Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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5 Fully Forgiven

Isaiah 1:18-20

18 “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. 19 If you will only obey me, you will have plenty to eat. 20 But if you turn away and refuse to listen, you will be devoured by the sword of your enemies. I, the Lord, have spoken!”

It’s here in Isaiah 1 that we discover the radical transformation that takes place for those that are forgiven: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” God not only invites us to come to Him but to come and be cleansed. One would think that mankind would be knocking on God’s door but we are reminded here that it is God who seeks us first. As Luke 19:10 says, “For the Son of Man came to SEEK and save those who are lost.” We are lost and need to be sought because of our sin. It is our sin that blinds us to our need for God, so God has to seek man because man will not seek God. The call here is for us to come and be clean. This is not only the grace of God it is the gift of God, that we can be forgiven of our sins and have fellowship with Him. It is the greatest invitation ever to be extended for it costs us nothing while it cost Him everything. It is an invitation to:

  • Reason at an unreasonable time.

The nation of Israel was in deep trouble during Isaiah’s time for the people had rebelled against God, as verses 2-4 reveal: “Listen, O heavens! Pay attention, earth! This is what the Lord says: The children I raised and cared for have rebelled against me. 3 Even an ox knows its owner, and a donkey recognizes its master’s care—but Israel doesn’t know its master. My people don’t recognize my care for them. Oh, what a sinful nation they are— loaded down with a burden of guilt. They are evil people, corrupt children who have rejected the Lord. They have despised the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him.” Like the nations of today they chose to ignore God, turning instead to trusting in self and trying to find their satisfaction in sin. They had become a culture of corruption, a society living in the sewer and stinking of sin. This also was not God’s first call for the people to repent and return to Him. God had already attempted to get their attention by chastening, but they stubbornly refused to turn from their sin. Isaiah describes them as a sin sick people where crime and violence characterized the age. So as we come to God’s invitation to “come and reason together” we see the grace of God displayed. This is the miracle of His mercy that He would invite a sinner like me to come and be clean. We have a God who goes beyond all reason and invites us to run to Him and be redeemed. Its only when we respond to His call to be cleansed that we can deal with the disease of our sin. But too often Christians end up dealing with symptoms and not causes. We keep confessing the same sins because we have not gotten to the root of the sin. It’s like the story of the pious hypocrite who loved to pray long public prayers in church, which he often closed with these words, “And, Lord, take the cobwebs out of my life!” One day one of the godly elders of the church became tired of hearing this empty ritual week after week. So one evening, after the man had concluded his long routine prayer and had mentioned the cobwebs, the elder stood up and prayed, “And, Lord, while You’re at it, kill the spider!” It was the spider that Paul had in mind when he wrote in 2 Corinthians 7:1 “Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.” Instead of tolerating sin we need to terminate it. Are you putting to death in your life the things that defile? Whether it is a sinful action or an attitude we need to eliminate it from our lives. Not only is this a call to reason at an unreasonable time but it is an invitation:

  • From God at an ungodly time.

The people were so wicked that verses 9-10 say they reminded Isaiah of Sodom and Gomorrah: “If the Lord of Heaven’s Armies had not spared a few of us, we would have been wiped out like Sodom,     destroyed like Gomorrah. 10 Listen to the Lord, you leaders of “Sodom.” Listen to the law of our God, people of “Gomorrah.” These were a people who had rejected God’s way and God’s Word. It was only because of a few righteous that the majority were kept from destruction. Today we too live in an ungodly time where people worship self and rejoice in sin instead of repenting from it. And just as God called those who had forsaken Him to come and find forgiveness so He also calls us to come and be clean. To go from being scarlet red to white as snow, from crimson red to white as wool. God still meets sinners where they are and has the power to cleanse them of their sin. This was the desire of David’s heart after he had sinned in Psalm 51:7, “Purge me with Hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.” Because of Christ’s death on the cross we can be clean, because of His blood we can be born again.  You see the legacy of Jesus Christ is by far the most profound and planet transforming legacy of anyone in all of human history. Human history was literally divided in time at His birth, into BC, Before Christ, and AD, Anno Domini, Latin for “in the year of our Lord.” Even atheists who refuse to acknowledge Him have to tell time by Him. When it comes to Christ more songs have been written and sung, more books written, and more art work commissioned than anyone who has ever lived. Today millions gather around the world to worship and celebrate Christ and respond to His call to come and be clean. Today God calls you to come and reason with Him, you have a choice, you can confess and be cleaned or you can experience the crushing consequence of your sin. Are you going to come and reason or continue in your rebellion?

