Greetings Narrow Gate,
As I was reflecting this week about what to write about, I kept thinking about why everyone seems so mad and upset with each other. I mean really, people are ticked off everywhere! Some want to blame the tenor set by the POTUS and others want to blame the news media. Some blame Marxist anarchists, some corrupt police, some of it may just be lousy local government leadership, lousy parenting and schooling for a generation or two, and the list can go on and on.
The problem is us. We are not showing each other any grace. We're not quick to forgive others, we're quick to trigger and counter-attack. The world is hurting obviously, and the children of God have the message that this world needs, right for this very moment. But for some reason we (the believers who should know better) are getting sucked into the vortex of hate and violence and turmoil.
To be more specific, the problem is in us. My thoughts and the Spirit were leading me to write today on forgiveness. But not forgiveness from us towards others, which is what I have been describing. No, what I want to talk about today is our inability to forgive ourselves. This is a deeper problem that then affects our ability to be able to forgive others.
See, if we cannot forgive ourselves for past sins, we can't be expected to be able to forgive others, those who wrong us and in turn, then love on them. Romans 8:1-2,
"No condemnation now hangs over the head of those who are in Christ Jesus. For the new spiritual principle of life in Christ Jesus lifts me out of the old vicious circle of sin and death."
Now, this vicious circle of sin and death involved the law and our inability to follow the law because, hey, guess what? You and I are not perfect. But this new spiritual principal can also lead us out of the vicious cycle of unforgiveness with our fellow man. But we have to be able to accept God's forgiveness for our sins first.
I ran across an article by one of my favorite authors and preachers, Randy Alcorn. His book on heaven is a wonderful book that I would recommend to all. His article, What If You Struggle to Forgive Yourself?, is on his blog at Eternal Perspectives Ministries.I'll let Rev. Alcorn ask you what you think about your forgiveness.
"I've received messages over the years along the lines of this: 'I struggle with forgiving myself for a past sin. I've asked Christ's forgiveness for it many times but can't seem to resolve my feelings of guilt and accept God's forgiveness.' If you can relate to this sentiment here's what I encourage you to do: ask yourself, 'Have I accepted Christ's sacrifice on my behalf, and also confessed to God this sin?' If the answer is yes, would God on the one hand say, 'I've fully forgiven you' (the clear teaching of scripture) but then turn around and plague you with guilt feelings when in fact He died to remove your guilt? No, obviously not. That means the source of your despair is not God but the evil one."
This reminds me of the old Living Epistle Tee shirt, from the 1990s, When the Devil Reminds you of your past, remind him of his future. Randy Alcorn continues,
"So talk back to the devil and say, 'You're right I'm a sinner. But Christ has fully forgiven me and He is infinitely greater than you, as 1 John 4:4 says, You, my children, who belong to God have already defeated this spirit, because the one who lives in you (Christ) is far stronger than the antichrist in the world. So I will believe my Lord, not you.'"
Remember, when Satan tempted Jesus in the desert, Jesus answered Satan's attempts at temptation with scripture.
Also, Jesus taught us that Satan is a liar, and when he speaks he's speaking his native language. Lying is his signature move, it's what he's best at. Satan is constantly telling humanity that Christ's redemptive work is not available to you. Jesus is the author of Truth. He's the teller of Truth. 1 John 1:8-10,
"If we refuse to admit that we are sinners, then we live in a world of illusion and truth becomes a stranger to us. But if we freely admit that we have sinned, we find God utterly reliable and straightforward--he forgives our sins and makes us thoroughly clean from all that is evil. For if we take up the attitude 'we have not sinned,' we flatly deny God's diagnosis of our condition and cut ourselves off from what he has to say to us."
Don't let truth become a stranger to you. Don't let yourself become cut off from God. And don't deny what God has lovingly given you through his Son Jesus, forgiveness. Don't call God a liar.
All sins must be punished. If we do not accept Christ's punishment on our behalf, we then must take on our own sin debt. But since we have no righteousness to pay for our sins, we can never atone for them, and therefore the self-punishment can never end. Only those of us who are covered with the blood of Christ will escape eternal judgment for our sins, because that judgment has been laid on another whose gift of atonement we have received.
We aren't good enough to ever pay for our own sins. None of us. So if we choose to believe that we are unforgivable after we've confessed, we say Christ's sacrifice wasn't good enough to save us by his grace, and in effect, we call God a liar.
From our lesson last week, trust God's Word, not your feelings. Satan confuses us with our feelings. Don't buy Satan's lie that your relationship with God depends on you always doing the right thing and feeling a certain way. Satan may even try at some point to convince you that you have lost your salvation. Remember that Tee shirt I told you about. Also, please remember Titus 3:3-6,
"For we ourselves have known what it is to be ignorant, disobedient and deceived, the slaves of various desires and pleasant feelings, while our lives were spent in malice and jealousy--we were hateful and we hated one another (sound familiar?). But when the kindness of God our savior and his love toward mankind appeared, he saved us in his mercy--not by virtue of any moral achievement of ours, but by the cleansing power of a new birth and the moral renewal of the Holy Spirit, which he gave us so generously through Jesus Christ our Savior."
Satan is using our guilt to distract us. He cannot keep us from going to heaven if we believe in Christ. So instead, he disrupts our relationship with God and his Holy Spirit. Satan is always trying to put a wedge between God and us. Let us all pray for God's Holy Spirit to help guide us in keeping this from ever happening. Part of this daily prayer should be our own personal confession of sins.
When confronting guilt, believe the words of Christ and meditate upon scripture, not on your guilty feelings. Eventually God will eliminate these guilty feelings. The truth of Christ will salve your soul. John 3:16-17,
"For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him should not be lost, but should have eternal life. You must understand that God has not sent his Son into the world to pass sentence upon it, but to save it--through him. Any person who believes in him is not judged at all.
If I am describing your struggle with forgiveness, read these verses daily. Print them out and tape them on your bathroom mirror and the mirror in your car. Not being able to forgive yourself will not only hinder your relationship with God, but also your relationships with everyone else in your life. This freedom from guilt is just a portion of the freedom that we experience in Jesus Christ.
It really is all about Jesus. Refusing to forgive ourselves is an act of pride--making ourselves and our sins bigger than God and His grace.
With the isolation during the covid-19 pandemic, these feelings of guilt and unforgiveness can be unrelenting. Let me encourage you to reach out to clergy or a mature Christian friend. Call me or Jim. Trust me please when I say this: You are never alone.
Satan wants you shrouded in the dark, lonely and in despair. He wants you in bondage. If you feel that you're unworthy of God's forgiveness, you're right. None of us are worthy. This is why we can't trust feelings for the truth. Read God's Word and ask for forgiveness. Then let us join together, forgive our neighbors and love them like Jesus taught us.
I began with this verse today, so let's finish with it as well. Romans 8:1,
"No condemnation now hangs over the head of those who are in Christ Jesus."
When people were crucified in Jesus' time, the crime for their punishment was written on a sign which was placed just over their head on their cross. Jesus' sign, written by Pilate, said simply, "The King of the Jews". Which ironically was both true and not a crime. By Jesus' payment for the price for our specific sins as individuals, you and I have no fear, guilt, or worry of ever having a sign with our sins hanging over our head. We are completely forgiven. If you believe in Jesus and have confessed your sins, you are forgiven.
Believe it and share it.
Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.
and Harmony UMC