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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A Forgiveness Like No Other

Isaiah 38:
17 Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.
18 For the grave cannot praise you, death cannot sing your praise; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for your faithfulness.

I really don't know where to start on this post...but PLEASE stick with me. I am so thankful for this community of believers that has encouraged me and lifted me up over the last year. I also can't thank God enough for giving me some outlet to share what He is teaching me. Since I have not been teaching in the last year this has really helped me to get things out. I was made to share...I can't even help it. Even if you don't care I have to get it out there.

I am not making any resolutions this year or any rash promises to the Lord that I can't keep in my own strength. I am instead making some petitions. His mercies are new every morning but there is something about a new year and a fresh start. I have spent time in prayer asking Him for specific things...like more of Him and that He would pour out His spirit into my life like never before. Another prayer of mine comes from John 4:34 that my food would be to do the will of Him who sent me. I don't want to waste time in the desert of sin giving in to my wanton cravings. I am sick of the food that this world has to offer...believe me I have eaten it. It does not satisfy me. There are so many things in me that need to change...I want to change.

I realize that I have the tendency to go on and on so I want to make this as brief as I possibly can. Eye contact has always been extremely important to me. The eyes are a lamp unto the soul. Anyway, you can tell so much about someone when you look in their eyes. Over the last several weeks I was studying Psalm 32 and something was so profound to me and here it is in verse one:
1 Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
We are blessed when our transgressions are forgiven. The Hebrew word for forgiven here is Nasa-it means to raise, lift up (the face, the eyes, the voice, or the soul)...Signifies a lifting up, whether literally or figuratively. Nasa is part of a number of idiomatic expressions. The Hebrew idiom "lifting up the head" meant to take a census (Exo 30:12), but it could also mean to declare independence...to be free."
Here is the part I am getting to that I need you to pay close attention to:
"To lift up one's face" meant to be able to look someone straight in the eye with a clear conscience (2Sa 2:22).

I feel like there comes a crossroad in every persons life: Can I face God after all that I have done to sin against Him? Will I come to Him and believe that He can forgive and blot out my sins? Can I have victory? Will I ever be free? Or the alternative...will I continue to live for me, my desires, my flesh, and wander in unbelief? Will I continue to hang my head in shame?

There have been times in my life where I like David in Psalm 32 hid from God. You know the story...he committed adultery, had Bathshebas husband killed...and he hid by refusing to confess his sins. He suffered agony and his bones wasted away through his groaning all day long. For day and night Gods hand was heavy upon him. The turning point for David and the turning point for you and me is when we acknowledge our sins to God and no longer cover up our iniquity. It is one thing to tell others what we have done but it is a completely different thing to come exposed before God. He already knows and sees...but we must come. We have to quit blaming others and come honestly, the best we know how...to His throne...the seat of Mercy. He will forgive the guilt of our sin. Have you ever been in sin and felt like others could see it when they looked at you...therefore you wanted to hide and isolate yourself? I think that when we face God and acknowledge our sins we can then face others and have confidence. We can't walk in the light until we have confessed what was done in the dark. If we do not come and face our Father I think we will constantly walk in guilt. It is so interesting that in Psalm 32:5 David says that God forgave the "guilt" of his sin.
There is nothing like guilt. It will keep you down for as long as you will let it. There is a difference between conviction and guilt...like the difference in godly sorrow verses worldly sorrow. The word for "guilt" in this passage is the Hebrew word "Awon meaning to do wrong. Sin, perverseness, guilt, crime, fault, iniquity, punishment....On the other hand Awon can refer to specific sins, including adultery, and idolatry. Awon results in alienation from God and uncleanness. Man must be aware of his sinfulness and confess it. He must direct his request to God and must turn from his sin. GOD WILL FORGIVE SIN." (emphasis mine)

We, especially as Christians, tend to put limits on what God will forgive. You can say that is not true but step in any local church and see that what we tend to say and how we act are two different things. I am so thankful for the words that are eternal, that stand firm in the heavens, that God left for us. So what does God say about you and me? He says that with Him there is forgiveness. Yes, we have consequences to our sins...but we can all come to Him to receive mercy and forgiveness. I love David and God's inspired words to us that God forgave the guilt of his adultery and murder.

Another Hebrew word that has meant much to me this year is found in Psalm 25:11. Let me give you the verse then the word:
Psalm 25:11
11 For the sake of your name, O LORD, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

I CAN'T begin to tell you the times I have come in God's presence and had to say God, for Your names sake...not for anything to do with me. My righteousness is as filthy rags...but for Your Name...because of who You are...please forgive my iniquity.

I am seriously about to explode as I type this at how powerful His words are. I can't get it out fast enough...and I sure pray that Morgan will hold on for a second.

