Volume 1, Number 7 – September, 2021
A Model of Repentance
In Psalm 51, we find David’s plea for forgiveness surrounding his affair with Bathsheba. When analyzing the nature of David’s prayer for repentance, we can gain insight as to how we should repent when we fall. Let us examine a few features in David’s prayer that we should model when we repent and ask God to forgive us when we sin.
Recognition of God’s Willingness to Forgive
Before we can even think about repentance, we must recognize God’s desire to forgive us of our sins. In verses 1-2, David says, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” By recognizing God’s lovingkindness and tender mercies, we understand that God will forgive us of our sins if we simply repent. For example, Peter concludes, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). If we do repent, God, in his longsuffering and tender mercy, will remove our transgressions “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12).
Acknowledgment of Wrongdoing
After recognizing God’s desire to forgive, David took another important step during his repentance – he acknowledged he made mistakes. He explains, “For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me” (v.3). Without acknowledging our mistakes, it is impossible for God to forgive us. We cannot try to hide our sins from God, for he knows all things. Consider Job 28:11, where Job asserts “What is hidden he brings forth to light.” Thus, it is imperative to confess our sins rather than attempt to hide them from God. Throughout the Bible, the word ‘confess’ is often used as a way to describe the acknowledgement of reality. Confessing sin, then, simply means we acknowledge the reality of our sins we commit against God. It is important to note that since God looks at our heart, merely stating with our mouths won’t do. We confess with our mouth what we are convinced or convicted of in our heart.
Feelings of Guilt & Remorse
Simply acknowledging our sins with our mouths will not help us receive God’s forgiveness. Although God desires to forgive us when we fall, we must meet His conditions. One of those conditions is feeling guilt and remorse over our sins. Consider David’s pleas for God to “renew a steadfast spirit within [him]” and deliver him “from the guilt of bloodshed” (v.10, 14). David’s spirit was damaged by his wrongdoings and he felt guilty because of his fall into temptation. In fact, David described his heart, or his spirit, as being “broken” and “contrite” (v.17). It is for these reasons why David says his sins are “ever before him” in his prayer (v.3). Also consider Paul’s admonishment to the church at Corinth in 2 Corinthians 7:10. He states, “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted.” Godly regret is the uncomfortable feeling of guilt we get when the Word of God shows us we have sinned and brought reproach upon God’s name. Godly regret is the regret of a God-saturated heart, not a world-saturated heart, and is the type of remorse we should feel when repenting of sins.
Recognizing the Impact of Our Sins
In his prayer, David took another important step in attaining God’s forgiveness – he recognized his sins impacted more people than just himself. First, David recognized his sin reflected poorly upon God and, as result, non-believers could lay blame to God and claim He is not “just” (v.4). It is for this very reason why we confess our sins publicly whenever we commit public sins. We should not allow our sins to impact other’s perception of God. The consequences of our sins have a way of spilling out over everyone and anyone that comes into contact with us because of our association with them. The Bible tells us we can “be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23), which means our families, friends, congregations, and the Christian community at large can be affected by our sins. Worse still, the cause of Christ will be damaged as unbelievers scoff and sneer at us and blaspheme His name. Second, David recognized the consequences of his sins by requesting for God to not cast him away from His presence (v.11). When we sin, we must realize that God will cast us away into eternal punishment. In fact, Paul proclaims, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). That is a principle that follows the pattern laid down at the Creation. Everything created has a seed from which it propagates itself after its kind (Genesis 1:11, 21, 25). In other words, you do not plant corn and expect to harvest beets. We cannot “plant” sin — even in private — and not expect to reap a harvest of consequences.
Attempting to Be Stronger
Lastly, David displayed a willingness to turn away from his sins and be a better servant of God in the future. His attitude of keeping his sins “ever before” him exemplifies this notion because although David recognized God’s willingness to forgive him (v.3), he would keep his sins in his mind at all times to prevent himself from falling to temptation again. He also told God he would “teach transgressors [God’s] ways” (v.13). After praying for forgiveness and receiving God’s mercy through that forgiveness, we should be like David and tell others, especially non-believers, about God’s love and mercy by explaining God’s love and the need for repentance. David vowed to do just that. He told God, “My tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness . . . and my mouth shall show forth Your praise” (v.14-15). We too should strive to be stronger, more faithful servants of God, praising God for forgiving us of our sins and being willing to spread God’s gospel of mercy of and forgiveness.
David exemplified an attitude in repentance all Christians should model. He recognized God’s desire to forgive, acknowledged his sins before God, felt Godly sorrow for his mistakes, recognized the far-reaching impact of his sins, and vowed to make improvements in the future. Considering “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), when we repent, do we share a similar attitude as David in Psalm 51?
