Monday, August 26, 2013

Praying About Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a loaded word.  We all need a Savior, we all are sinners in need of forgiveness (Romans 3:23 - "For all have sinned and fall short the glory of God.").  And we also must forgive others as we have been forgiven.  I don't know if reading this will bless you in any way, but it blesses ME to take the time to write it.

Oh, and since I am beginning the study of Matthew in BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) I read that book this summer.  So TONS of my scripture references are from Matthew. :)

First, it is important to know you cannot out-sin God's forgiveness.  No, really.  Whatever your burden of guilt, bring it before the Lord.  He is faithful and just to forgive. (1 John 1:9 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." and Psalm 32:5 "Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD." And you forgave the guilt of my sin.")  It is really that simple - confess and He forgives.

Dear one, you must know that He cares for you and desires that none be lost! No sin is too great - they hold equal weight.  And while certain sins have greater earthly consequences than others, they eternal consequences are the same. So I must confess BOTH premarital sex (resulting in teen pregnancy - pretty big earthly consequences) AND my failure to come to Him in prayer today (with less obvious earthly consequences).

So do not think your sin is too big for God - nothing is bigger than our God! :) (Luke 23:34 "Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.") If Jesus can forgive the men CRUCIFYING him, I can think of nothing he would not forgive!

This is important: Once you have brought your sin before the Lord and repented, it is forgotten.  You are wiped clean.  I pray you can see yourself as God does - as it took me a long time to forgive myself for things God had already done so. (Hebrews 8:12 "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.") You are precious and though I may not know you, I desire for you to see your value in God's Kingdom!

In BSF tonight our teaching leader stated that Christ came to earth to not for the righteous but for the sinners.  I love that reminder! Church is for sinners the same way that hospitals are for the sick. Since we are all sinners, there is no need to be embarrassed at your imperfection (okay, maybe that’s just me?!)

(Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace.” AND 1 John 2:12  I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.” AND Matthew 26:28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”)

It doesn't matter how long you've been in the game; the only thing that counts is the ending. (Isaiah 55:7 “Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.”) Never measure your value as a Christian based on how long you’ve been saved or how much you know about the Bible, etc. God gives us all the same reward.

This makes me think of the thief on the cross – he was only a believer for a short time (maybe a few hours?) but resides now in Heaven for eternity:
Luke 23:39-43 “Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us." The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, "Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." He replied to him, "Amen I say to you today you will be with me in Paradise." 

And also the Parable Matthew 20 of workers’ wages.  Regardless of whether the worker was there all day or just a few hours, the pay was the same.  Likewise salvation is by God’s grace alone – not by works, it cannot be earned.  A lifetime lived as a Believer is certainly a blessing (not without its suffering and challenges, of course) but 100 days as a Christian is no less rewarded in Eternity than 100 years as one.  It is not too late for you to come to the Lord!

Here’s a biggie:  Sin separates us from God.  Jesus Christ is the way back - and the Bible commands us to confess our sins!  (Acts 2:38 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.") Confession is important so that our prayers are not hindered!

So – we need to confess and be forgiven by God.  We need to then forgive ourselves.  Also – we need to forgive others.

We are commanded to forgive those who have wronged us. What if you don't WANT to forgive? What if they didn't ask for it or don't deserve it? Do so anyway, because God says so! Pray God will soften your heart and create a true spirit of forgiveness - in the meantime, fake it till you make it.  Pray for the person who has wronged you - that God will bless them, that you will love them, and that they might see their sins and repent to the Lord.
(Mark 11:25 “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”)
(Matthew 6:14-16For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”)
(Luke 6:27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” AND Matthew 5:44 “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”) 
Holding onto bitterness is not healthy for you.  It doesn’t feel good.  I did not forgive those who have wronged me for THEIR sake, but for MINE.  I haven’t been wronged too often in life, but I would say in the majority of these situations that the person does not care for my forgiveness – it is not important to them.  If I can let it go and find true ability to forgive and be at peace, this benefits mainly me.
I also want to raise children with both repentant hearts and forgiving ones. I lead by example.  So although the roofing contractor is harassing us and I had to call the police to get him off my property, I should not have been screaming obscenities at him.  I had to explain to my children I not only forgive him but need to ask for God’s forgiveness in losing my temper and behaving in an unChristlike manner. 
I want to add something here - forgiveness is not the same as allowance.  I am not giving carte blanche to the jerk who is abusing you to continue.  Boundaries are essential and forgiving a wrong that has been done to you does not mean you should put yourself in a position to allow it to continue.  Use discernment and prayer here.

Know that the Lord will avenge you.  He alone is judge and He does care when you have been hurt or wronged.  He alone carries out justice, this is not our job.  We do not get to punish people for the wrong they have done to us. (I’m not talking about the legal system here.  There is justice carried out by man in within the confines of the law for certain situations. You know what I am trying to say.)

Consider all that Christ has forgiven of you.  Consider the cost of that forgiveness - that He should become man to die for those sins.  You can do no less. (Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”)
Luke 6:37 says “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” If I’m being honest, I am sure I judge now and then.  This is probably why I assume so many are doing the same of me.  Freedom from that fear and being self-conscience comes only in discontinuing my judgment of others. 
I pray that I might know my sins and freely confess them.  I ask Lord, that I see myself as you do, wiped clean by the blood of the lamb.  And Lord would you create in me a heart of true forgiveness, that I might let go of hurts others have made against me? Lastly, I pray that I would know where I have wronged others and seek them out, asking them also for forgiveness that I may make things right with them.