The Problem of Forgiveness

These are notes from my reading John R. W. Stott’s classic book, The Cross of Christ.

Why does our forgiveness depend upon the death of Christ? Why does God not just forgive us without the necessity of the cross? Why can’t God practice what he preaches and forgive without condition, as he instructs in Matthew 6:14-15, 18:21-22? If we believe that God can forgive us as we forgive others, we have not yet considered the seriousness of our sin. The obligation of the forgiven is to forgive. God need no forgiveness and we overlook the fact that we are not God. This attitude demonstrates our shallowness. Our sin is not a personal injury toward God, it is downright rebellion against him.

How does God express his holy love? How can he forgive sin without compromising his holiness? How can he judge sinners without frustrating his love? Stott focuses on four concepts:

The Gravity of Sin:

  1. Five Greek words for sin: hamartia (missing the target); adikia (unrighteousness or iniquity); poneria (evil of a vicious kind); paraptoma (trespass or transgression); anomia (lawlessness or disregard of a known law).
  2. The emphasis of Scripture is the godless self-centeredness of sin. We proclaim our independence and autonomy; taking a position reserved for God alone. Sin is defiance, arrogance and the desire to be equal with God.
  3. David’s confession, his sin was against God (Psalm 51:4). Sin cannot be dismissed a simply a cultural taboo or a social blunder. Sin has a willful and defiant or disloyal quality: someone is defiled or offended or hurt.

Human Moral Responsibility:
Is it fair to blame human beings for their misconduct? Are we responsible for our actions? Scapegoats include: genes, chemistry, inherited traits, parental failures, early childhood upbringing, educational or social environment.

Criminal law determines assumes that people have the power to choose whether or not to break the law and treats them accordingly. There is even a distinction between intentional and unintentional homicide (between murder and manslaughter – which is straight out of Mosaic law). Liability also may depend upon moral and mental factors: the intention of the mind and the will. Lack of consciousness and control will always need to be defined. Trying and convicting and sentencing in the courts is based on the assumption people are free to make choices, being free agents.

The Bible emphasizes original sin, as an inheritance, so we are tainted and twisted from the start (Mark 7:21-23, John 8:34). We are enslaved to the world (public fashion and opinion), the flesh (our fallen nature) and the devil (demonic forces). At the same time the Bible tells us that while our responsibility is diminished, it is not demolished. We are morally responsible. We are to choose between life and death, good and evil, between the living God and idols (Matthew 23:37). Yet no one may come unless the Father draws him (John 6:44, 5:40). If men do not come to Christ, is it because they cannot or they will not? This is the debate between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Man does not sin out of weakness but he chooses to let himself go into weakness. There is always a spark of decision.

True and False Guilt: If humans have sinned, and they are responsible for their sins, that makes them guilty before God. There is a guilt that is deserved (John 3:19, men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil). This is a deliberate rejection of truth and goodness. False guilt looks at the cross and senses sorrow and guilt for Christ dying on the cross. We must understand that we did this, we are guilty. But it is false guilt to leave it there, and not talk about forgiveness of that sin. We must not look at the cross and only feel the shame for what we did to Christ, we must see the glory of what he did for us. Like the Prodigal Son, a guilty conscience is a great blessing, but only if it drives us to come home.

If there is false guilt (feeling bad for what we have not done), there is also false innocence (feeling good about the evil we have done). False contrition is unhealthy (ungrounded weeping over guilt) and so is false assurance (ungrounded rejoicing over forgiveness).

To say that someone is not responsible for their actions is to demean him as a human being. Eve blaming the snake, Nazis blaming they were only following orders.

Holiness and God’s Wrath: Our sins separate us from him, his face is hidden and he does not hear our prayers (Habakkuk 1:13, Isaiah 59:1-2). Moses hid his face. Isaiah had a sense of uncleanness. Job sat as a despised man. Ezekiel saw only a likeness of God’s glory. Peter recognized his sinfulness. John fell on his face as though he were a dead man. Closely related to God’s holiness is his wrath, which is the only reaction to evil.