What if You Were the Last Remaining Christian?
A tired and discouraged Elijah proclaimed to God, “I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life to take it away” (1 Kings 19:10). He was wrong, of course. The Lord explained that He had 7,000 who remained faithful (vs. 18). But, what if Elijah had been right? What if he really was the last remaining faithful servant of God in all the earth? Two things seem clear: 1) He could not have used this as an excuse to give up, to surrender, to stop doing the will of God; and 2) The urgency of his work would have been even greater. The need for his proclamation of God’s word would have been even more pressing.
There’s a lesson here for us. Have you ever felt like you were alone in your stand for the truth? Has it seemed like no one else was committed to doing what was right? If so, you should take heart in knowing that there are many others who share your convictions and dedication. You are NOT alone. As in Elijah’s day, God knows and has an accurate count of all those who are faithfully living for Him. But, even if you were the last faithful Christian in all the world, you would still need to work hard to teach and practice the will of God. This would not be an excuse for you to give up or surrender in your service for Him. In fact, your work would be more important than ever.
If all men were to let us down, and we truly stood alone, we would still have this promise from God: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” And our reaction to this truth should be to “boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Heb.13:5-6).
Christian, you are not alone. You have a host of faithful brethren who stand with you. And, you have the Almighty God of heaven who supports you. Stand fast!
“For Better or For Worse”
These familiar words form a part of just about every wedding ceremony I have ever attended. Living with someone all of your life takes true devotion and commitment. In 1816, the president of Yale was complaining because the divorce rate was 1% in the state of Connecticut. How we long for those days! However, in the days of easy divorce, the words of the Lord are still true (Matthew 19:9).
If you cannot imagine yourself living with your current boyfriend or girlfriend for the rest of your life, you have no business getting married! Financial problems, family problems, and health problems can really take a toll on a couple. Husbands must love their wives (Ephesians 5:25) and wives must submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22). Only then will God’s plan truly work in the way He intended when He created man and woman, giving them to each other in marriage (Genesis 2:21-24). Divorce is one of the hardest emotional processes you will ever go through, so please choose wisely!
Volume 1, Number 8 – September, 2021
The Walls of Jericho
In Joshua 6:1-6, the Israelites were instructed by the Lord to march around the city of Jericho once each day for six days. The priests were told to bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark, and on the seventh day, they were to march around the city seven times and when the priests blew the trumpets, all the people were to shout and the wall of the city would fall down flat. The remainder of chapter 6 tells of their obedience to God’s instructions, the wall falling, and the city being destroyed.
Marching around a city thirteen times in seven days, blowing trumpets and making a great shout — who ever heard of such a thing? The wall was of such considerable size that houses were built upon it (Josh. 2:15). How safe the inhabitants of Jericho must have felt. How easy it would have been for the soldiers and commanders on the walls to laugh and ridicule the marchers as they encompassed the city. But suddenly on the seventh day, there was an incredible event — the walls fell! (v. 20).
Now how did the walls fall? Was this some common military procedure that had been used successfully in the past? Absolutely not! “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days” (Heb. 11:30). Yes, it took great faith to carry out such an unusual command. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). It took faith in “things not seen” — “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).
But there are skeptics who laugh and mock at the events recorded in Joshua 6. They say it is absurd to believe that the walls of Jericho fell down after the Israelites marched around them. However, let us consider the following portion of information taken from Halley’s Bible Handbook, New Revised Edition, pp. 159-161: “Dr. John Garstang, director of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem and of the Department of Antiquities of the Palestine Government, excavated the ruins of Jericho in 1926-36. He found pottery & scarab evidence that the city had been destroyed about 1400 B.C., coinciding with Joshua’s date, and, in a number of details, dug up evidence confirming the Biblical account in a most remarkable way. ‘he wall fell down flat’ (20). Dr. Garstang found that the wall did actually ‘fall down flat.’”
There are many lessons learned from Jericho: (1) We learn that God’s ways are not our ways (Isa. 55:8). Man would have planned some scheme to allow a few to enter the city and open the gates or build mounds, use sling shots to pick the soldiers off the wall, use ladders, etc. (2) We learn the meaning of grace. “And the Lord said to Joshua: ‘See! I have given Jericho into you hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor’” (Josh. 6:2). Yes, it was a gift, but it involved active obedience. The same is true today — salvation is a gift from God (Rom. 6:23; Eph. 2:8), yet there are certain conditions that must be met (Matt. 7:21; Jn. 6:29; Mk. 16:16; Lk. 13:3, 5; Acts 2:38; Eph. 2:10; Heb. 5:9). (3) We learn the meaning of obedient faith (Heb. 11; Jas. 2:24). (4) We learn that God’s way will work no matter how foolish (in man’s eyes) it may seem (1 Cor. 1:18-31).
