Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Church of Perpetual Mourning

Yesterday I devoted a small part of my post to the notion of pressing forward in our walk and not spending our time in some self-inflicted penance for our past sins.  Today I want to talk more about that topic and so we will begin with a passage I shared yesterday. 
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing [I do], forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV
We have all sinned.  We have all hurt other people, sometimes very badly.  We have betrayed friends and family and we have willingly spilled the blood of Jesus by willfully sinning knowing that Jesus paid the price for it.  We still continue to sin in Jesus.  I am not saying that as something we should accept, but it is a reality we must acknowledge.  One problem we have is that we feel we need to constantly feel bad about what we did.  We feel guilty towards that person we hurt or we feel a constant need to make up for some wrong we have done in the past.  Other times, we feel we must over correct for our past sin and constantly remind everyone that we are not struggling with that particular thing any longer.  None of these ideas are Scriptural. Let's refer back to the Beatitudes for a moment.
Blessed [are] those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.  Matthew 5:4 NKJV
We are very good at the first part in that we mourn our sin, but we often forget the second in that we will be comforted.  We are not supposed to perpetually mourn every sin we have ever committed.  If that were the case, any kind of joy in Christ would be impossible?  Not only that, but it keeps that sin in our minds and probably gives us a better chance at falling back into it.  So what do we do with our past sin or even the sin we commit now?  Let's see what the Word has to say.
When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, "Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."  John 8:10-11 NKJV
Note what Jesus told her to do.  He said "Go and sin no more."  She had an encounter with Jesus, she was forgiven, and now she was told to move on.  She was not told to perpetually feel about what she did.  She was not told to do any penance.  She was told to go and sin no more.  We need to have that same attitude with the sin we committed before coming to Jesus.  We can easily lose ourselves in our past sins, but that is not what Jesus told us to do.  It is the same Lord who saved us that forgave this woman.  All those  sins you committed before coming to Jesus are wiped clean.  God no longer holds those sins over us and we should not hold them over ourselves.  We need to just move on, move forward, and grow in the Lord. 

This same principle applies to our new lives in Christ. There are going to be times when we stumble and fall.  What we can not do is sit there where we fall feeling bad about it.  We should confess our sin to God, allow Him to pick up back up, and keep moving forward.  While we can learn from our past mistakes, we can not live in them.  God has forgiven us those sins so we need to forgive ourselves.  Constantly looking back to where we fell only serves to keep us from looking forward.  Looking to where we once were keeps us from looking to where we are going.  We must keep our eyes on Jesus and look and move forward. 
As far as the east is from the west, [So] far has He removed our transgressions from us.  Psalm 103:12 NKJV
Our sins are not just forgiven but they are removed from us. The are removed from us and never can come upon us again.  Our sins are as far from us as the east is from the west.  What this means is that they will never meet again.  If you continue to travel east you will never end up going west and visa versa.  So why do we hold onto that which God has separated from us?  I am not even talking about holding onto sins we continue to commit, I means ones that we have repented of.  We have turned away from them and they were separated from us yet we still try to hold onto them in our minds.  It is as though we can not accept that Jesus paid for those sins in their entirety. 

Sometimes it seems as though there are two extremes in the church.  You have those who sin without confession or remorse and you have others who sin and never let you forget that they sinned.  The truth is that neither of those extremes are correct, but the correct answer is something much more balanced.  We should mourn our sins, but we need to accept the comfort that comes from God.  We should confess our sins, but then we must move on from them in the faith that they were forgiven us.  We should make peace with the ones we wrong, but if they choose not to forgive us then we must move on anyway.  You can not make someone forgive you, you can only pray that the Holy Spirit will move their hearts to repentance. 

Realizing that we are forgiven is such a basic yet such a difficult concept to grasp.  We love and care about other people and sometimes we can not get over that we hurt someone.  We love God so much that sometimes we just can not get over how much we hurt Him by what we have done.  We most lose that mindset and move on from our sins.  Jesus died to give us life and life more abundantly.  He did not die just so we could feel bad about everything we have ever done.  Where is the joy in that?  We need to live looking forward.  It does not matter how many times you sinned in the same area, God puts no such limits on how many times we can commit any particular sin.  I am not saying we should try to test that, but what I am saying is that we must not be discouraged to think it is ever too late to finally repent of that sin.  It does not matter how bad that sin was, God will forgive us. Do not believe the lie from Satan that says otherwise.  Each time we sin, each time we mess up, each time we hurt someone, and each time we rebel against God, we need to confess that sin, rejoice in our forgiveness for that sin, let God pull us back up, and continue on in our walk. 

Before I close, I must address the issue of those who are not repenting of their sin.  If you are living in perpetual rebellion to God, then this does not apply to you in your present state.  If you are still in a particular sin, you should be mourning that sin.  If you are in living in some certain sin, then there should be conviction.  This is the conviction of the Holy Spirit or the chastisement of God.  This is not so much a means of punishment as it is a means to get you to correct your behavior.  The amazing thing is that no matter how long you have lived in that sin or how horrible that sin may be in your eyes, the answer is still the same.  Confess, repent, and move on, and you can finally have the joy and peace that are lacking in your life. 

Confess, repent, and move on.  It sounds so easy to say but it remains something so hard to do.  We often feel like we should feel bad.  It's almost like we feel guilty to just move on from our sin.  We have a hard time believing that it really is that easy.  That is the amazing thing about the Gospel.  It really is that easy.  It really is just a matter of confessing, repenting, and moving on.  We can not be scared to move on.  We can not feel guilty about putting our past wrongs behind us. Most importantly, we can not feel bad about rejoicing in our forgiveness.  God has give us a glorious and amazing gift, we must rejoice in it.  We must accept the comfort that comes as we mourn our sins.  We must accept the joy of the Lord in the salvation He gave us through His sacrifice.  For those of us in Christ, we were all sinners, but now we are all children of God saved by the blood of Jesus for all eternity.  Praise God for that and rejoice in the gift Jesus gave His life to give to you.  
Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? [It is] God who justifies. Who [is] he who condemns? [It is] Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? [Shall] tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:33-39 NKJV

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