Friday, 14 December 2018

T The restoration of God's people

Forgiveness of sin

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King David understood the problem of the heart. At first he was so blinded by his own lies, to cover up his adultery and to justify it before God, that God had to send a prophet. But at that moment the Holy Spirit opened his eyes. At that point he still had two options, being to deny to sin and to proceed as if nothing happened, or to call it what is was: a sin. Thankfully, he responded well and repented. The way he changed his mind in regard to the sin can be found in Psalm 51. Here are the steps he took: 

  • He called for the grace of God (Psalm 51:1). 
  • He made his case before God and pleaded guilty before His presence (Psalm 51:3-4). 
  • He acknowledged his condition (Psalm 51:5)
  • He acknowledged the truth (Psalm 51:6)
  • He asked for cleansing of his sin (Psalm 51:7)
  • He asked God to give him a clean heart (Psalm 51:10)
  • He asked for restoration of joy (Psalm 51:12)
  • He asked for deliverance (Psalm 51:14)
  • He asked God for help to praise Him (Psalm 51:15)
  • He offered his broken spirit to God (Psalm 51:17)

There are two types of ‘regret’, which I would like to easily describe as real and unreal. The real type of regret is the one that touches the heart, while the unreal type of regret is just sorry for being caught. As long as the ‘unreal regret’ isn’t caught, it will just continue in sin, while pretending to be righteous and real. However, the real type of regret will show fruits. Those fruits become visible when the sin is exposed. But before a sin is exposed, the Holy Spirit will always try to convince a person of sin, on a personal level. When they are not yet completely spiritually blinded, they will be able to see it and to act accordingly. The real type of regret won’t hesitate to repent and to change their mind about the sin, to bring it in line with the Word of God. That is the sign of a heart that wants to follow Jesus and wants to change.

The fruits that David showed are the fruits of a sincere heart, willing to repent and willing to change. It also shows a great deal of how he understood how depended he was from God. He was more than willing to surrender all control to God, knowing that only He could help him to really change. The Holy Spirit once told me that people who do not want to be helped, cannot be helped. But people who are willing to be helped can certainly be helped. 

The Bible tells us a lot about sin and about forgiveness. But the enemy also isn’t sitting still. While the Holy Spirit convinces of sin, he will be there as well. He will tell you that you will never make it, that you will never be good enough, that you are a failure and that you might as well give up. He will tell you that God is angry at you and that you have to go through penance. Or as I have heard in a religious charismatic circle, that you have to go through ‘years of repentance’, with which they meant penance. It is 100% the mindset of the law and has nothing to do with grace. Any system that involves punishment has everything to do with the law. The mindset of the law ‘takes’ control, while God will patiently waits until we give Him control. 

Is there forgiveness for your sins? I always say that if the repentance is real, the forgiveness is real. If you are sincere, so is the forgiveness of God. God loves realness and He hates pretending. He rather sees us approaching Him as broken and sinful people, longing to be restored, then as people who pretend to be righteous and (politically) correct. The difference lies in the attitude and can basically be described as being humble or being prideful. You and God are the only ones who can determine if your heart is sincere, but one thing is for sure. When you are sincere in wanting to accept and to follow Jesus, that’s all that matters to Him. He doesn’t hold a score board and doesn’t look at how many things you did ‘right’, in order to see if you’ve met the conditions for forgiveness. The thing that matters to Him is the sincerity of the heart. When the heart is sincere, this is what the Word says:

Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before.
Acts 3:19-20

I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins. Put Me in remembrance; let us contend together; state your case, that you may be acquitted.
Isaiah 43:25-26

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9

“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land.
Isaiah 1:18-19

In Him (Jesus Christ) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.
Ephesians 1:7

“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.
Hebrews 10:16-18

Now that is real forgiveness. When God says He forgives, He truly does. He will not remind us of those sins anymore! So anyone who does is not speaking on behalf of God, but on behalf of the prosecutor. But the fact is, the Judge already dealt with it. So there are no other conditions? Yes, there is one other condition: pay it forward. 

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Matthew 6:14-15

You can’t love someone if you have something against them. Think about that for a while. If someone has sinned against you, you have something against them. Something you can use against them. Something to destroy them or to punish them. But if we really love someone, do we then want their destruction or to see them being punished? Of course not. Even in case of the law, punishment was always meant to correct people, to bring them back to God. But as long as we have something against them, that will stand in the way to really love that person. In that case we can never fulfill the commandment to love that person as we love ourselves. We know we can’t love from ourselves, but only because the Holy Spirit enables us to love. But fact is that the Holy Spirit will only work in the areas where He has control. If you hold on to your claim, being stuck in unforgiveness, then you are in control and nothing will change on that area. We have to choose to forgive each and every one, as Jesus instructed us to do. We can’t afford to hold something against another person, for it means that God will not forgive us either. If God, in His love and mercy for you, forgives every sin you have ever committed, and if that same God loves the person who has sinned against you, it would be a fitting response to apply the same grace that you received to the situation between you and that other person. Remember, the only thing you have to do is to surrender. You choose to forgive, that is a decision of your will, not one of your emotions. Then you hand the control over to God and you let Him deal with your emotions. 

Then there is one more issue that is rarely being mentioned. In my life I have experienced a lot of times when there was one particular person I really hated. To be honest, I also didn’t want to forgive him. I considered this person as evil, unworthy, a failure etc. Therefore I didn’t found this person worthy of my forgiveness.  That person was me. I thought that if there was anyone who knew me better, then it would be me. And knowing myself, I didn’t like what I saw. At all. So I thought I could afford to not forgive myself. That turned out to be a lie as well. The Word specifically says to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. So the standard we need to use to love our neighbors is the standard we use to love ourselves. This could almost look like an excuse not to love our neighbors, because we don’t love ourselves, but then I have to emphasize that love is not an option, it is a commandment. 

God loved the world so much, that He gave us Jesus. When we accepted Him, the love of God was being released in our hearts. That enabled us to love God. He should be the first to love, above all other things. But then Jesus instructed us to love ourselves, with the love that He gave us. We have to choose to love ourselves, despite of all the bad things we see in ourselves. To many people this is hard to do. But we need to learn to love ourselves, by learning to look at ourselves the way God does. That will lead us to an understanding of His love for us, a kind of love that is much stronger than our sins. This kind of love shows mercy and compassion. This kind of love tells us who God says we are. It will bring us to the point where we are able to love ourselves the way God loves us. And when we are at that point, and only at that point, we are able to love our neighbors the way God does. For we can only love in the measure that we love ourselves. One of the first things that is required in order to love yourself, is that you decide to forgive yourself as well, as God has forgiven you. 100%. That also is a decision of your will, not one of your emotions. After you’ve made the decision, you hand the control over to God and He will deal with your emotions. 

When you approach God with a broken heart, aware of sin and willing to acknowledge it, then He always forgives you. No matter how many times you may stumble and fall. He is there, every step of the way. He will never leave your side. When you have confessed your sins from a sincere heart, your sins are forgiven. Not only are they forgiven, they are erased from every book in heaven and even God will not remember it any more. Not because He is demented, but because He chooses to forget every sin that is dealt with. That means you now have a clean slate. The state of innocence. No matter how you look at it, His forgiveness it real and He will never change His mind about that.

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