The impersonal character of God’s wrath: this makes wrath not a divine attribute, but it is transformed into a process. Perhaps Paul’s adoption of impersonal wrath is not to affirm that God is not angry, but to emphasize that his anger is void of any personal malice. It is a fact, a process. Perhaps speaking to God’s anger is legitimate anthropomorphism.

Metaphors to God’s separation from sin: height (high and lifted up); distance (we dare not approach too close – Moses, Isaiah, the Tabernacle, and Uzzah); light and fire (a consuming fire that we cannot approach); and the most dramatic is vomiting (idolatrous practices were abhorred, disgusting, loathed, and lukewarmness was to be spit out). The point is that God cannot be in the presence of sin. We must hate evil and be disgusted with it. We cannot walk the road of moral compromise. Sin does not often provoke our anger and we then we do not believe our sin will provoke God’s anger.

This is essential to understanding the cross: balanced understanding of the gravity of our sin and the majesty of God. Diminish either and we diminish the cross. Forgiveness for God is one of the most profound problems. God must not only respect us as responsible beings, but also must respect himself as the only holy God. Before a holy God can forgive us, there must be some kind of necessary satisfaction.

Six Aspects of Prayer

Six Aspects of Prayer: a service of prayer at The Well, October 23, 2011, facilitated by Scott Chafee and Rick Heil.

Today is going to be a little different. Our focus is on prayer, and we will look at six aspects of prayer that you may have not considered before today. Oswald Chambers once said that, “prayer does not equip us for greater works, prayer is the greater work.” How often do we rush through prayer because we have more important tasks to get on with? If we are intent on living our lives free from God’s influence and direction, perhaps prayer is not all that important. But if we claim to be one of his children, how can we neglect such a necessary activity?

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

So, as Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, when you pray…

1. Forgiveness: we must be in touch with God daily because we sin daily. We are a part of a curse that beats us down in bondage to sin and the guilt it brings. God desires to set us free. Just as we need food daily; we pray that God would give us our daily bread. This is not future bread, since tomorrow has enough trouble of its own. So we pray today, daily, for the Lord of the present to give us strength to carry on through this life. We pray for forgiveness and victory so that we may walk in a manner worthy of being one of God’s children.

Personal Reflection: Let us silently reflect upon our own sinfulness; confess that sin and receive the assurance that God’s grace forgives us, cleanses us, and restores us. Jesus, hear our prayers of confession to You. We thank You for forgiveness and do not take it lightly. Help us to be as repulsed by our sin as You are. As we rise to walk in newness of life, we thank you for Your amazing grace.

Sing: Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)

2. Perspective: it is essential that we see life from God’s perspective, and that only comes through prayer. Prayer is not only talking to God, it is listening to him. As we pray, we go beyond our needs and often selfish prayers and become advocates for the needs of the “least of these” all around us. When our perspective changes, we begin to see the world differently. Sometimes our problems are not as earthshaking as we first believed when we compare our situation with others around us. We will often complain of having no shoes until we meet someone with no feet.

Pray: A guided prayer for God’s perspective on the needs all around us. “Who are the least of these that you see each week? How have you met the needs of lost people in your circle of influence? Ask God for the ability to look out for the interests of others more important than yourself. Put into your mind the face of someone you know is hurting, and ask God to reveal how you might help them.”

3. Guidance: we cannot walk through this life on our own, we will always make a mess of our lives when we try to go through life being in charge of our own spirituality. We need the guidance of God and to allow him to show us the way we should go. We are very poor at making unselfish decisions, so what we need right now is a heart transplant; we need to open our hearts and develop a desire to know God…

Sing: Open the Eyes of My Heart
Sing: A Heart Like Yours

We must pray every day for guidance. How else will we get a heart like his? James tells us that if anyone lacks wisdom, he should “ask God, who give generously to all without finding fault, it will be given to him” (James 1:5). Third Day has a song with a tremendous message on guidance; it’s called “Revelation.” The lyrics go like this:

My life, Has led me down the road that’s so uncertain, And now I am left alone and I am broken, Trying to find my way, Trying to find the faith that’s gone.

