins to us is to help us change, to give us power to change. God is like a craftsman, saying, “Here, let’s do this better.”

As a spiritual director, I have many conversations with people who are motivated by guilt. They are steeped in sadness and feel defeated. It destroys them and forces them to look at themselves and make their spirituality about their own (miserable) performance. I don’t think this is a work of God but a work of the enemy of our soul. This enemy paralyzes us with guilt; but the holy God of heaven invites us to repent, to change, to live in the deep gladness of being loved. This is the voice we listen to.

Whatever Happened to Sin?

(Adapted from Healing Care, Healing Prayer by Terry Wardle)

Dysfunctional behaviors are largely rooted in deep pain and unaddressed needs. We must also accept that much of our unhealthy behavior is at some level symptomatic of horrible wounding and loss, suffered at the hands of others &/or tied to harsh life events.

But, it is also important for us to consider that our dysfunctional behaviors must be identified for what they are: sinful responses to pain and unmet needs in our lives. Whenever we kill pain and try to meet needs in unhealthy ways, we are falling short of God’s desire for us. And the simple definition of that set of choices is sin. Failure to identify this truth takes away the personal responsibility for our actions that we must accept. Even when we are in pain or facing a genuine need, choosing to address it in a way that is hurtful to ourselves or to others is a sinful response. The presence of underlying wounds does not absolve us from responsibility for the unhealthy choices we make. Having been wounded by others does not give us the right to react in a way that wounds anyone else, even ourselves. Sin must be recognized and dealt with before the Lord as an integral part of the inner healing process.

We need to be overwhelmed by God’s good grace and experience His unbelievable acceptance, forgiveness, and hope in the midst of our own problems. However, the starting place for experiencing His matchless grace is recognizing why we need His mercy in the first place. We are like straying sheep, wandering away from God’s best, feeding in places that ultimately lead to our own destruction. Many times this happens because we do not know better. At other times we make bad choices consciously, either unconcerned or unconvinced that the consequences are really that serious or sinful. But they are, and there is no responsible way to detour around that reality on the path to inner healing.

What precisely is sin? It is a transgression of the law of God: disobedience of the divine will; moral failure. Sin is failure to realize in conduct and character the moral ideal, at least as fully as possible under existing circumstances. In other words, sin is the failure to live according to what God expects. This involves not doing what God has told us to do, and/or doing what He has expressly forbidden. God has set before us a standard of character and behavior and to fall short of that is to miss God’s mark. And to miss the mark is to sin. Dysfunctional behaviors aimed at killing pain or meeting needs in unhealthy ways do in fact miss the mark.

The Words of Jesus are most helpful and pastoral on this topic. He defined the purpose of life as “loving the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and loving your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:37-39). He said that all of the rules and laws contained in the Bible hang on these two commandments (Matt. 22:40). Expanding on an Old Testament text, Jesus was telling all His followers that they are to live according to the rule of love. How does one know what is right and wrong? According to Jesus that is really quite simple. Do what is loving to God, loving to other people and loving toward oneself. Every action that is rooted in the law of love hits the mark of God’s expectation, dead center. Conversely, if any thought or action is not loving toward God, another person, or oneself, it is sinful. Therefore, painkilling and meeting needs in any way that is unloving toward God, hurts another person, or which at any level compromises the well-being of an individual – even ourselves – is sin. For example, let’s look at one’s need to obtain acceptance and worth through performance in light of Jesus’ teaching regarding the law of love. First, by turning to performance in order to gain a sense of worth, I am in fact creating an idol. God has made provision for that need through the work of Christ. To seek worth apart from Him is unloving toward God and clearly misses the mark He set before me. As for others, it is very easy to subconsciously use people to meet my own deep needs. They become an unhealthy means to an end, which devalues and invalidates. That is not loving either. An as for myself, continuing to rely on this behavior is both damaging and depressing.

