Friday, August 17, 2012

But I Messed Up Again .. And Again .. And Again

Grace is not a one-time event. We are not given a clean slate with the expectation that we will keep that slate clean for the rest of our lives.  That is a right doctrine and one held by many in the church today.  Today I want to affirm that doctrine and I will begin with a passage used by one of the alternate extreme variations of the doctrine.
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
One extreme of the church ignores the last five words of Jesus entirely and tells us that we should not be concerned with sin in our lives once we are saved.  The other extreme takes those last five words and amplifies them as though they are more important than the Gospel itself.  The first camp's collection of Scriptures can not erase those words of Jesus no matter how they try and the latter camp can not ignore the collection of Scriptures that put those words into their proper context.  The fact is that Jesus did tell her to go and sin no more, but does anyone really believe that she lived a completely sin-free life from that point forward?  If so, she would have been quite a woman!  Even Paul calls himself the chief of sinners and even Peter had to be corrected.  Was Jesus telling her to repent?  Yes.  Goes God give us the tools necessary to resist any temptation that comes our way?  Yes.  Does God expect us to live sin-free once we are saved?  He knows that we will not. 

That is the point I want to make today. I often bring up the point of repentance and self-examination in this blog, but I want to be sure that it does not become an obsession.  We should reflect on our lives and we should, by the power of God, work to repent of those things in our lives that displease God.  On the other hand, we should always live with the knowledge that we are forgiven.  God may be displeased with us at times, but He never stops loving us and He certainly does not hold our salvation over our head to force us to act right or else.  He will chastise us, but He will not judge us.  The Holy Spirit will convict us, but God will never condemn us.  Just as we can get caught up in licentiousness, we can also get caught up in self-condemnation.  We must make sure we always know that God loves us and that we are saved. 

How do I know?  One verse that many people are afraid of tells me that truth.
For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives." If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.  Hebrews 12:6-8 NKJV
God would not take the time to chasten us is we were not still His children.  God also does not chasten unless we do something to deserve chastening, that being sin.  God's reaction to our sin is not a dissolution of our relationship, but He corrects us as a father corrects a child so that we can learn and grow, and by result strengthen our relationship.  If God were not intending for us to continue as His children, He would not take the time to correct our behavior. 

Now some of you may be concerned about some sin in your life that you commit repeatedly.  Each time you fall you promise God that you will try to do better but then fall all over again.  Some of us have repeated this same process for years or decades failing God literally thousands of times on the same exact thing.  Fortunately for us, God does not give up on us.  God promises that if we confess our sins, He will forgive our sins.  He did not say if you confess a certain amount of times, you will be forgiven a certain amount of times.  The Bible also says that God's mercy is renewed every morning.  In other words, there is no wearing out of the mercy of God.  Here is a good Scripture to make my point.
Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him. Luke 17:3-4 NKJV
The key point here is that this brother who "repents" seven times in a day obviously has not repented.  I am sure, though, that it is assumed in this example that the person desires to repent.  If God tells us to forgive the same person for the same sin over and over again even in the same day, then we know He will do the same to us.  God is certainly not going to hold us to higher standards than Himself.  First of all, that would be impossible and secondly the very thought really makes absolutely no sense at all.  Jesus wants us to continuously forgive our brothers no matter how many times they sin against us even in the same day because that is what God's grace means to us. 

The fact is that even forgiveness is not about us.  It is about God.  It is not about our ability to do better, but God's ability to forgive.  It is not about our ability to be perfect children, but about God's ability to be a perfect Father.  That is one reason why I have a hard time with those who think it is even possible to lose your salvation.  That makes it about us and our character and our ability to remain in God's grace.  I am so glad that it is not about us nor does it depend on us.  If it did, I can not tell you how many times I would have lost my own salvation over foolish words and actions.  Thankfully, I have a God who is bigger than me to look upon me with mercy in those foolish rebellious times.  Remember, it is not about you or your ability at being a child, but about God who is doing a work in us to raise us up as His children.  We are, and always will be on this earth, imperfect children.  Fortunately, we have a perfect Father. 
being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete [it] until the day of Jesus Christ;  Philippians 1:6 NKJV

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