This time, I know that you are holding all the answers, I’m tired of losing hope and taking chances, On roads that never seem, To be the ones that bring me home

Give me a revelation, Show me what to do, Cause I’ve been trying to find my way, I haven’t got a clue. Tell me should I stay here, Or do I need to move? Give me a revelation, I’ve got nothing without You, I’ve got nothing without You.

The point is that we all need prayer to orient our lives. Part of that new orientation is allowing God to direct our paths, to show us the way to go, after all, Jeremiah tells us that, “the heart is desperately wicked, who can trust it,” so we desperately need a heart transplant. Then we begin to understand the importance of Christian community.

4. Community: we do not live out the Christian faith in a vacuum, we live in community. In this individualistic and self-centered society, we value privacy more than a sense of community. When we attempt to life a Christian life outside of the community of faith, we slowly begin to burn out, like a log removed from a bonfire.

When it comes to prayer, we may pray individually but we are a part of a larger praying church. When we pray, we build relationships not only with God but with each other. Jesus said, “where two or three gather together in my name, there I am with them” (Matthew 18:20). Just as in the early church, we gather together to pray and to worship; which affects us much more deeply than when we are just by ourselves. The fellowship of prayer helps us to grow, and it helps the church become the community that God intends.

Pray: for God’s guidance (individually and corporately) and for the community of faith.

Offering: this is not a distraction from worship, rather making our offerings to God is a part of worship. We cannot read the Bible and not see how important it was and is to bring an offering to the Lord.

5. Action: we are called to accomplish God’s work in the world. It is not praying first and then getting busy; remember that prayer is the greater work; prayer is the work of the church and therefore the work of the Christian. Prayer is not the last thing we do because we should pray without ceasing. Our minds need to be filled with the mission and purpose of God in our lives and in the world. How can we live in this world, see from God’s perspective, and not be moved toward action?

Prayer makes things happen: as we pray, it does not change God, but it changes us. Oswald Chambers also said that, “prayer does not change things; prayer changes us and we change things.” When it comes to taking action in the church, we must all seek a place to serve before we seek a place to sit.

After we pray for forgiveness, pray that God would help you see ourselves and the world from his perspective, pray about how God is going to guide you, then experience life through the community of faith, and then allow God to move you toward action.

Pray: for God to move us toward action and service.

6. Response: it is one thing to respond to God with or by our actions, but it is another to respond to God for who he is. In prayer, we all need to respond to who God is. We often believe that prayer is for the purpose of meeting our own needs. So when we pray, we worship and we give our adoration to God for who he is, not for what he has done. Our praying is a response to who God is. Listen to the psalmist as he does this (Psalm 96 on CD).

Sing: Our God
Sing: I Could Sing of Your Love Forever
Sing: How Great is Our God

Oswald Chambers said of prayer: “Prayer is the evidence that I am spiritually concentrated on God.” When we don’t feel like praying, it will often be evidence that we have slipped away into our own world of selfishness. When we are concentrated on God, the natural flow from our heart is prayer.

Chambers also says: “Prayer does not equip us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work. We think of prayer as a commonsense exercise of our higher powers in order to prepare us for God’s work. In the teaching of Jesus Christ prayer is the working of the miracle of Redemption in me which produces the miracle of Redemption in others by the power of God. The way fruit remains is by prayer, but remember it is prayer based on the agony of Redemption, not on my agony. Only a child gets prayer answered; a wise man does not.” Remember that prayer changes us, and then we change things.

Prayer is the development of relationship, not a formula for personal requests. We continue to bear fruit by the means of prayer. Let today be the day that we refuse to ignore this vital part of our spiritual lives.

