Being Forgiven - A Donelson Fellowship Pocket Paper
|Being Forgiven |
| A Pocket Paper
The Donelson Fellowship
______________Robert J. Morgan
Robert J. Morgan
The frustrating thing about time is that is always moves forward. There is no "R" on the stickshift, no reverse in the gears. Time never moves backward, not an inch, not an step, never. The hands of the clock always move clockwise, and the pages of the calendar are torn off in only one direction. Therefore a deed once done can never be undone. A word once spoken can never be unsaid. An opportunity missed can not be reclaimed in exactly the same way. As a result, all of us live with certain regrets. I read of a family concerned about a sister, Janet, who was depressed. They were afraid she was considering suicide, and they wanted to stop her if they could. They continually called her, dropped in on her, and drove by her house. One day when they saw her car running in the driveway, they stopped to check on her. There was Janet sitting in the automobile with the windows rolled up and a hose leading from the tailpipe into the car. They pulled her out, revived her, took her into the house and discussed what to do. Should they call the police or take her to the emergency room? Janet assured them she was fine, that she would not try anything else that night. She said that she just wanted to get some sleep. They took her car keys and the hose and left. But Janet had a spare set of keys and another hose. The next morning, her neighbors found her in the car dead. The members of her family knew they had made a terrible mistake, and the level of regret and guilt they felt nearly ruined their lives. There was another troubled young person named Joshua. He and his father fought often and one day had a bitter confrontation. Joshua screamed at his dad, told him where to go, told him he hated him, and stormed from the house. The father, stunned, poured himself a drink, then another. Later that evening, he keeled over with a heart attack and died. Joshua spent years hating himself for the words he spoke to his father at that final, fatal meeting. A lady came to me some time ago, saying, "I have lived with something for many years, and it has ruined my life." "What is it?" I asked. "I killed my children," she said. "I killed four of them, and I can no longer live with the guilt." I was stunned. I said, "Tell me about it." "I was sexually immoral in college," she said, "and on four occasions I became pregnant and had abortions. But I can no longer live with the guilt of having stopped those tiny beating hearts." David Seamands tells of a young man with serious trouble getting along with other people, especially with his wife. She was attractive, warm, affectionate, and loving. But he continually criticized her and blamed her for one thing after another. He was equally harsh with other people. His relationships with friends deteriorated, and his marriage unraveled. Finally while seeing a Christian counselor, he slowly began to open up and admit the truth. While serving in the armed forces in Korea, he had spent two weeks of R and R in Japan. During that leave, walking the streets of Tokyo feeling empty, lonely, and terribly homesick, he had fallen into temptation and had gone several times to a prostitute. He returned home and married his fiancee who had awaited faithfully for him. He had never been able to forgive himself, and the guilt had turned him into a harsh, impatient man. The Psalmist David once said, "My guilt has overwhelmed me, like a burden too heavy to bear. My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly" (Psalm 38:4-5). But there's an even deeper problem. Not only do we bear the regret for specific wrongs we've committed, we bear the guilt of a sinful nature that is, at its heart, in rebellion against God. Our acts of disobedience are simply shoots of sinfulness that spring up from the roots of a fallen nature. Romans 3 says, "There is no one righteous, not even one... All have turned away... The whole world (is) accountable to God... All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." And all the world is seeking ways to deal with its guilt. How do we fight this spiritual cancer that feeds on our souls? How do we sooth a guilty conscience? Many people deal with guilt by drowning it. Some drown it in alcohol and drug abuse. I read the other day that marijuana use among teenagers increased 37% between 1994 and 1995. The use of LSD and other hallucinogens was up 54%. And the use of cocaine increased by 166%. I also read that over 14,000,000 Americans are in 12-step programs. Why are Americans drinking and drugging themselves to death? Part of the reason is that we're trying to escape ourselves and drown the pangs of our own guilt. I read recently a sad article about Marlon Brando. He once was young, trim, handsome, and famous. A million girls dreamed of having him. But now his weighs over 400 pounds and he told someone, "I'm sorry for all the harm I've done and for all the troubles I've brought to others in my life. I've never been a good parent or a good husband. I've been too busy with my own life to have time for others. Now I'm a guilty old man who's ashamed of the kind of life I've led. There's nothing left for me except eating." Other people deal with guilt by denying it. As our society has become increasingly secular, it has lost respect for the authority of the Word of God, and that has led to a dangerous and destructive moral and spiritual chain reaction. If there is no authoritative Word of God, then there are no moral absolutes. If there are no moral absolutes, there is no ultimate standards of right and wrong. If there are no ultimate standards of right and wrong, then we can base our rules and standards on societal consensus. If we base our rules on societal consensus, then we can adjust them to our own shape and size. We can adjust them downward. We can live any way we want to, and there is no such thing as genuine guilt before God. Guilt is just a nagging relic of Puritanism, a Victorian antique, a psychosis to be denied. I checked into a Holiday Inn in Dallas a few weeks ago to discover the hotel was hosting a convention of transvestites. The lobby was filled with men dressed in tight skirts and high heels and towering wigs. They were cuddling up with one another and giving each other makeovers. They were proud of being "out of the closet." Their consciences were seared, and they denied having anything about which to feel guilty. This is the way God made us, some of them claimed, and why should we not be proud of it? Some people deal with guilt by deflecting it. They blame other people for their failures and faults and shortcoming. They blame their parents or their environments. This techniques goes all the way back to the garden of Eden when Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent. But sooner or later, all these techniques fail, and we find we