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4 Forgiving our Failure – Part 4

Psalms 32:1-11

“Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2 Blessed is the one    whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. 3 When I kept silent,     my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. 5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. 6 Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them. 7 You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. 8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. 9 Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. 10 Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. 11 Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!”

After talking about the happiness of forgiveness and the heaviness of sin David now in verses 6-11 draws our attention to the:

  • Help of God

It’s here that God’s helping hand is seen in three ways.

  1. His protection (6-7).

David urges those who are faithful to pray. Faithful doesn’t refer to those who are perfect but those who are passionately pursuing God. There’s a sense of urgency attached to this call to prayer, to pray now while we can. Often prayer becomes our last resort instead of our first response. As Oswald Chambers once said: “We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but God wants it to be our first line of defense. We pray when there’s nothing else we can do, but God wants us to pray before we do anything at all. Most of us would prefer, however, to spend our time doing something that will get immediate results. We don’t want to wait for God to resolve matters in His good time because His idea of ‘good time’ is seldom in sync with ours.” Are you petitioning the Father in prayer or putting prayer off? The promise here is that God has the power to protect us from the deluge and destruction of mighty waters. Instead of drowning in the surging waters of this world there is deliverance. Verse 7 tells us that He will not only keep us from trouble but He will surround us with songs of deliverance. God is our only true hope because He alone is our hiding place. It’s interesting that in the beginning of this psalm, David is hiding his sins from God; now he is hiding himself in God. Confession causes us to cling to God, to seek shelter under His wing. Is God your hope and hiding place or are you turning and trusting in something else. Many of us are trying to find protection and security in stuff instead of the Savior. But we will never find protection unless we pursue Him. Not only is His helping hand seen in protection but second in:

  1. His instruction (8-10).

God promises to instruct us and teach us in the way we should go. As great as the blessing of protection is, it would only be partial if it were not accompanied by His direction. What good would it be God guarded us from destruction but never told us which way to go? Verse 9 warns us to not be stubborn and stupid when it comes to following God: “Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.” By nature, most of us are stubborn, wild and unwilling to obey God’s Will. So when we are like David and act like mules God will put the bit and bridle of suffering on us to turn and rein us in to repentance. Is God humbling you right now? Are you experiencing the bite of the bit and the tug of the bridle? Discipline is not fun but it is fundamental to a functional and full life. God only does this so that we will turn from those things that will ruin our lives to that which will restore and refresh us. Instead of following our feelings and what feels good we need to learn to follow God the Father. Not only does His helping hand bring instruction but also:

  1. His joy (11).

As we cling to God by cultivating a spirit of surrender and submission, it will result in singing. Confession results in a clean heart that is no longer cluttered up with sin and is free to sing. We can’t help but break out into joy: “Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!” The word, “rejoice” here means to jump for joy, to spin around with glee like a child. While the phrase “be glad” literally means, to brighten up, to no longer live in the darkness and despair. What a contrast there is between covering up and confession. Do you want to live in the gladness or the gloom? One of the reasons we get stuck in the sadness is because of sin. Sin doesn’t just put us in jail it robs us of joy. But when our sins are forgiven we can’t help but break out into spontaneous expressions of joy. David put it this way in Psalm 92:4: “You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me! I sing for joy because of what you have done.” Those who are forgiven much will love much. May be the reason for your lack of joy is because you have forgotten the depth of His forgiveness. Do you want to deal with your distress, then confess. Instead of coming clean many of us are trying to drag around our suitcases of sin, like sinful sailors rowing our boats loaded with bitterness and guilt. How it must break the heart of God to see His children chained up in sin, trying to carry the burden of guilt when God has made a way for us to be free. Do you want to be rid of your regrets and be forgiven for your sins, then come to God and confess. He will forgive you, and when He does, your sins will be forgotten and you will be free. Instead of letting go of our sins many of us are acting like Robert DeNiro in another scene in “The Mission” where he is struggling with his load of guilt and someone cuts the rope. His net of iniquity goes tumbling down the path and into the water. Instead of being thankful, DeNiro pushes the man out of the way and runs after his sins. When he gets down to the water he picks up the bundle again and tries to carry it back up the mountain on his back. Are you giving your guilt to God only to pick it back up later? Look God isn’t interested in babysitting your sin for a few hours or a few days so you can get a short reprieve from your remorse. He wants to take your sin and trade your sorrow for a song of joy. If you’ve confessed and repented then God has forgiven you, the question is will you forgive yourself? Do you want to live in the sorrow or in the song? As long as you carry your sin you will be stuck in the sorrow, but when you come and confess you will experience the song. Why not take time right now to come before God and come clean, to confess the sin you have been carrying and trying to cover up. True forgiveness always brings freedom.