Benediction: as a group we will pray for the experience of today.

Essentials of Leadership

John Maxwell always has great leadership insight, but this week I discovered an article by Rick Warren that is worth digesting. It is primarily written for pastors, but it is applicable to all of us:

Leaders are always defined by self-imposed standards. I’m not talking about standards set by other people, but standards they set for themselves. Great leaders always expect more from themselves than they do from their followers. They put forth more effort as well. That’s leadership.

If you were to look through the New Testament for the phrase “make every effort,” you’d find it six times. They represent six important vows we need to make as leaders. I believe these six vows will lead to an effective and productive ministry.

1) Vow to maintain integrity

“Make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with him” (2 Peter 3:14).

God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. No one is perfect. To be spotless and blameless means to live with integrity. How do you maintain integrity if you’re not perfect? You need to be transparent. A person of integrity is not claiming to have it all together in every area. On the contrary, the person of integrity is willing to be open about their strengths and weaknesses.

Having integrity also means living what you say you believe. You model what you teach. And you tell the truth, even when it’s tough. All leadership is built on trust. And trust comes from having the reputation for living out what you believe and for telling the truth. As a pastor and leader, people must trust you.

2) Vow to forgive those who hurt you.

“Make every effort to live in peace with all men. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up” (Hebrews 12:14-15).

Leaders forgive those who hurt them. You will be hurt in ministry. It’s going to happen. It’s a given. You will be hurt both intentionally and unintentionally. You will be hurt by those who recognize what they’re doing and those who don’t. You cannot be in ministry without being hurt. If you call the shots, you’re going to take the shots.

But you’ve got to be willing to forgive those who try to take you down. If you allow bitterness to build, it will choke your heart for God and your love for people until your heart just shrivels.

3) Vow to relax and trust God.

“Anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us therefore make every effort to enter into God’s rest” (Hebrews 4:11).

If you’re going to be in ministry, you’ve got to learn to relax. You need to be concerned about the people around you, but at the same time, you’re not God. You can’t bear everybody’s burden all the time.

How do you release those burdens? First, you’ve got to pray. Ultimately, God is the one responsible for your flock. He’s the one responsible for the growth of your ministry. Share your burdens with him in prayer.

Then you need to spend some time in God’s Word meditating on his promises. Remember what God has done in the past – in God’s Word and in your own life. God has a good track record of taking care of us. Remember what God has done for you when you’re tempted to let the stress of your ministry position overwhelm you.

4) Vow to be an encourager.

“Let us make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Romans 14:19).

As a Christian leader, you should build people up rather than tear them down. God has called you to be an encourager, not a discourager. Take the time to look beyond the problems and look at the potential of those you lead. People get discouraged in life; you need to be a source of encouragement.

As pastors, we are dispensers of hope. That’s what it means to be a Christian leader. You bring the hope of Jesus into a hopeless situation. You help people who seem to be helpless. You let them know they can do it.

5) Vow to be a peacemaker.

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

Leaders are called to make every effort to reduce conflict. Our society is filled with conflict. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” How do you make peace in such a fragmented society?

You’ve got to deal with different points of view. Not everybody is like you in your church. And that’s good. Everyone has something to contribute. The perspective of those who see the world differently can add something indispensable to your ministry.

At Saddleback we value unity, not uniformity. You can walk hand-in-hand without seeing eye-to-eye on every issue. God can overlook lack of programs in your church. He can overlook a lack of ability. But God will not bless a divided church.

That means one of your most important jobs is to promote unity. Ten times in the first five chapters of Acts, the Bible says the church was unified. When you have the unity of Acts, you will have the power of Acts.

6) Vow to never stop growing.

“Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive…” (2 Peter 1:5-8).

Learning is the lifestyle of leadership. The moment you think you know it all, you’re dead in the water. You must never stop growing. Growing ministries require growing leadership. You’ve got to train yourself continually.