can't escape the consequences of our own sinfulness and guilt. Jeremiah 2:22 says, "'Although you wash yourself with soda and use an abundance of soap, the stain of your guilt is before me,' declares the Sovereign Lord." Guilt is the corrosion of the soul. How can we get rid of it? We can't drown it, deny it, or deflect it. We can only dissolve it in the blood of Jesus Christ. And that brings us to our Scripture reading today - Luke 24:46 and 47: He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations. Luke 24 is my favorite chapter in the Bible. It is the chapter in which Luke the historian tells his version of the Easter story including the fabulous story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. And here, in the last verses of this resurrection chapter, Jesus appears one final time to his disciples prior to his ascension and he gives them his great commission. He prefaces his remarks in verse 46 saying, This is what is written... That is, this is what is written in the Old Testament. This is what will be written in the New Testament. This is the theme of the Bible, start to finish. Jesus is about to isolate for us and reveal to us the undergirding theme of the entire Bible. What is it? This is what is written: The Christ will suffer... Luke doesn't say that Christ will die or that he will be executed or crucified. All of that, of course is true; but he chooses instead the Greek word pascho-to suffer. It was not a painless death that Christ died. There was no anesthesia. The whip lashed his naked back, cutting him to ribbons. The cross dug its splinters into his flesh. The thorns pierced his skin, sending rivulets of blood and sweat into his eyes. The nails sliced through muscle and bone. His lungs heaved for hours, taking in each breathful of oxygen in painful gulps. Even worse were the spiritual and emotional sufferings of Christ as the horror of sinfulness engulfed him. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me," he screamed. No wonder Luke uses the word suffer. But read on: This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day. The flogged, buffeted, bruised, pierced, racked, crucified body of Christ, encrusted in blood, stiffened in death, and entombed in the earth suddenly reactivated in an instant of supernatural glory. His heart was jumpstated by the Holy Spirit. His lungs took a deep breath. His eyes flickered opened. He arose through his graveclothes from the cold slab. He reversed the wheels of death, and by his resurrection he defeated death and the power of the grave. He died that we might have a life forgiven, and he rose that we might have a life forever. As Romans 4:25 puts it, "He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification." This is what is written: The Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance... Repentance means a willingness to turn from sinful patterns, a eagerness to make change, a earnestness by God's grace and with his help to begin aligning your life according to his word and his will. ...and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And this is the message of the Gospel: The blood of Jesus Christ alone has the power to cleanse us of sin and relieve us of guilt. When you come to Christ in simple faith and make up your mind to trust him with all your heart, he forgives you. He saves you. He washes you white as snow. He give you new life. He abundantly pardons. I received a letter recently from a man who told me of the great cloud of guilt that hovered over his heart. He wrote, What has God forgiven me for? He forgave me for committing adultery. In my marriage I was not as a husband should be, nor was I the father I should have been. Thanks to God and only through him and the repentance of my sins did he forgive me. There was a time when I thought all hope was gone, a time when I thought that the best answer to the question of what should I do now? was to commit suicide. I felt so ugly inside, for I felt I had committed an unforgivable sin. Who would forgive me? But I eventually realized that I needed to confess my sin of adultery and the other sins associated with it. I have had trials and tribulations, and it has not been an easy road, but I have realized that God has the power to forgive even me. G. K. Chesterton said, "God paints in many colors, but he never paints so gorgeously as when he paints in white." There is a story that one night Martin Luther went to sleep troubled about his sin. In a dream he say an angel standing by a blackboard, and at the top of the board was Luther's name. The angel, chalk in hand, was listing all of Luther's sins, and the list filled the blackboard. Luther shuddered in despair, feeling that his sins were so many that he could never be forgiven. But suddenly in his dream he saw a pierced hand writing above the list these words: "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin." As Luther gazed in amazement, the blood flowed from the wounded hand and washed the record clean. There was a well-known secular humanist and novelist in England named Marghanita Laski. Just before she died in 1988 in a moment of candor on television, she said, "What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me." Rosalind Goforth was a well-known missionary to China who, along with her husband Jonathan, enjoyed an illustrious career and ministry. But for many years even having labored for the Lord in China, Rosalind often felt oppressed by a burden of sin. She felt guilty and dirty, nursing an inward sense of spiritual failure. Finally one evening when all was quiet, she settled at her desk with Bible and concordance, determined to find out God's attitude toward the failures, the faults, the sins of his children. She put these words at the top of the page: What God Does With Our Sins. Then as she searched through the scriptures, she compiled this list of seventeen truths: 1. He lays them on his Son-Jesus Christ. Isa 53:6 2. Christ takes them away. Jn 1.29 3. They are removed an immeasurable distance-as far as East is from West. Psalm 123:12 4. When sought for are not found. Jer 50:20 5. The Lord forgives them. Eph 1:7 6. He cleanses them ALL away by the blood of his son. 1 Jn 1:7 7. He cleanses them as white as snow or wool. Isa 1:18; Psm 51:7 8. He abundantly pardons them. Isa 55:7 9. He tramples them under foot. Mic 7:19 10. He remembers them no more. Heb 10:17 11. He casts them behind his back. Isa 38:17 12. He casts them into the depths of the sea. Mic 7:19 13. He will not impute us with sins. Rom 4:8 14. He covers them. Rom 4:7 15. He blots them out. Isa 43:25 16. He blots them out as a thick cloud. Isa 44:22 17. He blots out even the proof against us, NAILING IT TO HIS SON'S CROSS. Col 2:14 Charles Wesley just put it this way: He breaks the power of canceled sin And sets the captive free. His blood can make the foulest clean, His blood availed for me. ----
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