I believe it helpful to be reminded yet again about the seriousness of sin, as described by Paul. In Romans 6:19-23, Paul writes:

I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness, leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap from the things that you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wage of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Consider what Paul is saying about sin in this text. First, he repeatedly used the term slavery with reference to sinful actions. Paul was well aware of the practice of slavery and knew its terrible cost. Slaves had no freedom to go where they wanted to go, do what they wanted to do, or become what they wanted to be. They were in bondage, forced to live according to another person’s demands and desires. They were often mistreated, dehumanized and devalued. They had become the property of another, enslaved to spend their lives serving people who had little care or concern for them as human beings.

Sin leads to slavery. When hurting, we have a pain and need deep within that becomes too much to bear alone. Misguided, the thought can come to us to try some way to alleviate the ache inside our souls. Whether out of ignorance or rebellion, we stumble upon a short-term solution to our problem. Initially it is a conscious act that we initiate and control in order to feel better. But over time, the action turns into a habit, less conscious, more impulse driven. Slowly the habit sets deep talons into the flesh of our wounded soul and we become enslaved to a behavior that begins to rip and tear at our life on every level. The behavior has turned into the beast, and we become a slave to sin’s dark design. This slavery is a constant result of sinful choices, and we need to call it the ugly taskmaster that it is.

Paul also challenges us to consider the results of the sins for which we are now ashamed (Rom. 6:21). As broken men and women, we often wear shame like a dead skin that should have been shed long before. It is ugly, heavy and carries with it the most horrible feelings of self-contempt.

Shame has been defined as:  A soul-deep sense that there is something uniquely wrong with me that is not wrong with you or anyone else in the world. Because I am not perfect and problem free, I feel hopelessly, disgustingly different and worth less than other people. I view myself as, literally, worthless. It isn’t that I make a mistake when I make a mistake; I am a mistake when I make a mistake.

This definition cuts to the core of shame’s dark nature. Inevitably, we who are caught in sin wrestle with its suffocating presence. Often that battle occurs in silent hiding because we don’t want others to see what we live with day in and day out. While sinful choices seem at first to offer some relief to deep need, in the end they bring a covering of shame that only heightens an already difficult inner battle.

Paul does not end there, but speaks to a third consequence of sin: death. He says quite clearly that the ultimate and most devastating consequence of missing God’s mark is destruction. Paraphrasing his words, “death is the final payoff of sin” (Rom. 6:23). Enslavement to dysfunctional behaviors has the potential to emotionally, mentally, relationally, spiritually, and at times, physically kill. Though we may think such choices are harmless, long-term bondage rips and tears at us until we begin to die deep within our souls. It is often a slow demise, as dark forces, bit by bit, steal the life that God intended for us.

Given this reality of sin and its deep and devastating consequences in our lives, there is good news that has come to us through Jesus Christ. God the Father’s unconditional gift of love, Jesus Christ, has provided a way for us to be free from sin and its devastating consequences. Through the Cross, each of us has the opportunity to experience forgiveness and reconciliation with God. Sinful choices need no longer plague us with slavery, shame, and death. Jesus gave His Life so that all who believe can be saved. And that salvation definitely includes the element of healing, reconnecting lost people with God, and empowering them to move forward in spite of the past, present, or future in the Power of the Spirit.

The Apostle Paul has clearly revealed all that is possible for us in our brokenness because of the Work of Jesus on Calvary. In Colossians he wrote:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Col. 2:13-15)

To call this good news is an understatement. As Christians, we have been forgiven all our sins. Jesus fulfilled all the requirements of the law and paid for sin at the cross. Through His shed blood, Jesus has disarmed all the dark forces aligned against us, giving us authority by His powerful Name to defeat our evil foe. Because of this, we are now alive with Jesus, held securely in His eternal embrace.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul assures believers that they receive every blessing they need through Christ, and that even as they struggle, Jesus has made a way for them to be holy and blameless in God’s sight (Eph. 1:3, 4). He assures us that, as Christians, through Christ we are sons and daughters of God, recipients of great gifts, redeemed by His blood, and heirs to glorious riches of God’s grace (Eph. 1:5-8). And let there be no question about the grace-based faith that Paul declares. All of this comes, not because someone has worked hard or lived right, but as gifts, freely given to all who believe in the wonderful work that Jesus did on the Cross. They are not, according to Paul, given stingily, but instead lavished upon those whom God calls into His eternal family (Eph. 1:8).

