We had a great discussion on forgiveness last night. Here is a quick summary and outline of our time together.
We all know a person who has felt guilty by what they have done in their past or what they continue to do. The person was involved with church at some point in their lives; they engaged in different ministries and areas of the church and seemed to enjoy the connections with people and their own faith.
Then, something happened. They may have made a bad decision or gone through a tough situation in their own life and they didn’t come back to church. For one reason or another, they thought God wouldn’t forgive them and accept them or that the church didn’t want anything to do with a person who had messed up so bad.
This was our opening story about Ryan. He had been part of the youth group and was well liked by the group. But over Christmas break he made some decisions that led him further away from the church and he didn’t come back to church after break.
He read from his Bible 1 John 3:9: “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” Ryan felt guilty and thought that he must not be born of God because he continued to sin. This led to Ryan feeling defeated and his life changed drastically after that, making decisions that would impact his school life, home life and social life.
Think of a time when you did something you were not proud of, maybe ashamed and scared that if anyone knew, they wouldn’t think so highly of you again. Think back to how we respond when we broke the crystal vase at grandma’s house because you and your cousin were messing around in the den and accidentally broke the vase. What did you do? Ran and hid, right? This is our “natural” response; it has been since the beginning with Adam and Eve in the Garden. Our shame can drive us into isolation and to ignoring the voices in our lives that genuinely care about us.
Ryan read one verse in the Bible and it crushed his spirit and he struggled to recover. When reading the Bible, we need to make sure we read the verses before and after the particular verse you are interested in. It helps to know the broader picture of why that verse is being written and to whom. You can also find almost every topic in the Bible in multiple places, so be sure to look for other verses to gain a better understanding of whole message the Bible is giving us.
Don’t Sin Ever Again
Paul, who wrote a lot of the New Testament, is the kind of guy who probably never sinned, right? Well, Romans 7:14-25 is Paul’s confession that sin often dominated his life, even after he started following Jesus. Before he became a follower of Christ, Paul’s name was Saul and he persecuted Christians even ordering some to be stoned to death. He described the sinful nature and the Holy Spirit like a “war” inside of him. And this is after he was called out by God and converted.
How Do We Handle Mistakes?
When we make mistakes—even big ones—Jesus has given us a way to respond. 1 John 1:9 assures us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Confession, which just means telling the truth, is a way to be honest before God about the ways we have blown it.
We ended our time together reading more of Paul’s story in Acts 9 and ending with some discussion on what we would say if someone asked us about God’s forgiveness. What we would say?
Is it possible that Jesus’ power shown through his ministry, death, and resurrection is big enough to cover any mistake you could make?