This is another Psalm of David a petition of forgiveness for his iniquity though it is great. The word forgive is Salah- "to forgive, pardon, spare. The first occurrence is in Exodus 34:9, where Moses pleased on behalf of Israel for the forgiveness of her sins. Strictly speaking, no other OT Hebrew verb means "to forgive," although there are several combinations of words which denote the idea of forgiveness." HERE IS THE PART I LOVE...THIS IS ME YELLING IN ALL CAPS: "Salah is never used on a human level, with people forgiving one another."

Do you see what this is saying? The Lord will forgive us like no one else can. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to forgive ourselves. Long after the deed we still have the voice of condemnation in our heads. God will blot out our sin when we come to Him in confession...when we face our Father like the prodigal son. He will wash us and make us clean from even the most heinous sin. Please lets not limit God's forgiveness to others...as hard as it can be at times. I am talking to myself.
He who has been forgiven of much loves much. If you struggle with what I am saying ask God to show you your own sinfulness in the light of His presence. We are all so sinful and in desperate need of a Saviour. We can become more sanctified and live as doers of the word but none of us have arrived. Not even the people we put on pedestals. We all need His grace.

If you are one of those people who need New Testament support of this I will give it to you. The woman at the well, the woman caught in the act of adultery, the prodigal son, I could go on...but these are a few.

Then here in Hebrews 10 I was reading this:
15The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: 16"This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds."[b] 17Then he adds: "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more."[c] 18And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. 19Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

I can't tell you how many times I have beat myself up over something when I have already faced the Lord in the matter and repented of it. My problem was one of unbelief. I did not believe that His sacrifice for my sins was enough and therefore I tried to punish myself further.

So my point is this...please in 2008 cry out to Him. Ask for more of His Spirit. Ask Him for a hunger for His word. But please walk with me in belief. Let's believe Him...believe in His forgiveness...believe that He has plans for us. Believe in His love for us. Believe that we are clean and washed and made holy because of the Cross. Are you and I going to get it together over night? No! But seek His face always...no matter what...get in the word...stay in the word...surround yourself with other believers...and Seek His face.

Psalm 27:8
8 My heart says of you, "Seek his face!" Your face, LORD, I will seek.

Go into His presence and seek reconciliation...He will put your sins behind His back and forgive you like no one else...He will keep you from the pit of destruction as you abide in Him. Let's seek Him together.

4 comments:

Ang baylis said...

Hey Jenny! I can't believe you commented on my comment about 29 years because I read YOUR comment and was thinking about it before I fell asleep last night. My computer crashed last summer and I lost the "Hope for any Marriage". I need to find it again. I thought it was a great idea how you said it was on your fridge! Thank you for your honesty. Here's to a year where we have more hope than we had last year! Much love,
Angie xoxo

jennyhope said...

Here is Hope for any Marriage by Beth Moore if anyone wants to read it:

Hope for Any Marriage
Scripture Reading: Psalm 127

Today’s Treasure: “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain” (Psalm 127:1).

A couple of months ago Keith and I were asked if we’d be willing to come to the newlywed department on a Sunday morning at our home church for a Q and A session. Since I no longer teach a Sunday morning class on a weekly basis, we were able to say yes and, joyfully, didn’t kill each other in the lapse of time between the invitation and the presentation. This morning was our morning. As we drove the fourteen miles from our home of twenty-two years to our church of twenty-four, we were both a little quiet. Not a bad kind of quiet but an amazed kind of quiet. I think the question most on our minds was who’d have thought it? Who would ever have thought we could have a healthy enough marriage for a long enough time to be a little help to about a hundred couples just starting out? Certainly not Keith or I.

We were an accident waiting to happen. Both of us broke up long term relationships that seemed vastly more promising to take the risk on one another. Two things drove us together: strong physical attraction (I’ve long since said it was a good thing Keith was handsome. Still is.) and matching sets of emotional baggage. We were each the cutest messed up person the other had ever encountered and we began the rockiest marriage this side of the divorce courts. Our college friends made bets on us and called us the couple least likely to succeed. Our parents were galled. They liked our ex-boyfriend and girlfriend better and couldn’t see for the life of them one single thing we had in common. Keith’s parents were in shock at the wedding and mine were in mourning.

Keith took a cut in pay when he went from his successful father’s allowance to a real job. After being told I’d need surgery to conceive, I turned up pregnant the second month we were married and the financial pressure nearly suffocated my new husband. Despite my inability to help bring in the bacon, I am convinced that God sent us our firstborn as a little Elmer’s glue to give us some extra incentive to stay together. I loved Keith. I hated him. I adored him. I deplored him. I resented him. I lamented him. And I loved him again. Often in the same day. He invariably felt the same way.

