Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Confessing Sin

My last post was about guilt vs. regret. I urged you to confess your sins to God, but I realized that I need to expand on that.
First, I need to expel two myths about God's forgiveness; each the extremes on the spectrum yet both widely believed and accepted.
1. God cannot forgive you for certain sins, and even after you confess your sins He is still angry.
2. God doesn't really care about your sins.

The first one is kind of a fire and brimstone technique. There are kind of two parts to this side of the spectrum: the Evil and Controlled God spectrum. The first assumption is that God can't forgive us for certain sins. The "bad" sins. But the Bible makes it clear that no sin is over another sin. "For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it." (James 2:10 ESV) So if we tell a "little white lie", we are guilty of everything else; murder, slander, etc. So how could God forgive a "small" sin but not a "big" sin? And if He CAN'T forgive your sins, that means your sins are more powerful than God, making your sins god. And it also makes Jesus' sacrifice on the cross not enough to cover all your sins. And if He WON'T forgive your sins, the Bible is false, and He isn't a loving God. He doesn't love us, because He won't forgive us. It also goes against the Bible because the Bible says He forgives ALL our sins. Obviously, He forgives whatever you've done. And He's no longer angry over it, or it goes against "forgiveness" as a whole. “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins." (Isaiah 43:25 ESV). If He's forgotten them, and blotted them out, how could He be angry at us? No, but when we are forgiven, we are forgiven, and our sins are forgotten, and God once again shines His face on us.

Then there's the other side of the spectrum, with the God I like to call the Hippie God. This is the side proclaimed more often among teenagers today, and I kind of imagine this theory as a hippie (complete with glasses, guitar, and all) smiling down at me. "No, it's totally fine dude! Peace, you know? We all screw up. Not like I'm angry at you or anything. If you made a mistake, you made a mistake. It's totally fine." That's not right either. God IS upset about our sin. But not so upset as to immediately fry us, because He is merciful. Yes, our sins are covered forever in Jesus' sacrifice. But we still have to confess our sins to God-and often to others. (Yes, I know that THAT can be the most challenging. But I recommend you read my friend's blogpost on confessing sin to others, I can't top it. :) ).

Also, if you haven't, read my last blog post on how to live with regret, not guilt.

But once we realize we are in the wrong, there is a series of steps that we must take to confess our sin and repent. Confessing sin and actual repentance are two different things, as I will show you.
1. Tell God about your sin (Yes, He knows, but it's like saying "Hey! God! You're right, I'm wrong!")
2. Ask for His forgiveness
3. If there are people that were harmed, or if there is a practical way to keep this sin from entering your life again, ask God to show you these things, and whatever He moves you to do-DO IT.
4. (And THIS is the repentance stage). RUN in the other direction. Set up roadblocks for yourself. Find someone who will keep you accountable, and make sure it is an object of your prayers to keep yourself from it. But the main point is, try your hardest to stay away from your sin. (Some sins, like getting angry at your siblings, etc, are not sins that give you much forewarning and are usually driven deep into your habits. These kinds of sins especially will often not go away the first day-or even the first month. But with persistance, they will disappear.)

One of my favorite things to do when I confess sins is to read Psalm 51. It is the blueprint of what our confessions should sound like, the crying out of our heart for forgiveness.

But a main point that I must stress in conclusion is that once you confess your sins, you are FORGIVEN. "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 ESV). Jesus died, and His actions are what saves us, not by our own works, but by His blood. We are insufficient, so or our own power we can never save ourselves. But God, in His holy love and mercy, He can. And He does. And if you turn to Him, broken and flawed, He will smile on you-and make you new.

“Come now, 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 become like wool.
(Isaiah 1:18 ESV)

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
(Psalm 51 ESV)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Guilt vs. Regret.

