Forgiveness and Repentance

****This is probably more rambling than anything****

 

Recently, I put up a little question on Facebook and a few people responded to it.  It was a simple question with a challenging premise, in my mind.

Which is easier…forgiveness or repentance?

The response was a mix of one or the other, but the majority made it clear that it was a hard decision to make and neither one of them at the core is easy.

The question arose, I took stock of my life and looked at the world around me.  I wanted to take a minute and see what my weaknesses are and the things that I need to be better at.  I also thought about the simple truth that if I had to make the commands of Christ as simple as possible…what would they be?

I came up with the following short, sweet, probably too basic for many list:

  • Love The Lord with all your heart
  • Forgive Others
  • Repent

And there we go.  The hardest part is that doing items two and three are a subset of item one.  That is to say that in order to love the Lord as he desires us to love him, we must learn to forgive others as well as admit our mistakes.

But the more I spent in prayer on this topic or trying to work through it…I discovered that for me, I am really asking a variation of the question…

Is it easier to forgive other or to forgive myself?  Is it easier to let go of the hurt that someone else inflicted on me or is it easier to admit that I made a mistake…that I was wrong?  Because I can tell myself a million times that I forgive the person who wronged me, but I know whether or not I have truly repented and forgiven myself.

The long and short of it is (for me), that since we ate the fruit in the garden, we lost the ability to forgive ourselves.  We have this knowledge of what is right and wrong.  We have the ability to hold onto that desire to be right at all costs, even when we know we were wrong.  We justify…”the devil made me do it”.  We have pride.  And that pride keeps us from being able to be wrong and be okay with it.

Pride keeps us from being able to forgive ourselves.  Pride inhibits us from kneeling before the cross and acknowledging that Christ has indeed forgiven us our sins.

So for me, I better start working on repenting and letting go of the very thing that keeps me from admitting I was wrong.

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A Few Words on Accountability…

You are driving down the street in your car.  You come to a stop light.  You hear the screeching of tires behind you, look in the rear view mirror and see the look of panic on the driver in the car behind you.  They are pushing their brake pedal through the floor.  You cringe and await the impact.  It comes and you are rear ended.  You gather your bearings and realize that no one is hurt.  The moment of impact has come and gone.  Now comes the dreaded moment of surveying the damage.

You get out of your car.  The other driver is already out of their car, apologizing profusely.  They freely acknowledge they were at fault.  They have all the necessary paperwork and are ready to talk to you.

They come up to you stating “I’m sorry, I was at fault.  I have my insurance information ready”

Your response startles them “I have been in wrecks before and you see.  When we drive you step on one pedal to make the car go and the other to stop.”  You then describe the proper procedure for making a lane change, parallel park, enter the freeway, and come to a complete stop.  You take this as an opportunity to re-teach them how to drive….

Wait…that’s not what you do?  You what?  You get their information and move on.  You might try to calm them down and see if everyone involved is OK. You don’t have to re-teach them how to drive, they already know what they have done wrong…Gotcha…Thanks

Confused yet? Let me clarify.

I tend to believe that the accountability system that many of us adhere to is broken and backwards.  The current system that many of us follow today makes accountability in the body a two way street.  We have accountability partners.  We get together and feel this need to lay it all out in front of our brother or sister.  We put it all out there and then what happens next varies.  Either our partner will put everything they are facing out there or we might pray over the “sins” we have shared.  Is there anything wrong with that?

In my view…yes!  Accountability is NOT a two-way street.  Accountability in the body should move in one direction.  That direction is towards Christ.  Please do not read that and hear “this guy doesn’t think I should talk about my sins and struggles” as that is not what I am saying.  What I am saying is that you are not accountable to me in any shape form or fashion.  You are accountability to the Lord Jesus Christ and that is all.    When we start bringing our sins and struggles and placing them at the feet of our brothers and sisters, then we are not being encouraged to accurately take them to the Lord.  When we encourage a system of accountability that has you bringing things to me, then I am replacing Christ.  I am becoming an idol.  If you come to be looking for absolution or as a fixer the Christ has been replaced.  I am NO Christ.  That is the first part of the model.

