I am sorry, but someone emailed me and asked why I wasn’t adding how many “parts” there was going to be in this series. You know, like “part #1 of ‘x‘.” Now, they were not complaining (I hope), just wondering. (Or maybe, I am hitting on an area they don’t want to deal with right now. I am not sure). Sorry, I am just joking.
But, my reply was simply because I wasn’t sure how many parts there will be. I may even go back to the series later like I often do on the series “A Life of Prayer.” I continually add to that series (sometimes with related topics, but not necessarily directly concerning a life of prayer). Anyhow, that is my “Morning Message” housekeeping.
Now, for the last few days, I have been primarily dealing with the problems you have when someone has offended you in some way but have not (and probably do not intend to) ask[ed] forgiveness. First, remember that you obviously cannot force them to seek forgiveness. Primarily because they do not feel (or know) that they are at fault for the offense. Sometimes, they may feel that you are the one who needs to ask to be forgiven. No, I am not saying that is the case for your situation, I am simply being hypothetical. (See, how I protected myself on that one?)
But, the other problems we face is when someone does repent of their sin. Well, here are two points to consider, especially for you leaders out there.
You see, we have to be very careful that we don’t come against the sinner, but rather, against the sin. There is a big difference here. Let’s suppose Satan entices a Christian to sin. My initial response used to be to come against Satan and the believer. I remember something the happened years ago. A member of our men’s group had confessed that he had several acts of adultery. I was shocked and said, “Brother, you know the Scriptures. You have spent time in the study of the Word. So, you know better than that! How could you do that?” Well, his only response was to shrug his shoulders. But later, the Holy Spirit got involved and asked me, “Did that really help him?” Nope! “No, he was confessing his sin and seeking help. He didn’t need you coming down on him so hard. He needed help in several areas, including rebuilding his marriage!” Ouch!
However, I need to point out something. Had this brother given us his news and showed no remorse, no repentance, absolutely no shame or maybe even showed some pride in what he had done, my response may have been the correct response. But another point we need to remember: anytime your feel you have the true heart of God and the perfect word the person needs to hear, you better second guess yourself, and ask the Lord whether you should share it. In other words, it may be the correct words, but it may not be the correct time!
But tell me, in that brother’s sin, who was the real enemy? Satan, that’s who! I should have joined with my brother and together come against Satan, against the sin, in prayer, working out forgiveness and seeking mercy. Here he was sincerely repentant and simply seeking forgiveness, and all he got was judgment and shaming. Sadly, as what has been said many times, was proved absolutely true: Satan never kills a Christian, he simply hurts them and other Christians finish them off. It is so true that the Church is the only army that shoots its wounded.
Now remember, part of the care for those who sin involves confidentiality. Whether you are in leadership or not, you must prove yourself absolutely trustworthy about not revealing the sins of other believers (that includes not sharing it with your spouse). I can’t tell you how many times I have heard someone say they would never go to one of the counselors in their church — even their pastor — because they didn’t trust their confidentiality. “Oh, but I need to know more, so I can pray more effectively.” No, you don’t, you silly Bear. You are just too nosey. You do not need the names, dates, and specifics to pray for restoration. Just simply pray. On top of that, just because there is a passage of time or a change of circumstances, you do not suddenly have a “green light” to reveal what was told in confidence. If that person chooses to share it with others. that is their business.
Also, when you are listening to someone’s confession, actually listen. Let them speak, then ask them questions to make sure you understand. But, do not communicate forgiveness in a rush. Why do I offer that caution? Well, because there are times when a confession is not sincere. They are “kinda admitting” what was done, but not truly repenting of it. How many times have you heard the saying, “You aren’t sorry for the crime, you are sorry you got caught.” Also, beware of someone who is trying to spread the blame around. Like the guy who was in marriage counseling and admitted that the other woman got pregnant, but then she had an abortion. The way it was told insinuated that he knew nothing about the abortion, when in truth, he knew all about. He was even asked to watch the other woman’s children during the procedure.
Or, you have another guy who comes in and says, “I have a confession to make. I had an “affair” with someone (Hmm, are you afraid or ashamed to call it “adultery”? To call it an “affair” makes it sound like you had fun at a carnival or something). “But, but, my wife is the problem. she always ignores me, is cold and distant. She treats me like a bad roommate or worse. But oh, this other woman was always so gentle, so kind, so loving . . .” Hey, back when you first met, I bet your wife was gentle and loving, wasn’t she? What happened? Did you stop treating her gently, kindly, and lovingly? But this is what I mean about blaming everyone but themselves. Sure, some may accept some of the blame, but their share never diminishes their guilt.
In those cases, it is best to just tell that person they need to go home and pray some more. Be honest and tell them they are obviously not accepting their sin, and certainly not repenting or confessing it. Let them return the next day (or whenever is convenient) and talk some more.
Once you see that they are truly repentant and hate their sin as much as their Father hates their sin, that they understood the stain they had brought to the body of Christ, the consequences of their sin that had affected certain people, then you can express forgiveness. Remember when Jesus said that we have the authority to forgive sins? (John 20:21-23) What I am saying is that you don’t pass out forgiveness like you do your Christmas cards. In a sense, forgiveness must be earned. Oh, not in doing penance or paying money to the orphans, but rather through true repentance.
Now here’s the thing, true repentance fully recognizes the sin we commit. So, we cry out to our Father. (Now, I am speaking to disciples of Jesus, people who have already sworn their allegiance to Him, but sadly, have seriously erred in their behavior, conduct or attitude. Without this, you may not call Him your Father. I am not being rude, I am simply explaining the Gospel message to you).
But my dear friend, those of you who know the Gospel Message, when you sin, just remember what I said before, forgiveness is not easy. The most natural thing to do is strike back when someone hits you. That is perfectly understandable. But that doesn’t require any power, simply reflexes. The real need for a power infusion, for Spirit-aided control, comes when we must refrain from hitting back. That is what Christian maturity calls us to do.
We can do all things — even forgive the most unforgivable situation — through Christ who strengthens us. When we stand cleansed of our sins, free of any unresolved problems with others, how much better prepared we are to cultivate the kind of prayer life our Father is inviting us to have. Just remember that the next time Satan begins to get you worked up about any particular person or event. Stand strong in His Power, and not your own!
(I send out messages like this each morning in emails, and if you are interested in receiving them, send me your email address and I will add youm—a to the list: Mail List)
I do thank you for your gifts. It is your faithful and continued support that makes these messages possible.