Yesterday, I was with a friend of mine, a very strong Christian who strives to honor God with her whole life. I was telling her my life story in a nutshell, and it brought me through some things that I regret very much. I said "I feel so guilty about this" several times during the conversation. But she made a comment that will forever affect the way I see my past. "You shouldn't feel guilty. If your past isn't how it is, you may not be as close to God as you are today." Then I started to think about guilt...and regret. Shouldn't we feel bad about what we've done? Yes. But there are differences between guilt and regret, which can forever alter your view of life. We are clearly NOT perfect. We feel guilty. But as Christians, we shouldn't feel guilty, not at all. Regret is feeling bad about what we've done. Guilt is feeling that it is our fault. The difference between the two is that regret pushes us forward. Guilty holds us back. Regret makes us strive to do better, guilt makes us strive to live.
But there is hope.
There are three reasons not to feel guilt, but to feel regret:
1. You should not feel guilty because what you have done contributed to who you are and who you will be. You may not be as close to God as you are now without your past. The things you've done, they may be sinful and harmful, they may be horrid and you may hate them, but don't hate yourself. I cannot stress how important it is to confess your sin to God and repent (turn away from your sin), but once that is done, you have nothing to feel guilty about. Which brings me to my second point:
2. You should not feel guilty because you cannot change your past. You can regret what you have done, but feeling guilty will never change what you have done, but it will change what you do. If you feel guilty, you may think you are unable to change, and you will continue in your ways until you fall from under your guilt. What you have done is unchangeable: what you do about what you have done is not. Depending on the situation, you may or may not be able to make seemingly "large" changes, but you can always change. The first step is to confess your sins to God, and then make sure you don't fall where you fell before. And if your sin affected anyone else, make it right, or if it is impossible, try to the best of your ability to make it better. Regret what you've done, but don't feel bad-rejoice that you are saved by God. Use your regret to keep you from sin, not to make yourself lest resistent to it.
3. And this reflects my first two points: You should not feel guilty because you are FORGIVEN! 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 ESV)
“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.
(Isaiah 43:25 ESV)

The Bible stresses that we are FORGIVEN, and our sins are FORGOTTEN. We are FREE, our sins are FORGIVEN, our trespasses FORGOTTEN, and this lasts FOREVER. that is my motto. If we are still guilty, we tell ourselves that God cannot forgive us, that His grace is not sufficient and we are not cleansed. No, WE ARE PURE! WE ARE RIGHTEOUS! I cannot stress this more!

So if you feel guilty, take time to search the Scriptures. I'd recommend the book of John.

And be set free.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Luke 5:11

Wow, it's been awhile since I've posted on here. Been pretty busy the last couple weeks.
Anyway, about this verse. I was reading the Bible today and it hit me. If you look it up, it doesn't sound too exciting. If you read it in context, you barely notice it. But it is the very end of the story of the call of Peter, James, and John into the ministry. This is what the verse says:
And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
(Luke 5:11 ESV)
It's a famous story; Peter, James and John have been fishing all night without success. As in-no fish. At all. When Jesus comes along, he tells them to try...just one more time. They don't believe him at first, but they agree to give it one more attempt. They didn't just catch a fish-they caught so many fish that the nets-designed for fishing-started to break, and the boats started to sink from the weight. Awed and humbled, they ran to Jesus who told them they would become fishers of men. Then this verse comes, Luke 5:11. They left everything and followed him.
These men did not know Jesus, they had never followed Him before. Yet after one miracle, they left everything they had ever known. In those days, people stayed in the same place for their whole lifetime. They were leaving their family, friends, and every thing they had ever worked for or put time into-for Jesus. Willingly, they poured out their lives, enduring terrible hardships and terrible deaths-all for Him.
And yet we still struggle with reading our Bibles once every day.
They had nothing but God. They didn't have what we have, they didn't have our luxuries. But they never gave up.
We have a book-quite a LARGE book, the Bible, that tells us SO many things. When we read the things in the Scriptures about God, our sin, and our forgiveness, we should fall to our knees in tears, and thank God and live our lives for Him.
Yet we often simply skim over the words we take for granted.
So today, I give you three challenges:
1. I don't press you to read the Scriptures. I press you to study them. Get up half an hour earlier and spend time reading, taking notes, and highlighting. Stop school earlier so you can. Do other things if necessary. But do it today.
2. Have the faith that Peter, James and John had in Jesus-that He IS the Son of God, and that we are NOT called to do little things.
3. This is the hardest step. But if you haven't yet, get on your knees and ask God to take control of your life. Cry out to Him. And then-change. So your life revolves around Him-and not yourself.

I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back, no turning back.

P.S. For an extra challenge-write out Luke 5:11 and post it somewhere where you'll see it-a lot! (Mirror, wall, desk, etc...)