Sometimes we come fearing the Lord’s rejection and punishment for what we have been doing. Granted, we must know that our choices are sinful and ultimately destructive. But we must also remember God’s steadfast love and acceptance in spite of our actions. He has no punishment left for us, having poured it out upon Jesus who died on our behalf. No behaviors could qualify us for God’s love, and none can cause Him to stop loving His own. He looks toward our brokenness with Divine compassion and understanding. While He in no way minimizes sin, God offers us the power to be set free and thoroughly forgiven. He longs to love and touch His sinful, wounded children.

We need to hear that nothing can separate us from His love, and that even on our worst day, He is thoroughly crazy about us. God rejoices as we turn home. He meets us long before we expect Him to be there. He welcomes us with great joy and provides the healing we need. As he calls us to set aside our painkillers and dysfunctional behaviors, He opens the way for us to have our deepest needs met in Him. And where pain continues to be present, He comes to strengthen and equip us to move forward in the Power of His enabling grace. So, while on the one hand, we need to see the seriousness of sinful choices, on the other, we need to see the matchless love of the God who desires to free us from all that is dark and evil.

In a practical way, how do we seriously deal with both known, unresolved, and unknown sin?

1) First, I need to meet God in prayer and ask Him to define obvious, known areas where there are sinful responses to pain and unmet needs in my life. I need to be open and honest before the Lord, allowing the Holy Spirit to show me where I have gone astray. I need to see my life from His point of view. Prayer-time like this may take place over days, weeks, and even months.

2) Next, I must spend time in prayer to seek the Lord regarding unresolved past sin. As a believer, it is a fact that all my past sin has been forgiven by Christ. But, even though I may have moved away from certain sinful behaviors, I may have done so without ever dealing with them before the Lord. Not only is that a matter of confession, but also an issue of closing the door completely on what has happened.

3) Finally, I must pray about unknown sin. I must seek the Lord and be open to the Spirit’s work of convincing, convicting, and revealing what I am not aware of.

As the Lord begins to reveal, define, and remind me of thoughts and behaviors He wants me to bring to Him, I can follow the following steps:

*Recognize. I acknowledge and admit that specific choices and actions that the Holy Spirit has identified are sinful. I declare to the Lord the destructive results and all that these actions have cost, and I admit that these short-term solutions bring long-lasting devastation to my life. I lay before the Lord all the ugliness that I feel, have done, have failed to do, whatever.

*Repent. I choose to tell God that I want to turn away from these sins and turn toward Him for help and healing. I invite Him to do whatever He must do in my life to break me free of what enslaves me. I tell Him that I can ask Him to this because I believe He will only do what is Good, Loving, Just, Wise, and Best regardless how I feel about it.

*Renounce. Sinful choices open the door for the oppressive and harassing work of the evil one. I tell the Lord that I choose to renounce any involvement the evil one may have in my problems, and that I desire to bring myself and my problems entirely under the Lordship of Christ. I ask the Lord to demolish any strongholds to which I have, in any way, given myself over to resulting in slavery and bondage. I further state that I desire only to be enslaved to Jesus Christ.

*Receive. I allow myself to freely (and even audibly) accept the forgiveness and cleansing that is mine in Jesus Christ. I ask the Lord to give me the emotions He wants me to accurately experience that represent the cleansing He has released within me.

*Realign. I seek the Lord’s help to have the desire and ability to make specific changes in my lifestyle related to the sin I am confessing. Also, I ask the Lord to empower me to look to Him as the Strength of my life and the true Source of all that I need.

*Rejoice. I ask the Lord to enable me to praise Him. I seek to have His ability to wait on His timing to bring solutions to my problems in the way He knows is best. I also ask for the supernatural ability to continue to trust in Him and praise Him no matter how differently He answers my prayers, or even if He should not answer them at all. As bad as I want answers to my problems, I ask for His help to be able to love Him, trust Him, and praise Him even more than I want answers to any of my requests.

Tag Cloud