This tome is written to men and women who, like me, strayed from the Love of God and the Joy of Salvation, and lived a life that you’d rather forget ever happened. I am writing this to you. I am writing this from a lesson I am going through as we speak.
I want to try to prepare you that this is coming. I knew in my heart of hearts that, eventually, the Lord will deal with this issue in my life, but was still blindsided by the intensity of it. Not every act of obedience will bring immediate joy, but it will eventually lead you to a joy that you will never understand until you grow in Christ.
God’s discipline is a good thing, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time. Remember, God disciplines the ones He loves. When He disciplines you, it is in love, not wrath. Jesus already took on the wrath of your sin. What God is doing is a gift of the Holy Spirit, so that you will grow to be like Christ in all things.
The hard work of the walk is, after redemption, you still have to deal with the mess you made in the wake of your fallen state. You will have to deal with the forgiveness and contempt you hold for yourself. You will have to deal with the anger and unforgiveness of others. You will get to learn what grace feels like when others forgive you, and mean it from their hearts.
God wants to take you from where you are positionally in Him, forgiven and complete, to where His view of you in Christ is materially obvious to others, so that, when you live, you will live in the image of Jesus Christ. There are still lost souls out there who need to know that it is possible to get from where they are to where God is.
First, I need to define some very real truths:
1. Accusation is from Satan. When the enemy (Satan, the World, etc) decides to point out your flaws, you will feel condemned, unworthy of the love of God, and basically, despair. The accusations of Satan are like tormenting fires. His accusations are arrows that hit you and burn you. The goal of Satan is to get your eyes off the work the Spirit of God is doing in your heart. The goal of Satan is to get you to take your eyes off Jesus. The goal of Satan is that you forget the joy of your salvation.
2. God is Love. God, in His love of you, disciplines you. He does not condemn. Your condemnation was taken care of on the Cross of Christ. If you have accepted the Salvation of Jesus Christ, then your sin is forgiven. The Bible makes it clear that there is no longer any condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ. You are not going to Hell. You are saved. Nothing can take that away from you.
3. We have to grow up, sometime. God insists you grow up in all ways to be like His Son, Jesus Christ. You were not raptured the second you believed because God intends to use you in His service. He wants to make you into something beautiful so that others will be drawn to the saving glory of Jesus Christ. He will not allow you to be comfortable in your old habits. However, this, too is optional. You will grow into Christ likeness only as you are willing to grow, and eager to surrender your old ways to His new ways.
THE SUBJECT AT HAND
The groundwork is laid, and I hope you got it. I am deeply sorry if I have done an inadequate job of not making the above clear. But if this is you, you will know it. If this is not for you, please pray for the person that is going through this.
A: The Unforgiveness and contempt you hold for yourself.
This is a tough one. The more tender-hearted you become, the more you realize what a large swath of pain and confusion and anger you have left in your wake. This is, perhaps, the strongest shock to your system you will face. This is where you have to learn some important lessons.
LESSON 1: You are Forgiven.
Where did your salvation come from? It came from the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made on the cross. The perfect human took on all our imperfections and our sin and was nailed to the Cross and died for them. In His dying, Jesus absorbed and accepted all the complete wrath of God. “For the wages of sin is death.” And Jesus paid that wage for you. When you realized that you were in sin, and you were led to the Cross of Christ, and confessed your sin, you immediately felt the forgiveness of God, and His cleansing Breath (Ruach Ha’Kodesh – The Holy Spirit) enter you and cleanse you of the stain of your sin. You are forgiven.
LESSON 2: Forgive Yourself.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9
It is hard to look at the destruction our pre-Christian lives left behind. And if you took the time and diligence, as I did, to make a thorough mess, there will be more to face and deal with. Sometimes you just have to take things one at a time. Sometimes, you will have to face it over and over.
Sometimes Satan, the World, and others, will not let you forget what you have done. This feeds the fire of your unforgiveness of yourself Here you have to cling to the truth that God has forgiven you. He has cast your sin as far away from Himself as the East is from the West. God has chosen to forget your sin. When God sees you, He sees His beloved Child, covered in the blood of Christ, who died for that very sin you are beating yourself up over. When others want to rehearse your sin, when YOU want to rehearse that sin, you have to return to what you know.
You know that you are forgiven.
WHAT ABOUT THE PAIN?
The grief you feel is the grief God felt when you did all that destruction. It is actually healthy. Before you were saved, you may have felt a bit guilty, or not. You probably went along justifying your actions, like I did. Eventually, you built up a wall around yourself so that other’s couldn’t bother your conscience. The thing about walls, while they effectively keep others out, they also keep you imprisoned in your own world. You become unapproachable, unteachable, unassailable, and unwelcome.
