Living to please God is not an easy road at all. You try to make efforts to do what is right, but still find yourself doing the very opposite. Every Christian passes through such periods. Days when you are faced with fierce temptations. These are times when like the Apostle Paul you can say "For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do this I keep on doing". It's funny that even though you know with every ounce of your being that this thing is wrong, sinful and displeasing to God, you still find yourself caught in the web of sin.
It wasn't until recently that God made me see that three-quarters of the time, my thoughts were entwined in feelings of guilt. For instance, whenever I fall for a sin I know I shouldn't have, I would give in to a negative thinking pattern that exaggerates God's judgment and leaves me with such self-deprecating thoughts. First, I would feel so horrible with myself for doing something I know God frowns at. Then I would feel so unworthy to talk to God or be used by Him. Then I would start dreading the punishment that would come on me since I believed that God must be so cross with me. As a matter of fact, if perchance anything bad happened to me or around me within this period, I would say to myself, there goes the mighty hand of God punishing me for my sin.
I didn't realize how faulted my understanding of God's grace and mercy was until the day God had to personally ask me some hard questions. I had just done something 'unchristianly', so I came to God crying and feeling so unworthy. I felt everything I needed and mattered to me was just a breath away from God's wrath which would be unleashed on me any minute from now. So I started blabbing. "Lord, I know you are disappointed in me. Please forgive me, even though I don't deserve your forgiveness. I know you are a just God who punishes iniquity, please don't punish me. Don't allow me fall ill. Don't let me be a victim of a ghastly accident. Don't let anything bad happen to any member of my family". Don't do this, don't do that, and on and on I went listing all the possible punishments I felt God would inflict on me because I had sinned. I think when it got to the point that He couldn't take it anymore, He had to cut me short by asking, "Are you kidding or are you really praying?"
"What?" I exclaimed in a rather bewildered voice.
"I said", He responded sharply, "are you kidding or are you really praying? Because if you are praying which I think you are, then you are addressing those prayer points to the wrong person. Have you forgotten that I am the One on your side not the enemy here? I can't believe that you actually think I would do all those terrible things to you even after you have told me you're sorry?"
It wasn't like I didn't believe God used to forgive my sins whenever I confess them to Him. I just felt that His forgiveness couldn't be that simple. There was still more to it. I felt there was an unseen and unknown price you had to pay for every sin even though you have been forgiven by God. And David was my perfect example to buttress this point. So bracing up to state what I felt was a good argument, I responded by saying, "If you forgive and forget, I mean if you really forgive and let go, how come David cried to you to forgive him when he committed the sin of adultery and you still punished him? You allowed his son to die. If you could do that to someone like David whom you declared was a man after your own heart, what hope is there for someone like me?"
"Hmmm! So is that what this is all about?" He went on to ask. "In other words, you are trying to tell me that there are some half-truths in the things I say; that I don't really mean the things I say. So you are calling me a liar of some sort?"
Ruffled by that statement, I answered back by saying, "Lord, I never mentioned anything about you lying. How could I possibly say that?"
"Oh yes you did", He replied. "You just indirectly accused me of not keeping my Word which says if you confess your sins, I am faithful and just to forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness".
"Lord," I boldly said, confident of my points. "Excuse me and forgive me if I am mistaken. But I don't think I heard anything about your forgetting our sins in what you just said. Forgiving and forgetting are two different things. That verse you referred to just talks about You forgiving our sins. May I ask where forgetting our sins comes to play in that verse?"
"Well, pardon me. But I didn't realize I had to spell out everything to you word for word", He teased. "I thought you would understand that forgiving and forgetting though two different things, are still part of the same coin. There's no way you can separate one from the other. You can't forget if you don't forgive and you can't forgive if you don't forget. So when I say I forgive your sins, I mean forgiveness in its entirety. This connotes the whole picture of my mercy, grace, healing and restoration. Or if you prefer your own words, that simply means I've forgiven and forgotten. Does that make you feel any better?"
