Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Forgiving Me

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9)
Forgiveness. Those brought up in the "church world" are taught from the very start about God's great forgiveness. We walk around quoting John 3:16, firmly believing in God's grace and mercy, His love, and His desire to forgive. From the pulpit, we learn to always forgive others. We recite the passage from the Lord's prayer - "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." (Matthew 6:12) And yet despite all of that, we struggle with forgiveness.

Notice, in the above passage, the phrase "we deceive ourselves". We "deceive ourselves" in one of two ways. We either think we are without sin, or we are painfully aware of our sin and therefore "deserve what we get". Both lines of thought are incorrect.

But look at the next phrase, "and the truth is not in us". "We deceive ourselves AND the truth is not in us." I believe a quote by a noted Bible scholar helps clarify this statement.

[This is] either the truth that is contrary to such denial (we lie in denying our sin), or the truth of religion, is not in us. (Matthew Henry's Commentary, e-sword)
Do you see it? The truth that "is not in us" can be our denial of sin - we feel justified in what we've done - or it could be denying the ultimate truth, God's Word on forgiveness. We deny ourselves His forgiveness.

This commentary then presents a sobering thought.

The denial of our sin not only deceives ourselves, but reflects dishonour upon God. It challenges his veracity. He has abundantly testified of, and testified against, the sin of the world...God has given his testimony to the continued sin and sinfulness of the world, by providing a sufficient effectual sacrifice for sin...And therefore, if we say either that we have not sinned or do not yet sin, the word of God is not in us, neither in our minds, as to the acquaintance we should have with it, nor in our hearts, as to the practical influence it should have upon us.
Wow! I do not want my behavior to "challenge" the veracity, the truth, of God's Word. I must not refuse the forgiveness He has provided for me.

There are numerous examples of this in the Bible. Think about Jonah. Jonah had been sent to the city of Ninevah to tell them to repent. Ultimately, they did just that and God forgave them. However, what was Jonah's reaction?

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. (Jonah 4:1 NKJV)
Jonah was mad! As if that was not enough, he then comes up with a really lame reason.

...Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. (Jonah 4:2 NKJV)
"I knew you'd do that! I just knew you'd forgive them! That's why I ran away!" he said.

Seriously? Haven't we all done this? We argue with God over something in our lives and give Him such pathetic excuses! Jonah was definitely deceiving himself. The truth was not in him.

Think also about the prophet Elijah. Here's a man who called down fire from heaven to consume a water-soaked sacrifice, and he had slain all the prophets of Baal. How amazing is that? And yet with the slightest threat from the queen, the Bible says he runs a day's journey into the wilderness, sits down underneath a tree and proclaims, "I want to die!" (1 Kings 19)

I just love God's response. First, he sends an angel to provide food. Apparently, Elijah was worn out. Elijah does get up from underneath the tree, but somehow he continues to wander around out there - the Bible says for 40 more days! Eventually, he ends up in sleeping in a cave. It is here that God finally speaks.

“What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9 NLT)
Don't you just love that? "What ARE you doing?" How many times have I needed God to ask that very question! Elijah, as great a prophet as he was and despite all the things God had done through him, was denying himself the truth.

So what he messed up, and so what he ran away in fear. God, in providing sustenance for him through the administration of an angel, started dropping a very large hint about the size of His forgiveness.

Forgive yourself and move on. Often the hardest person to forgive is ourselves. We "self-flagellate", constantly beating ourselves up in some manner over a mistake we've made. This is as much a denial of God's forgiveness and "the truth not being in us" as the other side of the coin, denying we have sinned at all. In either case, as the commentator said, we are expressing a doubt about God.

There are yet two more examples, but in these cases, both people did the correct thing - they repented, and they forgave.

We have all read the story of King David and Bathsheba. King David has Bathsheba's husband killed so he can marry her. That's a pretty big sin! However, what is worse is how deceived David was about it. Nathan the prophet comes before David and tells him a story involving two men, one rich and one poor, and the theft of the poor man's sheep by the rich man. To this, David becomes enraged.

“As surely as the Lord lives,” he vowed, “any man who would do such a thing deserves to die! He must repay four lambs to the poor man for the one he stole and for having no pity.” (2 Samuel 12:5-6 NLT)
Then Nathan speaks up again.

“You are that man..." (2 Samuel 12:7 NLT)
"You are the man who has done that very thing," he says, " God wants you to know He anointed you to be king of Israel, and yet look at what you've done. There will be a heavy price to pay..." (verses 11-12)

David wasn't even aware of his sin until God, through Nathan, pointed it out. Notice though David's reaction. He immediately repents. And his sin ultimately results in the death of their child. (verse 14) What a huge debt of sin to have to forgive oneself for!

My last example comes from Job. Here we see a man who lost everything - his worldly goods, his children, his health. He spends months mourning his losses and wishing for his own death. He even proclaims that his birthday should be removed from the calendar! (Job 3:3)

Then God speaks up and begins to tell Job just exactly how big, mighty, and magnificent He really is. Read Job's response.

I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not...Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:2-3,6)
Job realizes his error and repents. In obedience, he then prays for his friends.

That is the key to forgiveness, especially when it comes to forgiving yourself. The key is repentance. Perhaps your "sin" was not as great as David's. Maybe you are more like Jonah, you are mad and making excuses. Maybe fear is the problem, like Elijah, or loss, like Job. But you must realize, Job's fortunes were doubled in the end, and King David went on to have another child - the wise king Solomon. In both cases, it was only after admitting the mistake and forgiving themselves for their part in it.

True repentance brings peace whereas unforgiveness towards others, or towards yourself, brings great misery. It really is that simple.

This scripture from Acts really sums it up the best.

So change the way you think and act, and turn to God to have your sins removed. (20) Then times will come when the Lord will refresh you. He will send you Jesus, whom he has appointed to be the Christ. (Acts 3:19-20 GW)
"Change the way you think and act." That is repentance. "Have your sins removed." That is forgiveness. In the end, that is really what we all want. God is so "faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)

He has said He WILL forgive you. If that is the case, then "you" forgive "you" and afterward enjoy His refreshing, the true peace that can only come through Christ.

Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

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