Keep reading. Get a mentor. Solicit feedback. Ask questions. Always look for ways to keep growing in your character and your skills. The very nature of leadership is tied to growth. You’ve got to grow if you are going to lead others to grow.

Take a regular look at yourself. Where do you need to grow? What do you need to learn? What’s the best way to get the training you need? Make a learning plan every year. Your future leadership depends upon it. Will you commit to keep growing as a leader and as a person?

Don’t Leave It on the Desk

I read this story and had to pass it on; I don’t even know the author to credit. An internet search reveals it has been around a while but no one seems to credit the author. Responses on the Internet go from inspiring to mockery (as on After you read this story, you might want to read the original.

There was a certain Professor of Religion named Dr. Christianson, a studious man who taught at a small college in the western United States. Dr. Christianson taught the required survey course in Christianity at this
particular institution. Every student was required to take this course their freshman year, regardless of his or her major.

Although Dr. Christianson tried hard to communicate the essence of the gospel in his class, he found that most of his students looked upon the course as nothing but required drudgery. Despite his best efforts, most students refused to take Christianity seriously.

This year, Dr. Christianson had a special student named Steve. Steve was only a freshman, but was studying with the intent of going onto seminary for the ministry. Steve was popular, he was well liked, and he was an imposing physical specimen. He was now the starting center on the school football team, and was the best student in the professor’s class.

One day, Dr. Christianson asked Steve to stay after class so he could talk with him.

“How many push-ups can you do?”

Steve said, “I do about 200 every night.”

“200? That’s pretty good, Steve,” Dr. Christianson said. “Do you think you could do 300?”

Steve replied, “I don’t know…. I’ve never done 300 at a time”

“Do you think you could?” again asked Dr. Christianson.

“Well, I can try,” said Steve.

“Can you do 300 in sets of 10? I have a class project in mind and I need you to do about 300 push-ups in sets of ten for this to work. Can you do it? I need you to tell me you can do it,” said the professor.

Steve said, “Well… I think I can…yeah, I can do it.”

Dr. Christianson said, “Good! I need you to do this on Friday.. Let me explain what I have in mind.”

Friday came and Steve got to class early and sat in the front of the room. When class started, the professor pulled out a big box of donuts. No, these weren’t the normal kinds of donuts, they were the extra fancy BIG kind, with cream centers and frosting swirls. Everyone was pretty excited it was Friday, the last class of the day, and they were going to get an early start on the weekend with a party in Dr. Christianson’s class.

Dr. Christianson went to the first girl in the first row and asked, “Cynthia, do you want to have one of these donuts?”

Cynthia said, “Yes.”

Dr. Christianson then turned to Steve and asked, “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Cynthia can have a donut?”

“Sure!” Steve jumped down from his desk to do a quick ten. Then Steve again sat in his desk. Dr. Christianson put a donut on Cynthia’s desk.

Dr. Christianson then went to Joe, the next person, and asked, “Joe, do you want a donut?”

Joe said, “Yes.” Dr. Christianson asked, “Steve would you do ten push-ups so Joe can have a donut?”

Steve did ten push-ups, Joe got a donut. And so it went, down the first aisle, Steve did ten push-ups for every person before they got their donut.

Walking down the second aisle, Dr. Christianson came to Scott. Scott was on the basketball team, and in as good condition as Steve. He was very popular and never lacking for female companionship.

When the professor asked, “Scott do you want a donut?”

Scott’s reply was, “Well, can I do my own push-ups?”

Dr. Christianson said, “No, Steve has to do them.”

Then Scott said, “Well, I don’t want one then.”

Dr…. Christianson shrugged and then turned to Steve and asked, “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Scott can have a donut he doesn’t want?”

With perfect obedience Steve started to do ten push-ups.

Scott said, “HEY! I said I didn’t want one!”

Dr.. Christianson said, “Look! This is my classroom, my class, my desks, and these are my donuts. Just leave it on the desk if you don’t want it.” And he put a donut on Scott’s desk.