The second part of the model is me.  I am accountable to you.  I am accountable to walk with you and be there for you.  I should be willing to ask “What can I (or we as a body) do to help you with those struggles?  Do you need prayer, a phone call every day to see how you are doing?”  And I should come through.  I am accountable to you as an encourager, but not as an answer giver.  The best that I can hope to do is be moved by the Spirit in a manner that helps you be drawn closer to Christ.  My only hope can be to help you be buried deeper and deeper into the heart of the Lord.

So back to our accident analogy.  When you come to me with your struggles, then I need to look at what my responsibility is to you.  You already know what you did or are struggling with.  You do not need me to turn things into a “teachable moment”.  You know what you did.  I do not need to re-hash to you why we fall into fleshly ways.  You also do not need me to tell you how to “fix” the problem.  You need a brother to walk the extra mile with you and enter into the struggle you are facing.

You do not need me to re-teach you how to drive, you need me to help me calm you down and make sure everyone is OK.  You don’t need me to point out that rear-ending me was a mistake.  You need me to give you my insurance information and work with you through the repair process.  (hopefully that clears up the analogy a little…it’s not a perfect analogy, but it was the first thing that came to mind).

So what should accountability in the body look like?

It should look like Christ.  It should look like Jesus dealing with a sinful person.  How did He handle them?  What did He do?  Was he prone to lectures on morality?  Was He prone to rehash the faults and lay on the guilt?  Did He he turn everything into a sermon?  To the best of my recollection the words “Go and sin no more” seemed to dominate.   Much of the time, there was little talk of the actual sin.

Accountability is not about holding our brothers and sisters to a moral code.  It is not about me imposing my values on you or you imposing your values on me.  Accountability in the kingdom is about pushing and encouraging people to be drawn closer and closer to Christ.  It is not about me having a right to know your struggles and your sins.  It is about encouraging and helping you to dive deeper and deeper into being a member of the body of Christ.

Accountability in the body should focus less on the what and more on how?  The focus in a healthy accountability relationship recognizes the struggle and focuses on how do I move my brother or sister closer to the Lord and farther and farther away from the very struggle they are facing?  How do I enter into their life and move them where they need to be?  It is less and less about words.  And your opening up your struggles to me does not give me a free pass into all areas of your life.  If you are struggling and desire not to share, I can still be there to help.  I can still ask the question “What can I do?”  I can still focus on how to get you to the well to meet with Jesus.

Accountability is not about you being accountable to me, but rather about all of us being pushed deeper and deeper into intimacy with Christ.

Do you Remember…

Do you remember the first time you met with the Lord?  I mean really remember what it felt like when you knew that He was real and not something that was talked about every Sunday in church. When the Lord became more than the feel-good story that was freedom from sin.  I want to know if you truly remember what it felt like the first time you felt a piece (or all) of you washed away for a moment and you truly rested in Him; rested in His grace, His love and all that He is.

I have been struggling the past few weeks, and today, I realized on my drive home that so much of what surrounds me is about the Lord, but is NOT Him.  So much of what drives us as believers, Christians, etc. are about us.  When is the last time you stop trying to analyze and figure Him out, and just rested with Him.  From the biggest mega-church to the smallest entity known as a believer, we are forgetting that it is not about us.

It is not about my comfort or about my grand revelation.  It is not about how much Scripture, I have memorized or about my expert ability to dsciple you into a soldier in the Lord’s army.  It is and always needs to be about Him.  When you worship, do you capture that moment you first believed.  When you attend your church or hold your meeting, do you feel His hand guiding you as it did when you first came to know Him as more than the icon on the cross?

If you think I am talking about you, I am.  I am talking about every believer (myself included).  We as a collective body have moved so far away from what community, faith and being a follower are all about that we debate who has figured it out the best.  We have ideas about how meetings should go and we direct groups to follow our way.  We look at ourselves and twist and contort every passage of Scripture we have read, as if it was written just to us and our circumstance.

We neglect the body of believers as a whole and we neglect the others that are walking with us.  We fill our hearts with things that look a lot like Christ, but are not the person of Christ.  We look to passages of the Bible and neglect the character and the man that was and is Jesus Christ.  We would rather utilize a passage from Scripture that makes our actions ok, and look past the example that was set before us in the man of Jesus Christ.

We want to build our lives and our meetings around other “people” that have been glorified by human eyes and lived a “Godly” life while we put the man that redeemed us on the back burner.  We strive for the latest program or purpose-driven ideology and neglect that our purpose is made clear and in the person of Jesus Christ.