We’ve made it, my man and I. We made it to two stools in the newlywed department of Houston’s First Baptist Church. We lived together long enough to testify to what Keith said so beautifully this morning: We are a miracle. Never think God doesn’t perform miracles anymore. Our marriage is one of them. I looked at the lines on his handsome, tan face as he told the young men to pray for their wives and my heart surged with love and gratitude. Above all, to our unfathomably powerful and gracious God who simply believed in us when we didn’t believe in ourselves, but also to that man sitting next to me on the stool at my church this morning. I’d like to tell you two reasons why. Keith has been a handful in plenty of ways but he has some characteristics that, to me, exceed what I’ve ever experienced in an interpersonal relationship.

One is that, where I am concerned, the man has kept no record of wrongs. I have done my share of things to tear at our marriage in our history together. Some of those things he could have thrown up to me every time he needed extra ammunition in a conflict. He’s never done it. Not once. When I have sincerely (he is the fastest bull-reader in the West. He’s onto insincerity in a second flat) and tearfully asked Keith’s forgiveness for something, I have gotten it. Once and for all. Kind of like Jesus. Keith has done plenty of things I could have held against him, too, but you’d have to be a pretty big loser to keep a record of wrongs with someone who doesn’t.

The other is that Keith has always been willing to talk through something with me. You will never meet a manlier man than Keith but his heart is as tender as warm butter. I realize how blessed I am when a wife tells me her husband just won’t talk about their problems or a broken place in her heart. Keith has always been willing to talk something through. My man, handful that he is, has also been the first of us to go face to the floor before God when he knew we had acted stupid and needed God to restore us.

I am a blessed woman. Not because I’ve always had a great marriage but because I have a man willing to change, willing to say he’s wrong, and, more than anything else, willing to fall in love again. I told the group this morning that I could have walked away from my marriage about seven or eight years into it and justified for the rest of my days why I left. I could have thought to myself for decades to come, “I’m so glad I got away from that jerk” and I would have missed the most precious, fulfilling relationship of my earthly life. And the hardest. Many of the people you know who divorced really could have been happy and healthy if they’d waited it out, humbled themselves before God and one another, and gotten over the hump. Please don’t misunderstand me. The last thing I want to do is condemn people whose marriages have ended. Many of them have suffered plenty. Furthermore, Keith and I have had such sin in our lives that we’d dare not cast a stone. This devotional is a plea to those who haven’t divorced (yet) to stick it out, stay married, and let God perform a miracle in your hearts no matter what has happened. The difference between divorced couples and long-married couples is not the amount of problems. It’s not the amount of passion. It’s the amount of pure, unadulterated tenacity.

At Living Proof Ministries, the prayer requests that most often come to us are for marriages. Today I write to you and plead with you to fight for yours. To try again. To forgive again. To love again. To go get counseling…maybe again. To pray again and again and again and again. And, if at all possible, together. This morning when Keith was asked what one thing he believed I had done that had contributed most to our marriage, he said without hesitation, “I’d get up in the morning and she’d be praying…for me.” Prayer is your most powerful weapon as you fight for your marriage. Pray for God to return love where it has long since waned. Pray for God to create love where it has never existed. Pray for God to give your spouse eyes for you and you eyes for him…alone. Pray for change and be the first one to volunteer. Pray with faith, knowing that the God of the universe is for you. Put space between yourselves and every person (even family members) who speak poison into your marriage.

And, if you haven’t already, get your hind-ends in a church with other couples who want to make it. Keith and I realized today that every single one of the couples in our very first young-marrieds Sunday school department are still together…except the teachers. It’s one thing to say what we believe. It’s another thing when life is hard and other options look appetizing to live what we believe. Fight for your marriage. Do the hard work. And one day you’ll look a young couple in the eye going through the shock of early marriage and be able to say with passion and authenticity, “You really can do this.” And perhaps they will.

Lord, I earnestly ask for the faith to believe that my marriage can be successful. I know that nothing is too hard for You, Lord. I believe You are for us and You are willing to equip us for victory. I ask for the tenacity to get over the hump when we go through seasons of marital hardship. Please birth in us the desire to pray together and pray for each other. Enable us through the power of the Holy Spirit to do whatever it takes to make it. Let us refuse to accept defeat. Lord, may the testimony of our marriage bring hope to others and glory to You. In the redeeming name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Beth Moore © 2006

Heather said...

Isn't it absolutely astonishing that he forgives us at all? I'm so amazed and thankful for it!

Charity said...

Whew! That was a GREAT post! I needed to hear that! You are so articulate with your words! That really touched me!! I haven't seen you face to face to make "eye contact," but your words in this blog are certainly a "light unto your soul!!"
You are precious!!
I will have to get caught up on your other posts tomorrow!