Forgiving Ourselves

You know, based on God’s promises, that He has forgiven you. But if you’re still agonizing about what you did (or didn’t do) and feeling great guilt, perhaps you have yet to forgive yourself. When you acknowledged your sin you already made the hardest decision–facing yourself and making changes. Sometime when you pray, thank God for the guilt and shame that moved you to repent and leave a destructive path.

Your past will not define your life and you should not look at yourself through the lens of your past. There are many people who have been down the same road you traveled who are fine teachers, loving spouses and parents, and good examples for others.

Sometimes we hold onto guilt and have problems forgiving ourselves because we feel that we are letting ourselves off too easily. Holding guilt allows us to punish ourselves and, when reaching some spiritual summit, reproach ourselves saying, “You’re not so good. I remember when you…” It is ok to let go of your guilt. Acknowledge that your inward pain has been your punishment and prison for past sins and give yourself a pardon.

Forgiveness is the greatest thing you can give others and yourself. Grieve your sins, the embarrassment you feel/felt, the sorrow for letting others and yourself down, the actions you regret–yes grieve them–then let them go. You have punished yourself well enough–I think anyone could say that you have not let yourself off easily–you have the right to free yourself and enjoy true peace and happiness. You will never forget what you have done, but when you forgive yourself, it finds a place in your past that can only give you a small tinge of pain when it is brought to mind, but it will not bully and berate you anymore.

Think on THESE Things

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

My mother used to quote this to me when I was watching a music video or movie that had material that was not appropriate to remind me that I was poisoning, not nourishing, my mind. Do not let your mind wallow in filthiness. Let your thoughts soar above to heavenly things.

True: Manifest, fact, conforming to reality Opposite: False

Noble: Honest, grave, venerable, serious Foolish: Foolish

Just: Right conduct; state of being right judged by a divine standard Opposite: Unjust

Pure: Clean, free of impurities Opposite: Polluted

Lovely: Pleasing, agreeable Opposite: Unpleasant

Good Report: Well spoken of, reputable Opposite: Worthless

Do the songs you listen to, books you read, or things you watch pass this test?
Think on these things!

Choosing God Over The World

Paul stressed to the Romans, in Romans 13:11-14, the importance of casting off the works of darkness and walking in the light.  We have spent enough of our life sinning and now we are closer to our salvation than when we first believed.  Since there is much to do and little time in which to do it, we must be diligent to put away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light and get to work for the Lord.

Some Christians are ineffective in the service of God because they are not totally dedicated themselves to God.  They are keeping some things of the world with them: lust, evil speaking, covetousness, worldliness, etc. These things are weighing them down and they cannot grow properly in the Lord and are useless in his service.  The Hebrew writer urges us to “lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us” so we can run with endurance, unencumbered by the world, Hebrews 12:1.

We must either grasp God completely or the world completely.  We will fail if we try to serve both, Matthew 6:24; 1 Kings 18:21.  We can deceive ourselves into thinking that we are serving God while our hearts are devoted to the world.  We must examine our thoughts and our actions to see if we are bearing fruit to the world or to the Lord.

Joshua urged the people to decide whom they would serve, Joshua 24:14-25.  They needed to make a decision that day and stick with it.  When they answered that they would serve the Lord, Joshua rebuked them telling them that they could not serve the Lord because they were too fickle. A brief study of history would confirm Joshua’s assessment.  They frequently declared their dedication to God only to murmur against Him and His chosen leaders soon afterward.  Like that audience, we must choose today whom we will serve and then follow wholeheartedly.

Genuine Love vs. Affection

1 John 3:16-18:  “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”

True love between brethren is expressed in actions.  Our love is not to be in what we say but what we do.  Love only expressed in word is of little value.  How can we love in word only?  Is our only interaction with fellow Christians at the worship service?  Perhaps we say we love others because we know that we are supposed to but, if our hearts were truly examined, would we only find affection, not true love?  Love that is in word requires no sacrifice of self, time, or money, demands no action, has no risk of being hurt, and needs no deep involvement with others.

Love that is in deed and truth, true love for our brethren, is on a higher level.  It requires action on our part, a show of love.  Christ showed His love, not by shouting His love from heaven, but by dying on the cross.  We show our love by our willingness to die for our brethren.  We may say that we have this love but we must demonstrate it.  Consider John’s example:  If you say that you would lay your life down for your brethren but you will not give of your possessions to help your needy brother, how does the love of God abide in you?  What a profound question!  When we think we love our brethren as Christ loved us, we must immediately ask how the love of God abides in us.  We must prove it.

John pictures a brother in need and a fellow Christian locking up his possessions by first locking up his heart.  If his heart is not with his brother, the resources he has to fill his needs will not be given.  Let us not be narrow regarding the needs of the brother.  Perhaps the brother has emotional needs; do we lock up friendship, a word of comfort, or a sympathetic ear?  If our brother has spiritual needs, do we lock up a gentle rebuke, exhortation from Gods’ word, or a prayer?  Maybe the brother does need our worldly goods: a car ride to church or to the doctor, a meal in a time of sickness or bereavement, or financial help.  We must unlock our possessions, time, and even our selves and help our brethren.  According to Paul, that is why we work: “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need,” Ephesians 4:28 (emphasis mine-rfd).

Do I Have To Love Other Christians?

God commands us to love our brethren.  Loving my brother is not an option, nor is it a command that I can follow selectively.  Although we realize that some brethren’s personalities clash with ours, or they have habits or idiosyncrasies that bother us, we must work harder to overcome these minor things to be brethren.

Some have the attitude, “I have to love him but that doesn’t mean that I have to like him.”  Perhaps they wish to reconcile the command to love our brethren and the reality that some brethren can be obnoxious, overbearing, insensitive, and annoying.  How can we truly have love for our brethren if we do not make significant attempts to overcome the natural reaction to avoid these people?  Will we show true hospitality, help, love, and concern for someone we love but whom we make conscious efforts to avoid?  A better approach is to look past character traits to the soul within.  Perhaps the gentle rebuke made in sincere love could chisel away some undesirable characteristics to make the brother lovable to others.  Certainly, there are people who grate on our nerves but we probably grate on the nerves of others as well.

Paul addresses the need to make a special effort to love the unlovable in Colossians 3:13: “bear with one another.”  The word “bear” here is used elsewhere of God suffering or bearing with us (Matthew 17:17, Mark 9:19).  In 2 Corinthians 11:1,19, the same word is used in a sense that we might translate as put up with.  There is a great need for us to suffer with, forbear, put up with, and bear with one another.  We come from different backgrounds, geographical areas, financial situations, educational levels, etc.  We are a dissimilar people unified into one body under one head.  It is essential that we bear with one another and not willfully withhold our full love for some brethren because we do not “like” them.  “What do you do more than others?  Even the tax collectors love those who love them,” Matthew 5:46 (paraphrased)

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