7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.   ~Phillipians 3:7-11

That is what I want and what that means is that I must die.  My human intuition to try and predict where the Lord is leading me, must die.  My ideology about what the church looks like to human eyes must die.  Whatever thoughts, I have about how something should be done, must die.  Every layer must be stripped away and I must climb into the Lord’s lap and ask him to rebuild and re-create me.  I must die to my circumstances and quit using them as a crutch or some unrealistic reality that somehow because I have lived through hard times, the Lord has blessed me more than you.

The reward is the same for all, no matter when you came to know the Lord.  Can we please strive to recapture that sweet moment when we first came to know the Christ was real.  Can we put everything else aside and live in the reality that only Christ can renew your mind.  No amount of preaching or teaching can do that.

Can we simply follow Psalm 46:10

“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Struggle I Face

I often seem to face a struggle and it leaves me in a quandary.  I struggle when I look at things and do not know what we are truly called to do.  We are called to help hold our brothers and sisters accountable, but where do we draw the line?

I tend to focus more of my energy on being positive, encouraging and uplifting.  That is my attempt at least, but I know that I fail often.  That to me is easier and I am not ready to jump into that arena of questioning where the Lord is leading someone else.

I tend to follow the simple thought that, if someone was going to truly try to keep me accountable or to keep my sin in check, then they would be at my door or on the phone every night.  The truth is that we all sin, and we sin every day.  It is not that we sin “BIG” but rather that we simply sin.  There is no “BIG” sin and no “little” sin; there is just sin.  Every day we all sin.  Every day we turn our hearts away from the Lord.  We let something take that focus.  It can be work, money, family, friends, holidays, anything.  There can be anything that gets in the way of our focus.  That is sinning.  That is idolatry at its basic form.

It is a hard truth for me, but it is because of this truth that I tend to look less for others sin because I cannot escape mine.  In this day and age, it seems that everything always comes down to a matter of finger pointing and accusations and not about recognizing that the Lord meets us where we are at.  That is true for every one.  There is no one way to meet with the Lord and there is no method that works better for meeting with Him that is better than another because we are all made different.

We all react to the world in different ways.  We all have to face our struggles in a different manner.  We were all created to depend on the Lord for the method to get through the obstacles and struggles of the day.  So why do we feel that we know more about solving problems and want to give advice as opposed to walking alongside them.  Our lives are to be examples to others.  We are not called to be clanging gongs or cymbals.  We are not meant to be mere noise to our neighbors, we are meant to be encouragers.

That is my take.  That is my heart.  People do not have to agree with me, but that is what I feel and see to be true.  I see too much finger pointing and too much posturing about who is right and who is wrong to be comfortable with the current state of affairs in the Church.    There is too much conflict and too much going on where one person seems to think that they have the answers for someone else’s problems without getting all the information.  We want to solve problems based on what we see and what we hear as opposed to stepping into the battle with those that are struggling.

Many people want to point to Matthew 18:15 as the method for church discipline, and that is all well and good as long as you are following it completely.  The key to it is that it is to be settled when a brother “trespass against thee”.  The context for this is between two members of the body and not to be used simply as a method for one brother to point the finger at another and bring to light their sin.  The words of Christ here are about dealing with conflict between two brothers.  It is not about one brother sinning against God specifically.  This is for the Lord to correct through discipline.

It is hard for me because I want to correct the wrongs that I see, but it is not my place to play God.  It is not my place to try and discipline my brother when their transgression or sin is not against me.  In those situations, I must choose to walk alongside them but not pass judgment on them.  I must help them to reconcile it with the Lord, but there is nothing more that I can do.  There is nothing that I can do in regards to bringing that sin in front of the Church or even discussing it with another brother.  If the wrong is not against me, then I have no “power” other than to try and help the person see the error of their ways.

What it all comes down to is that we need to get to the point where we love more, accuse less.  When we are focused on the Lord we will know when He has truly called us to say something and when we just need to encourage them and listen to them.  Most of the time when we let someone work their way through their own struggles, they get where they need to be a lot faster than when we try to “do the Lord’s work”.  We are doing the Lord’s work when we practice forgiveness, share our lives, seek first the Kingdom, and let the Lord handle judgement and discipline.