Is there Forgiveness?
Donald L. Norbie, Greeley, Colorado, USA [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
Often life does not turn out as one had hoped. One may feel a deep sense of failure as the years pass. Youth has come and gone; the direction of life has been set. It is too late to change course. As has been often commented we sometimes feel like saying, ‘How could we lose when we were so sincere?‘ Maybe you feel the same way at this moment.
It may be that you have committed serious sin, deliberate wilful rebellion against the laws of God. Sin weighs on the conscience like a heavy millstone. With David you cry out, ’My sin is always before me!’, Ps. 51. 3 NKJV. It may be adultery, like David, or a dishonest business deal, or a lie that was very destructive. You lie awake at night, tossing and turning, wishing you could live that scene over again and do what is right. But it is done and the memory eats like a canker at your soul.
Do what David did. Confess your sin to God and to those you wronged. ‘I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned and done this evil in your sight’, Ps. 51. 3-4. Spell it out in all of its lurid details to God. Confess your sin; do not cover it.
Then you must believe that God has forgiven you, that the blood of Jesus cleanses from all sin, 1 John 1. 7. Christ’s death has sufficient value to make propitiation for the sins of the whole world, 1 John 2. 2. Surely His blood covers your sins, heavy though they may seem to you. In faith claim God’s promise and cling to the cross for forgiveness. Allow the love and forgiveness of God to bathe your soul. The only source of healing from sin is at the cross.
But someone will say, ‘I believe God has forgiven me but I cannot forgive myself’. They cannot seem to get beyond the past and its failure; they have to live with certain consequences that tear at their soul. It may be a ruined marriage or destroyed health. Sin can be forgiven but certain earthly consequences have to be endured.
It must be remembered that when the Lord forgives He does not bring up the failure again. ‘As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us’, Ps. 103. 12. When Satan would come with his accusations and torment your soul, you must cling to God’s word and bid the accuser depart. With God’s help you can set aside the things that are behind and press on in the Christian race toward Christ. As we discipline our minds not to dwell on the past, the memories will recede. With God’s help and the support of His people, our thoughts can be brought, ‘into captivity to the obedience of Christ‘, 2 Cor. 10. 5. Blessed submission!
Besides deliberate sins, known sins, there are sins of ignorance. The law provided offerings for such. ‘And if you sin unintentionally, and do not observe all these commandments which the Lord has spoken to Moses‘, Num. 15. 22. It is possible to do certain things contrary to God’s word simply because one is ignorant. A Christian woman married an unbeliever and knew the heartache of a divided home, which finally ruptured in divorce. She said, ’Oh, if only someone had told me what the Bible says about marriage to unbelievers!’ Under the Old Covenant once again the blood of sacrifice was needed and today the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin. But you may still have to live with certain consequences of your action.
One may make certain poor choices. Hindsight is always easier than foresight! In marriage both may be Christians but still are not an equal yoke, a compatible team. Their spiritual vision may not be the same; their temperaments too radically different. When considering marriage it is wise to get the advice of parents and of elders in your fellowship. ‘Where there is no counsel the people fall; but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety‘, Prov. 11. 14.
This is also true concerning one’s choice of a trade or profession. Get advice that will point you toward spiritual values. Do not allow money to be your sole criterion.
When you chose the location where you will live and bring up your family, be careful. Again, do not be too proud to take the advice of spiritual men and women. Be sure you live near an assembly of Christians with whom you can be wholehearted in your fellowship. Climate and recreation should not be first in one’s thinking. Many a family has later regretted a wrong move.
But you say, ‘I have made mistakes and it is too late to change those choices’. Once again, one can confess his error and ask forgiveness. Then it is time to do what is right and trust God to overrule the failure. ‘We know that all things work together for good to those who love God‘, Rom. 8. 28. Perhaps your marriage was not the best. Trust God to make it beautiful as you respond in a right way towards your spouse. Determine to love God and to obey His word. Healing and blessing can and will come into your relationship. right way towards your spouse. Determine to love God and to obey His word. Healing and blessing can and will come into your relationship.
