by Pastor Tim Burt
If you are anything like me, you may find yourself struggling for adequate words of thanksgiving to the Lord for His love, mercy, and forgiveness. The Lord's forgiveness and willingness and desire to give us a fresh start is amazing! His love transcends our stupidity and He keeps reaching out to love us!
We all mess up at times - hopefully less and less as we grow older and learn from the Lord. What do we do when we mess up our lives from sinful behavior, bad attitudes, or from anger and it’s consequences? To the non-Christian, the answer will be – start at the beginning. Ask Jesus to be Lord of your life, to forgive your sins, and to fill you with His Holy Spirit. Then go find a Bible teaching church, read your Bible, and make some Christian friends. That’s a good start.
To the Christian, learn what godly sorrow is! 2 Cor 7:10 says, "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death." The words "repentance that leads to salvation" comes from the Greek word soteria which conveys the meaning of being rescued and bringing restoration, health and wholeness from a troubled situation. The words "worldly sorrow brings death" are conveying the pain felt not from sorrow of the action, but from the trouble it's caused. That's worldly sorrow and it conveys this as unrepented sorrow likely to be repeated again and again, and leading to further problems and eventually spiritual death.
My experience and observation from ministry over the years coupled with what God's Word (the final authority on anything!) has taught me is that there are a number of Christians that when they mess up, only regret their trouble - not their sin! For example, I've known men and women that have had an affair. They've been caught but their sorrow is over the problems it's causing them. They weren't really sorry about violating God’s Word, or the people they hurt. In some cases, they actually thought about staying with the person they'd gotten into an affair with, without regard what God’s word says about it, or the pain caused to their mate, their children, or other family members. Just remember that the word Christian can be a tag a person can call oneself, but it doesn't necessarily hold water with God. It's not up to me to judge the person. God is their judge. But, the Lord does say this in 1 John 2:3-4, “We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands. The man who says, "I know Him," but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in Him." This verse helps us understand that there has to be corresponding actions to our faith.
If a person continuously sins without godly sorrow - without regard for God’s word or for the hurt and pain they cause others – the enemy of his soul will try to draw him into a darker and darker place. Some become so blinded that they lose all regard for God’s word and what’s right. They’ve traded them for pleasures and lusts of his flesh. God does not control or manipulate us. He works to lead us to Himself by influencing our spirit to draw near to and yield to His love and influence. If we refuse, He allows us to make that choice, even when it could take us to darkness and destruction and eventually outside of a relationship with Him. Romans 1:24 says, "Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves."
The question from Christians who want to help their friends in this state comes up: "For this Christian that appears to have no godly sorrow, should I reach out to them?" You can try to speak to them but their heart may be hard and they may not listen. It takes time to pray for the hardness of their heart. Their spirit has been blinded by sin and they CANNOT see the spiritual truths and implications that you see! God compares it to rock hard or fallow ground. Rain just rolls off this kind of ground. Unless the ground becomes saturated with rain it will not soften. Likewise a hard heart unless saturated with consistent and constant prayer will remain hard. Hosea 10:12 says, "... break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till He comes and rains righteousness upon you." For this person, it would take sacrificial prayer!
"Is it right to pray for this kind of a person?" It is right hearted to pray for someone who has gone astray and messed up. 2 Timothy 2:24-26 says “The Lord's servants must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone. They must be able to teach effectively and be patient with difficult people. They should gently teach those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people's hearts, and they will believe the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the Devil's trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.” As the Apostle Paul did, it’s good to pray for the eyes of their heart to be opened. "I Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that…the eyes of your understanding being enlightened…" Ephesians 1:16-18
When a person shows no godly sorrow, it is sometimes best to love and pray for them from a distance. Your heartfelt prayer should and will create expectation and hope for their change, but despite your prayers, they have free will to choose - even wrongly. When they don't change, it can be disappointing. If you just go forward with your life and pray for them with distance in the relationship, it can help protect you from that disappointment and actually help you stay in faith in your prayers. You’ve heard stories about praying mothers… I want you to know there are just as many praying fathers! Don’t judge those that have gotten off course. Jesus loves them and died for them. Don’t preach condemnation to them. If you say anything, remind them only of Jesus’ love. They already know the condemnation part. That is what they are running from. Pray for them and be ready to be just like the prodigal father waiting to love them when the day comes that they return to the Lord.
And if this isn’t about someone else, but about you, get on your knees and tell the Lord how sorry you are and ask Him to strengthen you to do what is right. He’ll answer and help you in many ways. Real sorrow cares and wants to do what’s right!
Romans 6:16 (NLT) "Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living."
In His Love,
Pastor Tim Burt
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Published by Pastor Tim Burt
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