Still trying to take in everything He had said, I gave no response so He gently added, "Once I see that you have realized your mistake, you are genuinely sorry for it, and you honestly seek my forgiveness, my dear, that's the end of the matter. Those sins and mistakes are completely off my chest. I simply don't remember them. They are cast into the depths of the sea. Besides, don't you think I would be going through hell if all I did was to recall and remember time after time the sins you all so easily fall for?"
I paused for a while trying hard to analyze everything He had said. Then I asked, "So what about David?"
"So we're back to that. Well, if you want to know when, why and how I discipline my children, there's really no clear-cut answer to that. It all depends on the person, the circumstances surrounding the person's sin, and the overall purpose I intend to achieve by which ever form of discipline I choose. Do you think David's sin with Bathsheba was the only or worst sin he committed in his entire life? Certainly not! But I didn't go around terrifying and waving my hand of judgment on him anytime he made a mistake in life. There were actually times in his life when my discipline had nothing whatsoever to do with his sins. I was simply taking him through a process geared towards making him a much better and refined person".
"Listen to me", He said rather sternly. "For every new day, my loving hand of mercy is stretched out to you to pick you up when you fall and help you get back on your two feet. If I refuse to forgive and forget your sins, that means I am walking past you and leaving you to wallow in the mud. But I can't do that. Especially since I know that there are much brighter and better things ahead for you. Contrary to what you think happened between David and I, David was one person who experienced my mercy beyond measure. He experienced my picking up and lifting up times without number. Why do you think he said, "The Lord upholds all those who fall" and "Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him". After many years of seeing my chastisement, experiencing my discipline, finding solace and comfort in my love and mercy, David came to the honest conclusion which I am hoping you will come to, that I am a God who truly forgives and forgets".
"You really want to know what I detest; what I can't stand?" He went on to ask. "It's an unremorseful and unrepentant heart. And I see a lot of that these days. People giving flimsy reasons to excuse and justify sinful behavior. The consequence of sin is so deep. It is death. Physical and spiritual death. That's why you shouldn't toy with sin, pet it, cover it up, or excuse it. Once it rears its ugly head, deal with it!"
"How?" I asked. Desperate for answers to put an end to the guilt trip Satan had been taking me on for years.
"It's simple", He responded. "First you have to accept your actions for what it is SIN! Then confess it, forsake it and go on to embrace my forgiveness with a heart of faith. Until you can believe and accept that you are forgiven, the devil will keep feeding your mind with negative thoughts of guilt and condemnation. Anything at all you want to get from me must be received by faith. Don't base it on feelings or look for signs to convince you that you have been forgiven. If I say you are forgiven, believe that you are forgiven".
"My dear, if only you understood the depth of my love for you, you would see how ridiculous it is for you to pine away with guilty feelings. Don't you realize that for every drop of blood Jesus painfully shed, He paid the ultimate price for every sin you could ever commit. So when you confess your sins, let go of your past knowing that the price has been paid; someone else has taken the punishment you rightly deserve. Leave your sins and failings at the feet of the cross, then press on with a holy determination. Don't waste a second whining, squalling and rolling around in guilt and condemnation, or start walking with your head bent down in shame, thinking what a poor, wretched sinner I am. That my daughter is utter nonsense! Yes, you made a mistake, you fell into sin, but it's not the end of the world as far as I am concerned. So once you have confessed your sin, forget what is behind and reach for what is ahead. And like I said earlier, there are much better and brighter things ahead for you. Don't you know that one act of unforgiveness on my part, could put you miles and years away from my perfect plan for your life".
There was a deep silence as I just stood there lost for words and lost in my Father's incomprehensible love. By this time, tear drops were profusely running down my cheeks. "Hey", He said lightly. "Why the tears?"
"Well", I mumbled through clouded eyes. "I was just thinking to myself that no one can ever fully comprehend the length, depth and height of Your love. I can't think of anyone on the face of this earth who could be this forgiving. I just can't find the right words to thank you for this indescribable gift".
Tesh Njokanma is a lawyer by training whose heart is in writing. She is a prolific writer with over 15 years experience as a magazine Editor. She is a pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God with a prayer and teaching ministry. Tesh is married with children. She is based in Lagos, Nigeria.
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