Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Today’s Topic: God’s Forgiveness
Today’s Text: Isaiah 57:18-19 “I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will guide him and restore comfort to him, 19creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel. Peace, peace, to those far and near,” says the LORD. “And I will heal them.”
“I saw what you did!”
When I was a child and heard that statement directed at me – from anyone – my heart cringed in fear. I must admit that I still feel that way at times. The fear I feel is the product of knowing that I have just done something wrong, and I have been caught. What will happen to me? How bad is the punishment going to be? What will other people think of me? What will this do to my reputation and my potential?
Let’s stop a minute and evaluate those responses, for all of them are wrong responses to sin. We have been fed a huge lie if we believe that any of them are correct. You see, every one of them reflects the belief that when we sin we sin mainly against ourselves. Our fear of punishment is self-protection. Our fear of being discredited is pride. Our normal response to the fears of punishment and personal loss is to justify what we did, and, if necessary, lie. Why? Because we are primarily concerned about self.
God doesn’t forgive sin based on how bad it makes us feel, but rather our knowledge of who He is and how our sin stands so opposed to Him. God forgives sin based on repentance. Repentance requires the sacrifice of self. Repentance requires turning away from the sin regardless of the consequences. Repentance demands humility which brings us God’s justification, rather than pride which seeks self-justification.
God has promised to forgive, even after He has seen what we have done. He promises to heal our lives. He promises to guide us again, and restore comfort to us. He promises to create praise on our lips where there had been mourning. Aha! There it is – the mourning over our sin. God cannot bring forgiveness and restoration to a life that is not repentant – a life that is not broken and mourning before Him. Not broken over the pain of the consequences. Not mourning over some form of personal loss. But brokenness and mourning over how we have stood and acted in opposition to God.
Almost two years ago I heard a sermon from one of my favorite preachers, James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago. It was on repentance. I recommend that you listen to it – here’s the link. http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/walk-in-the-word/listen/what-does-the-bible-say-about-repentance-part-2-94302.html In the sermon he describes the evidence of a truly repentant heart. In Luke 3:8 Jesus says, Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. In Acts 26:20 Paul says, that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. There must be evidence in our lives of true repentance. Pastor MacDonald gives us four ways to know if we are truly repentant:
- The absence of rationalization – we will cease all defending of our actions
- Genuine sorrow – a broken heart before God, not men
- Open confession of our sin – we will no longer seek to hide what we did from the public.
- Restitution – we willingly seek out those hurt and offended by our sin and make it right.
When I heard that sermon I remember pulling the car over and pouring my heart out to God. For most of my life I had defended my actions, justified my choices, and lied to protect myself from the pain of the consequences. Had I ever been truly repentant? Was I more concerned about how I felt than about what I had done in rebellion against the grace of God?
Then the Holy Spirit came and restored comfort to me. He assured me of the Lord’s forgiveness and healing. He brought me peace, because I was no longer defending myself: I was genuinely broken before Him.
He will bring you that peace also. He will forgive you, even though He has seen what you have done. Open your heart and your life to Him. Expose all of the sin. Throw yourself helplessly at the mercy of the Judge, for He is ready and willing to forgive you, and lift you out of the slime of sin into a joyous relationship with the Father.