The Apostle Paul told the Romans that “whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). The Israelites placed their faith and trust in God when they marched around the city of Jericho. We place our faith and trust in God when we are baptized for the remission of our sins (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). When we faithfully obey the Lord we can hope for and enjoy the blessings and rewards He has promised (Matt. 6:33; Rev. 2:10). Again, we emphasize — “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days” (Heb. 11:30).
Our ___________ Betrays Us
In Matthew 26:69-75, we can read Matthew’s account of Peter’s betrayal of Christ. After twice denying being a follower of Christ, Peter was told, “Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you” (v. 73). Peter denied knowing Jesus a third time, this time cursing and swearing (v. 74), in order to save his own neck. Peter had three opportunities to proclaim himself a follower of Christ, yet three times chose to deny Christ, twice saying, “I do not know the man” (v. 72, 74).
Today, we may not be like Peter and verbally say that we do not know Christ, but our speech, our thoughts, our attire, our actions, the way we give, and how we interact with and treat our fellow man can betray us and cause us to say, “we do not know the man,” based on how we conduct ourselves in our daily walks of life.
The rooster has not crowed for us yet as it did for Peter (v. 75), but the day will come when our rooster will crow and we will have to answer God. Let us not be like Peter in this situation, denying Christ and left unprepared for the crowing of the rooster. Let us be prepared for that day and guard our speech, thoughts, etc.
Learning to Forgive Ourselves
Matthew’s account of Judas serves as our greatest biblical example for how difficult it can be to forgive ourselves when we make mistakes. Judas was “remorseful” when he realized the error of his ways after betraying Jesus (Matt. 27:3). He even acknowledged his sins before the chief priests and elders (Matt. 27:4), yet was unable to forgive himself. This immense sorrow caused Judas to kill himself (Matt. 27:5).
If Judas truly repented, God would have forgiven him. God will always forgive us if we truly repent (Mark 3:28). David understood this well, and explains the Lord “forgives all your iniquities” (Psalm 103:3). David’s emphasis on “all” iniquities should comfort us and prevent our remorse from overtaking us when we sin. Judas, however, so deeply entrenched in sorrow, was unwilling to forgive himself, which prevented God from forgiving him.
Proverbs 16:25 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” The energy it takes to harbor anger, hatred, and resentment towards yourself is exhaustive. Every bit of energy we give to negative activities and dwelling on regret robs us of the energy we need to become the person God wants us to be. Life is full of choices and every choice we make will either take us in a positive life-giving direction or rob us of the opportunity to be a life-giving individual. Forgiving ourselves does not justify what we have done, and it is not a sign of weakness. Forgiveness is a choice that takes courage and strength, and it gives us the opportunity to become an overcomer rather than remaining a victim of our own scorn.
Failing to forgive yourself puts blinders on your spiritual eyesight. It causes you to see things through the eyes of guilt, shame, and condemnation. It ruins our faith and causes us to go spiritually blind: “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins” (2 Peter 1:9). In Col. 3:13, we are told to forgive one another, but did you know the Greek root word for the phrase “one another” actually includes yourself? The Greek root word Heautou refers not only to others, but also to ourselves!
If we are unforgiving of ourselves, we are not really accepting the work that Christ did for us on the cross. God’s Word tells us that Jesus purged, that is, removed, our sin (Heb. 1:3), but if we fail to forgive ourselves, we are, in essence, calling God’s Word a liar. We are es- sentially saying, “I hate myself because I did that sin… I won’t forgive myself of it!” When God’s Word tells us that the sin has been purged, or removed, from us… who are we to say that it is still part of our past/present/ future?
When we ask for God’s forgiveness based upon Christ having already paid for our sins and having trusted in Him as Savior and Lord, He forgives us (1 John 1:9). However, even though we are released from the bondage of sin, as spoken of in Romans 6-8, we can still choose to wallow in it and act as though we are not freed from it. Likewise, with guilty feelings we can accept the fact that we are forgiven in Christ, or we can believe Satan’s lie that we are still guilty and should therefore feel guilty.
Although sin causes great distress and sorrow, especially when our sins impact those around us, we must not act as Judas did. We must realize that, through God’s grace and mercy, He “has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10). Knowing this, we must not mentally or physically punish ourselves to the point that Judas did. If God is willing to forgive us when we fall, we must be willing to forgive ourselves!