"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
December 29, 2010
Happy New Year!
Jon and I have our morning alarm set to a christian radio station. There is a church that regularly does advertisements telling about the activities going on in their church. They always end their segments with this line, "You don't need a second chance, you need a new beginning." I like that!
Second chances give the impression that if you mess up more than a couple time then that's it. Kind of a "three strikes and you're out" type of thinking. It gives people the idea that God will only allow them to sin so many times, then He turns His back on them and they are no longer part of His family, but are shunned and considered outcast.
There is no more forgiveness and no more grace and mercy extended to us. We messed up one time too many, so too bad so sad. But that's not how God works. He's not a rigid, hard-hearted, arrogant Father just watching and waiting for us to sin so He can come down hard on us and discipline us harshly. God never desires to annihilate us, but always has His eyes on us and wants nothing more than for us to repent and always remain His child.
The truth is, we've all done things that we regret and wish we could do over. Sometimes temptation leads us down paths we wished we'd never taken. Other times we make choices that lead to dire consequences, and we look back and wish we could undo those mistakes. We may hear an inaccurate rumor or have someone confide in us and we falsely accuse or make erroneous assumptions, only to later find out those stories were untrue. Or it may be that we spoke words that cut deeply and wounded a family member, dear friend, or fellow christian. We've all had those occasions when we wish life would give us a "do over". But we only have one shot at how we spend each moment of our lives, and there are no reverse buttons.
The good news is, that doesn't mean that we're without hope. We may mess up our lives, mess up our marriage, mess up our families, mess up our jobs or mess up our finances; and there may be people who will give up on us and push us aside. But when we admit to God that we've messed up and sinned, He will always wipe the slate clean and give us a brand new beginning.
One of my favorite passages of scripture is Lamentations 3:21-24. "This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. 'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul. 'Therefore I hope in Him!'"
Not that I intentionally go out of my way to sin, but I do tend to err and make mistakes. How awesome it is to know that every morning when I wake up, there is a whole new batch of God's mercy and compassion awaiting me. I don't have to worry that God has given up on me or that I've failed too many times. I don't have to fret that maybe I've used up my lifetime supply of God's grace and forgiveness, but I have assurance that God hears my prayer of repentance and wipes away all my sin so that I am made new. Each time we come to God and confess our sins, He is faithful to cleanse of us of all our sins; no matter how many times we come to Him.
Psalm 103:12 says, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us."
Micah 7:19 says, "He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea."
Parents will remember times when their children disobeyed and got into trouble. In fact, as the child grows into adulthood, I've often heard parents recount these stories over and over again. At the time it happened it wasn't funny, but over time they can remember without anger and even laugh about it, or shake their head. At family gatherings they will bring it up and say, "I remember the time....." Even though their son or daughter is now grown, and the punishment or consequences has long since been meted out, those times of disobedience are not easily forgotten.
We tend to think that God views us like that. I've heard ministers and teachers say that when we get to heaven that God will play back every event in our life for all to see. In my mind I picture a huge IMAX screen with my every sin and mistake projected for everyone to see. We have the tendency to think that God is like our parents or siblings who can recall our every misdeed and retells it over and over again. But God's intention is never to humiliate and degrade His children. I've heard people say, "I've done so many bad things that God can never forgive me." We equate God with our human thinking of what forgiveness is; and think He always remembers our past sins.
Even though parents, children and siblings may forgive one another for offenses and misconduct, it's not so easy to forget. So we assume that God remembers our every sin and transgression, even though we've repented and asked for forgiveness. But according to scripture, that's not so!
Isaiah 43:25 "I, even I, am He who blots our your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins."
Jeremiah 31:34 "For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."
Hebrews 8:12 "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more."
Once we repent and ask for forgiveness, it's over and done with as far as God is concerned. That doesn't necessarily mean that we don't have to live with the consequences of our sin, but we are forgiven and God remembers our sin no more. God's not keeping record so that He can air it for everyone in heaven to see and hear; and for us to have to bear the shame and disgrace of our past sins. He has wiped the slate clean and given us a brand new beginning.
2 Corinthians 5:17 sums it up best. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."
Many times on New Year's day people will make resolutions. They want to improve an area of their life that perhaps has been lacking. I've also heard individuals comment that they hope the new year will bring better things for them than the old year did. They're looking for a fresh start and good things to happen.
But it's not a new year that brings new beginnings and fresh starts. A new year or new day or new resolution cannot bring about change. It has to come from a willingness within a heart of man to repent and allow God to wash away all sin and bring about a new life. We can all have a new beginning; and God is willing to give us a fresh start as many times as needed. We don't have to live with the guilt and condemnation of past mistakes. But we can become a new creation in Christ. God will see us not as we were, but as we are. In His eyes we can be a new creation.
I'm glad Loretta quoted so much of the Old Testament for verses on forgiveness. With just a quick read, it's easy to think of the Old Testament as being full of law and condemnation, and the New Testament as full of forgiveness.
But the New Testament has its share of law. Most are given as warnings.
And the Old Testament has quite a bit about God's forgiveness. I lost count early on, how many times the Israelites strayed. God showed patience with them, and gave them every chance to repent. Usually they wouldn't repent till they got lost in a desert, were taken captive to other countries, or got themselves into some other horrible mess. But when they did repent, God always forgave them, brought them home, and blessed them.
1 lb. Hamburger
1 can vegetable soup
1 onion, chopped
1 can chili beans
Brown hamburger and onion together; drain. Add soup and chili beans. Heat thoroughly. Serve over Fritos. Put grated cheese on top.
I could give up chocolate, but I'm no quitter! (author unknown)
We love you!
Loretta & Jon