At times the cruel blows of life leave one feeling like Job, ‘May the day perish in which I was born’, Job 3. 3. Life can become a fearful burden and one can even long for death.
It may be that some accident or illness has left you permanently handicapped. Life used to be simple; now every move is an effort. A friend was in a car accident with a train. His wife was instantly killed; he was left paralysed. His first question when he became conscious was, ‘Why?‘ He longed for death. His daughter who was nine years old still weeps for her mother. Why indeed? Guilt tears at his soul as he constantly cries, ’If only I’d been more careful’.
It may be a terminal illness. At times this may have been caused by one’s carelessness or abuse of the body, perhaps in unsaved days. If only I had been wearing my seat belt! If only I had not been drinking!
But at times there is a degenerating illness that just happens. It is part of living in a fallen world that is marked by sin, illness and death. One may be living for God and become terminally ill or crippled. The temptation may be to accuse God, ‘Why did You do this to me?‘ One must resist this temptation and realize that God is not the source of evil or pain. Paul spoke of his physical problem as a ‘messenger of Satan’. Job was troubled by Satan ‘who went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with painful boils‘, Job 2. 7. In such circumstances one must ask God for the grace to endure and to respond in a godly way.
Divorce can be worse than the death of a spouse. We may feel it could have been averted if only they had been more loving and considerate. The sense of rejection and failure can be overwhelming. If every effort has been made for reconciliation and still there is rejection, one must learn to accept the situation and determine to go on for the Lord. The soothing love and acceptance of God’s people can do wonders in healing. Find healing too in helping others who are struggling with similar problems in life.
One may know the deep sorrow of a child that wanders far from God. Perhaps your son in his rebellion has become sexually promiscuous or a homosexual. A daughter has become involved in drinking or drugs and is breaking your heart. In this fragmented, confused society many are choosing a life style that is utterly destructive. As a parent you feel a load of guilt and responsibility. Maybe you are responsible for the tragedy of your child’s life. As Christian parents we must train our children as best we can. There needs to be loving discipline in a home and the daily reading of God’s word. A family should be faithful in attendance at their local church and seek Christian friends for their children. While children are young, parents can control them and make choices for them. However, as they reach their teen years and finally leave home, parents come to realize that their control is gone. They can pray and give advice, if it is requested, but they cannot enforce obedience.
While it is true that environment and training influence decisions, the Bible does not teach a determinism where every person’s decisions are determined by the experiences of life. Ultimately what a person does is the result of his choice and he may choose to go against his training or experience in life. A criminal cannot evade responsibility for a crime simply because of his home training.
Each one of us is responsible for his own choices and will give account to God for them. We must do all we can to be a positive influence in the lives of others, but we cannot take responsibility for their choices. The man whose wife leaves him for another man should not continue to carry a load of guilt for the failure of his marriage. Parents who have children that have made poor choices should not constantly feel a load of guilt. This denies others their true personhood and responsibility as made in the image of God. Know God’s forgiveness for your own failures but allow others the dignity of responsibility for their choices and actions. ‘So then each of us shall give account of himself to God‘, Rom. 14. 12; cf. Ezek. 18. 20.
THE LOVE OF GOD
Self-occupation is miserable business. To be looking back constantly and dwelling upon one’s failures is not constructive. By God’s grace we must learn to accept God’s forgiveness and begin to enjoy His love and acceptance. Paul rejoiced in the love of God and declared that nothing ‘shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord‘, Rom. 8. 39. God’s love is a healing balm poured into the wounds of sin. It enables you to realize that life is worth living and that you can be a blessing and help to others.
‘Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, Heb. 12. 1.
AUTHOR PROFILE: Donald Norbie is in fellowship with the assembly in Greeley, Colorado, and is a commended full-time worker. A regular contributor to Precious Seed and other assembly magazines his ministry is widely appeciated throughout N. America and the UK.