There will be some measure of pain when this wall is torn down. The reason you feel this pain is because you finally have a conscience. Embrace the pain, and take it to God. Don’t deny the pain you feel. It is normal. It is what remorse is supposed to feel like. You feel remorse because God intends to grow you up, and teach you how to deal with your messes. Learn from this remorse, and see what God wants you to do with it.
The Evangelism of today teaches something quite different. It teaches you that you can just walk away from all your past without a second thought of the harm you have done to others. This is an ungodly teaching. Modern Evangelism teaches that there is no need to repent of sin, or regret your sin, that that is an unhealthy emotion that is bad for your self-esteem.
The Good news of being a Child of God is, you are no longer the sinful you. It stops being about you. It starts being about being remade into the image of Christ. In that rebuilding process, you will find freedom and joy. To assume there is nothing to go back and make right is one of the most self-indulgent things you can ever believe.
The pain of seeing, finally, what you have done to others is healthy. It is so that you will be able to see outside of your own self-interest and see what others had to endure because of your sin. This pain is actually the road to your freedom, as it drives you to obey God and make things as right as you possibly can. How rich and joyful is the Grace of God, and His mercy. What a sense of freedom you will know when you obey God, and do His will.
Part of the pain is that the old self just doesn’t want to die, and the new self doesn’t need all that baggage your old self left at the door. The New Self, the new creation, has to deal with this. The new self can deal with it because Christ makes you able. In Him is your strength. You can do all things through Christ.
You will have to deal with the anger and/OR unforgiveness of others.
This is where you get to have YOUR grace and mercy tested. WHere it is at all possible, find the people you caused harm to, find the people you lied to, the people you used, the people you led into sin. Confess what you have done. Seek their forgiveness.
What you will discover:
1. Some people have already forgotten it.
2. Some people remember it, but don’t care.
3. Some people remember it and forgive you anyway.
4. Some people remember and will not forgive you.
5. Some people remember it, will not forgive you, and want you to suffer for it.
6. Some will say they forgive, but the anger that shows in their eyes tell you other wise.
I can go on and on, here. I know about this because in my efforts to make restitution, I have faced everything from happy tears to death threats. And I am not making that up. I have tried my best to exclude exaggeration in my discourse, unless I am trying to emphasize a very obvious point.
SO WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THESE PEOPLE?
To those who have genuinely forgiven you, and have shared the fellowship of Joy in the Lord, you have gained a brother.
To those who forgot, you still seek forgiveness, but don’t rehearse the issue. Let it go.
To those who say they have forgiven you, but the look in their eyes tells you otherwise, all you can do is ask their forgiveness. You probably have given them a good reason to write you off, but you cannot beat yourself up over it anymore. You can pray for them. Their anger is their poison. Your prayers are the antidote. Leave it at God’s feet.
This is especially hard when you encounter this attitude with people you genuinely love, and want to have fellowship with. Some hurts never heal. Some people will never like you, or accept you. That is the hard part. But you need to take it to God. And you need to leave it with God.
HERE’S THE GOOD STUFF: You will get to learn what grace feels like when others forgive you, and mean it from their hearts.
This is definitely the good stuff. How sweet it feels when a brother genuinely forgives you and shows it. It is a wonderful thing to gain a brother. It is good that you have a new friend in Christ.
Being shown Grace is powerful. It is the genuine reflection of Christ in others. It teaches you that Grace is obtainable. It teaches you that you can do the same thing. Grace is a gift, and when you receive it, and you give it, it multiplies.
How sweet are the tears that forgiveness brings. How deep is the laughter and joy when you are clean of this sin.
This is what really makes it worth it, from a human stand point.
Being shown grace does wonders for you. It gives you hope, and teaches you that YOU TOO can be Christ like. A living example of a brother showing the character of Christ is good medicine.
It is true that some people are just plain weary of dealing with you. But it is a genuine joy when you encounter real grace.
SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET:
Now that you have reconciled with Christ, all the skeletons get to come out of the closet. As scary as this sounds, this is a good thing. God will take your past and turn it into a blessing. If you have told God you want Him to make you into the image of Christ, and into His Character, then all the closets, both obvious and secret, will eventually have to be dealt with.
Don’t be afraid of the skeletons. They are dead. If you are in Christ Jesus, you are a new creation. Let love have her perfect work.
Let’s Be About It.
I Love You
David G. Perkins