Now by this time, Steve had begun to slow down a little. He just stayed on the floor between sets because it took too much effort to be getting up and down. You could start to see a little perspiration coming out around his brow.

Dr. Christianson started down the third row. Now the students were beginning to get a little angry. Dr. Christianson asked Jenny, “Jenny, do you want a donut?”

Sternly, Jenny said, “No.”

Then Dr. Christianson asked Steve, “Steve, would you do ten more push-ups so Jenny can have a donut that she doesn’t want?”

Steve did ten….Jenny got a donut.

By now, a growing sense of uneasiness filled the room. The students were beginning to say, “No!” and there were all these uneaten donuts on the desks.

Steve also had to really put forth a lot of extra effort to get these push-ups done for each donut. There began to be a small pool of sweat on the floor beneath his face, his arms and brow were beginning to get red because of the physical effort involved.

Dr. Christianson asked Robert, who was the most vocal unbeliever in the class, to watch Steve do each push up to make sure he did the full ten push-ups in a set because he couldn’t bear to watch all of Steve’s work for all of those uneaten donuts. He sent Robert over to where Steve was so Robert count the set and watch Steve closely.

Dr. Christianson started down the fourth row. During his class, however, some students from other classes had wandered in and sat down on the steps along the radiators that ran down the sides of the room. When the professor realized this, he did a quick count and saw that now there were 34 students in the room. He started to worry if Steve would be able to make it.

Dr. Christianson went on to the next person and the next and the next. Near the end of that row, Steve was really having a rough time. He was taking a lot more time to complete each set.

Steve asked Dr. Christianson, “Do I have to make my nose touch on each one?”

Dr. Christianson thought for a moment, “Well, they’re your push-ups. You are in charge now. You can do them any way that you want.” And Dr. Christianson went on.

A few moments later, Jason, a recent transfer student, came to the room and was about to come in when all the students yelled in one voice, “NO! Don’t come in! Stay out!”

Jason didn’t know what was going on. Steve picked up his head and said, “No, let him come.”

Professor Christianson said, “You realize that if Jason comes in you will have to do ten push-ups for him?”

Steve said, “Yes, let him come in. Give him a donut.”

Dr. Christianson said, “Okay, Steve, I’ll let you get Jason’s out of the way right now. Jason, do you want a donut?”

Jason, new to the room, hardly knew what was going on. “Yes,” he said, “give me a donut.”

“Steve, will you do ten push-ups so that Jason can have a donut?”

Steve did ten push-ups very slowly and with great effort. Jason, bewildered, was handed a donut and sat down.

Dr Christianson finished the fourth row, and then started on those visitors seated by the heaters. Steve’s arms were now shaking with each push-up in a struggle to lift himself against the force of gravity. By this time sweat was profusely dropping off of his face, there was no sound except his heavy breathing; there was not a dry eye in the room.

The very last two students in the room were two young women, both cheerleaders, and very popular. Dr. Christianson went to Linda, the second to last, and asked, “Linda, do you want a doughnut?”

Linda said, very sadly, “No, thank you.”

Professor Christianson quietly asked, “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Linda can have a donut she doesn’t want?”

Grunting from the effort, Steve did ten very slow push-ups for Linda.

Then Dr. Christianson turned to the last girl, Susan. “Susan, do you want a donut?”

Susan, with tears flowing down her face, began to cry. “Dr. Christianson, why can’t I help him?”

Dr Christianson, with tears of his own, said, “No, Steve has to do it alone; I have given him this task and he is in charge of seeing that everyone has an opportunity for a donut whether they want it or not.. When I decided to have a party this last day of class, I looked at my grade book. Steve here is the only student with a perfect grade. Everyone else has failed a test, skipped class, or offered me inferior work. Steve told me that in football practice, when a player messes up he must do push-ups. I told Steve that none of you could come to my party unless he paid the price by doing your push-ups. He and I made a deal for your sakes.”

“Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Susan can have a donut?”

As Steve very slowly finished his last push-up, with the understanding that he had accomplished all that was required of him, having done 350 push-ups, his arms buckled beneath him and he fell to the floor.

Dr. Christianson turned to the room and said, “And so it was, that our Savior, Jesus Christ, on the cross, plead to the Father, ‘Into thy hands I commend my spirit.’ With the understanding that He had done everything that was required of Him, He yielded up His life. And like some of those in this room, many of us leave the gift on the desk, uneaten. ”

Two students helped Steve up off the floor and to a seat, physically exhausted, but wearing a thin smile.

“Well done, good and faithful servant,” said the professor, adding, “Not all sermons are preached in words.”

Turning to his class, the professor said, “My wish is that you might understand and fully comprehend all the riches of grace and mercy that have been given to you through the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He spared not His Only Begotten Son, but gave Him up for us all, for the whole Church, now and forever. Whether or not we choose to accept His gift to us, the price has been paid.”

“Wouldn’t you be foolish and ungrateful to leave it lying on the desk?”

Share this with someone. It’s bound to touch their heart and demonstrate Salvation in a very special way.

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When Confession is a Good Thing

I have always heard the phrase, “Confession is good for the soul.” In my case, I suppose it was in the context of my parents knowing what I did anyway so I might as well fess up. The “good for the soul” part might have come from the Catholic church where one of the seven sacraments is confession, but my confession was good for my back end.

What I want to address today is confession and how it relates to our marriage. The Bible talks about confession quite a lot, for instance James write:

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. (James 5:16)

Consider for a moment the last time you hurt your wife. An unkind word, impatient gesture, or a harsh tone from you that did some damage. Something in the last day or so will do just fine. Let’s assume for a moment that you have not resolved that offense. What would be easier to do?

  1. Go to your wife and say, “You know when I said or did that thing that hurt you? Well, I’m sorry.”
  2. Go to your wife and say, “You know when I said or did that thing that hurt you? I was wrong, will you forgive me?”

Granted, we may have to admit that we would find either statement hard to say, but if we want to promote a healthy relationship, does it make a difference how we “confess our sins to each other?”

Most people find it much easier to say, “I’m sorry,” than to say, “I was wrong, will you forgive me?” Why is that? Are they interchangeable expressions, or do they approach an offended person with very different messages? Consider for a moment that the first is actually a non-confessional statement quite capable of causing further offense, while the second is an example of genuine confession.

“I’m sorry” states a feeling but gives the other person no opportunity to respond. It’s not much more that a vague report of being uncomfortable. It doesn’t really take responsibility or accept the vulnerability of confession. It’s not even clear: Am I sorry you got hurt or sorry that I hurt you? The phrase, “I’m sorry,” doesn’t risk having the other person say, “I don’t forgive you.” That’s why we say, “I’m sorry”–because we’re really not.

“I was wrong. Will you forgive me?” is scary, because:

  1. It lets down our defenses.
  2. It gives your wife a clear opportunity to retaliate.
  3. It forces us to reverse positions, and we might get hurt.
  4. It allows the depth of the offense to become clear, perhaps your wife isn’t ready to forgive.

“I’m sorry” doesn’t ask for forgiveness, but “Will you forgive me” recognizes that forgiveness isn’t something we can take for granted.

Application: So, do you want to be healed? Do you want your marriage healed? Are you willing to take the risk of becoming vulnerable in order to visualize God design for your marriage? What do you need to do TODAY as far as confession? Is there repentance that needs to take place? How many bridges have you burned? Too many? Did you violate a trust or do you leave your underwear on the floor all the time? Confession and repentance is the key with our relationship with God, think about how that works with your wife, too.

The statement above says, “When confession is a good thing.” I dare say it is always the best policy; from the heart and done quickly. Don’t allow anger and bitterness to build up.

Hey, take a look at this testimony of Joel and Susan. Well worth your time to see this.

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